I’ve always had a strong disdain for ideology. When I was young, I had ideologies but didn’t realize what they were at the time. To 16 year old me, ideologies were things people who were wrong had. I’m a much more balanced individual now, as one would expect when comparing someone to themselves when they were a teenager. The other day, my good e-friend from Hong Kong, garcia1000 (the lower cased name and number is critical to the true garcia1000 experience) shared with me a great quote from Charlie Munger. If you don’t know (I didn’t until he told me), Munger is one of Warren Buffet’s most trusted partners and a very rich man in his own right. Anyways, the quote goes as followed.
Another thing I think should be avoided is extremely intense ideology because it cabbages up one’s mind. You see it a lot with T.V. preachers — many have minds made of cabbage — but it can also happen with political ideology. When you’re young it’s easy to drift into loyalties and when you announce that you’re a loyal member and you start shouting the orthodox ideology out, what you’re doing is pounding it in, pounding it in, and you’re gradually ruining your mind. So you want to be very, very careful of this ideology. It’s a big danger.
In my mind, I have a little example I use whenever I think about ideology. The example is these Scandinavia canoeists who succeeded in taming all the rapids of Scandinavia and they thought they would tackle the whirlpools of the Aron [sp.] Rapids here in the United States. The death rate was 100%. A big whirlpool is not something you want to go into, and I think the same is true about a really deep ideology.
I have what I call an iron prescription that helps me keep sane when I naturally drift toward preferring one ideology over another and that is: I say that I’m not entitled to have an opinion on this subject unless I can state the arguments against my position better than the people who support it. I think only when I’ve reached that state am I qualified to speak. This business of not drifting into extreme ideology is a very, very important thing in life.
I liked this little passage a lot, as it highlights the danger of ideology. The sad part is that these days, we are filled with ideology. The worst of it is political, because that just doesn’t result in a lack of thinking, it creates huge obstacles when it comes to getting anything done. Both sides approach issues by finding evidence to support their ideologies. Even when politicians don’t do this, they are drowned out by people who do. I find my self these days to be a liberal leaning moderate, but I don’t even care if someone shares my viewpoints anymore. Instead, I care about why people have their views. It is intensely unpleasant for me to see people expose points that I hold dear, but do so not because it makes sense, but because they have been suckling on the party koolaid too long.
My friend Paul and I argue about this frequently. I hesitate to call him a conspiracy theorist, but he does hold a very negative view on humanity that lends him to assume the worst. Paul believes in organized, very deliberate undermining of our system of government. Myself on the other hand believe, due to intense ideology, that these problems are not caused by people scheming or trying to play the system, they’re caused by people honestly believing they have the answer to everything because they keep beating it into their head. Even if they don’t at first, dirty campaign tricks, loaded questions and various other techniques beat their own axioms into their head. One thing I love about Paul though is he is not prone to intense ideology either. He disagrees with me, but for all his hate, sees my view and will discuss things under the context of my view and I do the same for him. We do this because our ideologies are not rock solid. We share information and ideas, discuss each others views and, at the end, come out with more information then we had before. We have constructive conversations despite having very different world views.
This is lacking in public discourse. Talking points are repeated over and over again. No one is converting the other side. We are merely entrenching. This is dangerous and scary to me. With how media is now, you can choose a new outlet that spins any story into a flavor you prefer. Our intake of news these days is done in a way that reaffirms what we already believe. We watch shows with people who tear apart the opposition. We celebrate their victories while our adversaries use it to demonize us. We think this is helping, we think this is making a point and exposing the fallacy of the enemy, but really we are just patting our selves on the backs. Nothing is being accomplished outside of the widening of the rift between people of differing opinions.
I wish people in the media would see the value of real discussion and real idea sharing. Instead we are in this feedback loop that pushes or biases further and further in each direction. I WELCOME those who disagree with me to disagree with me openly, honestly and fairly. I am not so married to my beliefs as to think I could not learn something. In fact, I feel feeble about opinions I have that have not been vetted in civil discourse. Again, I wish more people felt this shame over their thoughts and ideas. Maybe then we would come up with more balanced solutions to problems.