The problem with Ideology | Pakistan Today

The problem with Ideology

  • And the decay of fact-based dialogue and debate

When the younger generation begins to seek knowledge and form ideas, it is only natural to favour or identify with an ideology. There is nothing wrong with that, unless they are convinced that it is only their belief system that can prevail. Problems arise when we choose to abandon critical thinking and not be open to other ideas if it does not suit the ideology we have subscribed to.  Nuance, context, and humility are fast becoming casualties. Defending our ideology is now more important than finding the truth. The art of civilized discourse is decaying. Worldwide, we are seeing that ideology is taking precedence over facts. It is even more concerning that the younger generation is becoming ideologically headstrong, leaving little room for other viewpoints.  Having an open mind is crucial for one’s development, hence pigeonholing and becoming intellectually hostage to a doctrine can be extremely counterproductive.

The global political landscape is setting the stage for future ideologues. Today, we are witnessing emotional and illogical ideological politics on both the left and the right in many parts of the world. President Trump and Prime Minister Modi are examples of leaders who appeal to people’s baser instincts through emotive and divisive rhetoric, something that right wing populists are very good at. It also seems as if many on the left have backed themselves into ideological corners in response. Thus, extreme polarization and disunity best describe the current state of society worldwide.

The more an individual identifies with an ideology, the more unwilling they are to accept new ideas. Unknowingly, they have abdicated their mind to the narrative they believe in. Identifying with a certain doctrine does not mean one should sacrifice their right to think outside it. Unfortunately, ideologies, political or religious in nature are very certain of their rightness, and thus become dogmatic. Even when new circumstances and evidence surface, followers who passionately believe in a doctrine will be reluctant to sway from their position.

President Trump and Prime Minister Modi are examples of leaders who appeal to people’s baser instincts through emotive and divisive rhetoric, something that right wing populists are very good at. It also seems as if many on the left have backed themselves into ideological corners in response. Thus, extreme polarization and disunity best describe the current state of society worldwide.

In Pakistan, religious ideologues have continually thrust their warped interpretation of religion. They have seeped into every segment of society and have actively discouraged tolerance, equality, and free thought. Obscurant clerics in Pakistan are a prime example of the problem with adamantly believing in an ideology, especially without exposure or education, which lays the groundwork for tyranny and regression.

When you look at the educated left in Pakistan, one would expect them to be more flexible and less self-righteous. The left are usually very critical of the army, which is their right, however we have often seen their analysis skewed because of their dislike for the institution. For example, when the judgment against former President Musharraf was announced-that his body be dragged and hanged on Islamabad’s main avenue and left hanging for three days, rather than being repulsed, they either celebrated or stayed silent. Some went so far to say that abrogating the constitution (for just over 40 days) is worse than the most vile acts terrorism. This is exactly why disproportionate hatred is dangerous. Those who believe that Pakistan is in a shambles solely because of one institution are living in a fool’s paradise. One-dimensional analysis, which is a symptom of hardcore ideologues, will not solve anything. Any political analyst worth their salt will adopt a multi-varied approach to analyse a situation. Over simplifying complicated issues is never the answer. It is thus crucial that even if one strongly believes in something, they should have the sense not to hold themselves hostage to their narrative, and most importantly, have the humility to listen to others. The late filmmaker and cinematographer Albert Maysles once memorably said, “Tyranny is the deliberate removal of nuance.” That is the difference between wisdom and folly.

It is important to stress that identifying with a particular ideology does not make you an ideologue, but identifying exclusively with a certain doctrine while downgrading alternatives does. It is imperative that the younger generation makes a concerted effort to critically think, and question what they believe in. Challenging your beliefs doesn’t make you weaker; it in fact strengthens your inquisitiveness, which is the source of further research and discovery. It is very easy to label people if we don’t agree with them. It is much harder to sit down and listen. We must acknowledge that we don’t know everything, which is why when you are listening to someone you don’t agree with, make a conscious effort to assume they may know something that you do not.



One Comment;

  1. Dr Nasir Ahmad said:

    Well said …it has all got to do with education and producing young men and women with critical thinking skills. We have nothing but rote learning and are just a shade better than those in madrasahs. Even our students in universities are pathetic and there are PhDs with bogus credentials and have submitted plagiarised theses. Sad

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