[OPE-L] Crashes, Panics, and Expectations

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Wed Mar 29 2006 - 12:42:02 EST

Jerry, you wrote:

I agree with the last sentence but think it rather undercuts your claim
that "people are normally pretty rational about the most important
practical issues in their lives, and very resistant to propaganda which
does not accord with their real experience of life ....".

With due respect, I don't think I am being inconsistent here. It's perfectly
possible to be pretty rational about the most important practical issues of
your life (e.g. food, sex, a home, a job), and be ignorant about things
happening far away. In fact, the older I get the more ignorant I think I am,
the more there is to know.

If US workers are pissed off about petrol prices, that's rational because
they need their cars - they don't have access to a good public transport
system that could substitute for them yet as this stage in American
evolution, indeed large parts of America seem to be built or designed
completely around car-travel, i.e. car-travel is practically presupposed, so
it becomes a practical necessity. But they're less apt to link the petrol
they need, to military adventures in the Middle East.

About things rather remote from your everyday life, who can you believe?
This is precisely the issue where ideology enters in, because it makes some
things more believable than others, under conditions where there are few
clear reference points that could help you make up your mind. I studied
hypnotherapy a bit once (Milton Erickson etc.) and the power of suggestion
is very real. Marx himself said, that the vice he excused most was human
"gullibility". Sometimes a naive query works better than a longwinded story,
insofar as it cuts through the crap, but substantive naivity also increases
the susceptibility to all kinds of more or less whacky ideologies.

As you can guess, I regard ideology mainly as a critical concept - but e.g.
Lenin had a positive concept of ideology, in the sense of a positive
party-ideology (partiinost, ideological staunchness, and so on). The Dutch
Socialist Party also talks about "our ideology" but I don't really agree
with this bit. A party should be united by shared values, beliefs,
arguments, principles and assessments of reality - the SP does have many -
but this is not a question of taking on board an "ideology", but making
explicit what these values, beliefs, arguments, principles and assessments
of reality are, and argue it out, assert them in a rational or reasonable
way. If  you have that culture, then power and responsibility stays
disciplined by a reasonable means-ends relationship, i.e. we do/say this not
because somebody says so, period, but we do/say this, because we have good
reasons for pursuing this policy, and we can explicate that where necessary,
we are aware of the relationship between means and ends and can relativise
this sensibly. Of course, one should bear in mind Lenin was operating in a
situation where workers and peasants were often illiterate, and often
strongly religious in their belief, the Czar as "father of the people" being
something like God's representative or authority on earth and so on.

Thus Lenin wrote, for example, talking about the "three components of
Marxism" (Prosveshcheniye No 3., March 1913), "The Marxist doctrine is
omnipotent because it is true. It is comprehensive and harmonious, and
provides men with an integral world outlook irreconcilable with any form of
superstition, reaction, or defence of bourgeois oppression." Who would say
that now? I think perhaps his wife must have been away when he wrote that,
she would have toned down the rhetoric a tat. But you see here, the idea of
an "integral world outlook", an ideology, which he wants to assert and
propagandize, inject into the working class. But I have serious doubts about
that idea, because then I think you pick up the worst sides of religion,
rather than its better sides - the challenge is to supplant ideology with
real thinking and action, not to assert the authority of an idea per se...
the recent mass demonstrations are very healthy in that sense, insofar as it
gets a real debate going.


Where the sky begins, the horizon ends
Despite the best intentions
And a big old man, goes up for sale
He becomes his own invention
The days go slow, into the changing season
Bought and sold, for all the wrong reasons
Oh no, down they go, for all the wrong reasons.

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