Thursday, February 16, 2006

Evolution of an "-ISM"...
One of the things that has rattled around my brain cage for a while is the way in which certain attitudes and ideologies evolve. Once again, I was thinking of the tattered banner that is "leftist" politics when George Orwell entered my thoughts (again).

Orwell expounded (quite correctly, if you ask me) that leftists (he used the more polite term "intelligensia") are basically the disaffected fringes of society. These are people, for whom, society at large, has no obvious use. Their worthiness and talents (whether real or imagined) are not anything society wishes to indulge for some reason or another, and so, they turn to politics. The reason they do so is to have a forum in which their grievances are aired, and often, taken seriously. The intelligensia is a person, who, simply wants a voice so that what he considers novel thinking (or merely a voicing of his grievance) gets a chance to be heard. He almost never expects, nor wants, to be in a position of political power. The process by which this often happens is somewhat more complex.

Which got me to thinking about the evolution of an ideology. Now, mind you, I'm not a psychiatrist (I've seen enough of them, though!) or an expert on the inner workings of the human mind. But, I put my limited intelligence to work on this (I have a LOT of spare time) and tried to see if I could determine a common thread that runs through the worlds most virulent ideologies.

For the purposes of this discussion, I have limited my "test subjects" to three: Nazism, Communism and Islam. (Islam, technically is not "leftist", but it follows the same pattern in interesting ways).

To begin with, we need a grievance. Typically it is a grievance for which there is no practical remedy. In Nazism it was the German loss of the First World War, for Communism the inequalities of the Capitalist system, and for Islam, the treatment of Mohammed by his own family and the Meccans.

The grievance, legitimate or not, rankles. It festers. It hurts so much on such a fundamental level, that it begins to feed upon itself and starts a vicious cycle; the grievance, the impossibility of a remedy, begets more grievance, which makes a remedy that much more difficult, and so on and so on. The cycle continues until it reaches the next phase: Obsession.

The Obsession is constant. It occupies the thoughts and actions of the afflicted 24/7. The affected cannot come to terms with it. He cannot face it. He cannot listen to reason. He simply cannot let it go. The initial grievance (and the redress of same) becomes the only reason for living. For Islam it was Mohammaed's revenge against the Meccans, for Hitler the restoration of German power and might, for Communism the equitable distribution of wealth by an anally-retentive system of enforced management. We then move onto the next phase; the mental defect.

Obsessions can be cured. Time, therapy, medication, distraction, and a host of other things can often solve the problem of obsession. When an obsession cannot be cured or curbed by something resembling normal means, it becomes a mental defect. Once you reach this stage there is no appeal to reason, no test of logic, nothing, that will disabuse the affected from his original notion (I've been wronged, dammit!). The mental defect evolves into conspiracy theory.

The Conspiracy theory is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it continues to reassure the affected that they are a victim, either of circumstance or others, and that in the end, they were powerless. On the other hand, the conspiracy theory then becomes, and objectifies, the Justification.

For Islam, the justification was that the Meccans wouldn't give Mo his props - they became the most vile, destructive and evil people on the planet. For Adolf, it was the Jews; they undermined western civilization, and German civilization in particular. For the Commies, it's the quaint notion of the conspicuous consumer in his motor car and top hat. Having now identified the motivators of the conspiracy, they now become the targets of a counter-conspiracy.

It's at this time that those with a grievance somehow manage to find others with similar or related grievances. How this happens is a mystery to me, but in the case of our test subjects, it's easy enough to discern. Hitler was exposed to political views that strangely mirrored his own. Mohammed had his desert entourage, his family, who were sure to have suffered the same slights based on association. For Communism, it was the convergence of bourgeoise who felt guilty. It is at this point that they begin to discuss, and systematically organize, what to this point had been merely a colelction of disconnected thoughts running around inside someone's skull.

What evolves is ideology. Which is then quickly spread because once the original person with a grievance finds his fellow travelers, he's encouraged to speak out, and reach out, to others of similar mind and outlook. The great dictators of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were, to great extent, great orators and able to seemingly hypnotize (by all acocunts) crowds with power of their voices, the germ of reason in their arguments and the obvious fervor for their cause. Mohammed adopted the religious angle; he gave his grievances and system of ideology a mystical, holy patina.

Once this collection of aggrieved mental patients with a somewhat plausible ideology reaches a critical mass, it now erupts in megalomania. This is the final, often terminal, phase of the disease.

Megalomania is a desire to rule. Everything. Completely. Hitler started a Second World War (for the good of the German Race), the Soviet Communists instituted a system of total control over their society, the Police State (for the good of mankind) . Mohammed's vision became one of holy conquest (to save everyone's soul).

And that's as far as my limited capacity took me. Feel free to discuss and pick apart at your leisure.

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