Humor Magazine

It's Not My Fault, It's Those Bloody Words!

By Davidduff

I was going to begin with an apology to you all for preaching an incorrect sermon but then I remembered that none of you pay the slightest attention to anything I write or say so there's no need!  However, some of you may recall that from time to time I have become very irate at the lack of ideology in any of our frontline politicians.  None of them seem to be doing the job in order to achieve something greater than themselves which leaves one with the large suspicion that they are only in it for the money or for some peculiar psychiatric imperative in their personalities.  However, today I find myself taken to task by the supporters of the late Michael Oakeshott.

As it happens, Oakeshott, himself, is a fairly regular twinge in my conscience because I have never read a word he wrote and yet everywhere people speak highly of him as a true conservative (small 'c') philosopher.  His particular view of true conservatism has been taken up by Peter Wehner in Commentary.  He, of course, being American is beset with the shrill, poisonous, vindictive atmosphere of today's political scene 'over there'.  He uses Oakeshott's opinions to warn his fellow conservatives concerning what he considers to be there errors of judgment in partaking of this monumental 'bitch fight':

he lapse into ideology is a perennial danger for conservatism (and for any
political and religious movement, for that matter). The temptations of those of
us who are committed to a political and religious philosophy/cause, always, is
confirmation bias; that we go in search of facts to support pre-existing views;
and that we self-segregate and inhabit a closed mental world in which we simply
don’t allow counter-arguments and contrary empirical data to penetrate the walls we erect. We simply refuse to hold up our views to refinement and revision.

Well, that is true, of course, but it is not an argument that would convince me to dispense with ideology.  At this point I am forced to quote the late Prof. Joad who regularly began his counter-arguments with the phrase 'it all depends on what you mean by . . .' and here I would insert the word 'ideology' - see, "words, words, words"!  I would suggest that everyone has an 'ideology' but the line between that somewhat abstract ideal and the bricks and mortar of 'policy' is very fine.  I would suggest that the notion that 'I do not believe in any ideology' is, in fact, an ideology!  I would go further and suggest that it is totally untrue!  Everyone has an ideology in some sense of the word, by which I mean that everyone has their own, albeit rough and ready, idea of what the world is now, what they would like it to be and what it could be if certain measures were taken.  And it is around about this point that one shuffles across the line between ideology and policy.

So, coming back to the real world, I want my politicians to have an ideology.  I want them to point to a distant vision that for the moment only they can see so that I might inspect it and either approve or not.  I don't mind if they don't quite get there - that's the real world intruding - but I do want to see them trying.  So, sorry and all that, Prof. Oakeshott, but I'm right and you're wrong!  (I can say that to an immensely distinguished philosophical swot because he's dead!)  Read Wehner's article, it's worth it.


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