How often have you thought “ideology is so inflexible!”
I know I used to say ideology hindered folks from seeing the whole truth. While this is definitely true in some cases, after reading Rinku Sen’s Stir It Up I asked myself more critically if ideology had to have the same rigid dogma that plagues much of the U.S.’s current political systems?
I now have a new appreciation for the role a clear set of values has in resisting those who do have an inflexible ideology.
3 ways to connect issues into a broader analysis
I remember it was only a few years ago that all I focused on was a specific issue (e.g. rainforest destruction) and I avoided looking at the larger forces that instigated the problem (e.g. racism, sexism, and capitalism).
I wasn’t clear even to myself about what I wished to see created/ended, and how to make changes. I would intently argue for a certain policy or plan, but if it came to talking about institutional “isms” that went across numerous issues, I didn’t have the analysis to respond since I didn’t understand the deep connections between issues.
Ideology, if carefully considered and maintained, can be a dynamic instrument that provides a strategic vision connecting issues together and shows what we believe, oppose, and what we want changed.
For an example of this ideology framework in practice consider the organizing against U.S. Prison Industrial Complex (PIC).
What we believe – We believe in the abolition of the PIC and the creation of alternative means of community security. What we oppose – We oppose a system of increased incarceration and institutional racism that has led the U.S., with 5 percent of the world’s population, to have 25 percent of the world’s prison population. What we want changed – We want to eliminate people politically and economically benefiting from the PIC’s rise, heightened surveillance, and the media’s influence on criminal justice policy.
These and other obstructions are not isolated to the PIC, but rather span across a whole host of other issues (e.g. poverty, exploitation of sovereign Native land, and climate change).
It may seem easier to break things down into discrete issues, but we need to define cross-issue, long-term strategies that counter the main power holders and narrative of our times. I will still disagree with some tactics, and ideas, but I will not let small differences in approach separate me from those who I ought to be organizing with.
This framework may not stop the creation of all inflexible beliefs, but it will make sure that folks know what they stand for and what specifically they aim to achieve.
Be vocal about your beliefs
In reality, I have always had an ideology, I just had a hard time expressing it.
There may be reasons why I remained silent (e.g. my entrenchment in white culture that encourages me to avoid confrontation/“disorder”), but I now see that we must be vocal about our IDEOLOGY of what we believe, oppose, and what we want changed in order to bring our multi-issue, long-term strategies to fruition.
Before I would always say “I support X cause.” Now I aim to be much more intentional and open about my views, even though I still may struggle to stand up to privilege (my own and others), power, and oppression.
My transition to clearly and courageously stating my ideology took place over a long period; however, now every time I state what I believe, what I oppose, and what I want changed, my confidence grows.
What do you believe, oppose, and what to see changed? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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