Sunday, September 7, 2014


P. Schultz
September 7, 2014

Here is a quote I ran across recently on the concept of “ideology,” which I think is quite interesting to ponder.

“And what is ideology if not a cover story so deeply lived as to be almost unconscious, that necessary story by which the individual steps into daily life and its collective webs of work, language, and sexuality.”

[From Cover Stories: Narrative and Ideology in the British Spy Thriller, by Michael Denning. ]

            I really like this because it makes ideology something that is “hidden in plain sight.” And aren’t those things always the most difficult to see, that is, to see them for what they are, here, called “cover stories?” We or I or some of us wonder, “Why is it that our politicians seem to do the same thing over and over and over again, even though that ‘thing’ did not ‘work’ the first time, or the second time, or even the third time?”

            My younger brother, Mike, was a psychologist, and he use to say to me every so often: “Therapy certainly isn’t the answer to everything and it isn’t for everyone. But those who don’t do it are likely to do the same things over and over and over, even though they prove to be futile.” I believe this “definition” of ideology helps us to understand the political manifestation of this behavioral phenomenon.

            Consider the idea that our soldiers, or some of them, are afflicted with something labeled PTSD, or “post-traumatic stress disorder.” This is pretty much taken for granted these days as a diagnosis and, as a result, therapy, individual and/or group therapy is recommended to deal or “cure” it. Now, think for a few moments what is assumed in this way of thinking about this phenomenon. One assumption seems to be that this condition manifests itself as a psychological condition and not, say, as a political condition. That is, the manifestation of this condition has little or nothing to do with the politics of the situation. Rather, it has to do with other variables such as an intense level of violence, bloodshed, physical harm and pain, and of course death.

            But what if this is just part of ideology? That is, what if whatever it is that is manifesting itself is connected not just to those variables listed above but also to the politics of the situation? That is, what if this condition results from the perception that a particular war is unjust or immoral or imperialistic? Now, if this were the case, then dealing with PTSD would require political measures, not merely what we call psychological measures. Also, this would imply that a communitarian approach to recovery would be [more] useful than a therapeutic approach.

            Now, of course, such suggestions as I have made above sound just silly or inane, don’t they? Who would seriously entertain that idea that it is our politics, the way we are politically in the world, our political “be-ing,” that conditions our psyches, sometimes to the point of creating “disorders?” No one I know. But this might be taken to confirm that this is part of the ideology we use to “step into daily life and its collective webs of work, language, and sexuality.” Who knows? This might be worth thinking about.

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