Amidst widespread mistrust of authority and governing institutions (politicians, particularly governments, are the least trusted group in society), dogma, from whatever source, appears to be losing its suffocating hold on the minds of people everywhere. Disillusionment with ideologically based solutions is being strengthened by the consistent failure of existing methods to solve the problems of the times, which are many and considerable.
If global and national challenges are to be met fully and whole-heartedly, creative reimagining, free of doctrine, is required; independent thinking outside the ideological box. Decrepit systems must be reappraised, the good retained the rest rejected; values realigned, belief systems revised and expanded. Humanity has been wedded to ideologies of one kind of another for eons. Our devotion to them strengthens self-identity, albeit limited and false, and provides a degree of comfort and order in a chaotic world which has no easily discernible logic or purpose to it. This is particularly so in relation to organised religions with their defined order, fixed doctrine and mapped-out route to ‘God’.
Capitalism, democracy and Christianity (2.2 billion believers) are the most pervasive global ideologies, but there are a host of others. In the religious field there’s Islam, the fastest growing religion (1.8 billion); Hinduism (the world’s oldest, one billion), which is not really a religion but a collection of traditions and ancient philosophies; Buddhism, Jainism, Judaism and Sikhism, plus a bundle of sub-sects. Then there are the socio-economic/political structures: Socialism, Neo-liberalism, Communism, Fascism, and the many divisions; on and on it goes.
A veritable jumble of isms then, conditioning the minds of everyone, everywhere, enabling control, fuelling social divisions, historic conflicts, sparking terrorism and wars too numerous to count. Ideologies consisting of systemized forms, inflexible rules and cherished beliefs administered by devotees, suited and enrobed intermediaries — between the ignorant masses and the state or the divine. Ordained or elected to perpetuate the system, devoutly deliver the doctrine, condition the unsuspecting from the pulpit, the election rally or news channel, and orchestrate the hollow rituals designed by their predecessors. Mass media and education, plus already infiltrated peers and parents are key feeding grounds for the perpetuation of ideologies
Love in Action
Alongside the calls for justice, a relentless rhythm of the times is the collective demand for freedom. It adorns the placards and lyrics of protest songs around the world. Various freedoms are contained within The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR): “Freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want, freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.” And crucially, “The right to freedom of thought” (Article 18). This ‘right’, which is the most important of them all, like numerous others contained within the aspirational articles of the UNDHR, does not exist anywhere in the world; it cannot exist within the boundaries of any ideology, and no society is free, not just from a specific ideology, but a potent cocktail of isms.
All belief systems inhibit and condition thinking, colour attitudes and impact behavior. Rigid adherence to isms of all kinds creates divisions, within the individual and by extension the society, and where division exists conflict and fear prosper. All of which runs contrary to the impulse and need of the time, for unity, collective action, cooperation and tolerance. It is these perennial ideals that need to be strengthened if we are to overcome the major issues facing us. All that separates and divides needs to be discarded.
Existing ideologies are in varying states of decay, with devotees of the doctrine lacking the freedom and imagination to allow the system (socio-economic, political or religious) to evolve. But as attitudes and values shift, and this is happening apace throughout the world, in order to be relevant and to adequately meet the demands of the time, evolve they must.
Unity is the key element in any such shift — the required guiding principle underlying the development of existing systems and modes of living. Systems and methodologies rooted not in ideology but in compassion and brotherhood, leading to love in action; systems designed to foster social justice, reduce inequality, dismantle divisions and build relationships.
Unity does not equate to mechanical conformity, that is what exists now; in a tolerant, non-judgmental space where the common good is the collective aim, different ideas can happily co-exist, each contributing to the enrichment and beautification of the whole. Oneness is the very nature of things, the essence of who we are; creating ways of living that are rooted in and encourage expressions of this inherent fact is essential if we are to face the challenges of the time, safeguard the environment and begin to build a just and free world.