I checked a definition for ideology and one of the first definition that appeared was ‘An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things’. It is not our purpose here to go for a perfect definition. There could be different types of ideologies – religious ideologies based on religions and different sectarian differences. Within Christianity, there are protestant and catholic ideologies; even within catholic there are different types based on various aspects. There are political ideologies like communism, socialism, capitalism, dictatorship and so on. I would like to ask the question to distinguish between them; Are they empowering the people? Or is it empowering a minority few?
One of the means to judge the education system is to ask the question, ‘How much it is helping the students to think for themselves?’ I think the same question could be asked about the ideologies.
Communism was a movement started to empower the working class. But whether it allows everybody to think for themselves or whether state will think for all is a question. But in India, a large number of intellectuals and academicians coming from West Bengal and Kerala is a tribute to the communist rule in those states. (others too have ruled there and I don’t forget it). Have they empowered all, especially the workers or forced them to stay as workers with no opportunities of going up the ladder?
There are right wing ideologies and they are trying to re-write the history of the country. There is a great hype of development; but is the inequality in the country reducing. Is the right wing (who are normally conservatives as seen in the history) open to innovative ideas? Do the speeches contain maximum of factual statements or the combination of emotions and opinions building up newer facts? Do they allow commoners to think for themselves? Or is it that their intellectuals are the creators and arbitrators of truth?
The different religions or belief groups could also be considered as ideologies. Some of them are extremely liberal and some extremely conservative according to the modern standards. The question is how each of them treat women and other vulnerable sections of the society? How they address the justice issues? These issues help us to understand whether their own understandings are liberative or oppressive interpretation of their holy books.
We have many great philosophers like Nietzsche, Camus who would speak of the need to be authentically oneself. It is good to see around to check which ideologies, intellectual movements, political and social movements do this role of helping people to be oneself and not the copy of an established model.
Some criticize post-modernism as an ideology that advocates relativism, which means anything can go. I find that criticism too much; I understand it as the invitation to be oneself, to be different from others, to have different anchoring points in life. The anchoring points needn’t be at the center, even at the periphery. It would be great to follow the advice of Jesus, to help others and oneself to live the life in its fullness.