ideas, theory, ideology

There’s those lines from Yes Prime Minister about irregular verbs. Here they are:

Bernard: It’s one of those irregular verbs, isn’t it: I have an independent mind; you are an eccentric; he is round the twist.

Bishop’s Gambit (Yes, Prime Minister Series 1, episode 8 )

and

Bernard: That’s another of those irregular verbs, isn’t it? I give confidential press briefings; you leak; he’s being charged under section 2A of the Official Secrets Act.

Man Overboard (Yes, Prime Minister, Series 2 Episode 1)

And another irregular verb: “I have ideas. You have theory. He has ideology.”

(or, as it says in one of the wonderful ‘Spectacular Times’ booklets – “theory is when you have ideas. Ideology is when ideas have you”.)

Two good examples of this I have stumbled across lately. One was an entirely unironic letter in the Financial Times (Sept 9) from Barrie Bain, director of some agribusiness outfit called Fertecon Limited

“The ecological way to avoid sharp increases in the price of agricultural products and reduce the need to clear forests is to ensure that yields from existing farmland are optimised using best available sustainable techniques, not by following ideologically-driven inefficient organic methods.”

Classic attempt to frame a petro-chemical dependent set of processes as normal and natural, whereas anything that isn’t about ripping the last shred of profit from the system (bio-Taylorism) is somehow hippyish (while also appropriating the language – ‘ecological’, ‘sustainable.’  Clever, if transparent, stuff!)

The other is from an “Arena” report about the Bennelong Society’s meeting. In response to a speaker saying that he thought Aborigines could continue to live useful lives on outback stations, one of the audience just interjected “Pure ideology mate, pure ideology.”
We (the ‘left’ as well as the ‘right’) throw this ideology word around at people who don’t agree with us. It’s the modern day version of calling someone a communist or a conspiracy theorist. By ‘sneakily’ claiming the high moral/intellectual ground, we decide that we don’t need to engage with arguments or evidence or anything so time-consuming…

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Below the surface...
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