Ideology & Human Sacrifice
Just when you thought we've emerged from the era of violent pagan rites
Disclaimer: I am not speaking about any one ideology in particular — as much as the reader may think I am. What follows is an egalitarian critique of all ideologies.
Just under 4,000 years ago, according to the Torah’s chronology, human civilization was on the brink of globalization. It seems that many, many people allowed themselves to be mobilized by the prospect of being united through one language, with one capital city, and a central tower that would serve as a monument for humanity — a beacon of achievement and glory — a global symbol of the pursuit of the “greatest good.”
It was an irresistible idea.
And irresistible ideas snowball into ideologies.
The hallmark of an ideology is that it becomes its own raison d'être. In this way, paradoxically, the “greatest good” for humanity always stands poised to trample the small, puny good of a single, individual human. Indeed, this is the notion behind human sacrifice, which plagued the ancient world from the east to the west.
Although, thankfully, the influence of the Torah on civilization successfully banished this beyond revolting practice from most of the planet, ideologies continue to take human lives both figuratively and literally. It occurs whenever a society encourages or justifies that and individual or subgroup should be sacrificed for the sake of an abstract idea disguised as “the greatest good.”
This is precisely the poignant image that the sages of Israel used to describe the scene at the construction site of the Tower of Babel:
If a man fell and died they paid no heed to him, but if a brick fell they sat and wept, and said: “Woe is us! When will another another brick go up the ramp in its stead?!”
The workers at the Tower of Babel were so consumed by the ideology they were sold that if they saw someone dying for the cause, they wouldn’t bat an eyelash, but if the project was slowed down, they would break down crying.
Employing human shields, waving off reckless civilian casualties, and justifying/celebrating suicidal martyrdom are hallmarks of an idea gone bad.
Every idea carries a risk of becoming an ideology. Even ideas taken from the Torah. After all, any irresistible idea can snowball into an ideology…
How can we protect humanity from falling prey to ideologies? From falling prey to ourselves, really?
Is the answer atheism? Nihilism maybe?
Can an anti-ideological ideology truly exist?
Stay tuned next week…