Freedom, Coronavirus and Ideology.

The beginnings of a project

Only an asteroid would surprise me now.

I didn’t know how else to start this project. 2020 has already showcased bush fires, a killer virus, animals returning from the wild, private space flights, the Black Lives Matter movement, the return of Anonymous, governments paying most of the populations wages, a clear divide in society between classes and a disregard for evident inequality of all forms. What else would have hooked your attention to read this blog?

Coronavirus has left a split in the fabric of our perceived reality, and just as we saw in 2008, that reality is not easily stitched back together. In fact, various groups will push their agenda trying to make their version of the future come true.

In this project, I will attempt to survey our reality prior to and during the worldwide pandemic. I bring no hefty predictions or solutions, but what suspicions of the future I do have are based on the reading of various theories, and my own observations and thoughts. The fabric of reality is not solely based on facts and neither can we solely rely on our perception of the world to tell us how it really is. That said, reflection is a gift that we human possess and I intend to use it here.

The theories I apply and the data and facts I use are there to compliment what I am saying and help give a fuller picture. Saying that I am not a theorist. I never had the privilege of studying philosophy or politics at university, however I have worked in various places from peeling potatoes in the local chip shop, and assessing suicidal patients to teaching English in offices in up-market Madrid. My experiences are not unique and like everyone I have seen contradictions and situations in the world that our ‘common sense’ cannot explain, so I set out to explain it to myself using theory and reflection.

I have not read the whole back catalogue of critical theory and thought, therefore if there are some things that appear familiar or misplaced to the well-versed philosopher, I can ensure you it is an honest mistake. I have merely used what I have read so far to examine the world around me whilst I was stuck inside during this pandemic. 

The theories I talk about are referring several areas of thought, but they are mainly confined the study of ideology and what it means to be within that arena. This is not a specific ideology in the popular term of the word, but the original meaning of the word: The study of ideas in the world. By this I refer to the opinions that we hold and the views that help shape our reality. To use the analogy of glasses (often used by Slavoj Žižek) ideology is the glasses with which we see the world. Glasses whose lenses can crack, be replaced, and outlive their prescription and no longer work for the person wearing them. However, these glasses can never be removed. Ideology is how we relate and structure the world around us. Not all ideas in the world are contested. A cat is a cat, no matter what language you identify it in. But what is freedom? These are areas that are part of the ideological battleground, the more concrete aspects will at times come into question but here I will be considering the more abstract concepts of society, freedom, and being and how these things relate to the world of 2020’s.

Just to make it clear, ideology, as a branch of study, is the larger umbrella term, but under this term there are various forms of ideology. There are the big political ideologies such as socialism, liberalism and conservatism. There are also more localised and personalised ideologies such as the idea of what it means to be British, female, or to be a black person in white society. For now, I will mainly be concentrating on the major political ideologies that shape the world. I will consider where these ideologies sit at any given time. The radical and dominant ideologies are like football teams in a league. The positions remain, but the teams change.

The game is ideology and we use this term to encapsulate the way that the majority of people, from a certain community view the world, after all we think in an ideological way, it’s just normally referred to as common sense. Normally, it is the other person who is thinking ideologically.

It is not some conspiracy theory saying that there is a group of old men controlling how we think. Ideology is the study of ideas, a branch of metaphysics. The political ideologies are labels. They describe the placement, severity, and intentions of schools of thought. It is a way of talking about how power is utilised, and how we relate to reality in the world beyond politics and physics. I want to ask why we stay within these ideologies that are often against our own interests.

It is my belief, like many others, that our economic base, the systematic way in which our society organises its method of distribution and ownership, shapes our culture, personalities, beliefs, institutions, and behaviour. The larger structures of our reality (sometimes called the superstructure) such as the courts, education and immigration systems, the UN and the global financial markets and so on are all built around previous and current economic systems and the ideologies that aim to maintain (or change!) them. Our lives are not defined by these structures but they do give us the facticity, the confines where the choices we have a rise from.  This is the material reality that we live in. Much of this often gets that analytical treatment from various disciplines, this paired with ‘continental philosophy’ is our way forward, owing much to the existentialist movement and Lacanian psychoanalysis.  

Firstly, I will give a basic outline of how ideology works, my understanding of it, and at the same time I will explore our current dominant ideology neoliberalism. Later I will then look at how this has affected how we relate to each other, ourselves (or why we are alienated) and why we are all living in bad faith. This part has been inspired by existential philosophy and psychoanalysis which both pose different questions and are technically opposed in their beliefs. I feel by using both approaches we can begin to look at the questions that the left have often ignored. What freedom is and what it means to be our neoliberal world.

What started out as essays for blogging site Medium, was then going to be turned into a self-published book. However, changing my mind again, I thought it would be fun to revive my old personal blog and post parts of the project here.

I hope you enjoy it and will comment below.

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