Liberation Ideologies Essay, Research Paper
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed… There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair… Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured… Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself. These were the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as seen in his letter entitled Civil Disobedience in Defense of God-Given Rights, in which he argues the need for the American nation to live up to the ideal it professes but imperfectly realizes (Cohen 652). His letter was written in hope of provoking moral reflection and legal reform within the nation. It was a plea for liberation, utilizing deliberate self-sacrifice as a means to provoke such a change. However, Dr. King s example of an ideology based on liberation is only one of many. Fascism, Nationalism, both liberation theology and fundamentalism, Feminism, and student radicalism are all examples of liberation based ideologies. Any liberation-oriented cause works to achieve some sort of liberation from oppression or reform in a lack of freedom. It is this goal which eventually inspires action within the cause or ideology. Yet, just as in other ideologies such as democracy or Marxism, the specific events or conditions igniting such a need for reform and liberation seem to determine the way, or the system, in which the goal of liberation is achieved.
Fascism is an ideology of liberation which centers around three key themes of elitism, irrationalism, and myth. Fascism is a political movement which originated in Italy, deriving its name from fasces – bundles of sticks tied around an axe symbolizing authority of leadership and the unity of the people tied to it. It holds that the individual exists for the State, to whose good all his work and interests should be directed. It is an ideology of liberation, yet one which is constructed around direct subservience to leadership. This form of hierarchy within the state is the first key theme within fascism. Elitism entails a strong distrust of democracy, fearing that it manipulates law and society through influencing public opinion, they believe in the iron law of oligarchy, in a hero / leader, and in elite values. However, there are many paradoxes within fascism. It has characteristically been at opposition with democracy, yet fascism has also characteristically enacted the same system of oppression within its political regimes. It is similar to Marxism in the ways in which the victims of each system suffer under dictatorships, and expansionary practices. Fascism tends to completely glorify war however, deeming it an outlet for heroic and grand passions . Following this, there is an irrationality which fascism follows. It is a very subjective ideology and expresses a diminished role of reason. Most Fascists were in agreement with Sorel on the grounds of justifying a proletarian war through their hatred of the mediocrity of the middle class, and contempt for its liberal humanitarian ideas. In their hypocritical ideals, fascists utilize the mythic side of the ideology to harness the destructive actions of the people. Sorel, again playing a key role in the development of fascist ideals, stated that myths such as that of Social Darwinism, the myth of the role of violence and the state are all essential and help to give the people a realized dream, which is good for the workers to believe in because it is that very belief that will ignite destructive action within them. Fascism utilizes their authoritarian leadership to provide the means, the revolutionary fervor, to incite liberation and to give shape to the masses who are shapeless, never amounting to anything until shaped by the elite and given a will (Rauschning)
Nationalism, in a similar way, unites human beings together in commonality and defines the bound community of individuals in terms of the loyalty of the individual to the community. The ideology is defined by Hugh Seton-Watson to be a policy of creating national consciousness within a politically unconscious population. It is the unification of a people through a factor which is stronger than political affiliation, something as binding as nationality. Nationalism utilizes the combination of both state and nationality, hence the name the nation-state, to harness the political power of a people. The unity within nationalism is based on objective and subjective factors, which provide for the creation of a common purpose. The objective factors consist of: religion, language, race, ethnicity, common past, and geography / a common territory. The subjective factors are elements of will and purpose which contribute to the formation of a state. Nationalism then becomes not only an ideology, but a movement. The only demand that is made by a nationality in this process is that the people express self-determination. This self-determination of a people is a key aspect in nationalism. It decided the conflict between Germany and France over the provinces of Alsace, where the Germans asserted their claims in terms of objective factors, their historical right to the provinces, saying , We desire, even against their will, to restore them to themselves. It became a doctrine when Woodrow Wilson included it in his famous Fourteen Points, declaring that self-determination is an imperative principle of action… , expressing that it was a key part of the system of rebuilding Europe and a new political order there after World War I.
Nationalism has taken root in many European countries and cultures. In France, Germany, Britain, and America, nationalism manifested itself in various ways. In France, the French Revolution asserted the sovereignty of the people, the nation, and stressed individual freedoms. The objectivity and the cause bound them together, yet in the end, they were attempting to restructure society, formulate a new way of life, and a new nation in a futuristic manner under an absolute ruler bent on a form of expansionist nationalism. They lost sight of their commonalities which were linked to the past. This is where a European country like Germany succeeded. The typical characteristic of German nationalism was one with a conservative emphasis. Johann Fitchte, a German writer, spoke of a common desire when calling for Germany to assert its cultural supremacy, in hopes that the common desire of uniting all Germans into one fatherland would ignite action. More recently, German nationalism has been engineered by an architect with a desire to severe the connection between the reactionary and the nationalist within his culture. This reactionary fervor also played a part in the conflict between British and American nationalism. Both stress self-determination as key, and both have shown to be overcome by their international power at points, leading to an expression of national supremacy, just as Germany had. However, in the United States, there has been a much more diverse expression of nationalism. It aroused many internal conflicts, seeing as nationalism has usually bound groups of individuals together according to their ethnic or cultural backgrounds. The most recent expression of nationalism in the U.S. was that of black nationalism, taking root originally in the brain child of Marcus Garvey, a group called the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Many a prestigious men followed, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jesse Jackson, all organizing the African-American population around ideals of manhood and womanhood such as racial self-respect, and self-determination.
Just as nationalism is characterized by a demand for motivation, in the form of self-determination, liberation theology is characterized by a call or demand for action. Identified with the Catholic Church, especially in Latin America and other third world countries, liberation theology emphasizes social praxis of liberating countries such as Latin America from their economic dependency on the U.S. in hopes of modernizing it, and in turn, helping to avoid the increasing disparity. Its main doctrine holds that the church is a vital agency of history, molding historic conditions through praxis, or action. Its correct action is called orthopraxis, and it is the belief that the liberation should be enacted by the poor and that the church must be there to lead the revolutionary movement against capitalism. They seek to banish collective sin, the institutionalized exploitation of the poor by the upper class simply because they are the upper class, by working to conscientize the upper class, or in other words, making them conscious and aware personally, socially, and politically to the growing disparity.
On the other side of the spectrum of religious politics is Fundamentalism, which is centered around protecting and preserving religious beliefs and practices being threatened by changing social conditions. All religious fundamentalist groups share common characteristics. They are characteristics like charismatic leadership, subordination of women, moralism, messianism / and subordination of political power – which stress a concern only for the sacred and the subordination of everything else to it, dogmatism, inerrancy, respect for the supernatural , and the rejection of science when it disproves their beliefs. Basically, it is a present-day form of religious asceticism, intent on liberating religious tradition from the confines of a society constantly reforming its own new-age traditions having no concern or place for that of the past. In Iran, Muslim fundamentalism was preserved through Jihad, holy war, and then through a national authoritarian rule. Christians in America, have chosen to preserve their religious tradition through evangelizing within the mass media, utilizing cable networks, radio, and national conventions which address political action.
With no more in common than a desire for liberation and reform in a changing society, student radicalism in both America and France has affected both nations just as much as have the two forms of religious politics. Student rebellions in 1968, led by Tom Hayden and Daniel Cohn-Bendit in America, stressed the problem of specialization of education, which as Hayden stated, leaves little room for sweeping thought. Yet the two student rebellions were not exactly alike, they differed in coherence with the contrast between the political cultures of the two countries. The differences are even apparent in their different slogans. American students yelled, make love not war and those in France yelled, make love and revolution . The question in France was not whether to be a revolutionary, but rather, what kind of revolutionary one should be. France s tradition has characteristically been one of revolutions and major reforms, where America s tradition has been one of renewals.
Following a tradition of renewals, Feminism in America has been characterized by a desire to renew the economic and political standings of women to a position of equality with men. Their basic argument, being that women and men are equal in every aspect besides a few physical traits, has carried their reform politics to various levels. Betty Friedan, proclaimed the mother of the new feminist movement, describes the oppression of the American woman in The Feminist Mystique. She deems it a problem with no name and states that the stereotypes of the American woman put pressure on the average lady to be a house wife, and to be subordinate, which in turn robs the women of this country their right to be all that they can be . She defines the problem when saying that, …the chains that bind her (the suburban housewife)…are chains made up of mistaken ideas and misinterpreted facts, or incomplete truths and unreal choices. (Feminine Mystique 513) The liberation that feminists seek is renewal of spirit through reform in societal norms which have outgrown their birth in tradition.
I am intrigued by commonalities which play a role in binding or tearing apart their society, but especially common characteristics which define a society, culture, or nationality. Nationalism, specifically, has played a part in so many different societies and cultures. It has evolved from a binding force into many different political ideologies. In Germany, objective traits brought together a split nation-state which had a common dream of a manifest destiny. It manifested and turned into fascism, and since its fall has started over on those basic building blocks of objective factors, and under different leadership and with different common ideals now, has evolved into a democratic system. The ideology of nationalism, to me, seems like a type of logos, or binding / transcendent force, which gives and has given birth to many different ideologies we have discovered. In the beginning of United States history, there existed a common desire for change, liberation, from unjust oppression. With self-determination, and an undying thirst for freedom, this newfound colonial nationalism gave way to a path of liberation. These same objective factors led to the formation of a democratic government based on freedom and equality, which has evolved since then, according to changes in the American Dream and grew into a democratic liberalism.
With the idea that nationalism is based on a tradition of renewal, reform, and liberation, I would label it a politics of redemption. It has bound peoples and entire nations together under common call for change, or renewal to the positions, whether economic or political, which they believe they are entitled to. The objective factors have generally led nationalism throughout its history. And there is no room for compromise in objectivity.
However, I believe that there must be room for compromise in politics. I think in terms of more present-day politics, so when I state that I believe there to exist a need for compromise, I am not referring to politics of past societies, but rather, I am looking ahead to the politics which I will confront in my life and in the future society of American, and for that matter, the future global society.
First, allow me to start out by defining my beliefs. I believe that humans, by nature, are social beings. However, I also believe, through my studies in human history, that we have a tendency to estrange ourselves, whether it be through our differences in opinion, lifestyle, race, or that which we are ignorant to in regards to the cultures of our brothers and sisters in humanity. Whatever the cause may be, I believe that we tend to segregate ourselves according to comfort zones, and we begin to create atmospheres, surroundings, and environments which we believe are conducive to personal prosperity. It is how we have learned to survive in an evolving human society. Yet, history has shown that we achieve estrangement through greed, lust for power or security, and as social beings we have found the best way of accomplishing such is to group ourselves objectively, according to common interests, language, ethnicity, etc. I think that it is a little paradoxical. I believe this to be characteristic of the evolution of our social nature. So the nature of the individual then has become one of conflicting interests. He is by nature a social being, but at the same time, he has become conditioned to utilize his social nature to estrange and segregate himself from the total society. He adheres to people like him, who have common interests, but shuns or conquers those other groups whom he is ignorant to. Yet, as our society evolves, so does our nature. Now, using the example of the United States, we have held on to our self-righteousness but let go of certain objective factors. We in the United States, no longer associate a person with their background, and instead characterize them as a citizen of the U.S.A. or of Germany, France, etc. We base our social nature less on objective physical factors and more on common interest / intellectual objective factors. We have let go of an insistent desire for politics of redemption and have become more attracted to a politics of convenience which can acclimatize itself to the various conflicts in interests which arise in a diverse society.
However, just as Marx believed, this change only succeeds in the estrangement of a being which is by nature meant to be social. So I do not believe that a politics of convenience is correct for me, or the future society in which I will live. Rather, I think that politics, in every way, should be a combination of human ideologies, seeing as human society is a combination or various cultures, ethnicities, nationalities, and forms of politics. Would it not be hard for everyone to adhere to the politics of one type of people? History has shown that even the most prosperous of societies have succumb to downfall. But then we must ask why? Look at the Great Roman Empire, it was great, but it fell. How did it not last, it had strong leaders, but when famine hit and when the market was not the prosperous, abundance of wealth it once was, where was the insurance, the alliances with other powerful wealthy nations ready to send aid and relief. Oh yeah, that s right, there were no alliances because the major powers were to waiting with wide eyes of greed and gaping mouths of hunger, eager to return the favor of conquest and ensure their prosperity, with ignorance to the foresight of the plight which would ensue there empire in the same way. I guess what goes around comes around (unknown).
So where does the future of politics lie? I believe it lies in the next step in the evolution of our society. If I were to make a prediction of where our society was heading in my future, I would say that it is not towards anyone political ideology which we have studied. Rather, it is towards a global society, and the acceptance of our society as being comprised of social beings, and, to incorporate faith into the equation, the extinction of the capitalist dream of an accumulation of riches. By this I am not referring to a socialist, or Marxist political ideology, I am speaking of the next step in capitalism as being the evolution of capitalism to a global from, maybe that of a liberal socialism, which would disperse wealth to a global economy and yet not give way to total socialism, hence the extinction of capitalism. I believe that some form of our present liberal democracy, emphasizing the individual through the benefits and prosperity of capitalism, will remain as the engine of the new economy.
I believe that my faith plays an unquestionable role in all of this. In the years to come, I believe that Christianity will define the path of the future of our society. My belief is that in my life time the partnership of science and religion will be the least of amazing discoveries. I think that the Americas are heading for consolidation, so that North, Central, and South America will exist as one nation under one government, and with our growing economy, I believe that it will be similar to ours, if not ours. From there, I believe that a global economy will become a reality, which will lead to a global society and then a global government. Yet, the economic differences and conditions that exist in this world now create an incredible obstacle. This is where my faith comes in. Our country, being founded and based on Christian ethics, has been very supportive of economic aid. Slowly, that has translated into public funding for humanitarian groups such as World Vision. These groups, most of them now private, have found that affecting the disparity of a nation or country is not done through giving money to homeless shelters, it is only a continuous cycle of dependence. The way to affect changes is the liberate the people from there dependence or present economic situation, such as is stated in liberation theology. You invest money into a state town village, and start socialization projects, as a social worker in the United States would do for a person on welfare or a homeless person, to help them get back on their feet. Little by little, the government is stepping back from its administration of international aid, and allocating the tax dollars which still pay for such programs to humanitarian groups, most of which are Christian, to administer. Professor McKeown, I believe that this is the future, and this is the role which we are called to do as followers of Christ, we are to do to the least of our brothers as we would do to Christ himself. I would like to end with a simple quote by the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Let us all hope that the dark cloud of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in the some not to distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty. (Civil Disobedience in Defense of God-Given Rights) I am my brothers keeper and at the end of my life I hope to be able to say the same.