Our Emotional Attachment to Ideology

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We all love belonging to a group. Identifying with a community seems to be an inherent part of being human. Whether it is reading, knitting, baseball, R&B music, environmental science, or something else, I am sure that if you examine your identity, you will find groups where you think you belong.

When these groups are based around hobbies or interests, there’s generally little problem. Group A can believe and do what Group A believes, and that rarely impacts Group B. When these group identities become based around ideologies, however, more conflicts arise. Two illustrative examples for what I mean by “ideologies” are religions and political philosophies. So if it is helpful, you can substitute in “Christianity” or “Socialism”  whenever I use the word “ideology”.

Us versus Them, in-group out-group bias, etc. There are many terms to describe these phenomenons, but I think they all ultimately point to the human tendency to support people with whom we identify and misunderstand and reject the rest. When hostility arises between groups formed around hobbies, the farthest things go is probably “that activity is pretty stupid, and my interest is totally superior.” In contrast, when the Us vs. Them dichotomy grows between groups formed around ideologies, individuals can go to a point of “everyone should live this way” or “anyone who believes in this is a [insert your own insult here].” Unlike for hobbies, where we see our preferences as subjective and do not impose them on others, with ideologies, we see our beliefs as objectively true and wish others to agree with us. So when we encounter another individual who thinks otherwise, we get angry. And when our ideologies are not merely our beliefs but also our group identity, we feel like our community is threatened and become defensive.

When we first step into an ideological group, we might feel doubts. Yet overtime, our belief takes root and defines us. Slowly but surely, we argue not to search for truth but to prove that we are right, and we read not to see others’ perspectives but to seek validation for our own.

I, like most people in the world, including myself, probably exhibit this behavior to some degree. And I hold absolutely no judgement against them because I know where they are coming from. It almost seems inherently human to form communities around our ideologies and make them our identity. However, I think that if we were to be truly open-minded and stay loyal to our quest for truth, it might be a better idea to not let any belief we have define us, whether it be our our religious convictions, our political persuasions, or something else.

Featured Image via PBS

About the author

Jenny Tang is a 16 year old boarder from Sunnyvale, California. She loves learning about anything and everything, with a special passion for math and science, philosophy, and visual art. Her perfect afternoon involves chocolate, jazz music, and a good intellectual discussion. She may or may not study UX Design in college and hopes to change the world with her knowledge.

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