Campaigning and ideologies

It’s a funny word ideology. A lot seems to swing with it. However an ideology simply is a system of ideas and ideals, especially one which forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy (google). It’s nothing to be afraid of as such. We should shine a light on it though: how it interacts with campaigning.

In Germany, I had another one of those exchanges with yet another keen cyclist the other day: “the studies say cyclists are always safer on the road” . The problem in our conversation was not the studies, data, evidence, facts and figures – we know they can tell us anything. However, he did try to bend them to his needs. So far, so normal. Where could we go from here?

The real and deeper problem was that my conversation partner was not aware of taking a certain position. I beckoned him, but I detected a certain stubbornness to step out of his bubble. He was talking with confidence, with passion and with conviction that cyclists belong on the road, under any circumstances, categorically. In absolute terms. Yet that was solely his position: he wanted to be able to cycle on the road. He was prepared to bend all else to suit.

There was no questioning of legitimacy for a wider constituent. Safety (the facts, figures, the evidence etc) was used as a shield to defend his own need (essentially: fast cycling on the road). And, yes, there are (too) many ways these studies can be interpreted, and sometimes the studies are not very clear in their methods of data collection or analysis (in German).

It was all about him, his wants and wishes. His view, his ideology did not feature others… people who want to cycle in comfort and that means away from motor traffic. People who tell us again and again that cycling in traffic is not much fun, survey after survey. And that the question is how to build good cycleways that are suitable for all (at the expense of motoring too for its interlinked spatially and motivationally too). The view from the cycleway, not the view from the road. The view from what we have got and need more of, but the view of the freedom of the road. When I listen to these keen cyclists, there is something of a inferiority complex (against motors) in their voices and themes.

He blindly projected his view on everyone else. And he was unaware of doing this.

In order to protect his view point, people who disagree with it were labelled weak and in need of strength or training. His approach also effortlessly made the leap from personal view (I cycle on the road) to ideology (everyone should cycle on the road).

It is needless to say, neither his view nor his ideology are inclusive. Moreover they miss many socio-psychological human factors.

The parallel to the concept of patriarchy

Patriarchy is a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it (google). The underlying ideology is that women and their societal contributions are worth less than men’s. When putting it that way it sounds horrific (at least to me), yet it is the value system, its ideas and ideals which are making up the patriarchal power system – in which we (still) live (today). The ideology then transfers into common views, into actions, habit, ways of doing things and gets permeated out into society, law and politics – power structure are made. Women earn less for doing the same job. Women’s representation in decision making processes is lesser than men’s. Women are to be talked to, rather than to be heard – oh, these old chatterboxes!

We should always ask: what is the underlying ideology

What is the motivation of people doing a certain thing or saying a certain thing. And be aware that we are mostly not aware of the deeper underlying foundations at all. Much comes automatically. But once you do see the bottom, and the message is spelt out, be prepared: it can be shockingly heartless and cruel.

I, for one, disengage when I come to a point in a conversation where the other person cannot see a wider view, or at least acknowledge the diversity of views, let alone my own. The keen cyclist and I parted.

He now reckons I retreated because of his upper hand.

I ended the conversation because of the singularity of his view.

The importance is to engage and not forget to dig down, a little deeper, and see the unsaid. Your own and the other’s. Once you get to the bottom, to the ideology and its value system, a decision may have to be made: part or embrace?

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