Radical Commitment to Humanity. How to Avoid Being the Victim of Our Unconscious Ideology

The most radical ideologies can only stay alive through cultivating raging hate for the different.

Call me naive, stupid, or a fool, but how did we come to the consensus that it is okay to bomb, kill, and harm the innocent in the name of an ideology that the victims are not even aware of? Why should a group of people make life-or-death decisions on our behalf? What gives them that right?

How did you and I unconsciously accept this outdated rule?

Uncivilized rules govern the civilized world

On March 10, 2023, an old video of a Haitian gang engaging in cannibalism went viral on X while the country descended into chaos with all our dreams and aspirations. To my astonishment, many users reacted with laughter and jokes. The world's richest man, someone I admire, took part in it. He could not see the suffering of millions due to gang violence because he wanted to score points against the political left. Though many now-deleted tweets, He assumed Haitians had a cannibalism tendency. He leveraged our suffering and drama as political points while he ignored the lives trapped in the devilish mission of these gangs. As someone who calls himself pro-species, Elon's reaction baffled me.

I have always had faith in humanity, but on this day, my worldview was shattered. I realized a heart-wrenching truth:

The world is more committed to preserving ideologies than the human race.

History is filled with examples. We have killed, shunned, and destroyed in the name of religion, race, ethnicity, political, and scientific beliefs.

In the following lines, I will try to make a logical-emotional case for why humanity should take precedence over ideology if we want a better world.

Before dismissing me, let me assure you I am neither an idealist nor a nihilist.

Ideologies are unconscious and inherited.

We are our beliefs, not our values. Do you know why we identify more with our beliefs than with our values? Beliefs take root even in stasis. Time, rather than effort, is necessary for their growth. On the contrary, values require active engagement and intentionality to flourish. For instance, most of us were born into a religion we did not choose, while we consciously cultivated our friendships. Ideologies give us a sense of purpose, a convincing statement to live for, to brandish, and showcase our distinct differences.

I inherited a shitload of prejudices about the typical American, which shattered during my time in the US. I judged every single American by their government's actions while we are multidimensional entities. Luckily, I had a host mother who could see the human in me, gifting me the power of understanding by not condemning me to one dimension. The next statement will shock you. I have been judged more for my skin color in Haiti than in the US, and I have lived in Wausau with 0.7% black. Realizing we can never predict human behavior accurately, we can never 100% trust our assumptions. 

History and Psychology of Ideology

French philosopher Destutt de Tracy (1754-1836) coined the term “ideology” during the 18th century. Derived from the Greek words “idea” and "logic", it meant the study of ideas. Over time, specifically after the rise of many totalitarian regimes like Nazy Germany, the word lost its original and positive meaning.

None of us are immune from ideology. Whether religious, political, or social, we all inherit ideologies that help foster social cohesion. Our religious faith or national identity plays an essential role in crafting a harmonious society. Ideology alone is not the problem. Our level of commitment to those ideologies is.

The 2022 article "A Psychology of Ideology: Unpacking the Psychological Structure of Ideological Thinking", published in the National Library of Medicine, provides an excellent framework for understanding ideological thinking. While previous studies focused on the content of certain ideologies, this article unveils the psychological structure of ideology and its effect. According to the paper, four elements constitute the structure of any ideology:

  1. An absolute and radical viewpoint that insists there is no alternative.

  2. Rigidity in how things should function.

  3. Favoritism towards one's group.

  4. Hostility and prejudice towards non-adherents.

The author uses the following analogy to explain the concept of ideological attachment better:

In contrast, an ideologically moderate individual is one who (a) adopts a description of the world that is flexible and responsive to evidence, (b) does not rely on or impose on others rigid prescriptive rules for living, (c) displays weak or moderate identification with others who believe in similar worldviews, and (d) does not express hostility or prejudice toward dissimilar others. Consequently, the question of whether the ideologies of these two individuals concern race, gender, class, climate change, religion, or politics is irrelevant as to whether they can be designated as ideologically extreme or moderate.

We rely on our shared interests and beliefs. We cannot get rid of ideologies. Our only choice is how far we are willing to go to protect them. I am no guru. I’ll fail at times, especially when fears and survival instincts darken my worldview. Self-aware of that bias, I will always strive to come to “h” (calling it home or humanity). Because this is our guiding north star. 

Overcoming Ideological Trap

Based on the psychological structure of ideology, I have created my thinking framework to help me avoid falling into the ideological trap unconsciously. The formula is simple.

Human cost > Ideological Cost

We should always weigh the human cost (physical, emotional, psychological) against the preservation of our particular ideology. Ideology should never be equal to humanity. We should always prioritize our humanity and others, not just during the right time, but also in high-stakes situations. We must be willing to extend the same grace we would expect. Our commitment should be to humanity.

Before I tell you what I mean by commitment to humanity, let me tell you what it is not.

Commitment to humanity is not:

  • Blind faith in everyone without proper vetting and judgment

  • Overlooking danger in the name of compassion

  • Infantilizing people or treating them as absolute victims of circumstances

  • Thinking all humans are inoffensive and incapable of evil

Here's how I see it:

Commitment to humanity is an absolute understanding of the complexity of human beings. Recognizing the human being behind the group or the opposite worldview. Not being sure that others are 100% evil by letting our perception defy all human logic. Commitment to humanity is the little pause before judging.

When your diet serves everyone else on a platter of malevolence.

When your religion makes soulless the ones with opposing beliefs.

When I am willing to dismiss your whole existence because of your point of view. 

I am not committed to humanity.

We are all on the same journey towards death. What we do in between defines humanity’s future.

Some of us are lost, others are worse, but most of us are striving. Striving to live. If that was not true, I would already be dead. The opportunities for evil are all around you, but most don't choose them. Knowing this truth should serve as a reminder and a warning to commit to humanity.

To put a bow on this one;

Only by accepting our own vulnerability, fragility, and complexity can we truly recognize others’ humanity. 

Zmigrod L. A Psychology of Ideology: Unpacking the Psychological Structure of Ideological Thinking. Perspect Psychol Sci. 2022 Jul;17(4):1072-1092. doi: 10.1177/17456916211044140. Epub 2022 Mar 1. PMID: 35231196; PMCID: PMC9274788. 

(No date) U.S. Census Bureau quickfacts: Wausau City, Wisconsin. Available at: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/wausaucitywisconsin/PST045223  (Accessed: 24 April 2024). 

Cranston, M. (2024, February 22). ideology. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/ideology-society