The Remorseless Tide of Reality

In what seems like a lifetime ago, a friend explained to me his thumbnail distinction between philosophy and ideology. Philosophy requires one to fit one’s mind to the world; ideology compels one to fit the world to one’s mind. The crux was how each viewed human nature: philosophy accepted the imperfectability of human nature; ideology demanded its perfection.  

Within this admittedly narrow limning, one can see how philosophy and ideology respond when confronted by reality. By accepting the imperfectability of human nature, a philosophic attitude encourages intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and societal growth. By rejecting the imperfectability of human nature and recognizing instead only the capricious whims of untrammeled will, the horrific consequences of the ideologues’ effort to fit the world to their minds can be seen from Paris during the 18th-century Reign of Terror and Stalin’s purges to Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” and the killing fields of Cambodia.

Because it believes it already has correctly answered all the great questions of human existence (or at least the ones its adherents care about), ideology requires compelling the less enlightened to conform perfectly with its dictates; thus, ideology’s fundamental purpose is not contemplative but coercive. 

Yet, because human nature is not perfectible, the ideologues’ frustration and anger increase as the remorseless tide of reality disproves their secular religion’s promise that the world can be fitted to their mind. When in power, an ineluctable devolution into oppression and barbarity ensues. This is why, when rallying opposition to the excesses of the French Revolution’s Jacobin ideologues, Edmund Burke argued that “we are at war with an armed doctrine.” That war was not merely upon a people; it was upon reality itself.

We see this in our own time in the Left’s approach to sex and gender. Thepostmodernist ideologues believe their dogma—i.e., their abstracted reasoning and subjective will—fundamentally can transform and perfect humanity and reshape reality. And, as all too often in the past, we see reality chafing and eroding the ideologues’ faith in their secular screed.

The most obvious expression of today’s American ideologues’ frustration with reality is their insistence upon censorship. Whether they call it “misinformation,” “disinformation,” or “hate speech,” their goal is to stifle dissent. Why? Because dissent is the concrete manifestation of reality that instructs the ideologues that their ideology is and will continue to fail in its efforts to “fundamentally transform” and “perfect” humanity. Little wonder the ideologues claim dissent is “harmful.” Of course it is! But only to the success of the ideologues’ war against reality . . .  and you.

Therefore, in my friend’s thumbnail distinction, we see how philosophy is the ally of humanity. We also see how reality is the enemy of ideology and how ideology quickly becomes the enemy of sanity. Within the context of our current politics, this rings true. Since most people are not ideologues, their chief complaint about how government currently operates is the absence of common sense. 

This is hardly a complete exploration of the matter. In any event, the ideologues will pay this no heed and persist—but never prevail—in their war upon reality and the rest of us. For my part, my friend has provided fodder for further philosophic inquiry as we ride the remorseless tide of reality toward the eternal shore of salvation.

About Thaddeus G. McCotter

An American Greatness contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) represented Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003 to 2012 and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars, and a Monday co-host of the "John Batchelor Show" among sundry media appearances.

Photo: iStock/Getty Images

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