life after ideology

Life after ideology

Note: This post is for people who this post about being seen as real through ideological affiliation applies to. If you don’t have that history, this post might not make very much sense.

When you need to break with an ideological group, it can be really difficult. It can undermine your sense of self.

Partly because of the way ideological group members treat you when you stop fitting their worldview. When other people stop treating you like you’re real, it can be hard to remember that you’re real.

But not just that. It’s also, when you see the problems with the ideology, when you see the huge gulf between what its words say it is and what it actually is, sometimes it’s easy to feel like there must be something wrong with you to have ever wanted to be part of that group.

You can feel like you were really stupid and that everything was rotten, and that you just need to root out parts of yourself that you developed in association with that group. 

But… keep in mind… that you were attracted to the ideology for reasons. And some of them were good reasons. And you learned a lot in your time with the group. The growth that you experienced was real. Your learning counts.

And you don’t have to reject everything you learned in order to move on. You don’t have to reject former versions of yourself, either. You don’t have to throw everything away, to get away from the ideology.

What you have to do is move on. Not reinvent yourself. Not throw away an old version. Not find a new group. Move on. Keep trying to find out what’s true, keep looking for good things to do, and keep looking for good people to do them with.

And moving on by building things takes time, and it’s not exhilarating like throwing yourself into a new ideological group would be. But in the long run, it’s much, much better.

Don’t hang your legitimacy on ideology

This dynamic happens a lot with autistic or otherwise socially-marginalized people:

  • You’re not treated as fully real, for your whole life
  • And you don’t even realize it, because it’s pervasive. You don’t know that it’s possible to be treated as real. You don’t know this isn’t normal.

And then you discover a group of people who seem to approve of you

  • They’re an ideological group, and they approve of anyone who shares their ideology
  • And their ideology seems plausible, or valuable, or good
  • And it has some concepts that allow you to understand things you never understood before
  • And you adopt the ideology
  • You’re accepted into the group. In a way you’ve never been accepted before.
  • And they treat you more like a real person than anyone else has before
  • And you yourself *feel* more real than you ever felt before

And so you throw yourself into the ideology

  • Passionately, completely, and sincerely
  • And you care deeply about understanding it, and using the concepts, and doing good and right
  • And so you work really hard
  • And then, eventually, this pulls you away from the ideology
  • Because you learn something, or notice something, that the ideology doesn’t cover
  • And that makes you a heretic
  • And you lose your standing in the group

And then they stop treating you as real. And then you wonder if you are real, if maybe you’re just not good enough for anything. And then maybe you find another ideological group, and it repeats over and over and over. Because you think the problem is that you just haven’t found the right ideology, and that if you find the right one, it won’t fall apart.

Until you realize that, actually, you were real the whole time. And that groups that only think their members are real people are never going to solve the problem. And that when they treat anyone as non-real, it’s a threat to you, too. Because you have to think everyone is real, because everyone *is* real. And seeing people as unpeople is always destructive.

And then you realize that the world is both better and worse than you thought it was. Worse, because there’s no ideological group that will solve everything, but the awful things the ideological groups notice are often true. Better, because everyone is already real, and genuine respect between people is already possible. Because you don’t have to wait for a revolution to be a person, and neither does anyone else.