Sunday, April 5, 2009

Ideology Over Humanity

There's something that's been bugging me for years, and I've just now figured out what it is.

There was a story that I read some years back, by Spider Robinson -- one of his Callahan's Saloon stories. In it, someone from a mirror-universe version of Callahan's made a device, a portal, that let them cross back and forth. It wasn't a Star-Trek-style, everyone is evil mirror universe, but a physical mirror universe: bodies are mirrored left-to-right and molecules are also mirrored left-to-right.

Among other things, they find that the nastiest, most disgusting booze on Earth is very, very good for the mirror people, and their nasty booze is like ambrosia to our heroes. They're thinking about opening a business between universes, trading rotgut for mirror-rotgut, and the like. They also figure that they can trade food: our food would be filling to them, but not nutritious, and more important, no calories. Vice versa, of course: their food would taste good, but not make people fat. They don't mention, though, why booze is improved in taste and quality in mirror universes, but food isn't, but that's beside the point.

In the end, they destroy the portal, because massive trading of mirror-food would let people lose weight, but just because they were eating indigestible food. It was better that they lose weight by will-power -- diet and exercise -- than by just eating calorie-free food.
That has always bugged me, and it dawned on me this morning what the problem is. It's ideology. It's okay for people to lose weight -- in fact, it's a damn good thing. But in this story, since they wouldn't be losing it the right way, it was bad, and the protagonists were justified in destroying the portal.

In short, the triumph of ideology over humanity.

And it's not just in literature. Here's a couple of examples from real life.

Virtually everyone agrees that there are too many teen, single and unwanted pregnancies, and that reducing the number of them would be good. And, good news, we have ways to reduce them. It's called sex education and birth control. But, this is where ideology again rears it's ugly head. Some people, especially the religious, have determined that the only way that they will tolerate reducing teen, single and unwanted pregnancies is by their framework: abstinence and no pre-marital sex. They refuse to contemplate anything else. Sex-ed and birth control send the wrong message. The triumph of ideology over humanity.

There are too many diseases among drug-users, mostly caused by dirty needles. Studies have proven, real-life programs have proven, that clean needle exchanges reduce diseases among drug-users by well over 90%. Read that again: 90% reduction of disease among drug-users, by setting up clean needle exchanges. So, what's the problem? Some people, oddly enough, mostly the same religious people from the last example, won't allow it. It doesn't fit their religion or worldview. It's better to let drug-users get sick, become a drain on the already-strained health system and die, than to hand out free needles. It sends the wrong message after all. Again, the triumph of ideology over humanity.

In my foolish optimism, I had thought that a black minister who is also a civil rights activist, would realize that gay marriage is a civil right. However, after the elections last year, when California passed Proposition Eight, the gay marriage ban, this black minister, this civil rights activist, said he didn't see that gays and their problems were in any way similar to the history of blacks and their problems. I guess being part of a minority that is hated and despised, and has to live in fear of having their civil rights removed and being taunted, tormented, beaten and killed for being part of that minority isn't something he could possibly understand. After all, it's not part of his ideology.

It happens over and over again, all over the world. There are real problems, with real solutions, that people refuse to accept, because the solutions doesn't match their ideology. The ideology can be religious, political, economic, but, in the minds of some people, it trumps everything, even reality.