What is the ideological basis of your thinking?



What is the ideological basis of what you think, say, or write, or what you believe or argue?

For some people, it is a belief that we live in an unequal, unjust world, and that it is everyone’s moral duty to do everything in their power to make things more equal and more just. People who argue from this basis divide people into groups: primary offenders and accomplices to injustice; victims of injustice; and people (like themselves) who used to be complicit in injustice, or who reckon they benefitted from injustice, but who now try to make everything better – and make up for the sins of their ancestors.

My ideological basis is that adults who do not suffer from mental defects are free agents responsible for their own lives. This includes the son of a wealthy industrialist, as well as the poor daughter of a shoe shiner who grew up in a slum. Of course, these two individuals grew up in radically different environments, with different programming, and different ideas and feelings about the world and their place in the world, and about their future. Is the poor person a victim of circumstances? Yes, she is. Does she nevertheless have the ability to make decisions every day – from small decisions that will accumulate into significant improvements over time to big decisions that will make a radical difference to her life in the short term? To believe that she does not have this ability is to see her as a pathetic child who will not survive if she is not helped by people more fortunate than her.


Am I saying you should shrug your shoulders and tell the person in a bad situation, “Your problem. I did not tell you to flee from your city torn apart by armed conflict”? No, what I am saying is this: Help anyone get out of a burning building – no discrimination; not in terms of skin colour, political opinion, or religion. And when you’re out of the building and it’s within my means to assist you, I’ll give you shelter and food and water, and whatever else you need to get back on your feet.

But from Moment Number One, I’m going to look at you as an adult capable of moving mountains if the will is there. And if the will is not there, and you decide to become dependent on other people’s goodness in the long run, I will make the argument that limited resources should rather be used to save other people from burning buildings.

Fact is, I see people as fantastic creatures that can do incredible things if they decide they are going to do something. I believe we create our own reality to a great extent, and then we experience this reality and have feelings about it. There are people who look at certain individuals and see them as pathetic creatures who need to be saved and taken care of. I see people who sometimes need to be helped out of a burning building, but then only need to be supported to continue taking responsibility for their own lives. And if they don’t want to take responsibility for their own lives, it’s their business, not mine.

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If someone knocks on my door on a particularly cold night and asks for shelter, and I know there is no facility for this purpose nearby, I will offer this person a warm bed, food and something to drink, and a place in the living room so he can watch TV with us. If it dawns on me that it won’t be for just one day, I will explain that if the person is going to stay on in our home, it will be according to our house rules. Examples of rules will include time when lights will be turned off and everyone will retire to their rooms, and the volume at which music can be listened to. Reasonable stuff; nothing draconian. If the person flouts the rules – for example, if he watches TV until the early morning hours or have loud phone calls after midnight, I’ll explain the rules again. If he is still unwilling to comply, I will show him the door. Why? Because he will have shown a lack of respect for me and my household. Because he does not believe it is his responsibility to make his own life better.

Here’s an alternative scenario: I offer him shelter. At the end of the first week, he mentions that he sees I take out the garbage twice a week, and he offers to do it from then on. Or he notices that I go out every day to buy dinner and mentions that he can cook, and that if I give him X amount of money, he will go to the supermarket to buy ingredients and cook for everyone in the household every day. If he also respects the house rules, chances are that he will be able to stay until he feels things are of such a nature that he can return to where he came from, or until he is ready to get his own place. Even then, I will help him however I can – if he needs my help.

It is also possible that this person is religious. Let’s say he is a Muslim, and I notice that he goes to his room five times a day, rolls open a rug on the floor, and prays. I will respect that and make sure I don’t disturb him at that time. However, if he insists that my wife and daughter cover their heads when we all go out, I will make it clear that this is not our custom. If he becomes agitated about it, he can look for another place to stay – that same day.


What type of ideology gives the most hope to a young man in, say, El Salvador, or Afghanistan? The ideology that says you are responsible for your own life, and that you are capable of creating your own happiness, well-being, and positive future … or the ideology that tries to convince the young man that his dilemma is not his fault, that he is a victim of structural racism, that rich people, or white people, or people with more power than him, owe him happiness, well-being and a positive future?

If I were that young man, I would take the aforementioned ideology any day of the week. I would try to sneak across the border in the middle of the night, and if I arrived in Texas, or in Arizona or California, or Italy, Germany, or England, I would do everything in my power to stay out of trouble; I would stay away from criminal groups; I would try to get a job and save money. If I met a woman and we like each other, I would get married and start a small business with her. This is what I would do if I believed I was responsible for my own life, and that I had the ability to create my own well-being and prosperity.

Would there have been hardships? Of course. Would there have been obstacles? Yes. But I would have used my mind and my energy to survive hardships and overcome obstacles. Would I end up back in El Salvador or Afghanistan if the authorities arrested and deported me, as they have the right to do? That would always be a possibility. But would I still rather dare to believe in my own ability to create a good life? Definitely. Would I prefer that to believing other people owe me something, and that I just have to wait for political pressure groups to bring about a good life for me? Absolutely.