Everything You Know Is Wrong

October 23, 2007 Vision and Style Comments (0) 176

All ideologies are wrong.

This is obvious, because ideologies consist of ideas, intangible in the real, everyday world. This is not to say that ideas and ideologies have no agency in the everyday. Clearly, they are the free radicals or cancer cells of the tangible world, causing counterintuitive mischief wherever they go.

The world of ideas like the world of symbols, is a uniquely human phenomenon with profound agency in human history. But that doesn’t make it right. We need symbols to engage languages and media and we need ideas to engage our own minds and others’. But these are imperfect tools, stepladders to engagement that are discarded as soon as real, political engagement begins. We need “wrong” tools to enter into discourse with our subjective world, but that tangible world is entirely subjective, entirely historical, entirely political.

If you want to begin a basic education you must learn to read and write and reckon. If you want to learn architectural history you begin with styles, and then as you progress, you realize that styles are artificial, ideational constructs that are always, in some way, wrong. If you want to learn historic preservation, you begin with an ideology that historic buildings must be saved and as you progress you perceive the nuances and abandon the ideological stance.

We should pity the fools who remain trapped in ideology for the real world will forever disappoint them. If you believe in your ideology, you are necessarily forced to view the world – quite nearly in its entirety – as wrong. This is precisely what almost all religious traditions do, which are the most dogmatic of ideologies. This of course turns my original proposition on its head: instead of all ideologies being wrong, one ideology is right and all the world (and all other ideologies) are wrong.

This is of course quite an impossible position in terms of logic and basic rules of evidence. That makes it heroic to some, and of course the heroic narrative is another idea, a stepladder on the road to literature and adulthood. But it isn’t true, or correct or historical or accurate. It is wrong.

Pioneering architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable said: “History is, after all, a continuing state of flux, and Utopia is a recurring nightmare. I prefer the nightmare of reality. In fact, I have grown quite accustomed to it.”

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