Re[4]: ideology bashing

Michael Hamende (HamendeM@CTS.DB.ERAU.EDU)
Tue, 13 Aug 1996 17:05:27 EST

"What do you think? --Phyllis"

Phyllis, I know I like your style. You seem to have an outstanding
ability to ask all the right questions. You must be a "teacher."

I've combined Phyllis' posts into one below.

"Mike, I'd like to think that just by explaining that we have taken
stances based on assumptions, students will know how to examine those
assumptions. But isn't the sneaky thing about ideology that it
operates in us in ways that we don't usually acknowledge?"

Yes, its called hegemony. I don't think its as easy as just
explaining it to them. As someone recently suggested, "sometimes the
best way it to just tell them." I'm not sure most folks would make
the connection you're expecting.

"So it can't just be a matter of willing ourselves to recognize what's
at work. We need some other tools that will make us step back and see
what is otherwise invisible."

I think will is part of it, because it ain't easy. I think, and what
I've been arguing for, is that rhetoric is the tool.

"We need to find ways to cause a sort of paradigm shift within us.

I think rhetoric does that.

"So, for some it's coming to understand a new worldview--feminism,
marxism, whatever--and using that new worldview to look back on
situations and "re-experience" them through this new framework. If we
are to ask students to really reflect on their positions, we need to
be able to teach them to look at those positions through multiple

I'd like to suggest that a complete ethically based rhetoric has the
ability to transcend all those isms. It is the mother of them all.
Hopefully it is one with a minimum of the coloring those others have.
I think knowing that those other paradigms are at work along with some
understanding of their basic tenants combined with a rhetorical
framework provides the clear vision you seek for your students.

"But then, of course, we slip into those dangerous and scary waters of
a) being accused of political indoctrination when we try to decide
which paradigms to teach b) being accused on not teaching
rhetoric/writing when we start introducing these other paradigms."

If the content is rhetoric there are no dangerous waters to tread.
Teaching rhetoric gives you the vehicle through which to discuss those
"paradigms" as components of rhetoric.

"Do you understand my resistance? I would like to think I could
accomplish all of this by just telling students to examine their
positions carefully, but I think that denies something of the way that
ideology works: it is hidden and not easily found out."

The insidious nature of hegemony is the fact that you don't even
realize you are being oppressed. You may sense that something just
isn't right, but you can't figure it out without the clear glasses of
rhetoric. I understand your resistance. This is complex stuff. There
is a lot going on here and its not subject to understanding through
sound bites. Its not unlike therapy. You have a real hard time
figuring out what the problem is without a therapist to help.

"So, Mike, are you arguing that "experience" is somehow a pure thing,
what we can look at to determine what a person "really" believes/is?"

Not exactly. I think experience is pretty pure. But it doesn't tell
you anything about others. Its only a way for you yourself to "know"

"But I think that's too easy. We don't experience anything except
through our interpretations of it, and those interpretations will be
influenced by whatever ideologies are at work in us/through us."

I think it is possible to experience things "cleanly" without
assumptions and interpretation upon interpretation upon
interpretation. Don't you see how dirty and unclear that all is? I'd
like to think you can perceive something without interpretation.
Particularly when you know its at work within yourself. An ideology
is simply a pair of glasses you can take off, if you know you have
them on.

This sounds kind of like the dysfunctional excuses people use on talk
shows. "Oh, I'm a victim of abusive parents, so you can't blame me
for my actions." Or "I'm addicted to nicotine or alcohol so I'm not
responsible." I think we are responsible for our interpretations and
the ideologies we choose to subscribe to. We choose them, they do not
control us.

"So, as a feminist, I might interpret a friend's fight with her
husband as "abuse" while she might interpret is as "proof of his
concern for her."

Clearly in your example any reasonable person knows its not right to
be violent with another. I'd suggest some middle ground where your
ideology might be affecting your perception and your friend's lack of
understanding of abuse or her family's dysfunction or fill in the
blank with the rationalizations we make about things that just aren't
right here, might be keeping her from seeing what's real.

"Which "experience" must match up with the rhetoric in order for it to
be "good rhetoric"?"

The good, ethical, just, moral, right, experience. The choices we
should be willing to make to make those decisions about which is
which, but that are quite uncomfortable. As Scotty Peck says, we will
do anything to avoid pain, even experience even more of it. Or
certainly deny we are in any pain or that there is a problem.

Mike Hamende