Meta-Ideological Politics

In a time where information is abundant, society faces the unintended repercussions of ideological rigidity, tribalism, and deep-rooted discord. The initial promise of social media to nurture connections and global understanding has, in many cases, led to the opposite effect. Rather than bridging gaps, these platforms often widen them, creating ideological echo chambers where individuals are only exposed to congruent views, thereby reinforcing and intensifying their existing beliefs. This tribal mindset not only hinders genuine dialogue but also exacerbates societal divisions, leading to a polarized world where anything like a “middle ground” seems harder to find than ever.

Ryan’s presentation delves into the complex nature of ideology and its profound impact on our perceptions, interactions, and behaviors. He underscores the human brain’s inherent tendency to seek patterns, elucidating how ideologies aid us in deciphering the world but can also misguide us. Ryan describes three definitions of “meta” to elucidate the concept of meta-ideological politics: “meta” as transcending, “meta” as between, and “meta” as self-aware or self-referential. He then defines ideology as “a constellation of foundational premises about politics and society, often which are contested by others, that form the basis for normative prescriptions.” Through interactive exercises and discussions, Ryan emphasized the necessity to transcend (and include) our entrenched beliefs, and to approach political and social issues with greater maturity, empathy, and nuance.

Ryan calls us to rise above the conflicts and limitations of conventional ideological frameworks. By recognizing the pitfalls of tribal thinking and the distortions of social media, there’s an opportunity to foster a more inclusive, more understanding, and more holistic worldview. Embracing this meta-ideological approach can help us extend our empathy and more fully inhabit each other’s point of view, while paving the way for more constructive dialogues and a more unified approach to addressing the pressing challenges of our time. Through the lens of meta-ideological politics, individuals and communities can navigate the complex ideological landscape with confident humility, avoiding the pitfalls of homogeneity and fragmentation, and fostering a culture of open dialogue and mutual respect.

Key Questions to Contemplate:

Self-Reflection on Ideology: How have my personal experiences, upbringing, and environment influenced my current ideological beliefs?

Ideological Flexibility: Am I able to step back from my own ideology and view it as just one of many possible perspectives? Can I see through it as well as look at it?

Emotional Undertones: How do my emotions and personal biases influence my adherence to certain ideologies? Am I reacting emotionally to opposing views?

Engaging with Opposing Views: How often do I engage with opposing ideologies in a genuine attempt to understand them? Do I “steel man” or “titanium man” opposing arguments to ensure I’m addressing their strongest form?

Ideological Evolution: How have my ideological beliefs evolved over time? What events or experiences prompted these shifts?

Construct Awareness: Am I aware of the constructs and frameworks that shape my understanding of the world? Can I differentiate between seeing through an ideology and looking at it?

Ideological Impact on Relationships: How do my ideological beliefs influence my interactions and relationships with others? Do they create barriers or bridges?

Ideological Simplification: Do I tend to oversimplify complex issues based on my ideological stance? How can I ensure I’m considering the full complexity of an issue?

Ideological Fear: What fears or concerns underpin my adherence to certain ideologies? How might these fears be influencing my beliefs and reactions?

Ideological Growth: What steps can I take to further refine and evolve my ideological understanding? How can I ensure I remain open to growth and change in this area?

Good synthesis of several frameworks that interest me. A handful of these include Vervaeke’s relevance realization, critical realism, the general idea that threat perception (fears) and emotion inform ideology, and the idea of emergence. Add it all up and you can see that political ideologies correlate rather well with our animal-nature’s fight/flight and dominance behaviors. Hence, the limited usefulness of rational argument in defusing political tensions.

A complicating factor Ryan did not mention. Quoting now from the classic Chinese war theorist Sun Tzu, “all warfare is based on deception”. Competitive politics is not a collaborative quest for the truth of reality. It’s gamesmanship. Points scored through lying and BS are points scored nonetheless. A tragic outcome of this is people coming to believe their own BS because it works, politically. This circles back to one of Vervaeke’s core insights about relevance realization. Just because we need cognitive filters to speed up the process of reacting to our environment (Ryan mentions this also), does not mean that our own filters cannot lead us astray. In the end, the ideologue may become the primary prisoner in his/her own web of distortion and falsehood. Is political success compatible with wisdom? Plato struggled with that question. I’m not sure anyone has answered it especially better.

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Allow me to offer another perspective.
SSS II IThou Wisdom

How does this compare/contrast with what Ryan was saying?

New to this group, although I started reading Wilber in 1996. Yes, I remember reading a brief history vividly.

So all the above makes sense for personal growth. It reminds me of Robert Kegan’s work in adult development - building the capacity to engage with opposing viewpoints, etc. But my question is around leadership, which is to me one of the greatest and urgent challenges. Given increasing political polarization at the highest levels, how to do we scale integral approaches up and beyond small circles (leadership)? I’ve tried this in education as a school and district leader, but it has been difficult in the current environment and the work is incredibly complex. My alter ego (this pen name) has recently attempted humor/satire, but I’m not sure exposing absurdities is any more effective.

Hi @wtkosmos! I’d love to hear more about your school and district work. I’ve been an educator for many decades (adult and K-12) and am currently working on educational theory and practice inspired by various large scale meaning making frameworks such as Integral Theory.

Also, your concern with leadership is spot on. My students are very diverse, very technical, and above-average capable. I conceive of our curriculum and approach as training a leadership cadre for the future. All my bets are placed on these students.

My professional work (not with this pen name) and nonlinear journey has been more in the leadership for equity and diversity areas. The integral concepts are embedded and practical, but not explicit theoretically. To me a huge challenge stemming from the U.S. culture wars is the polarization of the fundamental purposes of education, who it is for, who is included, and what K-12 students learn (standards, curriculum, social emotional learning, critical thinking, etc.). There continues to be wide variation on the value and quality of multicultural, holistic education, including engaging students in leadership opportunities. Versus for example a traditional academics only approach. So again, I come back to leadership (at various levels) as an essential driver of positive, sustainable change. I don’t know of any successful educational change that has happened without leadership.

Just got done reading We Make the Road by Walking, a dialogue between Myles Horton and Paulo Freire. Lots of food for thought about educational leadership in that discussion. For both of these, the core energy and motivation for the educational program came from the students themselves. That still required lots of leadership - just not directive leadership.

This is invisible to me on my PC … Can you share a link to this document so I can magnify and read it?

I hope this helps, (PDF) May All Beings Be Happy: From Maxing Economic Wealth to Compassion and Wisdom in “I-I” Enlightenment, “I-We-Thou” Relations, and “I-We-Seen” Sciences, Based on Various Skills in Varying Degrees in Various Divine Qualities | Gerard Bruitzman -
Just one of many possible meta-ideological perspectives.