Karl Marx said that ideology was false consciousness. Philosopher Slavoj Žižek argues that this is wrong; that ideology is consciousness. Through a Lacanian psychoanalytic analysis of Marx, Žižek says that ideology presents the topography of the world we live in, which the mind then mirrors to provide context for itself. “Ideology is not a dream-like illusion that we build to escape insupportable reality: in its basic dimension it is a fantasy construction which serves as a support for our ‘reality’ itself.” Whichever side of that debate you may choose to fall, there seems to be an inherent problem with both: ideology enslaves the mind. Ideology controls what we think, the way we think, it is the paradigmatic lens through which we see the world and respond to it. Ideology is a filter, an echo chamber, it is the schematic architecture of our mind and consciousness. It provides the foundation, the blueprint for all we see, hear, think, say and do. What happens when the ideology one has is wrong? How could we ‘free’ ourselves from the bonds of a heretical ideology? My suggestion is that reading can provide emancipation.
Reading allows humans to transmit ideas and knowledge through time, across the centuries, around the globe. It allows us to connect with minds from different eras, from different places and to think about the ideologies of people different to us. Reading allows us to imbibe the very best that humans have said and thought and discovered. Reading can be emancipating because it can give our own minds glimpses of different possible ideologies. It can provide us with a vision of a different path, can give us new, unthought of ideas, can present to us modes of thought previously unimagined. Reading can free us from the bondage of our own ideology. Reading can set you free.
Reading can emancipate us from ideology in the same way that conversation can. It has the advantage though because text is transmittable and portable through time and space in a way that people are not.
Reading as emancipation is like grabbing a desperate gulp of air as you surface from beneath the water.
Reading as emancipation is like spending years in a prison cell with four bare walls and suddenly being moved into a new cell with a window, where you can see a tree, or even water.
Reading as emancipation is like listening to jazz and hearing a melody phrase that makes you think of something else.
Reading as emancipation is like waking from a dream.
Reading as emancipation is like seeing the light at the end of a long dark tunnel and hoping the light is not a train.
Reading as emancipation is like a single crepuscular ray on a cold, grey winter’s day.
Reading as emancipation is like the first daffodils of spring, trumpets heralding the promise of light and warmth in the days ahead.
Reading as emancipation is like the first breathe of a new born baby, and the heart response of the father holding his first born child, somehow understanding the potency of a child, the limitless possibilities that lie ahead, the latent power that wails in his arms.
Reading as emancipation is like a bird taking flight.
Reading as emancipation is like meeting a stranger and instantly feeling like you have known them for years.
Reading as emancipation is like struggling with a crossword clue, not knowing how to approach the problem and the solution suddenly popping into your mind as if from the muses themselves.
Reading as emancipation is like a severely myopic man putting on spectacles for the first time.
Reading as emancipation is the liberation of your mind from the past, from itself and from the chains of ideology.
“I know you’re out there. I can feel you now. I know that you’re afraid. You’re afraid of us. You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how this is going to begin. I’m gonna hang up this phone, and then I’m gonna show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m gonna show them a world without you, a world without rules and controls, without borders and boundaries… a world where anything is possible. Where you go from here is a choice I leave to you.” Neo: The Matrix