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Emergence from ideology

  • 02 July 2020
What is ideology? It is the hiding, the deliberate disguising, of what is going on. Its opposite? Emergence. Becoming visible after having been concealed. Imagine something rising, whether suddenly or slowly, to the surface of the water.

We speak of emerging writers, emerging trends, as if they are just beginning. But emergence is not so much about beginning. It is about beginning to be seen. That which emerges has a hefty history, but it is hidden underneath. And even if that which it is hidden under is not pure falsification, it is still used to conceal, to disguise, to marginalise, and eventually, if it is not challenged, to erase. Think of Australia’s colonial history concealing and attempting to erase the First Nations. Think of the normalising of patriarchal power concealing and attempting to erase women. Think of the dominant story of the magic of capital concealing and attempting to erase workers.

Emergence sometimes seems to occur by accident, like the proverbial ‘discovery’ of the remains of hidden histories, as if they were hidden by accident, by nature, by the unexplained ‘dying out’ of people, language, culture. As if no one was responsible. Emergence is literally the something that has ‘come up’. But where has it come up from? And what was it doing there all this time? And how was it hidden there? By whom? When these stories are told, we begin to see patterns and structures that have been built over time, whether they be, for example, the patterns of sexual abuse that have been integral to institutional structures of religious (or other) power, or the patterns of exploitation and exclusion that have been integral to the structures of profit-driven production and control.

Ideology is a powerful presence in our lives. It works its way into our consciousness through the dominant discourses of government, media, institutional religion, legal frameworks, popular culture, advertising, all the means at the disposal of the powerful. Once we learn to recognise it we see it everywhere. If it feels like we were born into it, it is because we were. We are taught to believe it is necessary for us, that it supports our lives, when all the time it is supporting the dehumanising forces that veil the reality we are living in and, importantly, conceal and attempt to suppress our collective power to change that reality.

It is most effective when we ourselves become its carriers, its