Friday 2 January 2015


"The ideologue has a singular cast of mind, one that needs bold rules and eschews nuances. Abundant examples exist of those who, devout in proselytising for one belief system, undergo an epiphany, and then reach in sudden disillusionment for a diametrically opposed but equally rigid creed."

Gordon McLaughlan (emphasis supplied)


  1. Ah, yes, a very perceptive quote, as is this one from a classic novel: "The strong arm has come and gone. There will be a flurry of activity before this world will pack it in. Theil then the world drinks bitter wein, and after that comes the rod of iron." --- Tkach A Mockingbird

  2. Do you have a source for the quote? I'd like to share it too, but can't seem to trace where it comes from. Thanks!

  3. Glad you liked it. The source is Gordon McLaughlan, Great Tales from New Zealand History. (Auckland, David Bateman, 2014), 149.

    The chapter it comes from concerns William Lane, editor of the New Zealand Herald (NZ's leading newspaper) from 1900 - 1917. He established his journalistic reputation as a fiery utopian socialist, editor of 'The Worker' (in Australia) and author of a novel called 'The Workingman's Paradise'. Later he helped organise an exodus of like-minded folk to establish "New Australia" - a socialist colony in Paraguay. The commune failed, though New Australia still exists as do descendants of the migrants. Lane ended up in New Zealand undergoing a "transformation from devout, atheistic communism into outspoken supporter of unbridled, jingoistic capitalism and orthodox Christianity..." He ranted on about the Yellow Peril, the Russian Scare, the rightness of war, the glory of dying for one's country and the need to put down any dissent.

    Politics and religion seem to provide similar Damascus Road experiences.

    1. I turned it into a meme quote image and shared it on my blog:

  4. What a fine quote!
    I see how too much certainty can clog the gears and prevent the ability to move into better perceptions.

    Reading here brings back the memory of when I spent time in a commune (Stephen Gasken's 'The Farm' in Summertown, TN). I didn't join because something seemed not quite right about it, although I did nearly fall into their rigidity.
    It was a time of mine of slingshotting away from the Worldwide Church of God.
    I can appreciate nuance better, now.
    Although, of necessity, I come to conclusions and act on them, I tend to be more open to nuance these days.

    Maybe it goes back to my youth when I thought Speed Racer and Gigantor and 16-year old guys were the cat's pajamas, but when I reached the age of 16 it made me think that there's better thinking beyond those early conclusions (and that my certainty had limitations).

  5. I remember years ago in an English class long since passed, we were discussing non-conformity. One of the students pointed out that one of the dangers in becoming a nonconformist is that in so doing, one can unwittingly begin conforming to a set standard of nonconformity. I was reminded of this decades later when in front of an unintended audience at a car show, I parked and dismounted from my Harley, and went through the various rituals involved, such as turning off the gascock, and locking the steering column and wheels. As I walked towards the entry point, someone a short distance behind me wondered out loud, "Why do these guys always have to dress the same?" Obviously, the guy didn't know that certain clothing types have been tried and true over the years, and just "work".

    It is very difficult to be a total nonconformist or free-thinker. First of all, conformity is often a tool for relating. A guy who moves from NYC to Dallas is going to bomb in the work place unless he sheds his Gucci loafers and cardigan sweaters, and adapts to clothing styles more in keeping with his new region. Trust issues.

    Secondly, there are numerous activities and pursuits that are actually called "disciplines". These seemingly require adherence to certain techniques, or models of thinking to ensure rapidity of success. There is a basic technique for playing a guitar, as an example, rooted in the period of evolution of that instrument during which it was a chording instrument, as opposed to one on which a run of lead notes is played. Conventional wisdom was that the dominant hand should be used to hold the pick, for striking the strings. Played as a lead instrument, it makes much more sense to use the more dextrous hand on the frets to produce the notes. Mike Bloomfield was left-handed, but played in the traditional right-handed method. Jimi Hendrix wrote and shot pool right handed, but played his guitar in the traditional left-handed method. Actually, he had to learn to play with either hand, because his father Al would often burst into the room as he was practicing and forbid him to play left-handed because it was thought that that opened the door for devil influence. This obviously would resonate with ACOG members who had chance encounters with any snippets of Hendrix music. Joe Perry of Aerosmith is also a switch hander, a natural lefty who uses his more dextrous left hand for the fret work.

    Anyone who has ever studied the martial arts realizes that there is a tremendous amount of technique and discipline required for successful practice. Bruce Lee shocked all of the traditionalists by studying a wide variety of these arts, and then gestalting the most effective and easily mastered ones into a hybrid, which he called jeet kune do. He used this to defeat the top contenders from the other more rigid disciplines. I, myself, was once corrected in class because when I was sparring with someone with a much higher belt, I grabbed his leg and upset him, rather than countering his kick with one of the approved techniques. A cop in the class told me, "Bob, do that on the street, because it obviously works, but if you want to advance in class, use the techniques which we are being taught."

    After a lifetime of studying various fields, I believe that basic rules can only take one so far. They provide a basic framework to get one quickly immersed. However, the human mind, and the ways in which it is applied, is what personalizes these various disciplines, and makes them one's own. The nuances often come into play with how you use the stuff you learn. Any discipline which would forbid this type of nuance-based personalization ends up proving the statement that "any strength, practiced to an extreme, becomes a weakness". In fact, we've got various words to describe such a rigid state of thought: obsessive-compulsive disorder; fanaticism; too close to the forest to see the trees are just a few.


  6. I'm beginning to think that McLaughlan may be asking for a bit much, since the definition of the word "nuance" obviously isn't accurately contained in the lexicon of the average Christian.

    While thinking about that word today, I thought of a hypothetical product-
    The New and Improved Argus Religion Viewer, with 30 Percent More Nuance Recognition

    Unfortunately, the sales would be slim within the market that could benefit most from it's use.