The Rorschach View

23 05 2008

The world at large generally is not in front of people’s faces. Truth be told, hardly anything is in front of people’s faces. Yet, they are more than eager to think otherwise. Detailed, first-hand experience of all those we claim to speak for, as well as knowledge of all their thoughts and feelings, is a complete impossibility. Yet this doesn’t stop conclusive action being taken regardless of the lack of conclusion.

Our world view is a blurred mass of scattered, loosely-recalled details that we think resembles something cohesive but doesn’t. Ink blots gathered in a makeshift shape that the brain tries to interpret as a definite object for which it can clearly recognize. We, in essence, have a Rorschach view of the world.

Anyone who’s taken a Rorschach test or observed scenes of Rorschach tests on television knows the deal. The psychiatrist holds up patterns of ink blots and asks what the patient sees. A conclusion regarding the patient’s psyche is then assumed based on the responses. One who sees flowers might be interpreted as sheltered and innocent, while one who sees a bloodied corpse might be interpreted as neglected and abused.

The function of ideologues is to interfere with this process, basically holding the Rorschach image up to the viewer and explaining in highly rhetorical detail what the Rorschach actually represents, how to see it the way they do, and why this way of looking at the Rorschach is the proper way to look at it. The ideologue convinces the viewer that this is not a vague Rorschach pattern that could represent any number of things, but is, in actuality, this very clear and distinct image that the ideologue insists that it is.

Rorschach Image

Imagine this Rorschach represented a view of society. A feminist would look at this and claim to see an oppressive patriarchy, whereas a non-feminist would be more likely to see it for what it objectively is: a Rorschach.

These ink blots can be seen as blots of societal issues, and depending on ideology a different pattern (and, thus, a different image) would be proclaimed Traditionalists would call the image the demoralization caused by breaking from tradition, while progressives would call it cognitive dissonance caused by the enforcing of tradition. Feminists would refer to the image as the results of patriarchy, while male chauvinists would refer to it the results of female authority.

Those who don’t buy in to ideology would simply call it what it is, a Rorschach, regardless of what their brain might have been trained to see.

As long as the complexities of the modern world are treated like the fully-formed mental images in the minds of the ideologically manipulated, rather than as the mass of ink blots we more realistically see them as, those looking to have an impact will treat society as something it may very well not be. And these many different ideologues will all treat it as something completely different, each treatment resulting in very clear consequences for blurry causes. It’s time we stood up to these ideologues—the preachers, politicians and pundits—and stopped taking their rigged Rorschach tests.