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The curious case of identifying with an ideology and not knowing it

I recently participated in a community event that required some formality, so I was surprised to find a young man who, without wearing a jacket and a tie that all other men wore, arrived dressed in a shirt (jersey) of Barcelona, the well-known soccer club from Spain.

At the end of the meeting, I approached the young man to congratulate him on the excellent choice of his shirt (and would have also congratulated him if the shirt had been Boca Juniors, but not many other clubs.) I took the opportunity to ask him if he liked Barcelona (something that seemed obvious) and soccer in general.

His answer was a single word: "What?"

The young man explained that he had bought that shirt because he liked the colors, ignoring any connection of those colors with Barcelona or with soccer. And the question if he knew Leonel Messi was answered with “Who?”, making it clear that, for him, “his” shirt was just a combination of nice colors and nothing more.

The situation reminded me of images that are repeated with some frequency in social media and in fundraising campaigns, showing children in poverty wearing American football team shirts of which, almost certainly, those children know absolutely nothing.

The experience of having met someone who wears a Barcelona shirt without knowing anything about Barcelona made me think of something different, that is, the possibility of "wearing" a certain belief, dogma or ideology and "wearing it" without knowing anything at all about that ideology.

It is said that the most difficult ideology to understand is precisely the one we accept, believe, and follow, because it is presented as something "normal" and even "obvious" and, for that reason, as something we don’t need to think, analyze or challenge. 

And then we walk through life “showing the colors” of that ideology, not really knowing what it is. And if someone congratulates us or criticizes us for “wearing” that ideology and asks us why we have adopted it, we will probably answer, as the young man mentioned above replied, “Because I just like it”.

In fact, there are numerous cases like when we talk about politics, religion, economics, or other topics. Somebody will wear his or her “ideological shirt” everywhere, whether it is prudent or not to do it, be courteous or not, in many cases ignoring the meaning of the colors he/she is showing.

Worse, that ignorance, added to the attachment to the colors, prevents any meaningful dialogue. The answers, if any, are limited to monosyllables usually framed in a smile dyed in disdain. From that point one, with minds and hearts closed, any attempt to provide a context for our question (for example, talking about Barcelona) will be useless. 

Let's be honest: we all wear an “ideological shirt” that we don't see or don't know. Therefore, we read sacred books as if they were economic manuals and even happily contribute to our own dehumanization. So, if someone asks you for your shirt, open your eyes.

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