Our Many Isms

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Ism. This interesting suffix recently crossed my mind. Even if it is a familiar component in many words, I also noticed that if it stands by itself it seems so nondescript. When it appears in a complete word, as it is so often combined with some prefix or plain words, it wields new power. It brings life to many names of: religions and doctrines that have lasted thousands of years; theories, philosophies and worldviews that have revolutionized our way of viewing the world; medical disorders, social conditions, art movements that have influenced our search for creative solutions; political ideologies and economic principles that all have clashed and conflicted in many nations; and all descriptions of our best and worst characters that have revealed these two sides of our humanity.

Since the Greek origin ismos crept in the English language, ism has become an all-time favorite suffix of many scholars. As they discover many human interests, phenomena, experiences and intellectual pursuits, they create hybrids of words, each combined with an ism. They use these professionally and scholarly sounding terms with ism to proudly pin down closely observed,  unnamed realities. However, as these terms with ism come out to the public, they are often inadvertently misunderstood.

Some isms have ordinary meanings. Others are rather controversial with heavy connotations, which have resulted to so much misunderstandings. In the long history of isms, there were aggressions and violence. The battle between isms killed millions of people in unnecessary wars. The rise of new isms clashed with the existing ones. Opposing people rejected and ostracized those others. These isms might be just  simple words, but how people act on them may determine the outcome of its repercussion in the society. In the understanding minds of experts who observe them, isms can rest quietly. But they often run amok in the minds of those who do not understand.

I know there must be something that threads numerous isms into one beautiful tapestry of truth.

I can see one obvious reason. This diversity of thoughts is as huge as of living organisms. All thoughts give birth to patterns of behaviors and experiences, which in turn can give birth to many isms. Since all thoughts are different, the isms they create are strikingly different. With this magnitude,  people become too much attached to the isms they hold and they develop bigotry, bias and enmity towards those outside their isms. The worst symptom of ism is divisiveness between individuals and groups, from spouses to nations. There is more emphasis on separation than cooperation, on the power of institutions than of people. This kind of sensibility becomes a precursor of insensitivity and disharmony. And as the world continues to conceive new isms, we continue to perpetuate these ugly realities.

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I myself have my own ism, as I write and share my own beliefs and knowing. As I meet new people, I also meet their isms and they also meet mine. In those encounters, some of them resonate with me, others strongly against. I know I am not in the place to argue or that I am not someone who knows better or I do not have any right to hold any grudge. The world has witnessed many people in our society who have suffered too much on upholding and fighting their isms. I now seek to understand. I seek more peace between isms, and creative impulse to discover those that I only barely know through my assumptions. I know there must be something that threads numerous isms into one beautiful tapestry of truth.

I believe it is our willingness to have a broad mind that we can see truth in its countless guises. It calls for a deep heart that can contain and share so much care and concern. Both allow us to let go of our fanatic resolve on our isms and vehemence against others. These are the usual roots of the problems, not the isms themselves. We must enlighten our unenlightened perceptions and stop creating isms as a basis of self-righteousness and self-preservation. Each ism is not complete. We need each other’s  ism to see their wholeness and their purpose to the world.

This brings me to an unencumbered insight: why not the IS of ism? Why not the isness behind the isms? There must be a deeper, cosmic reason why each ism exists, and to understand them is to enlighten us of our profound human choices and experiences. Why not embrace all isms instead of compartmentalizing them with barriers of conflict? There must be something within them that would give us the opportunity to understand and take actions for the benefit of humanity. And why not simplify rather than complicate? We can always re-envision these isms not as complexities of strife among us, but as a simplified sense of community organizing the beauty of our differences. Only then will these isms pave us  a pure way to Love.

47 thoughts on “Our Many Isms

  1. Fully agree. Why do we have these ism’s of conflict. Lets have some harmless ism’s.

    I’d start by suggesting a “cartoonism”. It’s for fun, laughter, and to take the stress out of life.

    Kick off by having a look through my cartoons on my blog, then go and find some more.

    Relax and chill out with a few laughs in life instead of conflict.

  2. I recently just blogged about a book I read about 12 different ‘isms’; however, it was geared towards Catholic college students, so obviously it’s biased towards Catholicism. In case you’re interested, it’s called Disorientation.
    I agree with some of what you say. However, as wonderful as it sounds to just bring all of these different isms together and have them all help us love each other, I need to point out a tragic flaw in this situation. Many of the different ‘isms’, truly cannot co-exist, without changing what makes them ‘them’. Take, for example, progressivism and traditionalism. Quite literally, these two ideologies contradict each other in almost every conceivable fashion. Furthermore, many ‘isms’ are not well founded, and though they have made their way into intellectual circles, most reasonable people would think they are foolish; example: relativism, the lack of real truth.

    1. HI, Nigeil! Yes, I completely agree with you. I think that is really a great challenge for our society to find a common ground, however different and conflicted we might be. Recently, I have witnessed some politicking in an organization, and unfortunately, what was really aimed for common understanding became a context for blaming based on thought differences and unfounded assumptions. True enough, as you pointed out, this is a matter of changing our self-preserving agendas more than changing the ism, because it is the motivation and attitude that fuels our tendency to conflict and separate. In the meantime, it is best to understand and acknowledge what could be a better way to bridge the gap. We hope to see more of that integrated understanding in the coming years. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  3. First of all, Kudos for such a profound rendition of a three letter fragment of a word.
    Next, I think it is amazing how the word without a ism or ism itself has nearly not as much power of the combined word. It’s as if once the word is combined, once the bond is formed, a boundary is created. Between people who are in the ism and those who aren’t. I have never really thought of it this way. You have sparked an interest in me to read up more about isms 🙂

    1. Thanks, Aparna! Yes, and likewise, I was struck with this particular insight. What I felt really was going beyond the isms and try to see them from a different vantage. We hope to understand more and seek to build bridges instead walls. 🙂

  4. I agree there is “…more emphasis on separation than cooperation…” I think some isms are formed in response to feelings of separation. Perhaps increasing cooperation could allow one to relax their grip on their ism. Thanks for the thoughtful post. There is much wisdomism here!

    1. Thanks, Jeff! Wisdomism! haha! That’s cool! 😀 And yes, I agree with you, we need to increase the value of cooperation. WE cannot avoid being different, so it’s better for us to find what glues us together. Cheers to Oneness, brother! 🙂

  5. Good post! Makes me think of “fanaticism” which was the subject of my initial post when I started to blog a week or so ago. Many isms are beliefs so fanatically clung to that the word “fanaticism” almost becomes redundant.

    1. Hello, sir! Thanks so much! Yes, that being fanatic to such isms create so much problems between isms. Of course, the bad rep of blind faith comes to this big picture.

    1. Hi, Jade! Oh, yeah, you’ve got it! Yes, if we can just understand that fear, we can go beyond it and learn and live what Love is. Thanks for the insight! =)

  6. And the internet is making everyone’s ism’s more prominent. We now can get our news only from the sources we subscribe to on Facebook and our favorite biased-toward-our-own-opinion cable talk shows. Pretty soon, the only information we will get about the world will be information that we already agree with, information that solidifies our own isms at the expense of a global agreement. Sigh.

    1. Hi Wendy! Yes, I think you’ve just pointed out the possible danger of compromise and conformity. I presume those two are other challenges. But since we humans are naturally creative, I’m just faithful of the possibility that we won’t end up saturated by just one info source. We would always seek to change and deviate and see things in new ways. 🙂

      1. I hope you are right. But I’ve had an interesting experience living in three different parts of the country in the last three years (Pacific Northwest, South, and Midwest). There was a shocking uniformity to the way people think and talk about issues in each place, and on different sides, and a shocking similarity in their contempt (and misunderstanding) of the other side. We shall see, however.

        1. Yeah. Btw, do they talk (or argue) on common topics like religions, politics and sports? If they do, then they seem so similar with the people I have met who discuss the same. One thing I have observed though, is that they only have limited source of info – usually TV and tabloids. I guess that brings us to the advantage of the internet wherein we can have more options and sources to learn than just one. Yes, I agree with you – we will hope for the best and see how things would turn out. =)

  7. I’m glad to see someone acknowledging that not all -isms are bad. We can consider “humanism,” for starters. And then it’s just a short step from “-ism” to “-ist,” as in “humanist.”
    As individual humans, we need and assume many identities while simultaneously rejecting others. It’s a matter of accepting who and what we are as well as acknowledging who and what we are not, and then how we act.
    In music and the fine arts, for instance, we have classicism, romanticism, Impressionism, modernism … I’ll take them all, no matter which ones describe my own work and working.
    This is hardly a matter of fear, either.
    Ultimately, the most basic line involves those issues where we hold true to our individual experiences and convictions, regardless of the consequences. The question comes down to whether one is being persecuted or doing the persecution, however we define it.
    Come to think of it, being able to see and respect differences is a hallmark of liberalism, if we want to go there. Or would we rather consider some of the current charges of “socialism”?
    Oh, for the possibilities or renewed clarity and compassion!

    1. That is so brilliant, Jnana! Yes, and more than the schools of thoughts, we all have certain human attitudes like altruism and optimism, to say the least. From there we can gauge that isms are not really bad after all…an ism is just a way for us to articulate this vast possibilities of experiencing our lives. The only problem is that we use isms as, alluding Isaiah, swords rather than ploughs. It really depends upon the intention. So to be aware more of our capacity to choose what is best is what determines the role of isms in our lives. Thanks so much Jnana. You have triggered new insights here. =)

    1. Nice point, Alex! Yes, the isms appear to be barriers of true self-understanding and self-faith. When people submit their wits to a particular dogma or thought without examining them more closely, they lose their capacity to think all throughout.

  8. My mom and I were talking about ism(s) the other day. And you’re right, love for neighbor is a cure-all.

      1. Oh I don’t mind sharing. We were talking about the unofficial isms that hold people back. We call it back-of-the-woods-isms. Or simply put, backward thinking that others use to hold people back. OK, believe or not, some men with this ism don’t want their wives to get a hysterectomy because it will effect their sex life!! Back-of-the-woods, baby!!

        1. Lol! Yep, that one is also common in our culture. I mean, both men and women use isms to get a grip of other people’s decision, esp those of their loved ones. So backward and fearful!

  9. Very true, e.g. sexism. I hate writing his/her, he/she, him/her, etc when in fact using he, his, him alone when referring to an individual whose gender is unknown has been accepted as grammatically correct since I learned how to speak and write.

    By the way, your name sounds Filipino. Then If you are one, this is the first time I have read a freshly pressed post by a Filipino blogger. Here’s my double congratulations!

    P.S. Sexism has gone outrageous here in the Philippines that the opposite sex insists on using feminist titles e.g. Dra. instead of the universal Dr., The same is true with “chairwoman”, “congresswoman”, etc. No wonder in the near future, they would lobby for the term, “huwoman”. Hehehehe.

    1. Hi Asel! First of all, I want to say, ‘Salamat, Kapatid!’ Great to know that we’re both Batangueños. ☺

      Your comment reflects my insight just the other day. When it comes to words, particularly pronoun, the English and Latin languages express such dualistic characteristic, in a sense that he and she are separated. But when you translate them to Filipino, particularly Tagalog, it’s only ‘Siya’. the pronoun ‘Siya’ reflects our ancient understanding that a man and a woman are not separated at all, but at one in their essential humanity.

      Such issue on sexism is highly Westernized, and not natural to us Filipinos. But we can create a new culture that recognizes the oneness beyond the language barrier.

      Again, thank you. It’s great to meet a kapwa Filipino in this wide and wild world of blogosphere.

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  11. You are such a great discovery Rem. Am so glad we share words. Really great post. Thanks to your wordplay, now I’m sure that the only person responsible for my reactions to isms isME.

    1. Bingo! That is so insightful, Luwee! isms – is me. Amen to that. Surely, all isms come from inside of us, no matter how different they all are. Thanks again. We continue this journey in words!

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