“Ism’s, in my opinion, are not good. A person should not believe in an ‘ism,’ he should believe in himself.” ~ Ferris Bueller
In this scene from one of my favourite movies, the 1986 classic by John Hughes, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” starring Matthew Broderick, Ferris explains why he doesn’t believe in isms.
He does seem to have a point.
Racism, sexism, classism, ageism, materialism, fascism and most other isms share a common trait – they all discriminate in one way or another. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives two possible meanings for ‘ism’:
- A distinctive doctrine, cause, or theory
- An oppressive and especially discriminatory attitude or belief
Wikipedia defines an ism as:
- “Taking side with” or
- “Imitation of”
Isms are often used to describe philosophies, theories, religions, social movements, artistic movements and behaviours.
To be sure, there are positive isms too. Optimism, altruism, collectivism, humanism, romanticism and many others. But, they don’t seem to carry the same gravitas as their opposites. Which sounds more sinister? Optimism or pessimism? Humanism or anarchism?
The largest downside to an ism is that it manages to create an ‘us and them’ out of believers and non-believers. An ism is a belief system or ideology, but understood from that particular person’s point of view. The problem with having such a strong conviction is that you defend your stance at all costs.
In his article entitled, “The Danger of isms,” Scott H. Young suggests we approach isms with a certain amount of reservation and disdain.
“I dislike isms because I believe that the proper reason to believe something in almost all cases is because the evidence supports it. Strengthening conviction beyond evidence just doesn’t make sense”
He offers a possible solution on how to navigate our relationship with isms. Isms form part of our daily language and a part of our identity. His approach is to consider it carefully when we accept an ism but to fiercely avoid letting it define you.
Isms can cause massive division among people with opposing views. To stubbornly defend your view lessens the chance of you seeing the issue ‘in their shoes.’ Plus, announcing an ism labels you, which is a limited view of the whole ‘you.’
I say lose the isms. It’s not easy and it takes a lot of patience with yourself and with others. But as the saying goes:
“The truth will set you free…but first it will make you miserable.”
Have an awesome weekend! 😄
Thanks for reading, I appreciate it tremendously 🙏