Ism? One time in Costa Rica a lecturer said to us “If you want to become acquainted with this country quickly and significantly, learn our isms.” His advice not only aided us in our acculturation, but also nudged me to pay more attention to isms in general.
Ism words begin as private thoughts, individual actions or local conditions. Somehow or other, this thing that is at first private and small spreads to others and then to others and eventually evolves into a broad social phenomenon, a movement, a widely held belief.
In other words, an idea becomes an ideology.
A personal epiphany evolves into a religion.
A private preference spreads to become a vast social unconscious.
For example, Columbus, financed by Queen Isabella, traveled west and hit upon some islands. That was a beginning. In time we experienced colonialism, an ism with world-wide consequences.
Many, but not all, isms end in i-s-m. agnosticism, Buddhism, capitalism, chauvinism, collectivism, commercialism, conservatism, feminism, hedonism, individualism, industrialism, institutionalism, intellectualism, internationalism, isolationism, Marxism, parochialism, racism regionalism, sexism, socialism, spiritualism and so forth.
But not rheumatism.
It’s a curious thing, it is, that a person fully immersed within an ism may not be conscious of it nor be able to articulate the tenets of the ism. For example, many an Amish person can not tell you the philosophic, social and religious particulars of being Amish, but merely say, “It’s our way of life.” We who have lived our careers within institutions may not be aware of the profound differences in working for oneself (“hanging out the shingle”) or working for an institution — a difference of profound personal and social significance.
Consequently, our residing deeply within an ism leads not only to participate in a social unconscious, but also to badly misrepresent a different and alien ism. Residents within capitalism are known to err significantly when describing socialism; North American individualists have a hard time understanding, much less defining, Latin American personalismo.
I think it wise for the people within my community, near and far, to be deliberate rather than careless when talking about isms, and to examine disinterestedly the isms that we live by.
With the chance of boring you, I want to write two or three more blogs on isms. I hope you stay with me.