Some really great ideas come from lighthearted movies. Ferris Beuller gives some good advice about “isms”.
“It’s not that i support fascism or any ism for that matter. Isms in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, “I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.” Not bad, but then again he was the walrus.”
People, the media especially, love “isms”. Like labels, they provide a shorthand to express a point of view. But when we take a closer look at them, they serve to divide people, thereby undermining relationships and creating upset. Consider the following “Isms” for a moment:
It is likely you had a strong reaction to most or all these words, either positive or negative. Most people, however, have different concepts of what each of these words means based on their life experience, what they learned in school and the media they consume. The “isms” become associated with “tribes” to which we either belong or do not and therefore can be perceived as threatening or even evil, when associated with a tribe to which we do not belong. “Isms” (and labels in general) are used to consciously advance agendas, and unconsciously out of habit and a need to divide the world in to segments we can understand and put into a mental box we classify as either “good” or “bad”.
Once there is a population that thinks in terms of “isms” discussions devolve into a Monty Python-esque Argument Clinic of “is too”- “is not” scenario where nothing improves and in fact devolves into further polarization.
Words have real power, from a shamanic standpoint as well as other spiritual traditions, we know that we speak our world into being. John 1:1 begins “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So, it’s pretty clear that words create. So what have we created and what do we want to create instead? If we take the time to observe our inner language through meditation or journaling, we develop the ability to become more aware of our own thoughts and how they play out in our lives and relationships. If we have thoughts of fear or lack, there is often blame assigned and that blame is assigned to an “other”, which is assigned a label and is frequently associated with an “ism”. This results in duality thinking where there is no winner because there is always an action-reaction cycle going on. Einstein observed that “no problem can be solved at the level of consciousness that created it.” If we want to see a better world, we have to start with our own thoughts and lift ourselves out of thinking in labels and “isms”.
If we can level up a bit and ask ourselves questions like: “What about this situation is triggering me?”, “Why do I think doing “X” is the best answer to this issue?”, “What are my underlying assumptions that have lead me to conclude this is correct?”, “Are those assumptions true?”, and really scary: “What if other assumptions are true?- Would I see this differently?” Once we understand our own unconscious thought patters we are better able to see where others are coming from and hold our center when there is disagreement.
Fear drains us of our personal power. Fearful people do not act rationally. People dig in, polarization increases, innocent people can be accused of horrific things and wars are even started. Polarizing thoughts are not the optimal place to dream a world into being. They create nightmares, not Eden.
Banning “isms” from our thoughts and conversations forces us to do a deeper dive into our mental tool box to actually describe what we think and believe, why we think and believe and what the implications are when the actions that issue from those beliefs play out in real time.
Setting “isms” aside allows us include everyone in our “tribe”. The tribe of humanity.
Pick an “ism” from the list above that triggers you or any other ism or label towards which you have a strong negative reaction. Explore why you feel as you do about it. What attributes do you assign people who you lump into that category? Do you have assumptions about what the people you label as such think about you? What is your deepest fear regarding that group of people (who are our brothers and sisters). This is not to necessarily change a point of view or justify what can be truly abominable behaviors that people commit on one another, but to remove the power drain that comes from our reactions to those things so that we can come to clear eyed solutions from a heart centered place.
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