Welcome to the most destructive suffix in the English language: “-ism”.
I ran across this optical illusion last week and have been obsessed with it ever since. In a lot of ways, it sums up what “-ism” means to me:
The guy on the left is sure there are four boards laying on the ground. The guy on the right is equally sure there are just three. Look at the boards from each of their perspectives and you’ll agree with each of them in turn. Look at them from outside their limited perspectives and you start to catch on that something fishy is going on.
In the case of the drawing, what’s “fishy” is the cartoonist’s clever sleight of hand. Analyse the drawing closely and you’ll see that they blended the two centre boards into one to create the illusion.
“-Isms” are just like that. Whether consciously or unconsciously created, they are limited perspectives that always veil the truth. Let’s look at the original cartoon again and we can see how it works.
Those are just some random -isms I thought of off the top of my head. Let’s take a quick look at a couple of those -isms and see how they hold up under scrutiny.
Catholicism reigned in Europe until the Bible was translated. After that, the illusion was shattered for many and Protestantism arose as a reaction to the limited perspective of Catholic doctrine. Then came Darwin and the almost irrefutable logic of evolution. Darwinism led to atheism, but the theists couldn’t swallow that, so they came up with a theory of creationism. The Darwinists seem to have the upper hand today, but arguably, that’s because of another -ism — materialism. In Darwin’s era, science worked because it could be relatively simplistic, working from observation of phenomena and coming to conclusions based on testing theories based on those observations. Quantum physics threw a spanner in the works and nothing is quite as certain now.
Capitalism and Communism fought it out until capitalism apparently came out on top after the fall of the Soviet Union. Now capitalism seems to be unravelling. How can we sustain economies based on unlimited growth in a world of limited resources? How can capitalism work for everyone when clearly capital is being accumulated by a select few at the expense of the masses? What happens when capitalism morphs into fascism, which it seems to be doing today?
We could argue the pros and cons of any -ism all day, but the bottom line is that -ism is the most destructive suffix in the English language. Wherever you find opposing -isms, you find war — either real or verbal. What if those guys on either side of the picture switched sides and looked at things from the other point of view? They would both have to admit to having seen an illusory world and start to question reality. Then they would put their heads together and come up with a solution that worked for both of them. The solution might be that each of them felt comfortable in their illusory world, so they would agree to stay on their own turf or the solution might be to join together the best parts of each of their illusions to create a better and less illusory world.
An Exception to the Rule
One -ism I can’t find an opposing -ism to is the concept of exceptionalism. That may be because every -ism considers itself exceptional.
We’ve been hearing a lot about exceptionalism lately. In a recent speech before the UN, President Obama said, “Some may disagree. But I believe America is exceptional. In part because we have shown a willingness through the sacrifice of blood and treasure to stand up not only for our own narrow self interest, but for the interest of all.” Sounds good if you buy the line that America gets into all these wars for humanitarian reasons, but, like the clever drawing that shows two opposing perspectives while hiding the truth, it’s highly questionable that U.S. foreign policy is based on altruism. Based on an analysis of America’s history of foreign intervention, another statement by Obama before the UN General Assembly is probably closer to the real truth:
The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region.
Those “core interests” have nothing to do with the spread of freedom and democracy and everything to do with ensuring “the free flow of energy from the region to the world” on corporate America’s terms. Of course, in order to keep the American people on corporate America’s side, the “optical illusion” of humanitarian intervention has been created, in the spirit of the tried and true tactic of “divide and conquer.” When four-boardism is pitted against three-boardism, neither has any real power and both are easily defeated. When Republicans and Democrats are pitted against each other, the facade of democracy can be maintained while the real powers can go about their business with little opposition.
The Ism that Dare not Speak its Name
Bennito Mussolini infamously said, “Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” When you look at the way the deck is stacked in America, it’s pretty clear that whichever side of the woodpile they seem to stand on, politicians are in the pocket of corporations. These corporations are no longer American corporations working in America’s interests, either. They are transnational corporations working in their own interests in order to profit a tiny minority.
The non-corporate-sponsored media, otherwise known as alternative media, is on to them and are presenting a pretty convincing picture of the facts. You might argue that they, too, are looking at things from a limited perspective, but I would argue that the best of them are taking the broader view and seeing the optical illusion for what it is. Why can I say this? Because the American media, like American politics, is almost entirely controlled by corporate interests and they are the ones who control the perspectives from which Americans view the world.
On just about any level imaginable, corporatism is making a bid to completely control our lives and turn us into slaves who ironically depend on them for the meagre wages that are not adequate enough to sustain us and thus place us into lifelong debt to their partners in corporate finance. Does this sound like the ravings of a paranoid conspiracy theorist? So be it. As William Burroughs wrote: “A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what’s going on.”
I’ll let others argue my case for me now. This is what some meat and poultry inspectors had to say as quoted by WorldTruthTV in an article titled, Conventional Farmers Won’t Eat Their Own Food:
“I don’t eat chicken anymore. I won’t eat it. I won’t allow it in my house.”
–Rodney Leonard, U.S. Poultry inspection
“Based on my experience in Los Angeles, my advice to the public is not to eat meat. “
–Gregorio Natavidad, meat inspector
“Would you like to go to pasture with a chicken,cut him up, then drop him into a fresh manure pile, and eat him? That’s what the product is like coming from chicken plants today.”
Now listen to what Farmer Brad has to say in a video attached to the same article:
It should be pretty clear that corporatism (or fascism) isn’t an ism that’s going to be embraced by the public any time soon, but that’s what’s being forced down our throats both literally and figuratively while we remain blinded by the more palatable isms that have been created for us. How do we fight back? Well, one way to start is to step back from the picture and see the illusion for what it is. Then maybe we can rejoin the greater human family and take care of one another rather than look for an ism to take care of us.