"On -isms"

© 2003 by Andersen Silva

I'm not a big fan of -isms. Like John Lennon, I don't believe in Beatles or Zimmerman (though I dig both a lot), I just believe in me. And life. And usually love, though that belief does waver from time to time.

I don't understand how anyone can think that he or she (or anyone else, for that matter) can have all the answers, whether the subject in question is politics or sociology or love or religion. I never claim to know it all; I merely hold an opinion, which is based on proveable facts if such exist, or my gut instinct if they don't, and my opinions are all always open for review. I've been wrong about countless things in the past, and I doubt that I'm infallible now.

But some people, countless people, refuse to consider whether their beliefs and opinions, whether truly their own or indoctrinations from someone else, could possibly stray from reality. What if the Democrats aren't going to ruin this country? What if George W. Bush does know what he's doing? What if there is no afterlife, and all the praying and going without in this life is for naught? What if there is an afterlife, but only the Mennonites get into heaven? What if Bill Gates really is Satan?

Well, OK, that was just ridiculous; I know there's no chance that the Mennonites alone are going to the Great Beyond. My point is that people who cling to -isms tend, by definition, to automatically disqualify competing -isms. There's no room for discussion or dissent. If you're a Republican, then Democrats are no good. If you're a Serb nationalist, the moderate Montenegrins are traitorous scum. If you're Russian Orthodox, all the other Christian faiths are misguided perversions, and don't even mention other religions. And people with one set of unprovable superstitious beliefs (insert any religious group here for an example) love to ridicule those with a different set of unprovable superstitious beliefs (say, astrologers or pyramidologists). What makes the idea of an immaculate conception any more credible than the idea that a burnt offering to Zeus will get the supplicant the god's ear?

The reason for all the pigheadedness? That Republican, that Serb, that Orthodox Christian are all convinced that they're right and the people who argue against them are wrong. Confidence in one's beliefs is one thing; refusing to consider the alternative(s) objectively, refusing to admit that there can be an alternative, is closed-minded and stunting. One can't help but wonder how much further the human race could have gotten by now if not for all the dogma and red tape that's held back the innovators and thinkers, that's muzzled many of them, sometimes mortally. Too many authorities have thundered against anyone who said anything contrary to what was supposed to be heard. Too few people are really interested in truth and knowledge. It's certainly easier to be told what to think; it's certainly more acceptable to fall in line with the status quo, the collective will, than to admit that one has doubts and hasn't made up one's mind. Read "Twelve Angry Men." But dogma and blind faith are no substitutes for logic and critical thinking. If more people employed the latter, there'd have been a few less reasons for wholesale slaughter over the millennia.