My habit at this time of year is to respect the silly season, go with the flow and provide nothing more than a hoped for little light entertainment. However, one of the characteristics I cherish in myself is inconsistency. I call it an open questioning mind. So this summer I’m going the other way completely.
The last time I wrote my monthly ramble I mentioned in passing that I was getting some barbed criticism for bad language, political incorrectness and a few isms. Sexism, illiberalism, even misogenism. This remark catalysed a flurry of responses, all of them I’m glad to say proving my theory that I choose my friends very well. You are splendid.
So I’m sitting in another glorious heat haze in a pair of oversized deeply unfashionable Moroccan baggies and a twenty year old work shirt, thinking quite deeply. My daughter would be looking at my attire with benign despair.
I’m thinking that as soon as anyone or any group adopts a doctrine, a belief or a way of thinking or being that is summed up by a word ending ism, I’m immediately disposed to be a) suspicious of it, b) working on the basis that they are going to want to change me, limit me, gag me, kill me or at the very least hate me.
So I’ve decided to examine what I feel about the ones I think I sort of understand. If you’re half way through your Dan Brown, or despite being 40 years old you’re re-reading Harry Potter book 2, then this piece is not for you and that’s fine. Go fuck yourself.
[that’s got quite a few of them going already. 3 words showing intellectual snobbery, crude use of language, disrespect and intolerance of another’s right to read what they like. Not bad.]
John Locke’s Liberalism to me always meant civil rights, representative democracy as opposed to rule by authority and the right to privacy.
But what liberalism seems to mean to some of my readers is that we’re not allowed to have an opinion if it doesn’t coincide with theirs!We associate liberalism with the revolutionary overthrow of dictatorships or unrepresentative governments. You justify the revolution because those in power are wrong and you’re right. Simple. In that case, shut down my blog cos I’m definitely wrong and you’re definitely right..
Libertarianism means government sits back and farts while things come crashing down, the greedy get rich, the poor are oppressed but at least no one dares ask anyone to carry an identity card. Marvellous idea. So, Nero was right after all?
Feminism is the doctrine wherein Robin is an uncouth, sexist, dirty-minded man who cheapens women by portraying them as nothing more than sex objects spread-eagled before his narcissistic and thuggish desire. He should be lobotomised. Aha there’s a new one. Lobotomism. The forcible removal of the part of someone’s brain likely to give rise to unacceptable ideas or actions. Oh shit, they already tried that in Victorian prison hospitals didn’t they?
Racism is an idea exemplified by Alex Salmon under the guise of Nationalism, by Nigel Farage under the guise of er pragmatic independence? And by cultural fascists who champion multiculturalism rather than integration as a social goal.
Sexism is where people think that men and women are somehow different from one another in some way … er …
Dadaism is the pursuit of nonsense but it is also the rejection of traditional art, traditional standards and traditional values because they may lead to idealogical conflict and eventually global warfare. Well, Hitler painted nonsense, Churchill painted crap and it didn’t stop either of them.
Nihilism says life has no real meaning, no real value and no real purpose. By that I construe no intrinsic value, because that allows us to be nihilists and so to realise that we must give our own lives meaning by what we do. That takes us to Viktor Frankel’s ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, the beginning of cognitive psychotherapy and for me, taking responsibility for one’s own purpose and realising that you always have a choice in your attitude to what is going on, even if you have no choice in what is going on. The prisoners in a labour camp are all facing more or less the same horrible existence. Frankel reminds us that they dealt with it in a variety of ways, the extremes being collusion, betrayal of friends and family for perks and to avoid pain, to on the other end, heroism, valour, selflessness and generosity to the point of deliberately putting ones self in harm’s way to help or save another – even a stranger. So come to think of it, Nihilism ain’t so bad.
Determinism is used by different people to mean a lot of different things. In its basic form it’s about cause and effect. There are laws of nature or even of the whole universe which mean that an inevitable consequence will flow from a set of actions. This is rather blown out of the water by quantum mechanics of course. Once we split the atom and took a look inside, we found to our horror that nothing followed what we thought of as natural science laws, physics theories – heck a particle can exist in two places at once. And by the way, determinism is not the same as fatalism at all.
Fatalism is much worse than the idea there is no free will. Fatalism says ‘sure, there is free will – or at least you think and feel there is. You think and feel you are making choices. But in fact, nothing you do makes any difference to the outcome at all.’ Nietzsche’s wanderer just gave up. Everything was pointless. It didn’t matter what he did, he couldn’t change what was going to happen. I have to say that I imagine my fatalist readers might think there’s no point writing to me. You’re wrong. Fatalism is wrong. I might well revise what I say and write something new. It might by chance be copied to someone who copies it to someone else who reads it and realises they run Universal Music and they should take a pay cut because robin Millar says it’s greedy to earn £20 million a year. You just never know.
Now I’m turning my mind to the stuff you can get killed for. Is it a coincidence that religions – or could we say godism – avoid putting ism on the end? Other than Buddhism - and Buddhism isn’t about god. Is that a sneaky little way of not coming across as doctrinaire? Have they sussed that it looks bad to be an ism?
Atheism and agnosticism are out of the closet. They are raging isms. Doctrines to the core. There’s nothing wishy washy about agnosticism by the way. Agnosticism Says ‘don’t tell me there is a god. Don’t tell me there isn’t a god. None of you bloody know.’
So what if we made religions isms? I don’t think I even need do any more than write them down and let you take a look. It puts a whole new spin on things …
In Science it’s taken for granted that any current theory is potentially open to future disproving or alteration by revelation from research or new evidence. That is called fallibilism and goes way back.
What is odd is that godism doesn’t seem to leave room for fallibilism. In fact godists have modified fallibilism to say that even if the tenets of my belief system are proved flawed I can still justify believing in them! So If you prove to me irrefutably that the guitarist Jimi Hendrix never existed except in my imagination, I’ll still worship him as a god…and if you still carry on with this, I’ll come find you and string you up.
The furthest a godist will go is tolerance towards the beliefs of another … and I cling on to that as the holy grail.
Because, if we achieve that tolerance, then Isis, Alkaida, Hamas, Zionists and the rest could all chuck their rockets into a big fire and go home. Wouldn’t that be something?