Tuesday, 13 December 2022 09:20

In solidarity with the people: Isms: a Taxonomy

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In solidarity with the people: Isms: a Taxonomy


Isms: a taxonomy

by Christopher Norris

Those isms run the gamut A to ZED
But come in one or other sort:
The types that claim your credence, fill your head,
And yield doctrinal memes to spread,
Or sundry ills and ailments of the kind
You’ve somehow – bloody nuisance! – caught
But which, with luck, won’t touch your heart or mind.

There’s all those credal isms that declare
‘Here’s what I think, maintain, or feel’ –
The core beliefs that people live and swear
By, such as those that simply pair
Off one-to-one and pretty much dictate
What kind of punter’s two-horse deal
We voters fall for, courtesy the state.

No end of them, those binaries that set
Thought’s limits: liberalism v
The various right-wing isms that would get
Those liberals in a tizz; the debt
That atheists owe to theists; or the need
Of socialists to decree
‘Fascist’ or ‘capitalist’ their counter-creed.

For so they go, those couples in their dance
Of contraries, yet not, like strains
Of some disease, a quirk of circumstance,
A viral hop-up, or a chance
Germ-laden kiss – rather, they’re what we make
In life-choice terms of what our brains
Lay out as future courses life may take.

The other isms also cover quite
A range, from mild to lethal, but
With this big difference: ailments don’t unite,
Divide, or mobilise for right
And wrong like action-plans that call for thought
As well as feeling – not some gut
Reaction or unthinking stock retort!

A nasty lot, those other kinds of ism,
From rheumatism and a host
Of suchlike ills to – here the dualism
Begins to oscillate – sexism,
Racism, or the whole contested zone
Where some say patho-memes are most
At fault while others chide: ‘they should have known!’.

And then Conservatism: where to place
That hybrid mode, that curious mix
Of willing, thinking, and the kind of case
That bids pathologists leave space
For diagnoses more inclined to blame
It on some bug that’s learned to fix
On feeble brains like hunters on their game.

For who’ll deny it’s more like a disease,
A plague, a creeping scourge, the way
It spreads and how the symptoms – sneeze or sleaze –
Bring a whole nation to its knees
While the head honchos trouser all they can
By schemes to make the virus pay
For them and all their power-corrupted clan.

Yet let’s not push the argument too far
And let them off the hook, those spawn
Of an old breed whose dark, ill-omened star
Sheds light enough to show they are,
And always were, infected to the bone
With all the guile and greed they’re born
To learn, then add new vices of their own.

That’s why it’s this, of all the isms now
Doing the rounds, that lets us gauge
Where moral medicine runs out and how
Some deep infections won’t allow
The body politic to see it through
Without, at such a far-gone stage,
What only drastic surgery can do.

One thing’s for sure: no germ so lethal, no
Pandemic so deep-reaching, nor
Affliction of that fragile body so
Malignant as the horror-show
Thrust on us by an ism which, in both
Its forms, needs cutting from the core
Of social being like a cancerous growth.

Read 1073 times Last modified on Wednesday, 14 December 2022 12:26
Chris Norris

Christopher Norris is Distinguished Research Professor in Philosophy at the University of Cardiff. He is the author of more than thirty books on aspects of philosophy, politics, literature, the history of ideas, and music.