“Ism” You Is, or “Ism” You Ain’t?

There has been a libertarian renaissance over the past few years brought about by a deserved lack of faith in our two party duopoly. It has, in fact, become rather vogue in recent months to distinguish one’s self from either major political party and identify as a libertarian. This is especially understandable when we consider how in doing so one removes themselves from any culpability regarding the sorry state of our present day political, and economic plight. However, the thing is, many who refer to themselves as libertarians, really have little, or no understanding of what the libertarian platform actually is.

Which is not to say that there is a problem with libertarianism as an ideological construct. Certainly not in and of itself. But here is something to consider before making that ideological claim. Despite what he calls himself, Glenn Beck is not really a libertarian. For that matter, neither is Ron Paul. While both might incorporate certain aspects of libertarianism into their world views, if one were to visit the party’s website, you would see a significant departure from its’ tenets.

Many of us form our socio/economic and political perspectives with a sense of undeserved certainty of what it is we are making absolute assertions about. While it is admirable that many of us hope to engage our political system, many are driven to do so out of media hastened fear. The result of fear driven politics, is that the pedestrian understanding of the ideologies we claim to cherish has translated into a blurring of these very same philosophies… creating a hodge-podge of socio/political “isms” while bastardizing their original intent.

But even that is understandable considering that political science has never been an exacting endeavor.

Collectively, our angst –at the behest of those who profit from it– now determines how we interpret the myriad of ideologies which are part of our country’s multifaceted political structure. Our passions have come to establish whether these interpretations are either good vs. bad, or American vs. un-American, rather than to seek empathetic, rational answers to complex problems. It is the over-simplifying, and moreover, the lack of understanding of capitalism, socialism, fascism, corporatism, liberalism, conservatism, theism and centrism –to name just a few such “isms”– which has allowed our national discourse to become adulterated to the point of unreason.

The reality is, that in order to rationally discuss an ideological construct such as libertarianism, it is irresponsible to do so without –at the very least– differentiating between its civil and economic platforms. That much is true with any political ideology. However people make sweeping assertions anyway. But this was never just about libertarianism. That was simply my example. This was about our nation’s acumen, and the perception of every other applicable ideology to the American political system as well.

Yet when this country was at its socio/economic height… when we were collectively American, rather than Democrat or Republican… when we had defeated the Nazis and were simultaneously endeavoring to establish civil rights and put a man on the moon… when our work ethic was rewarded with prosperity… when we seemed to the world a beacon of freedom and democracy… we had a certain balance to our “isms”. Sure we were a capitalist democracy in essence, but as the world changed we incorporated aspects of various ideologies that worked to the betterment of our nation and which presently are being vilified today.

We weren’t perfect, but neither were we amoral commie-fascists out to destroy decency. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness used to trump dogma. The American dream was indeed, alive.

However the main difference, between then and now, is that the emotionally assailable –those susceptible to fear driven perceptions– are more easily gotten to by the special interests who profit from them. In that spirit, it is imperative, and moreover, fundamentally American, to try to restore the balance between political perception, and reality. It is our obligation to understand the “isms” we either embrace, or condemn before we do so…. and more importantly, to understand that no ideological “ism”, by itself, is perfect.

… with the possible exception of doughnut-ism.


About Rich Woods

Rich Woods is the author of the critically acclaimed books, UnLearn Vanilla Marriage, and Yahweh to Hell. He is also a columnist, sociologist, and satirist who has performed seminars around the country. He's also made several TV and radio appearances. Transitioning from a blue-collar background has given Mr. Woods a unique perspective --and an even more unique elocution--among his peers. Raised Catholic, Mr. Woods is now a very public atheist who champions the separation of church and state. He's an advocate for non-traditional relationships, including --but not limited to-- negotiating non-monogamy, as well as being a vocal opponent of political correctness. Throughout his career, Woods has had colorful metaphors hurled in his direction from both liberals, and conservatives. To be honest, most of the vitriol comes from the Tea Party. However, he considers one of his greatest accomplishments having been called "Harry Reid's Lapdog" , and referred to as being "just like Rush Limbaugh" from two different sources within minutes of one another. Originally from Queens, New York, and presently residing in central New Jersey, Rich Woods is madly, and hopelessly in love with his wife Jane since before they were wed in 2002, and is the proud father of two successful, brilliantly creative, young adult children. Try as he might, he can't juggle.

Posted on August 5, 2012, in Recent Posts. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Once again, Mr. Woods You manage to cleverly express your thoughts and observations from an interesting and objective platform. This comment coming from someone that does not make claim to having extensive knowledge of the dogma of Ism’s.

    Well stated and articulate.

    John “Shadow”

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