Ideologies are fire

You may have noticed that I’ve been talking about certain isms in my first posts, namely veganism and minimalism (Chapter Three – The nudge: On how I became a veganChapter Four – The real: On absence of excess). Depending on your experiences you may feel one way or another about following this type of defined ideologies – life enhancing or detrimental, naturally occurring or forced behaviour. Now I’d like to tell you how I generally feel about them.

In the not-so-distant past we have had some sad instances of new isms rising and gaining large following. There have been wars, blood has been shed, prejudice and polarisation induced. There’s a Finnish proverb: “Fire is a good servant but an awful master”. Isms are like fire – brilliant tools to apply, but also highly potential for tragedies if taken to the extreme or not ‘kept under control’. This applies for all religions, political isms, or for any ideological ism whatsoever.

Essentially, isms are merely concepts. Their existence doesn’t necessitate having a fanatic or organised following. In their very core, they are only to be considered – mindfully evaluated and interpreted, and then possibly applied in one’s life. The premise for an ideology should not be blind worship, even for religions which are defined by the spiritual aspect. Again, we do have the sad examples of isms being basically built around certain soon-to-be public figures, which is an obvious setup for things going terribly wrong. Typically this involves some false promises of things too good to be true, in exchange for support. No, I’m not talking about religion in this case.

Isms can also just be considered as words to be promoted. They are to summarise complex descriptions of ideologies and philosophies in single words – in some cases even entire books can be encapsulated. In politics it is much easier to say one has influences from liberalism or communism, than to begin describing the whole concept. This of course helps only if the listener is already familiar with the ideology.

Depending on the nature of the ism, it is usually built either on confirmed facts and well-grounded theories, or personal standpoints, beliefs and general morals. In the first case the latter things may be further built on top of the first. This leads to isms usually evoking great passion and emotions, especially in case the ideology is questioned or not considered at all. It is crucial to believe in what you stand for and what you believe in, but this passion can also turn against the you, distorting your vision. And what if the ism is an extreme variant of some ideology and goes against common morals?

This is when issues with isms raise their heads – when the sense of reality is lost and isms are followed blindly and when all of one’s values are built on a defined concept. One may be blind not only to the imperfections of the ideology itself, but also to arguments by the supporters of differing ideologies. An argument is not an argument if you don’t leave room for the opposing side. This is why it’s essential to see the situation from other person’s perspective and not to judge immediately.

Even if the essence of an ism is well interpreted and understood, intense passion can cause clashes with the opposing side. This can be seen in veganism and I have personally experienced the ‘vegan passion’ first hand. The idea is to not purchase or consume any animal derived products, in order to save the animals, make a smaller impact on the environment and live healthier. A good deal, right? A couple of months in as a vegan, having done a lot of research and starting to really understand the insanity of the industrial animal agriculture and mass fishing, I started getting quite passionate about spreading the ideology. I could not understand how people can’t see the vast impact of the practices on the environment and the horror that animals must go through.

I must admit that I almost let the passion blind me. I was ready to go out on the streets to tell people to go vegan, believing that this would actually make a difference. I did not see that in my case I wasn’t told to change my lifestyle, but instead I wanted to do it after being explained the reasons to do so. Fortunately I learned from seeing others do this kind of aggressive activism, that it rarely seemed to work. In fact, it just seemed to push people further away. What do people think of people abruptly disturbing their dinner in a restaurant, shouting at them and judging them for their food choices? Even if the message is meant to be good, I would not take advice from these people. No one likes being told what to do – the motivation must come from the inside. I think we’ll discuss this in future posts (*wink*).

The other ism that I try to follow is minimalism, as mentioned earlier. In this case the idea is to only ‘own’ and do things that have purpose in your life. The same rules apply here too – if you take it to the extreme, the ideology will defeat it’s purpose. Minimalism is supposed to help you enjoy what’s real in life, but if you force yourself to minimise things that you actually get value out of, you’ll just end up miserable and make living in this modern society quite impossible. Forcing the ideology on others will not work either – you’ll just end up alienating the listeners.

In addition to a vegan(ist?) and an aspiring minimalist, I also consider myself an environmentalist. In my everyday life I try to make choices that burden the environment as little as possible. Furthermore, I think most of us follow some isms without even acknowledging it – it is of course possible to create and to adopt ideologies without defining words for them. The most important thing however is to know your own values and build on top of that, if offered ideas by others. You decide what you want to apply in your own life!

Now let’s make kind-ism, appreciat-ism and improvement-ism standards in our society.


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