THE TERRORISM OF "-ISMS"

24/01/2017

(Originally published in ELT News in 2008, foreboding the current state of things)

Over the past two decades, it has become evident that our world has purchased a one-way ticket towards globalization - a world with no borders, a world of producers and consumers. Ease of communications and transport is pulling down just about every barrier between the planet's economies and, consequently, cultures. This is evident in the homogenized, American-modeled consumer lifestyle that the youth of once traditional societies are all too willing to adopt the world over. In the long run, however, the only ones who stand to benefit from the process of turning the planet into a cultural melting pot where there is no room for national identities are the big businesses who may thus offer their products to a regimented consumer public, since a 'culturally' homogenized world mentality will mean homogenized material needs.

To implement this, big money from conglomerates has been flowing into government educational policies to curtail ethnically-oriented material in history books, into the film industries to promote subversive plots and into news agencies to broadcast 'politically correct' reports on global events. All this, in order to establish "demoralizing" trends conducive to a global mindset that will hold a national consciousness, as opposed to an international consciousness, to be an obstacle to the desired New World Order.

The most potent mentality-shaping tool, however, has always been language. Today, the semantic power of words promoted via the international mass media plays an important role in shaping 'globalizing' attitudes. At the forefront is -ism-suffixed diction that forms totem/taboo words to define various positive or negative sociopolitical trends. For instance, views and opinions that champion national identities are frowned upon as nationalism or chauvinism. Governments who try to implement these views are accused of fascism. Persons who cling on to traditional values are charged with conservatism. The omnipotence of the international mass media goes as far as to ordain whether an act of one's self-sacrifice to defend home, country or beliefs is hailed as heroismor condemned as terrorism - depending on the economic and the political interests at stake; hence the selectively heroic pilot justified to drop bombs on selectively terrorist States.

The brainwashing effect of the masses is further reflected in the willingness of the hoi polloi to marginalize pariahs who do not comply with the desired current order of things by stigmatizing them with -ism labels. The Greek -ism suffix (from -ismos as in εθισμός=addiction) and its birth child -ist (as in nationalist, fascist, racist, etc) have acquired such notoriety, that their indiscriminate usage has reached pandemic proportions. Besides, what easier way to stifle one's strong opinion on an issue than to slap him with an -ist suffix, e.g. "Don't take him seriously, for he is such an extremist!" In a world where everyone must become "equal" (for equal exploitation) even terms like "betterist" or "biggerist" are now used to accuse those who dare to compare!

What is really dangerous about a globally homogenized mindset predictably responding to strong opinions with -isms is that it renders people absolutely incapable of tracing any truth in the views they have been conditioned to consider extreme, even if these views are justifiable and logically supported. Even more dangerous is the distortion of meaning that words like extremist and racist have recently acquired. The 1981 edition of Webster's dictionary, for instance, defined racism as "a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race." However, the media has extended the meaning of "racism" to characterize any sort of discrimination, even between members of the same race. In Greece, per se, this word has been so media-hammered into people, that the term "I am not a racist, but..." almost always precedes any expression of discord or opposition to the current influx of illegal aliens into the country, be they white, yellow or black. And although fears may be justified by the consequent escalation of crime in Greek cities, governments are also forced to turn a blind eye to the invasion lest they be singled out as racist factions in the global order.

As for extremist, the dictionary definition is "a person who advocates or resorts to extreme measures, especially in politics, a radical". Although one hardly "resorts to extreme measures" on courageously voicing dissent against a general consensus or flow of events, he/she is likely to wear the tag. It used to be that in such cases idealistwould have been a more suitable choice rather than extremist. According to the dictionary definition, an idealist is "1. An adherent of any system of philosophical idealism. 2. One whose conduct is influenced by idealism - a visionary. 3. One who is unrealistic and impractical."

Woe unto a world thrown into a notional quagmire where patriots are confused with racists and idealists with extremists. George Orwell's "1984", which forebode a society whose thoughts and behaviour were standardized by Big-Brother-ordained diction has never proven more prophetic. The 1973 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica was also predictive in its article on Greece (still under the Junta at the time): "The future of Greece is in serious question: whether it will involve itself in the exciting dangers of Balkan politics or seek a closer, more prosperous association with the West and the homogenizing (if not demoralizing) 'culture' of the international mass media..."

As to the question of how big businesses stand to gain from the diluting of national consciousness, the answer is obvious: In the absence of traditional social nexuses, members of a "demoralized" world turn to reclusive, media-controlled lifestyles for guidance; and lifestyles, in the modern sense, dictate only one value: consumption.

Nonetheless, the impending economical crisis may once more give credence to the wise Greek tenet "Μηδέν κακόν αμιγές καλού" (there is nothing bad without a bit of good in it). For more and more of us might begin questioning these media-imposed, politically correct values and globalization itself by adopting the traditional down-to-earth ones that have not only withstood the test of time, but also come cheaper to boot: intermingling with family, lovers, friends, culture and society, all of which comprise the building stones of sound nations and anthropocentric civilizations.

At this point, the writer can only hope of not being accused of "suggestionism"...

BY PANAGIOTIS TERPANDROS ZACHARIOU