How our “isms” can and do affect our lives

Two or three subjects that appear constantly on our socio-political agenda, even now, in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, you will agree, are racism, sexism and alcoholism.   But, while these, and many others, could be considered negative – let’s say display negativism –  not all “isms” are bad. What about altruism, idealism, realism, pacifism, universalism, environmentalism, conservatism and liberalism and even tourism?  These could be either positive or neutral?

I did a little research, asking questions like “What is an ism?” For definitions I found that gives us some varied and interesting clues :

  • a distinctive doctrine, cause, theory or religion
  • a manner of action or behavior characteristic of a (specified) person or thing
  • prejudice or discrimination on the basis of a (specified) attribute
  • adherence to a system or a class of principles

This next explanation also casts some light on how we get stuck before the real debate or discussion has even got started.  “ In the back and forth about the “Wrath of the Feminists” there has been one small problem: discussions and debates tend to break down into arguments and name calling because of misunderstandings and problems with the nature of the debate in the first place. “

Consider racism and issues like #BlackLivesMatter or sexism and gender-based violence. Frequently no real non-judgmental debate is possible because of the emotions that are aroused in the different quarters. Participants in the debate will have their own isms and stances or group affiliations that cloud their freedom to listen to one another.  It is unfortunate that in a political setting taking a contrary and conflictual position is a matter of course.  That is also the way Covid-19 is being dealt with and can be a real challenge to the solidarity that is necessary.

Religion has its own isms too.  Is it materialism or fanaticism behind the conflict between two branches of a local Pentecostal church in Gauteng and the violent and tragic attack by one branch on a sister church just a few days ago?  Catholicism is grappling with clericalism which is also connected with feminism and involves the laity as well as the position and role of women.

It is important that we recognize our own isms as they even go as far as determining our behaviour,  often unconsciously or subconsciously. Goodwill and awareness can do much to avoid negativism in all our interactions.  I consider that my own stance or ism has been described as radical familialism.  I readily admit to my idealism and a block of a lack of openness to other approaches such as individualism, feminism, masculism or clericalism.

Choosing and adopting positive isms promotes the common good.  This month for me, with the family theme of GRANDPARENTS ARE FAMILY ROOTS, is a relevant time to consider ageism.  We can and should also add realism at the same time avoiding too much idealism. While not all grandparents are elderly, many are. All over the world there is a particular consciousness of the needs of the elderly to be protected and safe from the risks of infection.

Ageism is about accepting the processes of ageing, expects an appreciation and valuing of the contribution of the aged, avoids intolerance and abuse towards the aged and equally also by them.  Realism knows and understands the strengths and the weaknesses in family life where grandparents still have their place, whether living together or apart. The Covid-19 reality has impacted strongly on family life with lockdowns and restrictions in place.  Many of us have been good and done our best to practice conformism.  With the pandemic building up to its peak here in the next few weeks realism is the only acceptable option.

The “Join the Daisy Chain” initiative to commemorate in solidarity those who have died and contribute a little to feeding bodies and souls,” is a small expression of loving and God-centred altruism.    TR FAMILY WEEKLY  15 July 2020

MARFAM offers some resources. A Movement of Prayer of grandparents for their grandchildren, a blessing and prayer by both  grandchildren and grandparents can be used on the 26 July on the feast of St Joachim and St Ann the grandparents of Jesus.  Go to  We also offer once again this reflection:


Blessed are the poor in spirit …. as they will not see their grandparents as a mealticket to the future.
Blessed are the gentle ….. as they will recognise and be patient with the weaknesses of old age.
Blessed are they who mourn, and who comfort the bereaved and lonely in their loss.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, …. that the old and weak will not be cast aside but be treated with dignity and respect.
Blessed are they who are merciful and who forgive the old for the faults and failings of yesteryear.
Blessed are the pure in heart, who see the old and young as they really are.
Blessed are the peace-makers and the agents for reconciliation between generations.
Blessed are they who accept with grace the wisdom of old age.
Blessed are they who can look back on a life of integrity and know they are loved.
Blessed are they who do not judge their young, so that they will not be judged.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because they do what is right, standing up with courage to defend what they have learned through the years.
Blessed are the old and the young, children, parents and grandparents who acknowledge with gratitude the great gift of life they have been given to share.
……… for the Kingdom of God is theirs. TR 2001






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