Interpretation, dogmatism, ideology, definitions and identity have been on my mind over the last number of weeks/months. Why is it that I always have to have something attached to my ego to identify who I am? Why is it not enough to just BE? This is not to say that we are not to take a stand when we see injustice or to give up our search for what truth, love and equality really mean, but quite the opposite. The search needs to become intensified.
What I’m saying is that I need to be able to separate myself from the influences of society and others in order to get to the core of myself and the true nature of BEING. This is not to say that I am not to LEARN from others, but that I am learning to think NON-DUALISTICALLY, taking the good from many different sources.
Nor am I saying that we are not to have a spine, a backbone, strength of character, clearly defined values or a firm sense of right and wrong. Life is not meant for neutrality. We need to be advocates for others who have no voice; we need to stand in the face of oppression even if we as individuals are the only ones. This can and will grate people at times. If you are satisfying everyone, you’re not even being authentic.
I’ve always said that my primary values in life are equality, love and justice. I have identified these common threads throughout many of the world’s great traditions: political, spiritual, humanist, secular, etc. All ideologies are imperfect to some extent, but these common qualities of goodness have tended to be apparent to me through close examination.
Where I see the problem is that we ALL are quite capable of becoming dogmatic and defensive which amounts (in my own search) to an identity crisis. For example, I often found myself in an argumentative and defensive position when challenged by my political affiliation with Socialism. I constantly tell myself that arguing with the same attack methods of the opposition convinces no one, but then I find myself caught in the trap once again. The question becomes why? I think the answer is that I have let Socialism, and specifically the International Socialist Organization BECOME a part of my identity, my ego, and I think that I put myself in a dangerous position to become as rigid as the opposition by doing so. This is the pitfall of a label.
Now, I have not been thinking that I have major disagreements with much of Socialistic thought. Sure, there are different interpretations of theory, but my values of equality, love and justice do match up with the spirit of Socialism. However, they can also be found in Buddhist thought, in Hinduism, Islam and yes, Prophetic Christianity or Atheism. There is also much good in Anarchist thought. There are well intentioned people who don’t even understand politics OR religion. They simply know that treating someone in a certain manner is either right or wrong. I tend to be an optimist, and I believe that most people have good intentions, whatever their belief system might be. There is a thread of truth that is common throughout the world if your search is inclusive.
However I do or don’t define myself, I’m aware that others will still put labels on me. That’s ok. I have certain principles that I practice in my life, and those are my own choices from the different sources and beliefs that I’ve accumulated over the years. However, I am choosing to discard labels I put on MYSELF. This necessarily involves not officially subscribing to one particular ideology, philosophy or organization.
I still consider my Socialistic friends within the ISO as my comrades in the fight for justice. I hope you still see me in the same light. However, at this point in my life, I am choosing to resign my membership from the ISO. This is not any kind of an attack on the ISO. I have truly enjoyed my educational experience with the organization and the connections that I have made. I have learned much and still plan on learning much more from the Marxist tradition. In addition, I plan on learning much more about other traditions.
As I look back, this decision has been approaching for some time. My thinking has been turned upside down in many ways through all the adversity of the past couple of years with my divorce, car accident/near death experience, and the necessity of moving away from Madison. It has forced me to search for my own identity and a truly individualistic voice. This is just one more step in that process, and it is what I need to do. All my respect and appreciation is sent to you comrades. Continue the fight for justice and may we all experience peace, respect, equality and love in our lives.