Bagism, Dragism, Shagism

Every few months, I find myself reading or thinking about an ism that I didn’t, for whatever reason, cover in Isms & Ologies. A few years ago, I was beating my head against the wall because I didn’t write about “exceptionalism,” which John McCain (and Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, et al) had suddenly reintroduced into the Republican vocabulary. I have been thinking a lot about “Neo-liberalism” over the past 24 hours, because it suddenly came to me that it’s a fair way to characterize the economic thinking of a writer I know and respect. The label is usually applied disparagingly by the left but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing–it might even be a good thing if someone serious-minded and progressive enough took positive ownership of it. I don’t believe I thought to include Glenn Beck’s favorite word “Statism,” or for that matter “Progressivism,” which at the time I wrote the book I thought were self-explanatory, or at least didn’t require a vigorous defense. “Illuminism” isn’t in there either, though Cults, Conspiracies and Secret Societies covers that base fairly well.

But to get to the point, I was catching up over at Hendrick Hertzberg’s blog this afternoon, when I came across this entry from a couple of weeks ago, “Give John a Chance.” I must have heard “Give Peace a Chance” on the radio a million times over the past four decades. I never heard the word “faggots” in its opening lines, but now that I think about it, I didn’t hear anything else either except meaningless syllables. How could I have been so incurious about what he was singing?

This is the official lyric: “Everybody’s talkin’ about Bagism, Shagism, dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism, This-ism, That-ism, ism, ism, ism.” If I’d known about it then, and if Yoko let it count as fair use, I would have used the line as an epigraph for my book.

Oh yes, and if Hertzberg’s explanation of bagism seems sketchy, Wikipedia explains it with great (and perhaps unwonted) confidence here. The gist of it is that “by living in a bag, a person could not be judged by others on the basis of skin color, gender, hair length, attire, age, or any other such attributes. It was presented as a form of total communication. Instead of focusing on outward appearance, the listener would hear only the bagist’s message.” There are some links but Wikipedia provides no comparable explanations for Shagism, Dragism, Madism, Ragism, or Tagism (though a number of ideas do occur to me, mostly about hippie hairstyles, androgynous clothing, and jumping to over-hasty conclusions about people you don’t know).


8 thoughts on “Bagism, Dragism, Shagism

  1. Would not Bagism be seen in technology by taking the form of blogs on the internet? Where one must go out of the way to slap labels upon themselves to better acclimate or attract new audience? Hmm, maybe something theraputic in there. Having to actually say, “Hey! I’m a gay African-American female paraplegic!” or “I’m a neo-nazi convert, fresh outta prison!!” Maybe John, in context, was hoping for a platform where anyone could have voice. Too bad it is in a fractional banking capitalism with a hint of socialism. Here we pay-to-play and are equal enough to be debt-slaves and here we are content enough to keep from radical uprisings against the status quo. I find the discourse of the internet and writing interesting in that the first label we give to ourselves is…an e-mail address. little_star_buddie or Casandra8 or meatman145. Perhaps that is way I peruse MySpace sites and Facebook. It is one thing to be labeled by others, interesting to see if we carry that onto ourselves.

  2. Interesting too is that children, when asked to describe themselves, put stock in favorite foods and pasttimes. Somewhere we project more value primacy into the theoreticals into our inner selves. Then we say, “Well I believe in _____-ism.”

  3. Arthur, loved the book, which is why I subscribed to the blog. I detect that this is a little tongue-in-cheek. Don’t think the book would have really been enhanced by the inclusion of Lennon neologisms (another ism!)

    1. Yes, I was joking…though I do wish I had written about Exceptionalism. I wrote about Manifest Destiny and “the city on the hill” but that’s not quite the same thing. Ditto for neo-Liberalism and Statism. When I was on the Tavis Smiley show, he asked me why I hadn’t included Racism. I told him that Racism denoted the absence of thought rather than a thought system, but I was being glib. I just read Henry Ford’s INTERNATIONAL JEW for my new book, and if ever there was a racist thought system, it was his. Sick and stupid, yes, but utterly consistent. Maybe someday I’ll get famous enough that Vintage will invite me to write a revised, second edition. I’d have a lot to add to it if they did.

      Anyway, I’m glad you liked the book as it is.

  4. Maybe I was born too late to appreciate this song until a few years ago, but I seem to remember the song’s lyric being, “Ev’rybody’s talkin’ ’bout shagging, shagging! Shagging, shagging! OoooOooh we are saaaailing!”

    I thought the words were very strange.

  5. But now that you know the true words, they don’t seem strange at all, right?

    I am old enough to know that the Beatles were one of those incredible cultural rarities, like Shakespeare, when high art achieves pop status. Serious poetry is full of indecipherable cruxes–as are Beatle (and post-Beatle) lyrics. Other song writers mystify too, of course, but the Beatles did it so effortlessly, and with such jaunty charm.

  6. Just watched “The U.S. vs John Lennon.
    Always thought the lyrices were, “Everyone’s talk’in bout Faggots”.
    I took the message to be acceptance of all human rights.
    Bagism, same thing. No judgement based on external factors.
    Give peace a chance, internally! Wow, what a concept!
    Internal disarray transends the bag!

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