19 September 2009

Commie, Neo-con, Whatever.

Liberal. Conservative.

Right-wing gun nut.

Hippie.

Tea Partier (at best).

Republican. Democrat. Extremist.

"One of those people."

Are we in third grade?

I know that treating people like individuals is just SO... HAAAAARD... but it's what we need.

Maybe I'm just a contrarian. (Category alert!) But topping off broad, stereotypical, media accusations and derision at political meetings, was a recent conversation sprinkled generously with "you're not one of those people, are you?"

What I said: "Yeah, actually, I am."

What I thought:
"What sort of things do you think you know about me because I hold a position similar to someone else you think you know? Do you know why I feel that way? Do you know how long I've felt that way? Do you know the extent of how I feel about it? NO.

You don't know, because you haven't asked. You assumed you knew all sorts of unflattering things about me when you found out one aspect of one view I had.

The evening's (lengthy) discussion ended well, but the wound is still a little raw, and I'm frustrated at how prevalent the name-calling and lumping-together seems to be today.

As often as it happens, one would think it must make life SO much better, being able to lump people into broad, devalued categories. But does it?

John Taylor Gatto, in a speech included in Dumbing Us Down, speaks of the dehumanizing design and effect of what he designates, "networks." Networks operate largely in opposition to communities, where people know and care about individuals as whole human beings. They include and use people for one particular facet or two of themselves, without regard for - and frequently to the detriment of - their other abilities and qualities that make them, them.

Last night's conversation drove home to me that, rather than a community, our entire society has become one big network, retaining only isolated pockets of community feeling.

Media of every stripe apply labels to individuals and proceed to draw their own conclusions about who these ridiculous people are.

Politicians blame problems on whatever "the other label" is, for their own gain.

And most dangerous of all, neighbors are afraid to talk to each other because of what they've heard about "those people" - or because they are one of "those people."

Labels segment our communities and drive us apart; and I don't believe for a second that it's either accidental or coincidental.

Our isolation from each other opens the door to power-hungry individuals. But instead of watching, in denial and ignorance of our compounded strength, as they impose their grand visions of slavery on us, let's talk to each other. Let's quit assuming things about others because they're "one of those people." Let's care about and work with each other as whole human beings.

When we do that, we'll find our communities again, and we'll be able to fix what's really ailing us: our disconnection.

5 comments:

Carissa said...

Great thoughts! I feel the same way... so sick of labels.

Jen said...

My latest battle-wounds are still a little raw, and I needed to read this post. (Not that I can give myself credit for standing up and speaking out, but finding myself in a few unpopular categories has shaken me!)

You reminded me that I need to remember that we are all individuals of worth, and that these labels are meant to divide us, so that we can be conquered.

And I can't help remembering 4th Nephi, where it describes a peaceful society as one that has no "ites."

Ann said...

wow, I really needed to read that tonight...both to "feel better" myself, but also as a reminder not to do it to others who disagree with me. thank you for your insights.

Jessie Mae said...

Well said... I wish I was as good at expressing my feelings and thoughts into words as you...

Brian - said...

I agree with the basic argument here and that we shouldn't be using labels so frequently as people do, and especially not be so quick to label an individual as a way of ending an argument rather than understanding them.

However, I think there might be some cases in which it would make sense to use labels.

In a political discussion with others, for the sake of making a point quickly, I might say so and so is a "neo-con" or a "constitutionalist" and that gives others a general understanding of the person without having to go into too many specifics.

If someone asks what religion I am, I'll tell them LDS or Latter-day Saint... I'm not going to commence explaining the entire doctrines of the Church, because people will typically understand based on a simple label.

I don't think we can outright say labels are bad - I think it just depends on the circumstance.

By the way, if you want to know what labels I would give myself, it's Disciple of Christ, LDS / Latter-day Saint, Mormon, Husband, Father, Constitutionalist :)