The left, the right, the gays, the straights, extremists of all stripes all have something in common, they’ve been labelled!Labels are a pretty useful thing. They’re useful for categorizing, for example, with your receipts so they can be more easily added up at tax time. They’re handy in the grocery store, helping us find the right aisle. And of course, imagine the internet without labels! It would prolly look like our current legal system, for Pete’s sake! How would you find a thing?
So, we can probably agree labels have their place in our world. But…
But, what happens when we apply labels to each other? Are they helpful as a means of categorizing each other or are they more destructive than helpful? Consider a few of these we might be tempted to apply upon meeting someone initially: “wagon-burner”, “carpet-bagger”, “camel-jockey”, “politician”… Well, I’ll just stop there for now.
Its natural enough to assess the people we meet everyday on the basis of their appearance first, their words next and gradually adjust our perception of them as we go along and get to know them better. But often, there is just no time available to go through this process, so we have no choice but to just jump to conclusions and live with our initial impressions.
It is a pretty well-known military technique to inform the troops that the enemy is bad, that they are sub-human and deserving of eradication. People do not go to war to kill husbands, wives and grandpas, or someone elses son or daughter, or best friend. They go to slaughter sand-monkeys or gooks or nazis. Makes it much easier to tighten your index finger on the trigger, i guess.
And even in the pre-war context of daily life, labels, even the innocuous ones, can take on a militaristic tone pretty easily. Currently, in the west, the muslims face an uphill battle, for example. And that shouldn’t perhaps surprise anyone. Extremists within the group have demonstrated a hostility to random people which is quite shocking. And the connection to the religion of Islam has been drawn in the minds of most. The fact that a great proportion of the victims of suicide bombers are in fact, muslims, seems to escape our attention and so we westerners tend to consider anyone practising the religion of islam to be immediately suspect. This is of course a bit unfair to the local muslim convenience store owner whose main concern is providing a quality service at a fair price so you’ll return and he can keep his son in college in his new country, the USA.
Perhaps it would be helpful to categorize people instead merely by their country of origin? This is already being done occasionally in the mainstream but more commonly, the news reports leave out the details of the perp completely, which is certainly not helpful. All this does is leave us all wondering if the attack was not simply done by another islamic extremist and why is the media hiding this fact? If we were flat out told the explosives were planted by an immigrant from north korea, for example, (This would be of course, highly unlikely. I understand North Korea’s policy on emmigration is somewhat restrictive currently) the rest of us pre-victims could all sleep a bit better knowing it wasn’t done by yet another “islamist”.
So, in summary, labels have their place and perhaps we need to even use them more rather than less, and develop a few new ones or at least some interesting new sub-headings to label each other more accurately. But for now, would it make sense to use country of origin or even simply, asian, arabic, caucasian, latino, etc as identifiers?
And if you don’t like the suggestion, just go on with your current system and forget i said anything. I’m probably just an idiot anyway.