As we move into the presidential elections, I’m reminded of something my father would often say when I was young, “Don’t label people.” As a kid, of course, these words fell on mostly deaf ears. I say mostly because as an adult it turns out that I quite strongly agree with him. I suppose his message wormed its way inside and grew with me.
Humans are labelers [note]I really wish the sarcmark had more currency [/note] and have as many ways to label people as there are words. [mfn]Probably more if you include gestures, emoji 😀 and of course the best mashup ever, the emoji gesture🖕[/mfn] Each and every label carries with it connotations. Why does this matter? It matters because those connotations limit you. They limit how you view the world. They limit how you interact with people. They limit your dreams. They limit how you live your life.
People label themselves as well as other. How often do you hear things such as:
- “I’m an introvert/extrovert”
- “She’s a geek”
- “I’m a health nut”
- “He’s a total bro”
When you hear these labels, a picture is immediately drawn in your mind. The introvert can’t talk to anyone. The extrovert won’t shut up. The beauty about the geek label is that it’s a twofer. Geeks are socially inept (read introvert) but they sure are good with computers. As far as the bro goes, well hide the beer! Even the health nut label can be harmful. Let’s say you eat that cheesecake [mfn]or in my case pumpkin pie[/mfn], are you no longer a health nut? Should you not bother to work out tomorrow?
My favorite labeling systems [mfn]By which I mean I don’t like it at all[/mfn] are the personality tests. For example, the Myers Briggs test reduces all of 7.3 billion people to just sixteen types. It really is quite covenient.
The thing that all of these labels have in common are the shackles that they put on your views and how everyone else views you. Are you really always an introvert? Does the bro always act like a show off. Or does this represent just a piece of the whole? A piece that comes out more or less frequently depending on the situation.
I think the only label you should use is with the one written on your birth certificate and perhaps not even that. I normally introduce myself as Paul, however, I have at times gone by a variety of other names: Matthew, Pablo, Pauly, pmb, Professor, Muffa The Dog Faced Boy. Each one of these names represent a piece of me and therein is the key point. They are all just pieces of me. I am so much more than any one of those. Just as any individual is so much more than the labels that they are affixed with.[mfn]It’s a phrasal verb. Get over it.[/mfn]
Which brings me to the final set of labels that started this blog post. Republican/Democrat [mfn]or Liberal/Conservative or Capitalist/Socialist, ad nauseum[/mfn] Yes, it may be a shorthand way of describing some of your views. But it is also lazy and corrosive. Every person, whether described as Republican or Democrat, is so much more than that single label. Do you really agree with every single policy espoused by each party? Do you really think every Democrat wants to take all your money? Do you really think all Republicans don’t care about the needy? Absurd! These particular labels have paralyzed our country for too long. There are no Republicans. There are no Democrats. There are complex people that have many different aspects and beliefs. Our society (indeed it is not hyperbole to say the entire human race) is facing grave problems in the coming years and decades. We can’t afford the shackles that these labels represent.