Friday, September 09, 2005

Ditch the labels

The trouble with labels, and maybe language in general, is that it limits your experience. Labels tend to lead you to pre-judgement, like if you listen to someone who affiliates with the *opposite* political party, you tend to discount their every word. Or like when you go to an Italian restaurant and there on the menu somewhere they offer Thai chicken skewers with rice, you are surprised since this is an Italian place, why would I eat Thai food if I'm here and they probably don't make it very well anyway since it's an Italian restaurant. (People are often surprised that my favorite dish at California Pizza Kitchen is the Chinese Chicken Salad.) So can you see a bit how the label restricts your perception of things, closes your mind in a way?

I think of myself as a liberal, but this is not entirely true, in political tests I score mostly liberal, but also conservative in some areas. So I am truly neither. I am truly both, as, I suspect, are we all. Gay? Straight? Old? Married? Professional? How limiting! You're going to go through your whole life without trying something even once, because you are not that "way". Are you sure? Because you really don't know until you try it. (Admire, won't you, my generous use of platitudes.)

Language is really a system of labels. It defines how we see the world by labeling different things giving them meanings that are shared by all the humans using that language. Many cultural differences are products of the language they speak. There is a kind of bias in the language predisposing you to certain kinds of behaviour/views on the life experience. From those biases, prejudices are built, and in a way we cannot escape. The mind needs language to "think", yet your thinking ability is limited by the words and meanings assigned to them in the language.

The only true meaning comes from your own direct experience. Sure we need labels in order to distinguish gas stations from supermarkets, but some labels foster instant judgement, like lawyer, prostitute, conservative, Christian, lesbian, and Tom Cruise. You can't get away from it, and it's necessary to function in the world.

But here's my advice, don't label yourself.

Because then you are going to say "I'm this kind of person, so I don't do things like that," and poof, you've severely limited your scope of possible experiences on this earth. You've got this one chance to experience things, don't go boxing yourself in by the labels. The only label that should really count is that we are all human.

13 comments:

Dantallion said...

Amen.

And CPK Chinese Chicken Salad...*drool*

_Psycho said...

Good post, that was a really good reading.

Roximoon said...

wow... Great reading! I wil stop the labeling.. I do find that I have the tendancy to stop listening to someone if they tell me they are a republican.. ;)

Lightning Bug's Butt said...

Great read, there. And I agree.

t said...

How very true!
I'm a registered republican, but as I get older, my thoughts tend to lean more and more toward compassion for the little guy. The disadvantaged person, the poor, the helpless, the powerless ones. Maybe being a blue-collar worker for 25 years has done that to me.
For example, I used to be strongly anti-gay but was beginning to re-think the whole idea. Then 9 years ago I had my son in a stroller at a local mall during the Christmas season and saw a couple of gay co-workers who lived together. The one I didn't see much at work was using a cane to get around. They didn't see me at first and I watched them from a distance. They didn't kiss. They didn't even hold hands, nothing like that. As I watched, they were talking and noticed how much they just enjoyed each other's company and the fun they were having shopping. I then went up to them and they both made over the baby. They're both nice guys. We talked a while, I shook hands with the guy with the cane and said it was good to see him, and left.
That was the last time I ever saw him.
He died just after New Years' Day from cancer.
I decided for good that being gay isn't about sex. It's much more, it's about love and friendship. As a hetero, I think the sex part of it is disgusting. But it goes on in THEIR bedroom, not mine.

Christian said...

While it's true that many require labels to define another, we can go a long way toward breaking through those invisible barriers by not thinking of ourselves in terms of such limiting identifiers as labels. People believe that they somehow suddenly "know" you when the word "gay" is bandied about. But do they really? For instance, do they know how you feel, or what you think about, or what you do in your life? The important things? No. Not unless they take the time to get to know you...and only then will they realize that the label "gay"...or any label...has no meaning other than what THEY place on it.

Em said...

I adore you.

The Blog Patrol said...

hmmm... I am policing this site... like what I see so far.

Good advice on the labels. Open-mindedness is good, but using extreme profanity on your site is a little unoriginal.

A little profanity for humor is good, but I never see a good reason to use the C-word.

donna said...

did I miss the "C" word? or was that tom "C"ruise??
I like the c word - or maybe I'm just used to it since I get called it all the time. Who the f##k are the blog police anyway??
Hey, remember the label Paul once gave me?
Hint: it was my ethnoticity, plus a female dog plus the c word!
Phew!

t said...

You can't get to know everything about everyone you meet in every respect. You can only get to know as much about someone as they allow you to know. Some people throw up walls to limit knowledge of themselves and, for whatever reason, that is their right.

tornwordo said...

Thanks for the kind comments everyone (this is the most comments I've ever received)

And to the Blog Patrol, when you quote someone, you use the *words* they used, in this case the "C" word was used (on Tuesday's post)
I've put little asterisk thingies there to "protect" you from offense. Feel better now?

t- thanks for visiting and your own experience with the "gay" label is a perfect example of what I was trying to get at.

MJ said...

Yeah people who say, "I'm the kind of person who [fill in the blank]," usually are NOT that kind of person (but perhaps aspire to be). It's not a self-fulfilling prophecy, bozo!

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