Funny, how we label people.
We think they fit a certain label or stereotype, and then we presume to know all about them.
That’s really been driven home to me lately. I had commented on something and the guy at the other end of the conversation responded strongly, disparaging all sorts of things that he assumed were true about me just because I said something that he disagreed with.
Because I shared a common characteristic with a specific group, whose frame of reference contrasted to his, he attached that group’s label to me and, extending it further, assumed all his perceived notions about that group of people were true of me, too. So he started berating me about my narrow perspective having been informed by the supposedly narrow opinions of the group that had, presumably, been the source of my indoctrination.
Only problem was, I wasn’t a member of the community he presumed me to be. Just because one characteristic of me happened to be shared by those in the group didn’t make me fit the label, nor necessarily reflect any of the other opinions that may (or may not) have characterized the labelled group.
But that’s so common, isn’t it? Put the label conservative or liberal on a person, and we presume to know much about them. Put the label Mennonite or Muslim or Sikh on a person and we presume to know all about them. Put the label Republican or Democrat on a person, and we have them figured out!
Labels can be so deceiving! Especially for thinking people. The more one reads, dialogues with people of diverse opinions or just plain thinks seriously about things, the less, it seems to me, do they fit any labelling. One of the smartest people I have ever met, in a conversation about political philosophies, said to me, “When I do the online tests to see which of the five parties I best connect with, it comes out 20-20-20-20-20.” I totally agreed with her because that’s exactly how I perceive it to be with thinking people. There’s good—probably truth—in all flavours of political and philosophical thought. Thinking people take that good from the various sources and incorporate it into their own worldview. It then becomes hard to label them (when you get to know them).
Labels are for non-thinkers. They allow us to be lazy, saving us from the discipline of learning about and understanding the other party.
More often than not, they are inaccurate (at best), or dead wrong (at worst)!
If one tends to be right of centre on the political spectrum, does that make that person a Trump supporter? (Note: this was not the issue of the aforementioned conversation.)
I bring up this example because, thankfully, it is exactly the one that’s helping us, in a small way, to break out of this small-minded labelling. Because the answer to the above question seems almost universally to be “Hell, no!” (in Canada, at least. I grant that it may not be as obvious in the US.)
If we used to think we had a complete picture of what it meant to be “right of centre,” that is definitely not so clear anymore. This one label, at least, may be losing its perceived strength. And that’s a good thing!
We need to take that kind of label shredding into many other corners of our world views.
At least, that’s how I see it . . .
– Alan Alda