Labels Are Just Lazy
One of the biggest issues in our world today is the haphazard use of labels. We do it all the time – liberal, conservative, independent, rich, poor, smart, dumb, happy, sad, idiot driver, moron football official, role model, star… there are thousands of them and we use them in nearly every sentence. It is what we do as “mean making machines.” We must find a way to categorize and sort.
The problem is compounded when we start to believe these labels about ourselves. When someone calls you a right-wing or left-wing nutjob, you can find yourself identifying more with that “side” of things. “Uh, I guess I am right-wing” or “Uh, I guess I do tend to agree with socialism.”
When those labels become internalized, you start to believe them.
You could hear of a stance I take on gun control and decide, “Looks like Chris is a gun-toting fascist.” But, that puts me into a box that doesn’t take into account the fact that I think the right-wing is destroying personal freedoms, the environment and creating a financial environment that is bad for us all.
But if you hear I take a stance that we should stop fracking in favor of clean energy, you can just as easily decide, “Looks like Chris is a tree-hugging Commie.” But, that puts me into another box. This one doesn’t take into account that I think the left-wing is destroying personal responsibility, the economy and creating a social environment that is bad for us all.
If you label me – you don’t understand me. If you label me, you don’t leave room for discussion. If you label me, you make me an enemy. If we are enemies, we fight. If we fight, we don’t talk and we don’t fix things.
I blame the media in large part for this preponderance of labels. Their sound bites have to come to a quick conclusion or they lose our attention. A label incites emotion. Emotion keeps you tuned in. Tuning in earns them money.
Did you see what I did there? I labelled “the media.” See how easy it is to fall into this trap? Not all media is bad. Heck, I run Lone Star Gridiron – The AUTHORITY on Texas High School Football! ™ and have for the last 14 years. There are sites out there that use those methods of increasing readers/listeners/viewers and they are certainly who I am aiming to lambaste when I blame the media. My site however does not cover anything negative. Yes, we hear insider information all the time about a coach/athlete/parent that makes a dumb choice. Spreading those stories would get us a tons of shares and likes on social media – but it doesn’t help the situation – and it sure doesn’t help avoid that in the future.
Be careful with labels and be careful where you get your information. Pay attention to the labels they use. If you start to see them as a pattern, perhaps this is not the best source of that information.
- I’m a country boy who spent most of his adult life in the big city.
- I am a college educated marketing guru who enjoys sitting around a campfire telling stories and shooting the bull.
- I am a Christian that believes Jesus was pretty liberal in his actions.
- I am an environmentalist that knows it is unrealistic to save every tree frog or spotted owl.
- I am a businessman who thinks I should be allowed to take advantage of the tax loopholes enjoyed by mega-corporations but also believes antitrust laws that have been destroyed by those behemoths were a good thing and should be reinstated.
- I am a capitalist that understands any political philosophy can and will be corrupted by those in power.
- I am a lover of high-brow educational documentary films that also loves stupid entertainment designed to appeal to a brain-dead audience.
- I believe words can hurt but I think that many people are trying to be victims and find offense at things not intended hurtful.
- I am a big-time sports fan that won’t waste his time on any professional sports.
- I dig rock, pop, oldies, classical, some of the funny rap songs…. and yes, country music too.
If you choose one or two of those labels as a takeaway, you are not listening.
by Chris Doelle