THE IDES OF MARCH 2019
One of the characteristics of being human is relating what our senses tell us, to what we think. What we think forms our decisions and drives our actions. Our environment holds many objects which are, among many other things, potential dangers to our survival. It is important to identify and understand all that you find around you. The quicker you grasp this information, the more time you have to decide any relative threat to your well-being.
Labels are outstanding tools for identifying and cataloging concrete items, such as our belongings, or things we find in the world. They also work well in collecting, correlating, and manipulating, non-physical information. This in turn, allows us to store, and make effective use of these data. One significant reason that’s important is they help us save time; which is a critical element in modern society, as it means we are able to accomplish more in a given period.
As a result labels are another handy tool we are comfortable with, and use widely. Things that people use easily, and frequently; often become things they use habitually. With labels in place, there are a lot of things we don’t have to spent time figuring out, or looking for, or thinking about; because they’re labelled. From the clothes you choose to wear in the morning to the selections of your evening meal; all have an identifier.
Because this is true, the habit of naming things is almost automatic. When a person encounters something novel, their first thought may well be “what is that?” When we don’t know about something, or are unsure about what we are facing, it may take more of our time to figure it out. At the very least that will slow us down, in the pursuit of our goals. Labels help avoid that by providing added information about an object that a name alone may not express.
We have developed another complex use for labels however, which does far more than simply identify objects and their nature. Labels are also used to denote or describe people, or groups of people. These descriptive names, or phrases, are often invested with more data than mere identification; such as their allegiance, or affiliation. They often carry deliberately false or misleading information; meant to portray negative connotations of the person, or group, being referenced.
Just as they provide and reveal information, they may also distort, or color facts by using pejorative labels. Even where there is no malice, or ill intent, labels can still perpetuate hurtful, false stereotypes; and outright lies. This can encourage or even have groups singled-out for negative attention and unfair treatment. More than that, it allows people to respond automatically to the label. They attack the label instead of addressing, or considering the real people who are characterized by it.
It helps create, and amplify, separation between groups by magnifying their differences; and focusing on trivial, or imagined flaws. This can cause unnecessary conflict, and undermine attempts to reach consensus in a community, or a society. Labels are helpful, and useful. Their use makes our lives better, easier. They may even help us better understand what our options are. However, labels were meant to assist thinking; not replace it.
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J. A. Stubbs, Editor-In-Chief
Forgotten Lore Publishing, llc