If I Think about it… I might not exist at all.
There is a War on Meaning in the country and it starts with Names, which are simply tools for understanding.
If you have read anything I’ve written In the past you might already suspect I will not be found having lunch with the “No Labels” crowd. In fact, I believe Labels are an extremely important part of conceptualization and our ability to communicate complex ideas to each other. If I can tell you I drove to work in my CAR, without having to explain the complexities of the internal combustion engine, and you understand what I’m talking about we have both saved a lot of time… my time telling you how I got to work, and yours trying to figure out how to walk away.
The same concept is used when Identifying yourself to others, and more importantly when speaking of others being able to Identify Them.. The reason we do this is to save a million unnecessary words while communicating a thought or idea.
Makes sense right? With me so far?
In fact, Labels are so important that our ability to apply them in the process of comprehending complex concepts is the only behavior separating us from the rest of the Animal Kingdom.
It makes us special… right up until we go to government school. Then only some of us survive being told there is nothing special about us vs. the Silvery Minnow, Spotted Owl, Red Algae, etc..
Let me share some examples of the Destruction of Meaning I’m talking about here;
I feel drugs should be legal but Capitalism is Evil! – I am a Libertarian, because I Say So.
I Hate those people because of what they are saying! – I am Open Minded, because I Say So.
I feel those Anti-Abortion people should be thrown in jail! – I am Tolerant, because I Say So.
I feel other people, not me, can’t be trusted to make the decisions I feel are right! – I am Smart, because I Say So.
I’m a Progressive Liberal, but calling me a Socialist is ridiculous! – I am Enlightened, because I Say So.
Communism and Socialism are Completely Different! – I am Educated, because I Say So.
I get my news from the Daily Show! – I am Informed, because I Say So.
News Outlets that don’t seem to agree with my point of view should be forced to say things I feel are true! – I support the First Amendment, because I Say So.
I feel some new restrictions on the Second Amendment, First Amendment and Fourth Amendment by the courts is a good idea! – I am a Constitutional Conservative Republican, because I, John McCain, Say So.
I feel we should all have equal rights as individuals without government interference in our lives! – I am a Democrat, only because I Say So… and my friends are… and I vote for Democrats… because it’s cool… right?
We can call ourselves anything we want… but it doesn’t make it so. We don’t get to change the meaning of the labels… even though there are many, many people who try.
The problem is poor thinking, and labels with the meaning destroyed, leads us to do stupid (non-reasoned, irrational) things. But we prefer the Label we think makes us “look good” among our peers. Our social network is so important to us that we will not do anything to risk losing it. So we try to assign our own, “new”, definition to a Label which already means something. This is the War I’m talking about. (If you haven’t read any Eric Hoffer, do yourself a favor. Amazon is a few key strokes away.)
Pro-Choice Catholics come to mind. Tolerant Leftists and Scientists who believe in Consensus follow closely behind… I’m sure you can think of many more examples I’m leaving out.
All I’m suggesting is we spend a considerable chunk of time thinking about what we think. Then, we should be honest enough to admit where we fit in regardless of how it might offend our parents and friends. This will also allow us to identify those who commit the crime of Murdering Meaning. It’s a little scary at first, because Serial Meaning Murderers are everywhere.
One of my favorite philosophers once stated “A = A”. Her point was; The Truth is The Truth. This might surprise a number of Public School educators out there, but “2+2” cannot equal “5” no matter how hard the student tries, or wants, to make it so. What we believe to be the truth can be, and often is, wrong. The Universe simply doesn’t care about one’s self-esteem. And, I feel that’s Mean. Mean Universe! Mean!
I believe that I’m a Brilliant and worthy of praise by all…
I also believe I’m Sober most of the time… a Nice guy… Rich… Young… Good-Looking…
May 23rd, 2013 at 7:32 pm
I struggle with labels sometimes. I agree with your assessment of them, but I’m not sure what label fits me. I don’t agree with self-styled “conservatives” or libertarians all the time, but I agree with them most of the time. But if I have to use a label to describe my political views, I usually use “conservative” because my opinion about what that word means fits the best with my beliefs.
But, I guess that isn’t really what you’re talking about here, because I’m not doing this to obfuscate meaning.
May 23rd, 2013 at 7:36 pm
When we communicate we use terms that best suit our needs WITHOUT changing the definitions. In other words, CAR is enough. I don’t need to tell you the make and model. If you need clarification you will ask. The problem with Meaning Murderers is you don’t realize you SHOULD be asking for clarification… and that’s their intent.
May 23rd, 2013 at 11:29 am
I get it. This is why I have been a loner most of my life, this is why I can not identify with any political, social or religious group. THere will always be something tied to their identity and meaning that I just can relate to or don’t agree with. Rather than try to change their meanings, I just keep to myself and sulk in silence. Somewhere out there there must be a place for me?
May 23rd, 2013 at 11:59 am
That is exactly where I started. I came out of School with a Russian Studies/History degree. So it started a bit earlier for me than most. I would have been what could be called a “Lettered Marxist”. I felt deep down that what I had been studying and what I was being told was Enlightened where running up against each other. So I made it a point in my mid-twenties to learn about Capitalism, a subject that was usually talked over quickly and then only in disdain. I was smart enough to realize that I simply did not know enough about what was clearly the default state of economics world over. If it was so Evil, why was it embraced everywhere there were peasants who needed to get things done? The reputation and the reality just didn’t match up.
There is a place for you… but it’s your offspring you need to worry about. They need your guidance, and wisdom of experience. That might require some homework on your part. And, I’m not insisting you embrace Capitalism. If you want to be a solid Socialist, I can help you with that too… It would make me sad, but I think you would find your way once you learn why I use Socialist, Liberal, Democrat, Progressive and Leftist simultaneously.
Let me know if I can help.
May 23rd, 2013 at 1:07 pm
I read your comment several times now… it has bothered me a bit. I stand by my offer as a sounding board, but I want to add one observation. All it appears to me you need is to get down to the foundations of todays arguments. It’s possible. Clarity in thought is out there. And it certainly does not mean you have to agree with me, but you should start somewhere… for the benefit of those around you. Whatever you do, Good Luck.
May 23rd, 2013 at 9:51 am
Ahh, philosophy. I’m going to label you imperfect -AKA, human
May 23rd, 2013 at 9:53 am
I don’t feel that’s true.