Saturday, July 18, 2009

Empty Shells, Empty Dreams

We can always count on a label to short circuit the brain. A person might hear a thought that begins to stimulate the mind and gives the listener pause to think, Whena third person says, “That’s leftist/pinko/neocon/whatever garbage,” and the brain goes into standby mode as both adjective and noun work overtime to preserve the status quo.

Labels are effective because they dehumanize. An “illegal” is not human, nor is a “neurotic,” nor a “communist,” nor a “fundamentalist,” nor a “terrorist.” They are all caricatures, empty shells devoid of meaning and nuance.

Labels demonize. You couldn’t have a decent war without them. Only war legitimizes the wholesale slaughter of nonhumans designated as “the enemy,” or “the threat.”

Labels direct our attention away from reality. America is the “land of the free” run by Goldman Sachs.

Labels are the warp and woof of pop psychology. In its hands, labels are the rocks that stone creativity and diversity to death. The largest rock in its arsenal is the one labeled “normal.” In a close second place is the rock labeled “appropriate behavior.”

Then there is that meaningless label, “adolescent” that has given birth to an multiple industries and enterprises. In ancient times, it was called adulthood.

Labels suit a society that wants its collective brain to remain in standby mode. It’s so much easier to blame a problem on a label than trying to confront it.


Freida Bee said...

sometimes there's a fine line between language's being a tool and language's being limiting. i struggle with this often in myself.

Case Wagenvoord said...

It's our curse.