As an educator, I realize that we need labels. We can’t understand new ideas or concepts until we can label them and connect them with knowledge we already have. That’s kind of the basis for the idea of constructivism – a school of thought that examines how knowledge is constructed rather than downloaded.
The problem is, these labels are meant to be the beginning of knowledge, so you have a way to start organizing the chaos of the world around you.
The problem with our society is that we are creating a backwards culture that sees these labels as the end, final descriptor rather than the beginning. We ask questions not to further understand and refine, but to classify which predetermined box we want to put people in once and for all.
So these labels that we should use as a starting point for understanding become an ending point of division. We know this is wrong and that we should rage against these divisions, but we often don’t know why.
Maybe it is because we are devolving, walking backwards into something as if it should be a final destination, when it really should just be a beginning… cementing labels as facts when they really should be launch pads that are quickly discarded?
So really its not the labels that are wrong, but the backwards way we utilize them in society.
And I get how annoying these lines and labels can be, especially when used cruelly or with weird intentions. But to sit back and say “if you believe this, then you are different from me” just gives in and strengthens this backwards system. The more we point out how different or other we are from each other, the more we cause our world to shatter and divide. Labels are supposed to be a way to build bridges, not divide our selves into “my” camp and “another” camp.
So I guess what I am getting at is that there are ways to point out differences in ways that build bridges and understanding and community, and there are ways to label and draw battle lines and separate ourselves from those we call “another.” Left, right, conservative, progressive – we all do both and have a choice to stop doing one while focusing on the other. Which direction will you choose to go with your differences?