Saturday, June 27, 2015

Life Without Labels

Someone sent me this article...

When I was working on my dissertation, I read a lot about "race" and came to the conclusion that it's a cultural construct with no biological basis. (It's like Darwin's announcement that the category of species, for example, is basically arbitrary and merely convenient.) Hence the quotation marks. 

 My takeaway from this article is that like being gay, belonging to a "race" or any other group that claims oppression or another level of discrimination affords a cherished victim mentality.  I often wonder, what would these group lose without the labels?  Obviously, oppression often garners not just solidarity but reverse exclusion.  I'm, _______, but you're not ____________.  Look at the recent news stories of gender and "race" crossing. 

I learned in my Cognitively-Based Compassion Training course, that we all share certain needs.  We all want to feel safe, loved, healthy, peaceful, joyful, and appreciated.  We  all  want to feel special. And in the West, it seems that feeling special computes to feeling entitled. Not  so much because of what we've worked for or accomplished--but more for what we can grab as quickly as the 99 cent value item.

So I grant, like Darwin does, that we need categories.  They organize, simplify, and unify life.  But what if we restrict our human labels to what we earn?  The Greeks had this figured out.  They categorized 2 kinds of honor: ascribed honor as a result of power, position or birth and acquired honor gained by excelling in the honor/shame game.  What if we adopted only earned
labels?  For me, that would be mother, professor, wife, meditator...  If I didn't work hard to achieve it, I don't earn the designation. I realize that I'm reducing life to a performative level.  Think Judith Butler's Gender Trouble.  But just think about how much flexibility and freedom that would give us.  Noone would be called a girl or a boy until each child chose and lived that designation.  And what would that living even mean?  Is it meaningless?

What do we have to lose if we dispensed  them on the basis of clearer criterion?  Would we become more or less rigid?

Just a thought...

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