Labels, my Dad loves them.
Never happy until he’s labelled a person as this or that. He’s not alone.
In fact we as a species seem determined to come up with ever more convoluted and divisive labels all the time.
To be fair I’m as guilty as any one else but I stopped the other day and wondered… why?
What do labels do?
In their broadest sense they create divisions. Whether it’s labelling books, stock or for that matter people. Labels are designed to group things together in an orderly fashion.
So that’s a good thing right?
Well, for inanimate objects I would say yes, things are things, there is nothing more to them than that.
For people though I think it’s an entirely different kettle of non specific marine life.
When it comes to people labels really only do one thing – divide.
We, as a people, seem determined to divide ourselves based on anything from religion, sexual preference and colour to the most preposterous things like music, star signs and social media preferences!
Dara Ó Briain has a great sketch outlining the absurdity of this sort of thing where he advises us that racism is a way better method of segregating people than astrology… trust me, it makes sense. Give it a watch 🙂
Straight, Gay, Bi, Trans, Pan, Black, White, Asian, Christian, Muslim, Toff, Chav, Goth, just a few labels used day in and day out to mean “you’re different”. Why are we so obsessed with them?
“Don’t Stereotype Me!” is a campaign run by young people to raise awareness of discrimination. The photo titled “Labels are for clothes” used in the the campaign that went viral bore truth to the fact that whether we’re black, Muslim or gay, we’re all 100% human and should be treated as such.
I love diversity. I think it’s our diversity that makes us strong. I also love people who are not afraid to be themselves without care of what society deems proper or “The norm”.
Why is it we feel we can label people and by doing so make them seem lesser than ourselves in some way?
Labels as tools
Take the recent headlines from the UK press regarding the mass migration of people from Syria seeking refuge for their families from the war. Labels were was used in the media to create division and raise fears that these “different” people were somehow less important than us, less worthy of support, lesser in general.
Headlines like “Migrant Crisis” were everywhere. “Send in the Army”, “Swarm”, “Invasion” all terms used to raise up the zealots and keep people from focusing on the import thing: these people needed help.
Migrant is a label and in general, where this issue is concerned, an incorrect one. Refugee is closer to the truth. Human is the only real label that matters though.
I will long remember the sight of that little boys body lying face down on the beach.
Having 3 boys of my own it makes my eyes tear up a little just thinking about it.
I think you get more sensitive to this stuff when you have kids of your own, even still, do people really think that these humans would risk their children’s lives if they felt they had another viable option?
Now, a question for you: How many times do you remember hearing the words “humanitarian crisis” over the years?
Quote a few right?
Now try and think how many times you heard it about the Syrian Crisis… go on think… did you hear it at all? I didn’t.
Note the label in the middle of that definition: “human”.
That’s not how the media wanted us to think of these people as then it would not further the causes of the people running said media. So instead we heard the label “migrant” with a few “muslims” thrown in there for good measure.
Losing the Labels
I remember being at school (just), it’s probably one of the worst places for labels being used to divide. Hearing words like “Gay” being used as an insult, as though the sexual preference you are born with in some way makes you lesser than someone else.
I’m ashamed to say this still happens now 25-30 years later. Things are definitely improving but the divisions are still there because the parents of these children still hold firm to their need for them.
Children as young as 4 and 5 are now identifying as Transsexual.
To me this can only be a good thing because up till not people had lived years and years in suffering before feeling they could openly be who they knew from a very early age that they really were.
Yet society in general still has a problem with this. Parents are abused for letting their children be who they really are. “You’re encouraging them” like they shouldn’t be??
In this rare situation though labels can actually give these children a sense of belonging. There are camps where they can go for a break in the holidays to be with other Transsexual children and truly be themselves when a lot of them often feel they can’t.
While this is a good thing it also points out the fact that labels are still being used to segregate these children.
Rather than trans why can’t they just be labelled as children?
I have begun to make a real effort to lose the labels in my life. I hope we all can eventually.
Underneath we’re all human.
That’s really the only label we need.