The Eclectic One

…Because labels are a poor substitute for thinking


Posted by Bill Nance on August 17, 2008

One of the things I’ve never understood, and with which I’m always irritated, is people’s tendencies to pigeon-hole themselves and others into groups which are so broad as to have little meaning. Take, for instance, the statement: “I’m a conservative.” What does that mean, precisely? Well of course the answer is that it may mean many different things to many people. Some would say they are “libertarian conservatives,” some are “family values” conservatives, some people would call themselves “fiscal conservatives.”

But there are plenty of people who think of themselves as “conservatives” who are also in favor of gay marriage, or believe the government is responsible to spend a great deal more on the poor, or any number of other inconsistencies which, according to the ridiculous standards of the day put them beyond the pale of “conservatism.”

And there are plenty of people who call themselves “liberals” who hold equally divergent views. One may be deeply committed “liberal” (whatever the hell that means) and yet very hawkish on national defense, or crime, or hold any number of supposedly “conservative” views.

One can make the same argument for almost any label which tries to pigeon-hole someone into a tight little box, whether by religion, race, where they live, or what accent they have.

People do this primarily because they are lazy. It’s easier to write off someone or some idea or political movement by saying “Well, thats a [insert category] person or idea so I know all about that.” When of course the very assumption usually guarantees the exact opposite.

If I really must use a label, I prefer ones like “ASSHOLE.” “FUCKING IDIOT” works well for me too.

While it may not be precise, or help me understand the subtle nuances of ideas to which a person subscribes, it at least makes me feel better. Come on, admit it, wouldn’t you rather call a liberal/conservative/religious/atheist an epithet rather than a title?

But let’s not pretend that a label is any substitute for observing what they actually say and do. Nor is it any substitute for honestly looking at something with which you might, on first glance, disagree. To do so only robs one of the chance to grow, to enjoy new things, or God forbid…change one’s mind.


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