Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Labels

Generalizations and labels exists, obviously, for a reason. Still, most people can relate to the difficulty in wanting to avoid rampant generalizations, yet still needing some way to characterize a group of people for simplicities sake. Most times, labels can and are used freely and without repercussion, most commonly labels like Republican, Christian, or Vegetarian. Others are not so safe.

There are two issues at hand; 1) placing a broad spectrum of people under an umbrella that might not accurately describe their actual thoughts on a matter, and 2) statements made about that group of people that might not necessarily accurately describe all those people. I'm speaking specifically now about grouping people into categories that don't accurately describe them. Example: I could, by a stretch, be classified as a Republican, but only if it was in the early 90's sense of the term, meaning smaller governments and less legislation, not the current meaning of Republicans now that the Neo-Cons have control. Likewise, simply using the term libertarian implies some things that I don't necessarily believe.

Even more specifically, I wonder about the possibility of labeling sexual orientations. Is it really possible to sum up one's entire sexual identity into a syllable? Obviously we've been doing it for years, but with our continually expanding ideas on sexuality, this seems sorely lacking now. It seems even more frustrating to try and patch the solution by simply adding more categories. For instance, while it at first seems a good idea to make a new term for each level of the Kinsey scale (0=straight, 1=quasi-straight, etc.), it quickly becomes evident that this is just hair splitting, and really doesn't help anyone.

By human nature itself we're each too unique to place any more than one person under any one heading. Without any way to group people together, we lose all sense of cohesion. No groups can be formed to work towards anything when no groups exist.

Instead, I offer this solution: group more people together. Make broader umbrellas. Label with reckless abandon. Then, start to lift the generalizations of the groups. Instead of marking all libertarians as anarchists, describe them as people generally working towards a smaller government. Instead of calling all straight people who only date the opposite sex, call them people who generally prefer the opposite sex. Leave definitions open, and allow people to explain their own position within the larger sect.

It doesn't solve the problem, sure. But it at least mitigates it a little.

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