Labels

“Why do you always have to label everything, can’t you just let something just be as it is?”

“Not everything can be categorized, why are you always trying to categorize everything, not everything makes sense.”

I’m writing this post to clarify the error in the branch of the of politically correct culture which seems to be against ‘labels.’

Labels are how humans organize data, it’s not always a way of stereotyping or making hasty generalizations. Those would be incorrect or inaccurate labels, which is what defines stereotyping. Most of the politically correct society at large however, would maintain that labels and categories are themselves the culprit of bigotry and prejudice. But it is not necessary to throw the baby out with the bath water here, humans understand via categorization.

I had a girlfriend like this. Everything she confronted that was too hard to define was tacked with the label ‘cannot be labeled,’ and all conversation about said topic was suddenly null and void. This is nothing but an underhanded implicit tactic to squelch descent with anyone she interacted with. I would maintain that she is not alone in this motive. Ironic, since, that’s the very mentally she professed to abhor in not wanting to ‘put labels on things.’

She once said that putting a label on the ‘politically correct,’ was ‘inappropriate.’

“How can you label an entire movement or attitude, it can’t be done, and why would want to do it anyway?”

She also said:

“Nothing can really ultimately be categorized, that is why putting things into nice, neat little groups is just a random convention.”

What people who harp about labels being inappropriate might benefit from understanding is the fact that categorization works by uniting similarities between things, all things. And since all things have attributes and since all attributes bear similarities by necessity, it is therefore true that in order for the above latter statement to be valid, there would have to exist, things that are absolutely unique, that is, one of a kind, of all kinds. And yet, this is an existential impossibility.

Try to think of an object or anything, that has no similarity to anything else, whatsoever…Pretty hard because you simply can’t do it.

Human beings learn integrating data, that is, uniting objects, events, things etc. into units with their particular measurements and differences omitted to make things called concepts. Those measurements and differences are not then just thrown out as these people might tell you, but sub-categorized, anything that yields greater complexity doesn’t become incapable of being categorized, but simply becomes its own category.

The modern day subjectivist will give you examples of border lined cases which ‘couldn’t be categorized.’ Things like if a cyborg is a cross between human and machine, is to be considered it a man or a machine? Since the purpose of concepts is to accurately identify the existents in reality, this would necessitate the forming of a new concept which is neither, but retains attributes of both, hence the word, cyborg.

Another good examples of this (though I’m sure there are far more important instances) is in visiting the movie rental store. It’s dramatic and action packed, so is it drama or is it action? The appropriate thing to do in this case is to total the aspects of drama and total the aspects of action and see which one is more prevalent, then put it into either action or drama accordingly, or just make up a new category altogether.

An instance where resolving this error becomes more important is in identifying social groups and behavior which people tend to be the most afraid of doing. There is certainly a danger in misdiagnosing someone as this or that description, but as long as one keeps a tentative attitude toward their integrating, forming categories about people is one of the most crucial. We do it all the time implicitly, and this is how we recognize a predator from simply a person walking on the street with us at night. There are all sorts of little identifiers our unconscious picks up, that is, categorizes for us automatically. This would be what the postmodernist would call ‘a feeling about someone’ when actually emotions are just another way of putting things into groups with labels to describe their nature.

It’s unfortunate that our integrating of new information tends to stop where things like people and behavior begin. Personally, I never stop integrating and processing data into what I strive to be meaningful compartments to organize information.

The PC attitude against labeling and categorizing is actually a social backlash to the traditional age which was wrought with rampant stereotyping. But we don’t live in this age anymore and its time to see labels and categories in a positive light so long as they are kept accurate to the facts of reality.

www.nealcormier.com

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7 thoughts on “Labels

  1. I really like where you’re going with this-however i think i disagree slightly with “But we don’t live in this age anymore and its time to see labels and categories in a positive light so long as they are kept accurate to the facts of reality”. I do agree with your sentiment, however not with the ability of current society to embrace this-
    I’m actually surprised to find many stereotyping agents used commonly today- We seem to have a few really cool pockets of ppl in this area and amongst friends; however, I still encounter boundless ppl who cling to stereotyping as a means of identifying themselves- A decetn example could be found in Obama’s remark off the record that a certain sect of laborers cling to their guns and and biterness. There are ppl like this and he was probably not saying it just point blank-it was more than likely a comment taken out of context-which is used to paint his image (along with the remarks from his former pastor) as a snobby uppity black man-
    How unfortuante for the senator who may not be quite that at all-
    I suppose that I may sound a bit apathetic here, but I’m afraid that there will never quite be a time that humans are able to embrace oneanother’s differences rather than shunning them-however, this is also an implicit survival mechanism; similar to categorization. You even discuss it above-how we are cautious of those around us in a dark alley-the unknown should be approached with caution mentality is most likely what keeps us alive today-
    I guess I can’t find a conclusion-this is a great idea with which to continue though-

    Sarah

  2. Oh-and just to add one more incomplete thought-It might be damn near impossible to keep facts based in “reality”-ah, what an ambiguous, sensuous word-
    Everyone is the center of his or her own universe-just physically and mathematically speaking, this is true-therefore we are implictily god-like-therefore are capable of determining our own “reality”-therefore, we could be considered to exist in a melting pot of concurrent/alternate realities; one of which has no more “right” to truth than another except within the context of each individual- so, what’s reality?-a commonly accepted norm-hence commonality within society, hence stereotyping—–it’s a damn circle and i can’t get out….hahaha…i’m kind of spazzing online but whatever-if anyone can assist me out of this hot mess, i’d appreciate it:)

  3. Yeah, stereotyping is still pretty rampant I guess, not as much I’d say, not half as much, I mean in the 50’s it was orthodoxy. My point about being able to identify whether or not a stranger is ‘bad’ or ‘good’ for us, was based, not on what we don’t know about them, or the fear of the unknown survival mechanism, but rather from what we do know, and are able to categorize about people’s characteristics.On the contrary, though fearing unknown predators is a part of a survival mechanism, in the modern age, the failure to see the bigger picture in society seeing itself as a whole has probably sealed our doom.

  4. How is ‘everyone a center of their own world physically and mathematically speaking’???

    Actually there is a term for what you’re talking about, that is when someone thinks that they are the center of the universe–its called solipsism, and its considered a psychological disorder.

  5. Hey Neal-

    the resoning behind my comment “center of the universe” bit is as follows: (for sake of ease, I’m using myself as an example…not to indicate that i feel as though i’m the center of “the” universe, but to illustrate my earlier post) if I would plot myself on a sheet paper relative to the universe…every step i take, every place i am would mark me as the center of the uinverse in which i live. the universe is infinite-(side note: infinity as a mathematic term is represented by an “8” on it’s side. Now, if we break down the miniscule components of matter, all components are spherically shaped—
    to (relative)scale, i could be considered the equivalent of a nucleus(my whole body) to my cell (the universe relative to me). all other matter and non-matter that is not “me” expands beyond my phisical body-therefore i’m the center of my universe-not THE universe, but mine- that’s all i was attempting to imply in my earlier comment-
    the difference between solipism and what i’m trying to illustrate, is that solipism would imply that I’m not be able to comprehend that while I might be the physical center of my physical universe, I’m not the only thing that exists- I am able to differentiate between “my” relative universe and “the” universe in acutality-

    hope that clarifies that I’m not in need of diagnosis or extreme meds-haha-

  6. OKOkay I get what you’re saying now: since the universe is allegded to be infinite, every step you take, you are the center. Of course, according to this then, everyone would be the center of the universe since literally every single point in the universe would be its center, which really means that there is no center at all.

    This is circular reasoning though and we don’t even know that the universe is in fact infinite. I do not accept this premise, therefore, necessarily, but I get what you were saying.

    But where exactly were you going with this? I forget what it came from…

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