Thursday, October 06, 2005

Labels, Categories and Boxes

I spend a lot of time wondering about strange things. Now by strange I mean things that I don't think most people spend much time thinking about. I'm not sure why that is, perhaps because I'm strange--Lol. At any rate, I've decided to delight you all with my latest weird thoughts! If you're not delighted well, tough nuggies I guess.

Why do human beings feel the need to label, categorize and put everyone into a box? My theory is that the modern world is very complex and people have a great desire to simplify their lives. It makes for a much less complicated existence if everyone's either gay, or straight, black or white, good or bad. The easiest way to simplify the world is to think with the largest possible labels and stereotypes. For example, you meet someone and decide in the first few minutes they're like me or their not. For a lot of people that's as far as the classification has to go because if they're not like me (which can mean a lot of different things), not white, or not black, not Christian, not rich or not poor, not American, not heterosexual or not gay etc. then they automatically fall into the they're not good category, and I know longer have to concern myself with listening to them, thinking about them, empathizing with them, recognizing them. I can also simplify my communication about them, instead of saying I met, and giving a complex description of the person, I can just say I met a **** (whatever-derogatory label) and that tells all the people like me all they want to know.

I believe one of the reasons a lot of humans think and act like simpletons when it comes to labeling, and stereotyping people is that it's the easiest way to look at the world. A lot of people are narrow minded and downright bigoted just because they're lazy and don't want to be troubled to give anything much thought. It's less of a hassle and feels more secure to them to just believe what they've heard or been taught, to accept the "label", or classify an entire group in one box, rather then try to sort through the differences and build a thorough, unprejudice picture of each individual. The world these days is complicated, and humans may very well have the need to simplify their lives, but that does not excuse using broad categories and labels to do your thinking for you.


Blogger JJ said...

Hey, sorry I haven't been around for a few days. I'm not sick anymore, but I just got a bit busy.

I just wanted to comment on this, because this idea of 'labels' and 'categories' is something I've thought about before... and not just in regard to the whole gay thing.

I think the need to categorize things is kind of a human thing. I remember thinking this in grade 10 biology, when we were learning the different classes of species or whatever (I suck at science). I remember thinking "Why does this matter? Why does it matter if this particular animal is a primate or a marsupial (sp?)? It only matters because we like to label things."

For the most part, I think categories and labels are fairly harmless, because in and of themselves they really don't mean anything. It's only when we attach value (or I guess a lack of value) to a particular label that things get screwed up. At least, that's my opinion.

10/07/2005 9:52 PM  
Blogger Leo said...

Yeah I agree, it is the value we place on labels that make them good or bad. Good point!

10/07/2005 11:32 PM  

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