As we move through life, there is a strong tendency for most people to fathom and describe other human beings with easily identifiable “labels”. Apparently any number of labels will do in describing another person, from 1 to many.
We identify ourselves with labels as well, sometimes strongly, such as “Liberal”, “Conservative”, “True believer”, “Blonde”, “Immigrant”, “Eco-warrior”, “Solo Dad”, “Internationalist”, “Anarchist”, “Addict”, “Athiest”, “Socialist”, “LBGT” and infinitely more others, in infinitely more combinations.
It is impossible to really describe someone with the use of labels, no matter how many are used. Unless of course, that person is very simple, straight-forward and focussed, and perhaps a little closed minded. In which case, their views and outlooks will hardly ever change.
Often, people who identify with certain types of labels are antagonistic to other people with “opposing” labels. Much of what we call our “society” is focussed upon labels and dividing people into tribes, where they can feel safe amongst similar thinking people. Taking refuge in a tribe gives us protection (we think) with other tribe members against any sort of attack from the outside.
All of this is an illusion. Perhaps inherent in our DNA or even further back. For it has been identified by animal studies that our nearest biological ancestors – Chimpanzees – sometimes exhibit this same tribal, sometimes violent behaviour towards others. Studies have now shown that Chimpanzees not only hunt together to attack and kill other animals such as monkies, but they also attack and kill other tribes of Chimps, and sometimes, even members of their own tribe. Sound familiar?
So it is not hard to see where homo-sapiens get their aggression and urge to kill from and why many people who don’t kill, never-the-less condone or accept the killing of others of their species, by some great act of self delusion and hypnosis.
What is especially sickening about modern societies is the proclivity of “God fearing” people, who presumably believe in the 10 Commandments, to easily and passively accept the wholesale killing of humans from different tribes. Even the Commandments of their creator have no effect on their condonment of aggression. There’s a great deal of moral, social and intellectual safety in belonging to a tribe, especially the rich and powerful tribes, that have handy “guide books” to reference in times of doubt.
There are many good and talented people in the world expending huge efforts in attempts to make the world a better place. I might even count myself in this group in some very tiny way.
But these last few months whilst active on social media, I am wondering how much these well meaning people achieve, as there seems to be much use of labels and judgement going on, with them or their “followers”.
Let’s face it, it is hardly likely that a MSNBC or CNN viewer is going to suddenly going to see the attributes of Donald Trump that his admirers already do, after conversing on social media with a “leader” or recognized and regular social media contributor.
Or that a regular Fox news viewer is going to suddenly be giving out “Hillary for President” stickers on a street corner after seeing the light from reading posts from other tribes.
There are very good and valid reasons why people like or don’t like or support Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, or any other public figure. These reasons should not be discarded simply because supporters of either of these politicians are not in your tribe. There are reasons why people see something valuable or awful in these public figures. Sometimes the reasons might be invalid. But attacking someone for their views is not going to help that person see your point of view is it?
Attacking someone, calling them derogatory names or assigning perjorative labels to them or their tribe simply because they have different opinions to you helps nobody right? No matter how nasty someone might get, or how clever your comments. We always have the choice to withdraw from a conversation if it is going nowhere despite our best efforts. We should take that route
Perhaps we need to engage with “moderate” people first. Start our opinion sharing with those who are considered in the “middle” of society (yes, sometimes labels are impossible to avoid).
Start in the “middle” and working outwards, enlarging the “middle class” to the extent that it eventually dominates society. There will always be those people who are hard to reach or simply don’t care or will never change. That is their right to do so, as long as they stay lawful. In time, after seeing more moderate people change their outlooks, a few more might peel off. Who knows.
There is little use “preaching to the converted”. Hyping up your own supporters might make you very popular but it’s highly counterproductive as it only further isolates us from the other tribes we need to live beside in our communities.
Attacking people with labels is never going to be productive. So next time you converse with someone from another tribe, remember that it is their right to belong to any lawful tribe they choose, as you politely exchange information with them. Listen carefully, wish them well, and thank them if you learnt something. Don’t chasitise or scold if they present views which you find flawed or which are based upon flawed information.
Remember there are complex reasons why they think the things they do. Just politely and with respect offer your own information for them to consider and wish them well.
Nobody changes overnight and especially not if they feel inferior, scorned or mocked. Being more clever, more knowedgable or more experienced is of no value at all if all you are doing with your skills is further isolating another person or their tribe.
This is all no doubt a very simplistic and idealized way of looking at our world. But it is a good end point to think about isn’t it? No matter how we all get there.
Good luck. And as the famous British philosopher Bertrand Russell once said,
” I would never die for my views as I might be wrong.”
Well worth remembering even when we are right ;o)