ALL TOPICS. ALL SIDES. ONE PLACE.

The Latest

THE LATEST

THE LATEST THINKING

THE LATEST THINKING

The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.

To Label Is To Limit

Coen van Wyk

Posted on January 5, 2019 11:56

1 user

Scientific development functions by labelling specimens, actions, phenomena. We live by labelling: danger, caution, reward… but it is often taken too far. Labels can limit.

I recently shared with friends and acquaintances a moving address made in the Washington Cathedral by King Abdullah II of Jordan, in which he explained the common fundamental values of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. An old acquaintance shot back, within two minutes: ‘You can never trust these Muslims.’

King Abdullah of Jordan at the Washington Cathedral. Tumblir


Which proved two points: he did not watch the video, and the message of the King, that we need to avoid intolerance and find what we have in common, was driven home.

Prof. Elizabeth Anderson of the University of Michigan holds the view that equality and freedom are mutually dependent. One of her theses is that expanding the range of valued fields in a society increases equality, because there is more common ground to share. Real freedom lies in not being limited by identity, by labels. 

The Apartheid government in South Africa claimed to know what Zulus want better than they did themselves. And Cape Colored, and Indians (Of course they want to go back to India) and Other Colored, and so on. Labels limited who and what we could be. 

South Africans rejecting labels. Photo Sacred.co.za


Society seems all too eager to label people, in order to stack them into hierarchical power structures, to better manage, govern,and manipulate them.

Charlie Reese penned his last column in February 1984 before retiring after 40 years at the Orlando Sentinel. He pointed out that political crises are created by politicians to keep people tied to the tax treadmill, to frighten us into line, to maintain their positions of power.

Labels have the power to limit people, to diminish the commonalities that make us equal. Prof. Anderson posits that people should be allowed to label themselves, to have multiple labels. Social expression of values are determined by an individual’s history, but also by the choices made. We are able, as Walt Whitman said, to contain multitudes. 

The US Holocaust Museum's Early Warning Project identified 30 countries most likely to experience genocide. Of these the Democratic Republic of Congo is number one. Egypt is another. Insurgents, Sufi's, Christians, ISIS, Tutsi's, Hema, Banyamulenge, Rohinga, Jews, these are labels of "perpetrators', targets that can be dehumanised, persecuted and eliminated. Immigrants carry diseases, Jews are subhuman, Africans are lazy - labels dehumanise. 
 
So I return to King Abdullah. For those of us in societies based on the values of the Abrahamic religions love for our neighbor is a core value. The concept of equality before the god we worship is central to this system of values. Cherry-picking verses to sow hatred between people, based on beliefs and other labels should be foreign to our thoughts and beliefs. Labels can be deadly.
 
To an unlabeled 2019!

Coen van Wyk

Posted on January 5, 2019 11:56

Comments

comments powered by Disqus
Source: Al Jazeera
14

Qatar calls for emergency session while opposition group labels Assad government's offensive "crimes against humanity".

THE LATEST THINKING

Video Site Tour

The Latest
The Latest

Subscribe to THE LATEST Newsletter.

The Latest
The Latest

Share this TLT through...

The Latest