In an election year, not surprisingly, political labels are being cast around like confetti. Some people take great delight in creating an artificial 'them and us' environment where if one isn't this, then they must be that. Yet labels can be extremely misleading and do not give a real flavour of anyone's true allegiances. Worst of all, they stop real dialogue between people in its tracks.
In my view a label is terribly inadequate to describe a complex human being who tends to react to contexts than concrete dogma. It is based on a generalised stereotype that bears little resemblance to the multifaceted individuals we are. It restricts the interplay of language and discussion through superficial assumptions and negative expectations. It is misleading, at best, and bigoted, at worst, and a handy shortcut for the self-righteous who prefer to assign labels to mask their ignorance. It focuses on similarities while ignoring differences, and represents one aspect of that person, while being treated as the sum of their whole!
People fall on a continuum of thoughts and ideas. Unless we can be placed firmly at either extreme end of that continuum, and only a very small percentage can, most people are flexible enough in their views, despite their particular choices. Our allegiances are merely leanings to one side or another of the political spectrum, depending on how we feel at a given point in time. They are not fixed points in concrete. We are free to change sides whenever we wish, according to which ideology is serving our interests and aspirations at any moment. Moreover, making a particular choice that suits our expectations does not give us the right to derogate the choice of another, otherwise our choice begins to lose its credibility too.
In short, while labels might give some idea of the ideological or political leanings of a person, they are mere guides to preferences which can be changed at will, not immovable aspects of our personalities we have no control over. In the UK we try to avoid them, as a rule. We are very sensitive to their use and are reluctant to label people to suit our own prejudices and predilections. Even if one might class one's self as a 'Conservative', or 'Labour', one does not say until one is asked, or there is a definite reason to shout it. It means we avoid judging someone superficially, and on a political level, before we actually get to know them, because labels are both inclusive and exclusive. Fine when they are inclusive, and everyone feels valued, but when they exclude others for the sake of it, or are used to feel smug and superior, that is totally counter-productive. I generally find that once we label a person, we stop listening to them, because we have already made up our minds what they are going to say and often impute things to them which they wouldn't say either!
I cannot understand this obsession with political labels when we are not unchanging robots. It is also difficult to see the other person's point of view when we label them as the enemy, and many Americans appear to be putting unity to one side as they glory in their fragmentation. But we are thinking, feeling people who ALL seek the same thing: a great quality of life in which we can fulfil our potential and feel valued and secure. The only difference between us is the way we each wish to realise that need, and the vehicles we prefer to use to get it.
©Elaine Sihera (Ms CYPRAH) 2012
Emotional Health and People Management Consultant
"Happiness is a state of being. We are the ones who decide whether we wish to be happy or not, by the script we use inside our heads."