Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Divisions and Labels

Human beings constantly put up divisions and they constantly put labels on things. Divisions are walls that exist throughout society to keep us apart and to make human beings feel better than one another. Labeling is the next step, when these divisions have been made. Once society has put up divisions, those on one side will belittle the other. They will make up exaggerated stereotypes and titles, losing sight of the fact that another person exists on the other side. When people on one side happen to the minority in a country, they are persecuted.

People divide others in all sorts of ways. Sometimes, people are labeled on things that they cannot help such as skin color and what people they're attracted to. Yet, other times, people are labeled by things they can help like what religion (or lack thereof) or political party they ascribe to.

Really, divisions limit our scope of possible experiences and make is lose sight of every person's worth as a human being. Labels diminish to one thing when human beings tend to be so much more complex than that. They turn us into caricatures and cut-out cardboard pieces.

This weekend, I was watching an episode of The Tudors. The show always gets me thinking (and, I admit, other things. The show isn't for the prudish and weak-stomached) and it has definitely done that for me this weekend. Not only did the show successfully bring the historical figures to life, it also managed to bring up the issues they had to deal with. In that episode, people were being tortured and killed for being "heretics". A "heretic" was basically anyone who didn't accept the ceremonial cracker and wine as the literal blood and body of Christ. I couldn't help but think how ridiculous it was that people were willing to kill and be killed for such a basic concept (as well as some other Protestant beliefs).

After I watched the show, I noticed the divisions and labels present in our society and I was quite troubled by it.

In some cases, labels are seemingly harmless and go by without a thought. Yet, these thoughts seep into our subconscious. While they might not actively hurt people, they do fence us off much of the time. That, of course, is a missed opportunity yet a missed opportunity alone.

Yet, other times, they do far worse damage and breed prejudice and hate. Currently, people are still fighting over religion and over long-time divisions (e.g. the Irish and North Irish, Israelis and Palestinians, Sudanese Muslims and Sudanese Christians). These fights are deadly and have led to heinous crimes against humanity and individuals. This is where the real trouble starts. Hate starts with a few words that become a lot of words that eventually form thoughts. When people start thinking, "I'm white and they're black so therefore they must be [insert adjective of choice here]" or something like it, that's when things start to get to get heated. Often it means that these bigoted thoughts turn into action.

Obviously, people aren't all the same. People will pair up and define themselves in words but that is language. Yet when these teams become divisions and when these definitions become labels that we live by, that's when things go wrong.

As I said before, "society" includes each and every one of us. It's not a vague concept but people that we all know. We are all guilty in at least some of these thoughts and we all need to work on correcting that. Some of the things I believe we can do are eliminating stereotypical thinking from our thoughts, keep open minds and refuse to define ourselves by solely labels (especially by one label or by a group label). This is a complex human problem that we all need to fix.

Labels and divisions should not exist in a civilized society. Let's work on trying to fix it.

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