Last week, I posted this quote on my FB page, “Once you label me, you negate me.” What Soen Kierkegaard meant was, we love to put each other in little boxes, to define each other by our differences and then define our relationship by those labels. It is easier than getting to know the true essence of each other. It’s like the guy who is asked to be in a random television interview after witnessing an accident and, below his name he is defined by the label, “Pedestrian.” This person could be a Noble Prize winner, but for the purpose of the evening news, he is forever identified as ”Pedestrian.”
Labels are so easy. They also come with a fair amount of generalization and we have reduced our political system in America to labels the size of bumper stickers. And that’s why it hurts my heart, and my brain, to pretend to be interested or involved in anything that passes for what we call political discourse in America today. “Liberal,” “conservative,” “republican,” “democrat,” decent and loving people, who are otherwise good listeners, feel free to close their minds and scream at one another over something that serves no immediate purpose other than venting and feeling superior to others.
One side has resurrected the pre-Art Brenner-George Wallace campaign mantra about him being hard workers and being tired of supporting those who live on the dole. They are concerned about those who don’t pay taxes and only want more and more from the few who do pay. Even people who would literally give someone the shirt off their own back are moved to defend capitalism and tax payers by the tone of political dialogue in the media today.
Others join the battle and deride capitalism in general and the greed of Wall Street in particular. Not a new approach for populists, but also a sweeping generalization. Not all capitalists are greedy bastards, some are just hard workers, trying to be successful. This one hits me in the heart, because, as a financial planner, I have suffered mightily watching client portfolios get hammered in the last several years. As a capitalist, I am labeled as a greedy one per center who rips off the working man. I’ll confess; there are days I want to take my boat as far east into the ocean as I can until I run out of gas, headed for the nearest hurricane to let God give me his punishment. Our system is not perfect, neither am I. Like everyone else, I never intentionally made a bad decision.
Labels do more than negate, they hurt.
People, in general, are people, usually guided by self interest with moments of clarity and charity. The label capitalist ignores the guy who uses his money to build schools in Haiti or the “Welfare Mom” who raises a son to be a great Preacher. Labels negate people, they are intellectually lazy.
The reason politics has become a dead end is that we have ignored what we have in common to focus on our differences. Compromise is seen as weakness and the loudest complainers are seen as the biggest leaders. We don’t want to solve problems, by the grace of hanging chads, we want to win.
Someone told me, not long ago, that if you complain without planning to do anything about it, you are simple whining.
Those who are too busy making a difference in the world to complain are the people we should be listening too, regardless of party affiliation, religion or the number of tattoos on their skin. Instead of screaming about what is wrong, or how someone else is more greedy than you: how about if we all just got off our couches and did something about it? What if we made an effort, once a day to quietly do something for someone else without any credit or benefit to ourselves?
What if we came from love?
As for me, I am a reformed political observer. While the left wingers and the right wingers argue over who gets the support of Joe Pedestrian, I have checked out, as George Wallace used to say, “There ain’t a dimes worth of difference between a democrat and a republican.” I work hard and try to be a good person without feeling superior to anyone else. That’s all I can figure out to do. I’m pretty big on tending my own garden and I wish the political pundits felt the same way, I think they could make one little adjustment and we’d have a better world:
If you want to affect change in the world, start in your own world.
If you want a better environment, plant something.
If you are worried about the state of education, teach.
Worried about Senior Citizens? Take one shopping.
If you are worried about Muslim extremists, go meet local Muslims.
If you are worried about hate: come from love.
If you are worried war, be peace.