I am often attacked (in the logic/philosophical sense) for assigning labels to people. I usually add fuel to the fire when I dismiss these attacks as foolishness. I understand that my attitude toward people who have problems with labels doesn’t endear me to them, but it would be worse if they could see my smirk when I read their demands for me to stop my “labeling.” You see, whenever someone gets on to me about using labels, they are telling everyone reading along that they don’t understand anything about labels at all.
Let me explain. Everything you are reading right now — the thoughts and ideas I am communicating — all depends on labels. Words are nothing more than a label to which we assign meaning. It is that simple. Human beings simply cannot communicate without labels. That means society cannot exist without labels. The very essence of what we know about human existence — even the way we think – all depends on labels.
So, why do people say “don’t label me?” Well, here is where we start getting into logic and philosophy, with a little bit of psychiatry mixed in for good measure. What we must understand is that, when someone says “don’t label me,” they really mean “don’t judge me.” And, when someone says “Don’t judge me,” they are really saying “don’t tell me what is right or wrong.” Now, admittedly, this might take on different flavors depending on the concepts being discussed: “Don’t judge me” could me “Don’t put words in my mouth” or “Don’t tell me what I think/feel/believe.” But it is all a variation of the same notion: that the person demanding not to be labeled is actually demanding that another person not exercise their own free will to discern information and draw a conclusion based on whatever information may be available to them. In other words, “Don’t label me” also means “Don’t exercise your free will.”
You see, in nearly every case, when a person feels they are being “mislabeled,” it is generally because they created a false impression or appearance that has caused another person to draw an incorrect conclusion. For example: if I am not making myself clear in this post, then you might draw a conclusion other than that which I intend for you to draw. In this event, if you “label” me according to how you perceive my words, you have done nothing wrong – I HAVE! I have failed to use accurate labels, myself. It is always incumbent upon the speaker to use the words that most accurately portray his/her true meaning. Where there is room for ambiguity, or the speaker is uncertain his/her point will be clear, he/she should be careful to define the label intended for the words they use. Often times, it is wise to support your words – or “labels” – with example and illustration, to clarify your meaning. (Incidentally, we ALL have trouble with this — especially myself. It is just part of being human to assume everyone else thinks and reasons the same as we do, and this is the primary source of misunderstandings. The second is intentional deception).
This might all seem obvious, but it isn’t – not really. After all, how many who read this think this way in their daily lives? I would venture that the number is very few. And here is where the danger lies: it is easier to think that everyone uses the same labels as we do for the same words. Progressives know this, and they use it against you. The evidence is in the very habit of saying “Don’t label me.” Instead of responding as we’ve been programmed, a response that serves little purpose but to separate and create friction, we should start with “Wait, I think you misunderstood. Let me clarify.” Or, if we are the reader, we should ask “Is this what you mean” before we comment out of ignorance.
Unfortunately, this approach only works with the honest and those who care about objective reality. This does not include Progressives. If you ask them to clarify their labels, you will probably find yourself diverted down an entirely different rabbit hole, which then leaves you needing an entirely different set of clarifications, which then leads you down another rabbit hole…