Apr. 2, 2016

You had better check your label

Apr 2, 2016

Labels – we live by them, they surround us, from Campbell’s soup to Ford cars or our favourite brand of pork and beans.

We’re so dependent on them that we’ve even resorted to labeling people. Political correctness has created a whole new avenue of labels to attach to people, especially those who don’t agree with our own rose-colored view of the world. In my business of voicing opinion I have attracted many labels, some that provide my chuckle for the day.

I’ve had virtually every label for exercising my right to freely express my opinion. Heck, I was called a misogynist before I even knew what that word meant. I had to look it up in the dictionary. (Misogynist - a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.) Wow! Talk about mislabeling!

Among my favourite tags are the ones that have labeled me as a (bleeping) left winger, and a (double bleeping) right winger. It all depends who is wielding the label maker. Too many people can’t simply discuss an issue, they just put it in a labeled box to absolve themselves of having to do any real thinking.

Most recently I got a couple of labels tossed at me, ones I've heard so many times they’ve become old hat. The standard one when someone is unprepared to discuss an issue – “racist.” It’s supposed to be an insult, but too often you hear that from the real racists. Back to the dictionary. (Racist - a person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another).

 I love this one because a look at my family tree will reveal so many branches of varying colors it could be called a Christmas tree. Oops, not to offend anyone, a “holiday” tree.

It used to be families maintained their ethnicity generation over generation. If you were (brand X) you married into the same ethnic group because we lived in tighter enclaves. Going four miles to town on a shopping venture on Saturday afternoon was a great adventure. Now with worldwide communication, travel and other barriers evaporating, that no longer applies. The recent generations on my own family tree now have roots in Ukraine, Poland, Belgium, Canada, Africa, China, Mexico, Chile, Paraguay and even the good old U.S.A. And I haven’t found an inferior person in the entire bunch. Red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in my sight. Heinz 57, a virtual United Nations, the more labels the merrier. 

Another cover-all label is bigot. (Bigot, a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions.) Taking that meaning literally, if you disagree with someone else’s opinion you are a bigot. Everyone who labels someone a bigot is, in fact, himself or herself a bigot, and I’m not about to start a debate on who is the bigger bigot.

Another politically-correct label is “offensive.” Same as the other labels, it is based on individual biases.  What’s common sense to one can be offensive to another. That’s just the way it is when we have a right to express ourselves. If someone is offended, then you must be a bigot.

If you want the best current example of offensive behaviour, watch the U.S. election campaign which seems to be a contest of who can be the most offensive, bigotted, racist and misogynistic in both parties.

All of those infringe on our right to free speech and free expression. We just have to accept that one person’s standard is not necessarily another person’s view. We have to agree to disagree, but you are entitled to express your opinion, no matter how wrong I think you are.

Then there’s political satire, a not-often-used tool for writers, but too far above most people’s heads. (Satire - the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues). That usually elicits cries of racism, offense and bigotry. Oh, those poor hurt feelings.

If you are offended, just put on your big-boy or big girl pants and say to yourself, “I'm so superior because I am so much better than that person,” put a smile on your face, revel in your superiority and get on with life.

Political correctness is code for censorship, nothing less than thought control. It causes people to worry about offending those close to them. Once they are afraid to speak they are afraid to think. Once afraid to think, it is never spoken, and then thought control is achieved.

Speak your mind and free those around you.

Merv Unger is a retired journalist, living in Nanaimo, B.C.