What is the opposite of woman?  Republican?  the Church?  Is it man? Democrat? and world?  (BTW, This is not a political post).

It is interesting that when we study something, we often mistakenly polarize two things as opposites although they are not.  This practice often leads to fallacies such as over-simplification.

A similar exercise for learning is to generalize.  For example, we often identify certain individuals according to groups.  Certain cliques are conscious to dress according to their subculture’s dress code.  We glean their identity from their voice, body language, their use and command of the language, their confidence or lack of it, the way they behave on a date, at work, or at home. This is how we get an English term “smart” to describe how one dresses, such as, “he’s a smart dresser.”  In America, it means that a person is “metro sexual,” right?

The tool of simplification helps to teach.  But can it be done too much?  And if so, how often does it lead us to flat out wrong answers which are plain untrue and misleading?

Someone may attempt to define me in terms of opposites, or as the thing I am not.  I am therefore known to them in terms that emphasize what makes me different from them or someone else.  Likewise, I may be doing this of them.  I would come away being known only through this distortion of exaggeration.  Most likely, their true identity has been distorted by me as well.

If so and so is a woman, a republican, or a Christian, it also means that they are not certain other things, namely a man, a democrat, or, I don’t know, hateful, I guess.  But although these observations may be fair, they are terribly inadequate for knowing their nature with any conclusion.

The difficulty here is that we are not getting true answers, but only framed answers.  I will get the answer about your identity that I am looking for.  I am framing you into what I assume you to be.  For example, is so and so really an idiot, or did I merely judge them once and for all an idiot because of one instance of disagreement?  Do I know anything more about that individual’s opinion and viewpoint except in those areas where we differ?

But as you can tell, all of this troubles me.  Is everything about a woman is opposite to that of a man?  You can substitute other seemingly opposite words for the underlined.  This is a ridiculous statement, but I call our attention to it nonetheless.  Without being conscious of it, we all hold several ridiculous understandings in our consciences about the people in our lives.

Is everything about a Republican the opposite of a Democrat?  Is a Christian the opposite of a non-Christian?

If we do this about the church, we end up polarizing about “non-church” in ways that challenge everything we believe to be true:  “In Christ” vs. anti-Christ, moral vs. immoral, believer vs. non-believer, sacred vs. secular, kosher vs. non-kosher, and ultimately “Christian” vs. non-Christian.

If the “church” is to be defined poorly, it has to be defined as being opposed to certain other things which are “not the church” (or from other people who are not the church).

This is called “Labeling.”  It’s taken me a lot of words to get here, but had I used this word sooner, it wouldn’t have the same weight attached to it.

Certain learning tools that we previously thought were benign, are actually blind, unfair, and misleading.  And we are addicted to labeling.  Can’t we be honest about this?  In how many ways have I considered you an idiot? narrow? prejudicial? or “unChristian?”

Here’s the issue.  I’ll state it and let it be.  If someone is more polite than another, neither of them are necessarily completely impolite.  The truth is somewhere in the middle–a moderate position someplace between the two opposites.  Rather than say that one has no manners, the truth is that one’s manners are lacking as contrasted by the others’.  (And no, I’m not advocating moral relativity.)

We ought to rethink the simplified labels that use to look with discrimination at gender, race, political parties, denominations of churches, or people with whom we work.  We’ll be far less likely to see people as completely selfish, insensitive, judgmental, hypocritical, lying, and depraved hopeless son’s of you-know-whats (as though we are none of these things in their eyes as well).

Admittedly, we do have to be somewhat discriminate about where we park our Benz or who sits for our children, but we ought to be quite conscious of indiscriminate labels as well.  Namely, we might not be seeing the whole story.

Although we are all guilty, and we are also likely victims of this disrespect by the others in our lives, we are all better off taking a more moderate approach to language; they as they use it, we as we use it, and all of us as language gets used as a weapon to shoot one another in the face (as though the combatant alone had any wisdom).

This exercise would require respect.  And although one’s opinion or viewpoint may differ from ours, we still owe them our respect.  We rarely have all of the facts.  I guess I’m polarizing again.  Labels are the opposite of respect.  And quite frankly, they also derail the truth.  It is ignorant to say otherwise.

Post-script:  Did you know that in our society, a former Sex-Offender who has been freed (even after rehab and serving his sentence), is not welcomed at a Salvation Army facility?  Let’s think about it.  Our perverse society creates what it criminalizes and there seems to be no redemption for the victims or the perps.  There is no true welcome back into society once society has polarized you.  Screw the media.  They prey on fear.

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