Labels, enemies, and rambling.

Last week my boss asked if I was an anarchist. I didn't say yes. I wanted to say "What do you mean by that?" but he's the kind of guy that wants a "yes" or "no" from a question where the options are "yes" and "no", so I said "a little". Because I need to know what he thinks "anarchist" means before I can give an affirmative or negative answer to the question and have us still be on the same page. Anarchism is one of those things NOBODY understands unless they're an anarchist themselves. What would it mean to him for me to say yes? Does he think it means "angry youth with too much faith in humanity"? Does he think it means "someone that wants to throw bombs at McDonalds"? Does he think it means "someone going through a phase they'll grow out of"? Does he think it means "Metallica and Bakunin fan"?

People are always trying to label things. I swear it would be so much easier to communicate with people if I could disable their labelling-drive.

"...and legitimacy are mutually exclusive to each other, which means governments don't exist, only mafias."
"Are you an anarchist?"
"...yes."
"Anarchy won't work silly!"/"Who will build the roads?"/"GREATEST NATION ON EARTH" (yeah, right after I try to prove that nations don't exist, people do this)/"Democracy=Freedom"/"We blah blah us blah we blah blah our blah us."/etc, and now they completely ignore my rigorous logical proof and attack something they don't understand because it is their enemy.

If I could turn it off, I imagine it would go like this:

"...and legitimacy are mutually exclusive to each other, which means governments don't exist, only mafias."
"Well, no, because then who defines what's legitimate? Don't you need a government for that?"

At least in this second case, it's a good question that can be answered and the person is thinking about what I just said. Nothing stops the thinking like giving the other person the idea that they already know everything, which is what labelling does. So I like to avoid labels.

When I do have to label myself though, I prefer to use the most general label possible. I told my dad I was a libertarian when I was an anarcho-capitalist. A year later, discussing politics, he found out how consistent of a libertarian I was, and that I was an anarchist. Now he tells people (like my boss) that I'm an anarchist. Which is annoying.

But when dealing with other anarchists, anarchists don't have to worry when they call themselves anarchists. They just stand to give the other person the wrong idea when they say something like "anarcho-capitalist" or "anarcho-communist" or "anarcho-whatever", which is why I like "anarchist without adjectives". I also don't mind calling myself an agorist because you can pretty much either know what agorism is, or you don't know shit about it. In the first case I won't be misinterpreted, in the second case I'll get to spell out exactly what it means for you so that I won't be misinterpreted. If the agorist label catches on and people start misusing it or being dumbassses with it, that might change, but for now I'm fine with agorist and I hope it stays that way.

Anarchist obviously isn't the only word that this applies to. Another great example would be "gay". My mom is a retard with GLBT issues, so she called a masculine-looking girl in Shrek 3 "a gay". The full sentence: "Why did they have to have a gay in it?" I hope nobody ever tells my mom that they're gay.

The worst labels to use are the ones that are likely to identify you as somebody's enemy. The people who seek enemies find the best way to find them is to find a label to declare your enemy, and then anybody who uses that label becomes your enemy. By avoiding labels whenever possible, you can have an intelligent conversation with them that doesn't have all sorts of bullshit about how you eat babies and support the terrorists because you're Pro-Choice, or a rightwing evangelist end-of-the-world freak because you're Pro-Life. If I know that somebody is going to think I'm their enemy if I'm a capitalist, I'll do whatever I can to evade the word "capitalist" being slapped onto me (except lie, of course). I'll give them the issues I imagine they agree with me on, then slowly lead them toward the anarchistic ideas of a political class, leaving people alone, and disobeying bad laws (which happens to be almost all of them, so I start with supporting people that break the laws they don't like). Because you don't have to call yourself a "capitalist" for them to slap you with that label and all the baggage they give it, you just have to act like one.

I know people who take a "STAY THE COURSE" stance on the label they choose. Most of them like "Anarcho-capitalist". They'll ruthlessly declare themselves anarchocapitalists and if other people think it means something it doesn't, "that's okay, we'll just correct them" even though in most cases the other person probably won't be listening. This is stupid, it's that fear-of-identity-loss thing.

Instead of labelling, just give the facts and principles, in ways that they cannot be distorted, added to, or deleted from. Don't say "I'm a capitalist" or "Capitalism is good", and don't start off with "All tariffs and regulations should be gotten rid of" (because that'll get you slapped with the label "capitalist" or "free-trader"). Say "Rules telling people they can't engage in mutually beneficial transactions are harmful." MAKE THE OTHER PERSON THINK. THINKING IS GOOD FOR THEM. Don't do too much thinking for them, otherwise when it does come time to think, they'll probably choose not to, and go into unthinking, emotive, you're-my-enemy mode instead, which you don't want them to do (or at least I don't, and I hope you don't).

There's this recurring issue on the Fchan /dis/ (discussion) board, of "I'm straight but I like gay furry porn. Help!" And they want to be told they're straight, or they're gay, or they're bi, and why. They aren't content to just sit and be who they are without worrying about trying to fit squarely into one label or another. This stupid shit is worrying people!

Labels delete information, add information, and distort information. They're a shortcut (read: dead end) for people who don't want to actually think about things. Unless your goal is extreme brevity, being misunderstood, or making enemies, they're completely unnecessary.

1 comment:

Justin said...

I've a solution.

Don't talk about it.