“As a jompledygump-ist, I find the very existence of this entire universe blatant wabblegabble-ism, obviously made by drump-ist Romeosexuals that want nothing more than to spread flargintoid-ic peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeem-ism, and will not be showing this to my children, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, grandunclaunts, paren, coustoms, parendromes, siblimes, or pet rock.”
“You jompledgyump-ists are just deer-hungering fistians, demacaroni-tized by your dimpledorfs. Even a herubian would be able to tell you’re just flavililililili, and gharpis jarpis gooktyfish.”
Well…either way, what you just read was the kind of ridiculousness that happens when we get too label-minded.
Let’s do a little roleplay. All the Christian readers, give me a moment. All non-Christian readers, go ahead and pretend you’re a Christian for a moment. You don’t have to understand Christianity, just go ahead and act like you identify with exactly what you know and think about it.
Now, you’re about to defend yourself in an argument, with a specified answer. Someone has some questions about the history of the Bible, specifically, a particular story. Say, Adam & Eve, David & the Goliath, or Noah’s Ark. The inquirer is confused about some things, and wants your help explaining the story.
Let’s use Noah’s Ark. The inquirer asks: “How can all of those animals fit in the Ark, and how can a boat that big with all those animals float?”
How would you answer? Go ahead and think about that for a second, and keep reading when you’re done.
Okay, now for the experiment, I’m going to give you an answer to use. I’m not reflecting on my own views and opinions, it’s only in the interest of the experiment.
You decide to answer: “Because God works in mysterious ways. The boat could fit all those animals and float because God was watching over Noah.”
How do you feel about this answer, and how the inquirer might respond? Reflect on that.
Now, up until now, the inquirer has had no identity. Now, we’re going to give them one.
Same question, same answer:
The inquirer was an Atheist. How do you think they would react? How effective would your argument be?
Now, imagine they’re a Buddhist. Now how would they react?
Now they’re a Christian. Their reaction?
Now they’re Agnostic. Their reaction?
Now, you once again don’t know their religious affiliation, however, they’re from Iraq. Their reaction?
Now, they’re from Japan. Their reaction?
Now, they’re from Canada. Their reaction?
Now, they no longer have a geographical identity. They’re just a child. Their reaction?
Now they’re an old woman. Their reaction?
Now they’re a young woman. Their reaction?
Now they’re an old man. Their reaction?
Okay, that’s it. You don’t have to be a part of the experiment anymore.
Now, if you participated in everything and didn’t just skip past it all or certain parts, I’ll tell you what happened.
When I originally told you the answer you had and to reflect on what you thought and how they’d respond, you immediately came up with someone who would respond in the way that you felt about it. That’s called ego. I’m not calling you selfish, we all do that. We see the world in our own perspective, and when we’re given creative freedom to think of a situation, we immediately come up with one that’s worth our time: a situation that coincides with our way of life.
Think you don’t have ego? Think you didn’t do any of that? Well, maybe you didn’t. I suppose that would be very egotistical of me to assume you did, even though I set up the experiment. But this is where I’ve got you hooked, all of you that don’t like Christianity. If you didn’t come up with someone who objected to it, you came up with someone that agreed with it blindly or dumbly.
You may not have realized it. That’s ego, too. Ego is probably making you hate reading every word of this, as I make assumption after assumption. Like I know how everyone is going to react, right?
The deeper we go into this, the more and more possibilities your ego has to take advantage of your emotions. As I continue to make more and more assumptions, someone who’s ego-driven becomes frustrated. Someone who’s truly calm and collected has read through all of this, emotionally indifferent, and continues to read and consider things. They didn’t just skip through because they thought it was stupid or disagreed, they didn’t scoff and berate me when I made such assumptions of their character, most of all, they didn’t immediately click off as soon as I said “Let’s Roleplay” or “Christian” and etc.
That’s what ego-driven people do. Not mentally sound, calm people.
Calm people are secure in themselves. They keep their lives and minds healthy, with a good balance of things in their life that take tons of complex steps that they’ve grown accustomed to. They’re happy with life.
When you’re not happy, you immediately become ego-driven. It’s what makes you want to continue living. Your mind finds excuses, and does mental gymnastics when you’re exposed to flaws in yourself. Happy, secure people see their flaws a lot, too. But the difference is that more often than not, they meet their flaws in the middle. They don’t do it all the time, even they have their limits, because every human being is, at their base, driven by self-interest. Not selfishness, but literally, the need to find interest in ourselves.
That’s called security. It is ultimately a flawed system, and is often and easily feigned.
Human beings are afraid by nature. They’re afraid there are monsters in the closet, then they become afraid that no one will accept them, then they’re afraid that they’ll be working the same dead-end job for the rest of their life. We’re faced with scary things all the time, and what you’re afraid of might be child’s play to someone else matching many of your characteristics. Everyone’s got different insecurities, some of them are situational, like phobias or primal dangers. I.E. Being afraid of holes in things or being afraid that when you stop falling down the hole you’re in, you’ll die. Those are the basis’ of fear.
That which you do not understand, and that which you cannot control, and the belief that either of them will be detrimental to you in some way.
No one likes to be afraid, and as such, no one wants to not understand or be out of control.
When you’re afraid of rejection from a high school crush? It’s because you don’t understand what might happen, or maybe you feel out of control of what could happen. Maybe you being out of control is what causes you to think that what might happen can be nothing but bad? You also may not understand what to say, or feel like you don’t have good control of your speech or feelings.
It all takes root in not understanding and not controlling in situations of things you want, or want to be able to do so.
And this is very, very dangerous to us. It’s one of the most common dangers to our thinking that exist. But it’s also an important part of our lives, and overcoming those dangers.
To explain: the peoples of ancient, primitive/primal humans, they didn’t have society. They didn’t even have any knowledge above their primal characteristics. Primal is a keyword, remember it.
So, what did they have to do? Why, things that animals do. They found or made shelter, then they hunted prey for sustenance and drinkable water, then they danced or expressed their alpha characteristics to find a partner to mate with, then they took care of their kids, and they did all that until they died.
But, humans are a bit special, aren’t they? Well, I can’t go too far into the future, but let’s go as far as when we started building tools. Humans don’t really have the claws or poison or any of those things to kill our prey with. Sure, we could grab things, but all of nature has defenses against getting grabbed. Everything we could grab could just run, fly, or swim away, with extreme speed. So, if you got lucky, you maybe caught yourself one fish per three days. Not exactly sustainable food. So, you have to go for the bigger meat. But the bigger meat either had the same characteristics, or was stronger than you and could kill you. Your grabbing abilities don’t really work when there’s a bear tearing your face off. And what are you going to do if you manage to sneak up on a deer? Grab it? Punch it? Bite it? Pretty sure it’ll just buck you off and run away to heal from whatever wound you gave it.
So, humans were a real accident in evolution, huh? No built-in attack/defense mechanisms.
Except, for our intelligence.
A dumber animal with our bodies would have just gone extinct, but we were smart enough to realize that those rocks that everything just walks past could be used as weapons. At first, the strategy was to grab a rock and conk something with it, but that’s not efficient, and a barbaric attack that would scare things off. There’s gotta be a way to kill things without having to aim for weak spots to beat to death repeatedly.
Well, tear into it, naturally. Eventually, someone picked up a sharp rock and was like “This is a lot like the bear claws that gave me that all-over wound.“, and stabbed that bear in a moment of cathartic revenge. Then, he ran home (cave) and showed everybody his find. Time passes, and now humans have figured out not just how to use weapons, but to make them. And not every human all over the world needed to learn it from that guy, they were intelligent enough to figure it out on their own. Now we had sharp rock-tipped spears and wooden axes with blunt bludgeoning rocks on them.
And all this advancement? The only technological advancements that existed?
Made due to primal fear.
Humans have been inventing things to improve our lives since the beginning, and that’s all we’ve invented since. Even the Atom bomb was an experiment in being secure in ourselves, on top of being a sin of man. Why would we do anything else? It all roots back to the fears of the ancient humans:
“I do not understand death, and cannot control death.”
They don’t understand the animal, and cannot control the animal. Therefore, if an animal wants to kill them, and they want to live? They don’t get to have that. They want that, so it makes them afraid of animals.
I’ve gone on for long enough. What does all this have to do with labels, names, ego, and ignorance?
Just making sure you, the reader, really understand fear. Because it’s important if you’re going to hear what I’m about to say and understand why I would say it.
What do we do to things we understand and control? Just forget about them? Say: “Hey, I understand this now. Welp, time to do absolutely nothing concerning it.” No, we wouldn’t, because we never would’ve come up with the language to think that sentence. Language was built as a way of understanding and controlling all of life’s mysteries: ourselves, our fellow humans, and all that exists.
Let’s say somebody tells you about a movie called Citizen Kane and that you should watch it. Well, what if it’s not good? How do I know I can trust his opinion? Why should I do things I don’t understand and don’t have the command over?
“Well, it’s a drama.”
And there you immediately start associating it with things. You know what a drama is, you’ve seen dramas, you’ve heard people talk about dramas. All of what you know about drama is set up by things that other people have done, and you have created your own perception by mixing those things together in a way you see fit. Just that word: “Drama”, it tells you so much about something. And it has different meanings, and different feelings depending on the context of the situation. Lots of people like movie drama. Most people complain about life drama.
Categories. Labels. Names.
So naturally, if we have this complex system of placing names and definitions on things that help us understand the world around us, we’d start putting them on people.
No, I’m not talking about names like your name and my name. That was a pretty good idea by all accounts, and we’ve perfected it over the years to the point where it doesn’t force any ideals on you for your name.
I’m talking about categorizing people.
Sadly, our flaws have hurt us in the form of using association as fact. We’ve turned life’s big illusion into a bunch of names that we can feed our ego with, and act like we understand more about the world than we truly do.
When you hear: “Atheist”, what comes into your mind? Sadly, it’s a person, not just a concept. You immediately picture what an Atheist looks and acts like. Children don’t. Children don’t know what an “Atheist” is. They don’t understand a lot about the world. That’s why children are afraid of such different things than we are. Things that seem completely irrational to us as older and more experienced people. A bad thing that’s alive is a Monster, and you don’t want eat things because they’re gross. To us, there are thousands of things that are bad and alive. There are a bunch of different meanings to ‘bad’ and ‘alive’. We don’t want to eat certain things for tons of other reasons than: “It’s yucky”. We ‘understand’ the world ‘better’.
The fact of the matter is, knowing a bunch of words doesn’t mean you understand things, and separately, it doesn’t mean you’re better off than others.
And that brings me to my point:
Just because it’s a label doesn’t mean you should tag everything with it.
Correlation is not causation. Just because you’ve met a lot of mean black people doesn’t mean black people are mean, right?
You’re damn right, it doesn’t.
So that means that not all Christians are stupid, and not all Atheists are assholes, and just because you disagree with them or associate their beliefs with something you disagree with, doesn’t make them wrong, or anything other than who they are, which you know nothing about.
People just LoooOOooOOOoooOOOOOOve to stack labels on labels, not point out flaws in people.
None of these tell you anything about anyone. However, they carry so much meaning and emotions, don’t they? Some of them make you angry. Some of them make you shake your head in agreement. Some of them make you shake your head in confusion, and some, in disapproval. Some of them shock you.
None of them mean anything.
That’s all you’re hearing. A bunch of meaningless words. Yet they define entire groups of people you’ve never met in your life?
Oh, and of course, there’s the other way around. Instead of associating a natural evil with a label, you correlate a label with a situational evil.
They’re Muslims? Terrorists!
They wear Fedoras? Beta-Males!
She said what? Slut!
There are homosexuals in it? Conspiracy/Agenda!
This is, literally, a logical fallacy. It’s not just a flawed statement, it’s a raw logical error. When your entire point is a fallacy statement, your argument and perspective is invalid.
This is the correlation implies causation fallacy. When X and Y have similar attributes to each other, and you assume X either causes or is the same things as Y.
The civilized people living in America are quite aware of racism. If there’s on thing that gets a guilty white guy anxious, it’s making a derogatory statement, or worse, joke about black people. Everything we consider racist towards black people is an immeasurably higher crime than towards other races.
Maybe if we all thought about derogatory general statements how the guilty whites of America feel about racism towards African-descendants, we’d remove a lot of ignorance from our speech?
I mean, we should. We just happen to be very recently and intensely guilty of that brand of racism. If we had spent 500 years killing ginger people, and then there was a huge movement that gave them rights, ginger or some equivalent word, there’s that power of words again, would be the worst word you could say in public.
The fact of the matter is, all matters of general statements about any group of people are equally ignorant unless there’s evidence to back up that you truly understand every existing person it applies to.
For example, I’d trust a doctor to tell me about “Cancerous People”, but only fully if they showed me their research. Just because they say “I’m a doctor” doesn’t mean they have authority about everything medically related. And if I didn’t understand their research? I’d ask them to explain it so that I could. If they couldn’t, I wouldn’t just throw away their perspective. I’d come up with my own, but base it off the perspective I had. If I couldn’t answer all my questions in a good, scientific way, then I’d just submit that I didn’t know or understand. Then, I would educate myself until I did. I wouldn’t just submit to trusting someone just because I didn’t understand.
Sure, I don’t do it all the time. No one really does. Even the most careful analyzers and well-to-do scientific method-appliers can’t push past the societal norm that is label-association.
That’s the big thing: It’s just normal. People do it so often, it gets into your brain, and then you end up doing it, too. It’s your fault, and it’s not. The only part you can fix is the your fault part, which means you can only be sure half the time. The other half is just a big ambiguous area that’s frustrating to apply good science to.
Those ancient humans? They needed to be able to recognize things. That was their greatest asset to their survival. They could see patterns, in the land, and in the stars. They could know where they were, when it was, and what to do, all because of recognization. And that’s good! It’s okay to name things. Some things not only are okay to name, but should be named. It’s a vital part of our human advancements.
It’s not a totally bad thing. It’s just very easily misused, because ego and ignorance make us want to. Instead of searching for the answers, it’s much easier to just use buzz-words and familiar concepts to manipulate people into thinking you know what you’re talking about.
Don’t let yourself fall into ego and ignorance. At least try.
I’ve thought this for years. All of this. But, honestly, I still feel like I don’t explain it well enough. I’ve tried all my life to figure out a way not just to communicate it, but that I felt totally good about. It’s always made me feel like I was being just as ignorant for believing it so much and not having a concrete way of arguing it.
Well, if you’ve heard of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, the new Cosmos series with Neil deGrasse Tyson, I stumbled on a little gem on Disc 3.
In the Extras menu was the Disc 3 special feature: the 2013 Comic Con Cosmos panel.
And within it, Neil deGrasse Tyson said in just a short few minutes what I’ve been trying to say all my life.
Thank you for reading, and I leave you with his quote:
“…See, if I went around always calling myself Doctor, that would mean that you would have to believe what I said because of my authority. But in fact, if what I say is fundamentally true, and you understand why it’s true, you never have to reference title again.
…I think I’ve been quite vocal on the matter of these rampant ‘ist’s that have been running around. The only ‘ist’ that I am is a Scientist. Any other ‘ist’ that exists out there I’ve found, are short-hand ways for people to believe they know everything about how you think before they actually have a conversation with you. So, if someone says you’re a human’ist’, or you’re an athe’ist’, well all of a sudden a whole package of thought and philosophy gets laid out on the table before you even start having a conversation. I don’t want anyone to ever presume in advance that they know what I’m going to say. I want you to have the conversation with me, and if that happens to fit some philosophy, okay, go ahead and attach it to it, but don’t then put all this extra baggage that didn’t come out of me with[on] my views. So, I strongly overlap with the missions statements of the humanist movement, but to say
“I am a humanist! And here’s the manifesto!”,
that closes off arguments rather than opens them.”
-Neil deGrasse Tyson
Hey, thanks again for reading this.
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