THE ART OF LIMITATION: LABELING
Tracey Lin Miller
December 15, 2012
One of the most succinct methods of enforcing limitations is to label. Once a label has been applied we’ve accepted that nothing else can happen here except that which is defined by the label.
This falls in line with a concept I have held for many years regarding the naming of children, which by research and observation, I have come to understand that children become their names. In a negative way, abusive name calling is also a form a labeling by which we limit the process of redefinition of the self image of individuals. Granted, there are exceptions to the rule in that some with self directed perceptions actually become the opposite of the name given their drive to be more then the imposed label initially implied. An example of this might be Einstein, who did poorly in school, as defined by his grades, but became one of the greatest minds of history. More often then not, he is one of the small percentages of the exceptions.
In my opinion, the same holds true when we accept the limiting labels of medical and psychological diagnosis, dependent upon our understanding of what these diagnosis mean and the strength of our self determination. Cancer is one of the most feared diseases and when some are diagnosed with any form of cancer, they sometimes immediately accept the fact that they will die from the cancer regardless of what treatments they receive. This leads me to believe that the only true weapon against labeling is hope as spurred on by faith.
When I use the word faith, it is not in a religious connotation, but in one of absolute confidence. When we have a belief system inspired by this absolute confidence, hope for change is born and we start the healing process in our minds long before it is realized in our bodies. Hope is the place where miracles happen.
When we are labeled by family, friends, professionals and any others who deem us to be which ever label they apply, we become entrenched in the understanding that we are that label and all it implies and lose hope of surmounting those limitations. As a matter of fact, we begin to utilize those limitations as a means of an explanation of why we think, speak and act as we do. When criticized about the behavior we often exclaim: “I can’t help it I’m (whatever label applies)!” or apologetically, “I’m sorry, I’m (whatever label applies) and can’t help myself.” Even those who don’t believe themselves to be a particular given label use it as an excuse to avoid undesirable consequences.
As an example; when I was a child I suffered through a bout of strep throat and developed a heart murmur. As a result, I was not allowed to do strenuous exercise, such as sports and gym in school. As I entered adolescence and high school, where gym and a sport of some sort was mandatory, I always called upon my heart murmur to get the excuse I needed to be exempt from these classes. My personal reason was that I do not like competitive sports. Yet, away from school, I ran (my favorite thing to do), road bikes, roller skated and even tried out for the baseball team at the neighborhood playground (a resounding failure due to visual problems.) Once I entered early adulthood, I came to a resounding realization: Labels are an excuse to do what I want to do! Labels that please are an excuse to stay in our comfort zones just as much as labels that displease us do. Therefore, in my opinion, labels not only stifle hope, they stifle creativity as well.
How many of us have had our educational and career directions delivered to us by the opinions of others? It matters not that they were parents or someone trained to direct us such as a career counselor, human resource director or guidance counselor. It may have been done by some form of evaluation based on an aptitude test or a parent trying to live their dreams through their children. Regardless of the form it took, most of us were told what we would do in life for work and other choices that should have been our individual decisions. In essence, without understanding the slippery slope we were taking by these types of actions, we have slowly, over generations, limited the direction of not only the individuals, but of our communities and country as well. A great disservice has been done to the world by our limit imposing labeling.
Not long ago in the State of Louisiana, one of its governors donated $200,000.00 to one of the group homes which warehouses foster children to implement a trade program. With his donation he labeled the entire Louisianafoster child population, past, present and future, as not being college material and limited foster children to blue collar trades because it is the only vision he had for them. I wonder how many Einsteins were stifled in that moment. I fail to understand such a limited mindset, but I can appreciate the political agenda. After all, if everyone is an Einstein, who’s going to clean the toilets?
With the growth of the privatized prison and fostering system, there must be a constant influx of more and more prisoners and foster children to provide the laborers to be utilized for only the cost of room and board. The only way to accomplish this is to continue to use labeling to determine the future mindsets which will breed more dysfunctional and criminal individuals to be placed within this system. The big loophole is that the Bill of Rights of theUnited Statesprovides that imprisoned individuals can be returned to slavery and become the property of these systems to utilize the inmates as they see fit.
Bill of Rights of theUnited States of America
Abolition of slavery
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce these articles by appropriate legislation.
The privatized prison systems are grandfathered in as agents acting for theUnited Statesgovernment allowing them to continue this slavery as sanctioned by the constitution.
The reason behind trying juveniles in courts of law as adults falls into the same category. This system of action, slavery of inmates, was evident in the juvenile system, and protested by outraged parents and conscientious citizens in the State of Illinoiswhen minors were transported across state lines to work in factories in Texas. Several other states tried this practice as well, but were brought up on charges and lost the ability to do so in the judicial system. When one takes note of the fact that the predominant prison and foster care population has historically been minorities, it leads one to consider that racism and slavery are alive and well the land of the free.
As you might surmise, labeling is part of the agenda for generating a certain percentage of bodies to fill the slots in both social help and penal organizations. Organizations, I might add, which drain our society of needed resources both tangible and intangible by implementing labels and means to limit what otherwise might become creative, productive members of society.
There are definitive cause and effect associations between labeling and the behavior generated by the labeling both on the individual and the response of others to them. Not only is the labeled individual trapped within a specific mindset about him/herself, externally, others accept the limitations and react with the individual based upon those perceived limitations. A perfect example of this is police profiling of minorities or conversely, the negative response to law enforcement officers and the judicial system as a whole. Labeling sets up a predetermined expectation regarding the mental, physical and/or behavioral patterns of the labeled individual or organization. This expectation allows for a specific type of response based upon the understanding of definition of a particular label.
In a classroom setting, if a child is deemed smart his teachers will respond to him in a positive and supportive manner. If a child is labeled as having an Individual Educational Program (IEP), then the child might be placed regarded as a problem by her educators. This also holds true within the family structure.
In a similar way, misunderstanding of the definitions of labels and their characteristics can prove to be a catalyst for adapting negative characteristics in some individuals. An example of this might be those who feel helpless and not a part of their society or culture who adapt behaviors that are fearful to others in order to acquire respect and generate fear in others as a symbol of their strength and forming gangs, clubs or organizations as a pseudo society to have a feeling of belonging. They may adapt predatory behavior as a way to show their strength, never realizing that these adaptations are merely showing their inability to adapt to a sociably acceptable way of living and a lack of understanding that the more flexible and adaptable a person is, the greater their chance of survival in any environment. Rather then allowing for the development of positive characteristics that might aid in their manifesting true strength, they shroud themselves in rigid labels that do not allow for the growth and development which might lead to their acceptance by society and fulfilling a higher purpose. In this way they not only limit their personal development, but often, their lives.
The process of labeling sets up a playing field for division and unhealthy competitiveness. It creates an; I’m okay but you’re not scenario implied in every interaction and gives cause for distrust and devaluation of others innate value. It lends credibility to the assumption that everything different is bad, wrong or inappropriate and should be stifled, changed or done away with. This in turn leads to damaged psyches and societies.
In our ever changing world, we must move toward less damaging behaviors toward each other, allowing each and every individual to maximize their full potential without the hindrance of labels that imply that they are somehow different then others of the same species. We must reclaim the potential to become a whole, healthy and harmonious society, with respect, love, compassion and support for each and every one of us. Now those are four labels I can live with.