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Scratch that Label

Chomsky apparently is a 'Contrarian'. Amartya Sen is 'anti growth'. 
Labels come easy, comprehension not so.
Chomsky is 84 and Amartya Sen is 79 - Both have spent major part of their lives in bringing to light facts and ideas that the mainstream and the powerful want to dust under the carpet. They are not attention seekers and side show freaks. They are heroes, the few brave ones who are fighting for well being of people through justice and truth. 
and these heroes get branded as 'Contrarian' and 'anti growth'. The question to be asked is - by whom? Often these are people who don't read enough or don't read what should be read. They do not (or don't want to) comprehend the effect of ideas.(who benefits? how so? at what cost?). The ones whose source of perspective is Arnab Goswami and such other sensationalist prime time TV trash. For them, ideas are like fashionable clothes or a recent movie - useful as social conversations and nothing beyond that. They are the ones without questions and with outrage.
But the labels aren't created by these viewers and consumers of prime time TV. The labels are the creation of propaganda teams of the powerful. 
But why create labels?
A label is curiously potent. It is a pithy uni-dimensional vector that is directed away from comprehension and towards self-serving conclusions. The conclusions come before the analysis and that is the whole point - To short circuit the process of logic and fact finding. The interest comes first, then the necessary conclusion and then the strategy is formulated to seed ideas that obfuscate and serve an interest. 
Its like in advertising - For example, a fast food brand might want to sell their burgers to young children. The fact is - processed junk food is bad for health in the context of current consumptive patterns. However, no one wants to be burdened with worries and considerations. Consumers want simplicity. Marketers know that. and hence, the brand would supersede the health conversation with the vague but intrinsically more appealing idea of happiness. Hence 'open happiness' and 'i am loving it' and so on. That way the real question is completely subverted. The source of the best advertising is typically the most basic insights into human insecurities and desires - not necessarily in the sharp product truth. Though if those two can be married, then nothing better than that.

With ideas that affect life beyond consumption, similar strategies are used by propagandists: GM foods are apparently 'inevitable' and 'beneficial'. (ya right.) Activists who try to bring sanity to the table, sanity that might be harmful to the interest of the multi-billion dollar marketing of corporates are sidelined with use of sharp labels - labels that serve the function of disarming the activist. Check out this video interview of Vandana Shiva. 

See how the interviewer tries to belittle Vandana's work by reducing her to a label - 'tree hugger'. With those two words, the anchor tries to portray Vandana as a fringe lunatic. The tone and manner of the anchor is that of a grown up woman astounded by her daughter's naivete. Whereas, the conversation shows how well grounded Vandana's argument is while the anchor keeps on talking of one thing - yield. Even when the anchor fails, the label allows for the predisposed among the audience to disregard Vandana's arguments as fringe nonsense.

That is the power of Label. It enables status-quo. 
It is a powerful force that destroys the many facets of an identity and reduces people & ideas to simplistic and impotent curiosities. 
In the world of images, self-branding is aspirational. Absence of a short hand to describe oneself is seen as an handicap. The inability to see oneself as embodiment of a single idea is cause for the 'quarter life crisis' (BTW, QLC is bullshit. its just the cocktail of frenziedness and image crisis, that is independent of age and a function of our mediated minds. pull off the plug.)
"I am a painter." "I am a Hindu." "I am a communist"
Is that all that you are? Must you be a monolithic abstraction?

So fight labeling. So that sanity prevails. So that you many not fall prey to ridiculous identity crisis. So that we may choose wisely. 

How to fight labelling? 
Embrace complexity.  we live in a complex, intertwined world. so its obvious that there would be forces and effects unseen & far off. When possible and certainly for things important to you, embrace the consciousness of the complexity of your choices. Be suspicious of overly simplified explanation of acts, decisions, events.
I guess asking questions, being curious is the key. Using logic and common sense instead of accepting what is being said is important. Even more important i guess is to know which questions to raise. Often many times, idle questioning is a tool to obfuscate rather than bring clarity. So ask questions that lead to clarity of thought, not to entertain thoughts or to posture. 
Curiosity led questions as against argumentative questions
Questions for clarity as against questions that confuse. 
Questions that go deeper as against questions that spread wider. 

(I am embarrassed right now, writing such obvious things.. as if this is a self - help blog. (god forbid!))

anyways.. any ideas that you care to share?


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