Monday Musings - The tyranny of labels
Weekends for the cubicle wallahs is a time when he rediscovers the magic of hibernation, a phenomena that is reserved for lower animals like frogs and toads. So lying in front of the television and watching a movie with the barest part of human brain engaged can be construed as a human equivalent of hibernation. It is a case of partial mental shutdown. Some also believe that complete shutdown happens during the weekdays. Partial mental shutdown can have disastrous consequences while engaging with the spouse. Try watching a movie while she is talking to you (or is it try talking to her while watching a movie?) and you will know what I mean.
It is during such a case of partial shutdown that I watched the Tom Hanks starrer “Terminal’ again. It’s the story of a person without a nationality stuck at the terminal of an airport. It talks about the travails of a person robbed of the label of ‘nationality’.Now usually we take our nationality for granted because - it is bequeathed because of accident of birth, or ‘economics (viz migrants, job seekers) or threat (refugees, asylum seekers). The only one I know of who made a ‘philosophical choice’ around the subject of nationality was Nirad c Choudhry who I gather made a choice of dumping his Indian nationality and chose the British way of life. This however is not about nationality – its about labels.
Imagine not having the label of nationality or religion or caste or language for that matter. (not the drawing room version of it where you know that you can underplay it but still enjoy its priviledges but that scenario where you actually do not have it at all). Closer home imagine not having a label of designation, functions, roles and perks that come along with it. (again not the drawing room version of it where you keep enjoying its spoils while criticizing it but a scenario when you do not have the perks of such labels including a cubicle, cabin, reserved parking et al)
It will not be sacrilege to say that we thrive on labels. We understand the world through labels but more importantly we derive the sense of worth through labels – at least most of us do. The lure of brands, the joy of owning a type of gadgets, the perils of driving the most happening car, the thrill of going out for the in-thing-dining experience, the off the shelf holidaying package that everyone else is going are all part of that thing called labels. To begin with the labels determine our sense of self worth but soon it ends up determining our sense of self – that amorphous thing called identity. Rob the person from those labels and you have robbed him of his self image and soon his identity. The academic point becomes poignant when we look around evidences of misery that many go through when a few of those labels are taken away from him. Some of that ends up in catastrophe. Labels are no longer benign. They have turned malignant.
So here are the three questions I have for my reflection –
What t are the labels that have become so important for me that I cannot imagine to live without them?
2. What will happen/How will I deal if they are no longer available to me?
3. Do I wish to liberate myself from them – NOW
What are your labels?