Monday, October 25, 2010

I Am a Seeker of Truth (Don't Label Me)

Would you dare label Derrida? Nor should you label me. Would you categorize Kant? Would you look at Sarte and objectify him? Nor should you do these things unto me.

On several occasions I have told my kids that my favorite clothing style is “invisible.” That is, whatever clothing draws the least attention to myself is what I like to wear. All this is not to say that I do not enjoy fashion. In fact, I can offer some good evidence of my love for fashion--I have watched all the seasons (eight so far) of Project Runway with my family. I would love to be more fashionable in my life but I am usually too preoccupied with other thoughts and as a result my desire for fashion is suppressed by my greater love of philosophy. I tell my kids that I do not want tattoos for the same reason; I don't want to be branded. I don’t want to be noticed (unless I want to be noticed). I do not want to be categorized. I don’t want to be looked at and objectified. And I do not want to be labeled.

I dislike “labeling” questions: Are you a Christian? Mormon? Republican? American? From California?

I dislike these questions because by answering a simple yes or no, then the questioner will make many assumptions about me that are not necessarily true. For instance, if someone were to ask me if I am a Mormon and I say yes, then that person would probably assume that I do not believe in evolution and that I take the stories in the scriptures as mostly literally true, among many other things. All this would be false.

If someone were to ask me if I am pro-union or anti-union, then of course I again would be immediately labeled in that person’s mind even though in my mind there are circumstances under which I would be pro-union and other circumstances under which I would be anti-union or ambivalent about unions. For instance, If I were living 100 years ago in a small town with one employer, say, a copper mine, then I would likely be more pro union than when there is a more perfect labor market. Sometimes unions themselves can be the abusers. So I am neither for nor against unions at all times but I am either for or against unions under different circumstances.

If when I am lecturing I perceive that my audience is to the right of the truth, I might try to move them to the left, closer to the truth and I would do just the opposite with a liberal audience.

I teach my students that it does not really matter if a person starts out as a Democrat or a Republican, male or female, or any particular ethnicity or religion. What matters most is that they should try to be objective seekers of the truth and the truth is above petty sub-groupings. What matters most, is not the opinions you have when you start thinking in life but that you steadily improve your opinions all throughout your life.

I am a registered Republican; I was born that way. I am also a male (also born that way). But just because I am a male republican does not mean that I am beholden to the Republican Party and chauvinistic. So even though one may label me as a WASP (white Anglo Saxon protestant) or a Mormon, or a white male, or whatever, does not mean that I am any of these things. These are all just labels that ignorant people may ascribe to me. When I was a child these labels were probably more accurate but now that I have grown up intellectually, there is no stereotype that accurately defines me.

So who am I? What am I? How should I be labeled?

I am a seeker of Truth (Period). Everything else about me is a footnote.

The truth is at the center and I am always willing to move towards it in any direction I need to get there.



The only labels I really like have to do with relationships: wife, mother, sister, Child of God. Other than that labels are much too simplistic - too black and white. I remember an article that came out many years ago with label names for the different type of "Mormons". While I have to admit, I laughed-- (especially at the "Nazi Mormons"), it was also sort of sad as I couldn't quite see which category I fit into. Was I a "Mormon misfit"? I doubt it, as I am quite certain that someone else would have been able to easily categorize me. We are all too complex to categorize - even in those things that would best describe me - I am inconsistent. Well that it then. Here is my category. IMPERFECT....

Todd Hansink said...