Monday, September 29, 2008

I.D. Required

One of the common themes touted amongst postmodern/emergent types is the despisement of metanarratives (i.e., a worldview, an overarching structure of concepts that inform your view of the world). A direct result of this despisement is the outcry, "Don't label me!" What people mean when they say that is that they do not want others fitting them within the confines of some sort of metanarritive-esque definable category. To be placed in such a definable category is considered an enslavement to that definition and category; to be "labelled" is to be imprisoned within a metanarrative. For postmodern/emergents, it is an atrocity to be labelled, and a cardinal sin to label others.
This despisement of "labels" is ludicrous, however, because it is fundamentally flawed in its views of what a "label" is. The fundamental assumption wherein postmodern/emergent types are in error is the assumption that a "label" is an arbitrary assignment from outside your person, i.e., it is another person making you into the label, or requiring that you be the label. Common sense requires that such an assumption is ludicrous. When I "label" a painting Cubist or a philosophy Nihilistic, I am not making those things anything; I am merely responding to what I actually see. I may be well-informed yet still wrong in my response, but it is still a response, i.e., a passive and not active action. When I (or anyone else) "labels" anything or anyone, that is not an act of creation, but an act of identification; I am attempting (like any rational human being) to understand what I am engaging. This should be embarrassingly obvious: I do not make a person a Christian/Republic/Liberal/Atheist/Realist/Apathetic/etc. by calling them that any more than me calling them a "dog"will give them a furry tail and wet nose.
This erroneous assumption that flaws postmodern/emergent despisement of "labels" is the result of a misunderstanding about beliefs. It is not people that make you this or that; it is your beliefs that make you this or that. Like it or not, your beliefs make you something. Even if you believed that there are no beliefs (a true contradiciton), that still makes you something; and that something is a real something. Even if there is not a label discovered are stated yet that properly defines the real thing that you are, that real thing is still there; and when people engage it, when they engage you, they will seek to understand (and therefore "label") you. "Labels" are not arbitrary assignments, but response to and expressions of what is really there, a response to and expression of you. "Labels" are not tyrants; they are revelations. Without them, you could never begin to identify who you are, and concretely identifying who you are (in any way) is vital to your humanity.
I am a Christian Protestant Baptist, Federalist Republic Conservative, Logocentric Trinitarian, Fantasy Realist, already-but-not-yet, resurrected-fallen lover of pie. These are not arbitrary assignments given to me by others. I was not made into these by the tyranny of metanarratives; I assigned them to myself after I discovered (through much prayer and critical thinking) that I really am those things. They are my "labels," and I dare not part with them! They help me state concretely and definitely (if not still incompletely) who I am, and such knowledge serves as a reference point to help me navigate myself through the world.
"Labels" are a matter of identity, not slavery. The only true slavery is confusion and doubt; the only true freedom is stability and certainty. Knowledge--concrete, certain, actual knowledge--is indeed power. If you do not "know," then you are helpless, lost in a fog. Should not that be obvious, though? Practical experience reveals that a man is at his most helpless when he has "no idea" of what to do, where to go, or what is going on. It is only when he knows some things that he has the power to act.
That is not nonsense; it is a bare truth about existence. All doing is dependent upon being. Who you are defines what you will do; action requires an I.D. If you do not know who you are, then what can you do? In truth, nothing. You cannot vote (for you do not know what issues you stand for), you cannot learn (for you do not know what type of learner you are, or what things you want to learn), you cannot dream (for you do not know what you desire), you cannot love (for you do not know what kind of love you seek), you cannot laugh (for you do not know what you find funny), you cannot cry (for you do not know what hurts you), you cannot worship (for you do not know what beauty is), you cannot fight (for you do not know what is worth fighting for), you cannot help (for you do not know what is wrong), you cannot hurt (for you do not know what is wrong with you), you cannot create (for you do not know what your tools are, or what is worth creating), you cannot destroy (for, again, you do not know what your tools are, or what is worth destroying), you cannot stand (for you do not know what you should stand for), you cannot sit out (for you do not know what you should ignore), etc., etc. In every case, you are in the ninth circle of Hell, frozen solid, truly a slave and in prison.
If, however, you know who you are; if you have found your "labels," then you have the power to do. You can vote and everything else because you know (in some way) who you are dealing with when you deal with yourself. Identification is not a slavery, nor is it arbitrary assignments. Definable categories are not your enemy; they are navigation points by which you can navigate yourself through yourself. If you are (in any way) certain of your self, then you have found a true freedom.