Of course, the nature of human affairs, of human sophistication, is suborning the “natural” to serve the “intended”. But why?
It struck me, in reading a pal’s megablog (it’s a blog! it’s branding! it’s a blog AND branding!), that it’s not so much we humans have a need to categorize and label the things around us but rather the need to categorize ourselves, each and together. And it’s that self-categorization that leads to categorizing other people and other things in the interest of establishing our own individual sense of place.
Astrology works that way, to my way of thinking. General clusters of traits that are abstract enough to appeal to a critical mass, and we each take care of living up to, down to, or generally towards that expectation set for us by “our stars”. I am an Aries. This is what Aries are/do/say/feel/think. I am destined to be/do/say/feel/think similiarly.
Fatalism as a cultural directive.
Anecdotally, I have seen great license taken in categorizing others as clever or stupid or sappy or cold or self-loathing or self-aggrandizing. Nothing wrong with that, per se, but it’s the implication of exclusivity that bugs me.
Not to mention the haughtiness of such an exclusion. How do we convince ourselves we’re not pompous assholes as we’re jabbing our push-pinned labels into the foreheads of others?
The “great license” I mention above comes from a sort of self-effacement that happens first: believing you are humble/realistic about yourself is the provenance of excusing yourself from being an asshole. “I’m a bonehead, so I feel ok in calling others a bonehead.”
Which is bullshit. There are so many other reasons to resort to self-flagellation. A strong sense of fairness is not high on that list, not usually.
So abnegation leads to prejudice, and categorization leads to prejudice. “I know that guy’s a homophobic fag. I can call him a fag because I call myself a fag. Only I can handle being called a fag and he can’t handle it. Therefore he’s self-loathing. Therefore I already know what kinds of movies, what kinds of songs, what kind of writings will set him off. I know how he lives his life exactly because it’s not like me.”
So people gravitate towards the guideposts, towards the labels, the categories, bending their own selves to fit the words. And some of them even perpetuate the categories, lighting a candle not to beat back the darkness, but to illuminate the labels.