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The Dangers of Labels

Sarah was a nondescript child. She liked ice-cream. She liked games with a lot of running and screaming, like hide-and-seek. She liked animals! Nature was something she felt very attracted to; whether it was a tree or the nest of a bird, the sounds and colours of Mother Nature allured her.

Sarah turns twenty. She is naïve, but she is full of life. Her friends know she has a predilection for all things natural. They’ve seen her around animals, they’ve seen her around plants. They’ve seen the way her face lights up when the topic of conversation veers towards the environment, global warming, or chlorofluorocarbons.

The apple of Sarah’s eye

So they tell Sarah about environmentalists.

Environmentalists! Here is a label Sarah feels was made for her! It’s perfect! They talk about nature all day long. They discuss pollution and all its issues. They talk about global warming and all the profit-making corporations that are contributing towards it. They try to stop these malpractices through strikes, campaigns and whatnot. They genuinely care about animals and plants and their wellbeing!

At the tender age of twenty, Sarah decides to become an environmentalist.

I solemnly swear that I shall be an environmentalist.

She starts planting trees around her college campus. She plants saplings, and her friends eagerly help her. They are so happy to see Sarah doing something so productive. They enjoy seeing her whistling as she is engrossed in placing and watering the seeds.

Soon enough, she begins organising Campus Cleanliness days. She walks around picking the trash up and encouraging others to do so as well. The college looks a lot cleaner now. Sarah moves on to protecting wildlife. She has done internships at WWF and EDF. She volunteers at wetlands where birds and fish have been severely harmed due to oil spills. She works at animal shelters. She never asks for payments. She has a job at a fast food restaurant to handle her expenses.

For the greater good.

Sarah starts attacking businesses that are known for their environmentally damaging practices. She sues company after company. She carries out strikes outside their premises. Sometimes, she has a huge crowd of followers, but mostly, only one or two of her friends choose to accompany her on these protests. Her other friends and family are beginning to worry about her – isn’t she taking this too seriously?

She stops listening to anyone who does not agree with her.
Did you really have to buy those shoes? You know they’re made of leather. You’re wearing a dead cow’s skin.
A burger? Why eat meat when you can eat vegetables? Don’t you care about the animal’s feelings?
I don’t care what you think. You’re wrong. You are absolutely wrong.
I hate those people. They’re awful, why can’t they just use cleaner technology in their production process.
I hate anybody who does not agree with me.

I stopped listening the moment you said ‘non-eco-friendly’.

She has closed her mind off to everything that is slightly environmentally degrading. She doesn’t care whether it is a choice between a dead white elephant or a dead African child. Protect the environment and everything else will take care of itself.

Sarah is haunted now. Wherever she looks, she sees a dead animal. Or a forest burned to bits. Or an ocean turned black with oil. She cannot think clearly anymore. She was fighting for a good cause, and she gave her whole life to it.

Why doesn’t she feel satisfied?

The problem with youth today is we are polarised in our opinions. We either strongly support something, or vehemently oppose it. Once we decide which side we are on, we don’t want to listen to what the other person has to say. We want to see a 9, we will see that 9. No matter how much you try to tell us it could be an 8 or an infinity sign, or even the letter B.

We will see that 9.

Realise how damaging this attitude is. Once you shut your mind off to anything (whether an ideology, a piece of information, or even a person in your circle of friends), you have placed a block inside your head. With something as powerful as a human mind, putting a block in there could be one of the most harmful things you do to yourself. You are closing yourself off to a whole range of ideas, concepts and mentalities that you could have learned so much from.

And you don’t even know what you’re missing out off.

All because you decided they are a hundred percent wrong.

And you, of course, are a hundred percent right.

This post first appeared on Writing Towards Change, please read the originial post: here

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The Dangers of Labels


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