Name-calling, it’s something all us of do everyday, often without thinking. It’s our brain trying to be a neat freak and organise the entire world, much like a parent with a teenager’s room; but also like a parent with a teenager’s room, it tends to mix things up, put things away in the wrong place and even chuck away things it doesn’t think belong. That is our brain, it’s important to recognise this so we can challenge it when it makes mistakes.
I don’t have a problem with name-calling in off itself, I find some of the most controversial names and labels funny. I don’t get offended when a friend of mine calls me a faggot because I’m able to separate the negative connotations surrounding the word from who I am and what my friend meant in context. It’s an ability I’m proud to have, it’s also one that a lot seem to be lacking.
The issue today is that too many people, (and though I detest stereotyping I’ll use it in this case because it’s true,) young people especially, the majority of them millennials, are unable to separate the usage of a word from its historical baggage.
There are several big words that people have been using lately, and too many people not challenging the accuracy of these words due to their historical baggage.
These are the big words or phrases:
- White supremacist.
These words are problematic, not because they’re being used, but because when they are used they seem to act like a switch that turns off critical thinking in some people.
For instance, anyone who’s taken an elementary history class knows that Nazis are bad because they killed a lot of people. So let’s say if someone invented a time machine would you go back in time to listen to Nazis and hear their side? Most people would probably say no, because Nazis are evil and don’t deserve to be listened to, it’s a fairly reasonable response.
So what happens when you call someone in the present day a Nazi? Well if your critical thinking skills are lacking, you may go through this thought process. Nazis are bad and don’t deserve to be listened to, this person is being called a Nazi, I see no reason why the person calling them a Nazi could be lying or mistaken, therefore they are a Nazi, and since Nazis shouldn’t be listened to… I won’t listen to them.
It’s generally as simple as that. I won’t go through the other words because the thought process is essentially the same for all of them you just need to replace the word or phrase in question.
So you may be wondering what’s the solution? Well there is one and it’s quite simple though it will take time and effort.
Firstly, and this is for everyone, whenever someone is called something, whether it be by the media, a family member, a professor, a stranger or a friend, do your own research.
Look at what that person writes, listen to what they say, and watch what they do. Compare it to dictionaries and history books, compare them to others labelled the same both now and throughout history and then once you’ve gathered all the data you can find you can make up your own mind. It’s hard, the human brain likes to just agree with things because it’s easier to do and it puts things in neat little boxes and categories, but you’ve got to try to stop it, stop yourself from being yes people.
Secondly, this is for someone who has already fallen into the trap. The only solution I can find that works, and not all the time, is breaking down their argument, go backwards along their train of thought and derail it. Ask them questions about each reason, ask them questions about their answers; if they don’t have a firm argument their answers will increasingly go further and further from the point, becoming more ludicrous as they do, it’s at this point when you take their silly anwsers and juxtapose them on top of their main argument. If this is kept up then sometimes they might realise that they didn’t have an argument to start with, and like jump starting a car, they may begin to think critically again or for the first time.