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Life on Mobius

"Ants on the Mobius Strip". MC Escher 1961.

We are in quite a pickle. It seems like every issue in our society is presented to us as “50% for, 50% against”. Is that true? I have doubts. Is that really what the facts say? Can’t be true on EVERYTHING, can it? Many in our country, however, work hard to make every item an opportunity to divide us. This is where labels come in. If I can label you, I can then make assumptions about you that have nothing to do with you, the individual. That means I can assume things about you, judge you, resent you, and try to punish you because the label I have assigned has prerequisites (racist, anti-LGBTQ, neanderthal, or anti-patriotic baby killer, etc.).

Our culture, and our society, has been purposely conditioned to think of our lives as either one side or the other. The blue side of the paper or the red side. So, if I believe that gun control is important, I must believe that abortion is ok, and we should defund the police. Or, if I think abortion is wrong, I must hate women, and they should die, and I love guns. I don’t know about you, but I get tired of being thrown around in a straw man argument and then torn apart piece by piece. It’s all backwards, and let me tell you why.

But first, who am I? I am a white, conservative business owner. Common media labels: go! Racist. Homophobic. Hates women. Probably a hypocrite. Doesn’t care about employees. Hates science. Let’s face it – probably a rich asshole as well. That sounds about right as a strawman. I’m not writing this as a defense of me. My point is way bigger than me. I am meaningless, and unimportant. I am a work in progress. How about you? Probably, if we’re all honest. I have been called all of those things. Fascist, neanderthal, but mostly some version of “asshole” by label-givers.

I am also a Christian. Ok, so you can add a few more things to the assumptions: self-righteous, condemning, unforgiving. That’s not how I see my faith, but it adds to the strawman. I seek to improve daily in many ways. Again, not a defense of me, Christianity, history, or anything else – just that, well, I am me, not a representative of a strawman.

I also have seen strawmen go the other way. I’ll make this up – again, not as my feelings personally, but as an example of what I have seen with labels. An “up and coming” advertising creative director. Labels: go! Ignorantly arrogant. Sheeple. Can’t think for herself or himself. Urban classist who wants “smelly Walmart shoppers” to shut up and do as they are told. Ignores complex facts. Yup, that’s a decent summation.

Except of course, this is building a stereotype so then one can be judged without any REAL information about a person. The media would have us think that everyone is a label, and that one label is good, and one is bad.

Enter, the Mobius Strip. Here it is. A one-sided object (poorly articulated by an author who has no technical creativity). As one walks along the Mobius Strip, one finds that there is a continuous plane. It can appear to have two sides, when we are standing on it. And you can’t see the other side. No. While at any given point we could be on opposite positions on the strip, if we move, explore, learn, share, examine, we find 300 million places on a Mobius Strip. We may care deeply about similar things, but maybe not on others.

We can sit together in a world of complicated issues and appreciate the myriad of different points of view. We can study what works and doesn’t work, together. I think it’s wonderfully ok if you disagree with me. If you’d like to talk about it, ok. I can learn from you, from your point of view, because none of us has a universal perspective. There are things I am expert at, where my depth of learning and study can help, as well. Without labels.

Labeling someone as a “thing”, in the past, would only be based on a review of that person’s actions, public statements, lifestyles, and alliances. It would come AFTER understanding the person. “He’s a good man.” “She’s a gentle mother.” It is a rather new phenomenon, I believe, that the label, and thus the dehumanization, comes first. I laugh at anyone who works hard to label me without spending any time getting to know me.

I am sure this sounds a bit idealistic, and perhaps old-school, but it is how I am choosing to live my life. For me, it opens up opportunities to learn, be more informed, and to be a well-rounded individual. It also requires me to drop all pretense of ego, and take the time necessary to understand other people. While this can be exhausting, it’s a lot better than relying on someone else’s label to shortcut respect or debate.

Of course, there are people who benefit from using labels. Anyone threatened by what the “other side” is saying, will try to label, strawman, and dehumanize, so that the thoughts of the labeled are eliminated from discourse. That way, there is no marketplace of ideas, or competing theories of solutions. These people, when they do this, are not looking out for anyone’s interest but their own. And I resent the hell out of them. They have a large influence, and it is meant to make it hard to connect and understand others.

So, I hope to meet you on the Mobius Strip. May we greet each other respectfully, allow for discussion, disagreement, learning, and engagement. Just please don’t push me off the side of the strip.


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