I really don't like labels. Whether it's the dress designer kind, the personality typing kind, or sector labels in the bookstores.
I don't like the confinement labelling creates. The way labelling controls. Misleads. Creates illusion. Labels do more brainwashing that a host of cults. They create expectation. Take away free thinking, and dull vision. Labels make us lazy. They take us out of present time. Then we don't see what is in front of us any more.
Not only does a label create a framework and expectation, but the mind, so keen on boxes and categories, rushes in to fit reality into that box. Then, much like the novice painter who has to be taught to draw what is there, not what the mind constructs as vision, we begin to see though the eyes of the label. Thus we lose our own sense of seeing and of knowing.
A label should tell you what something is. It should inform, clarify, simplify. Now that's fine for oranges or lemons. Though these days we want to know origin, species, and whether it's organic and fair trade.
Somewhere in all of that though, we can lose sight of whether we have a good and proper, ripe and ready, orange. An orange that you want to eat for it's own sake. Because it's tasty. Because it's the best example of an orange any orange could be. Not because the label-mind says it's good.
How often does one see baskets of organic produce that expired a week ago? Does being organic make limp green beans, or wilted spinach edible? I don't think so.
And why should we eat anything other than ethical, well grown, unadulterated organic food in the first place? Fresh and tasty food. Food that's good to eat. No other label required.
Most sugar free, gluten free products are inedible. Does the fact that something's made with grain other than wheat, or sweetened with something other than sugar mean that no one gets to taste it before it's sold? Seems to be the case.
Here's a scenario that runs through my mind. Gregory and Matilda, your stereotypically over weight, pie eating, too fond of the liquor chefs are brewing up a batch of gluten free, sugar free, egg free cookies in a Dickensian style kitchen cellar. Their tall chef hats are slightly skew and their aprons far from crispy white. Steam rises from the ovens. The single barred window on the left, lets in a bleak grey light.
'Bloody hell Matilda', says Gregory, spitting something out onto the uneven stone floor, 'I don't know who the hell eats such shite. Have you tasted it?'
Matilda laughs a throaty smoker's laugh and wipes her hands on her apron. Then she resumes stirring a huge bowl with a wooden spoon.
'Yah! Unbelievable! If you want to taste something truly awful taste these cookies. Yuk! I better add more of this Xylitol to it. Revolting stuff! Can't believe anyone would want to eat this.'
I swear, every time I spend another small fortune on a pack of biscuits only to throw it away, I do get this picture.
Please dear chefs-of-the-free, taste the gluten/sugar/egg/whatever-free food and ensure it's tasty and edible. And add much, much less Xylitol – it's way sweeter than sugar. And if Gregory and Matilda get to actually read this – then my job here is done!
When it comes to sugar free, I admit, labelling is good. Because if you are one of the (Good grief! I just looked this up!!!) 415 million diabetics in the world (1 in 11 people), you do need to know that pretty much everything has sugar in it. Probably why there are so many diabetics in the first place.
From tinned tomatoes, to coconut cream to ready made casseroles, to meat in a variety of basting sauces, to pretty much every sauce and condiment, bar Tabasco. Yes. Here, we need labels. Though we could just stop adding sugar and additives to everything and then that need falls away too, except for sweet food. And the number of diabetics, set to rise to 642 million by 2040 may drop.
Wait a minute here. I have to diverge. These are staggering numbers. Why on earth, when nearly 10% of the population are diabetic, is sugar added to absolutely, simply everything. Trust me. Take a look. Why, if that is the case, is sugar free anything not only so diabolically tasting, but also so expensive and hard to come by? Reminds me of fashion.
Can you imagine fashion without labels? Fashion that you have to assess for yourself. No branding. No cute signs or symbols telling you yes, this is what you need to buy. This is what you must buy. Because no one wears trainers without logos. Imagine if you had to assess clothes and shoes purely on taste, and how well made they are. How well they fit you. What would happen to clothing prices without brand labels?
Now most fashion is worn solely because it has a label or brand name – regardless of how well it's made, or how ethical the goings on behind the scenes. The power of label is such that an entire generation, probably two, of people, have been convinced that famous brand sports clothes are normal day to day and even evening attire.
Sweatpants are a sign of defeat.
You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.
Trainers, leggings, t-shirts, hoodies, tracksuits – that's what most of the people wear, most of the time. Branded sports wear that they have been made to believe they need to buy in order to appear cool, wealthy and happening.
I love dresses and am not a fan of sports clothes unless I'm in the gym. Which I'm not a fan of either. So I'm covered...
I object in principle to being used as a billboard and having to pay extra for the privilege.
Much like advertising space in magazines or actual billboards, if one is to use one's body to advertise for a company or brand, or ruin a perfectly good outfit by having writing all over it, then methinks one should be paid for the trouble.
Fashionistas will tell you that the whole point of a designer label, is to ensure you are getting the best design and creation possible. Like a dog or cat pedigree.
But that is not always guaranteed. I am a lover of all things cat, in particular the Siamese. And while I have had many a highly pedigreed cat (and dog), Merlin.. the runt of the litter, was the most awesome and spectacular of Siamese cats by far.
My bête noire on the labelling front though is bookstores! Yebo yes, this is my Big Whinge Blog. Someone, somewhere, sometime, (in a book store) decided to create a cross between a library and a search engine – without actually accomplishing either.
Each time I visit a bookstore, a new category has crept into the labelling mix. In the business section we now have 'HR, Inspirational, Marketing, Training, Business strategy, Entrepreneurial, Business Systems' - and a few others besides. Do the shelves packers have such intimate knowledge of all the books that they can accurately dissect them so minutely?
The latest sector to make my hair stand on end is 'Cars, and things that move'. There you will find poor Clarkson – in case you were looking. These categories seem designed to disperse and confuse the poor reader. And to frustrate the dickens (keeping it clean...) out of authors who have to keep wondering where on earth their books may land up.
Over categorisation is a key factor in the declining sales in book stores I believe. It has nothing to do with Amazon or e-books. It's simply a matter of dispersement. People cannot find the books – there are so many of them spread out amongst so many categories its downright confusing.
Reduce the labels! Have less categories. Less books. More focus. Make more profit. This applies to other industries too.
Take the wellness industry. Way too many things. Impossible to find or pick anything. And when you stock just one of this and one of that – whether it's a book or a new vitamin, you are not doing the author or manufacturer any favours.
Back fewer things and buy more of them. Commit to supporting someone or something. But check that the products work. Let's have less, but more meaningful labels.
Because the wilted organic food scenario plays out in the wellness industry too.
Yes! We want a dishwashing liquid that is non toxic. That has no petrochemicals, dyes, artificial fragrances, preservatives, phosphates, chlorine, bleaches, animal or GM ingredients. That is not tested on animals. But can it please clean the dishes too?
Instead of nine brands of ecological cleaner on the shelf, just stock the two that actually work. Which goes back to proper labelling. If a cleaner has all manner of virtues but cannot clean – it's not a cleaner.
Perhaps we consider the idea that all cleaning products should comply with non toxic parameters. Why should we be using anything toxic on ourselves or in our homes or on the planet? Eliminate the toxic and eliminate the need for 'special' labelling.
Labelling has crept into the human arena too. Once long ago in the days of the ancients there were men and women (and hermaphrodites) and the bedding combinations thereof were varied and many. Without much additional labelling required. Later, we labeled people straight and gay.
Now, we have a long list of letters ensuring we don't omit any section or subsection of the gay population, and which covers transgender, differentiates between gay and lesbian and even covers those who are not yet gender specific. In fact this drive is so insidious, that in certain schools children need to be addressed in such as way that no gender is implied!
Now we are told that this is to ensure no one is left unrepresented. I understand the need to be seen, and the need for understanding others different from ourselves. Does labelling help us to be more tolerant though? Or does it create more division? And sometimes confusion.
There was a time when a girl could kiss a girl and carry on with her life the morning after. Boys could do that with boys too. They did not (all) have to consider whether they should re-assign their gender. Or call themselves 'they' until they'd figured it out. Nowadays, children are faced with these options. Does it make their lives easier, I wonder?
Much like the bookstore which through dividing and sub-diving creates the effect of dispersing books, making them more difficult to find - does labelling people so minutely not create the same effect? Should we not rather be getting away from labels instead of creating new ones?
Should we not ban labelling as divisive, judgemental and irrelevant? Certainly in the case of people. Let us decide to call all people humans. Period.
Labelling can be particularly damaging for children and teenagers. Today, if you are a little bit too tidy, or have a bit too much Virgo in your chart, you automatically fall in the OCD category – even if you are labeled 'slightly OCD'.
Have a bit too much zest for life or be a little overactive and you are labelled 'hyperactive'. Become a little too bored in the classroom (and who wasn't?) and you are labelled attention deficit and drugged.
Let's drop the labels.
Let us ignore race and religion on forms. Why are we still filling that in? And if we are being so gender equal then let's omit gender on forms too. That should be fun and have the added bonus of ensuring that people of either sex are paid equally.
In fact a supremely good idea, that should become mandatory - for job applications, book submissions to publishers and agents, art submissions to galleries, and especially entries into competitions of any kind – would be to delete the name, sex, age, race, religion and personal details of the applicant all together. And the photo. Replace it all with a number. Then, we can perhaps begin to talk about equality and lack of bias.
Let's drop the labels! Let's create conditions that require no need for labels. Humane treatment of animals, non-toxic products, naturally grown fruit and vegetables, kindness for all beings of all kinds.
Perhaps if we drop enough labels we can drop all the labels for God too. Now there's a thought.