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OP/ED: Keep it Simple, Stupid!

Protesters picket the controversial 'Might Men' conference. Photo by Terran Ambrosone

I love my Grandma. I think I learned more from her than I ever did from any school. From her, I learned about a very practical and common sense approach to the challenges in life. I honour her spirit by trying to impart her knowledge to the next generation, as well, practice her pearls of wisdom in my own life. Of all the things my Grandma ever taught, one of the underlying themes was to practice the K.I.S.S. rule; Keep it Simple Stupid.

Recently our fair community hosted a men’s only spiritual enrichment event, however, the keynote speaker is known to be highly controversial in his discourse. This person has demonstrated homophobic, misogynistic, and white supremacist views in many venues around the world. While this individual did not follow the path of his usual discourse at the local event, he nonetheless made comments that were perceived as misogynistic and hard to swallow for many members of our community that are continuing to fight for equality in our society.

I am not writing an Op/Ed about the contents of either argument. Nor am I going to engage in the debate that surrounds it, rather, this discussion brings to mind a key problem in our world where our society loves to apply labels, and use them to make comparisons, or to fuel conflicts. Indeed, throughout our history, has there always been labels of peoples. Aristocracy vs. peasants, Allies vs Axis, Coalition vs. Terrorists, Whites vs, blacks, Christians vs. Muslims, and you can go on ad infinitum.

What purpose has this served? What is the benefit? History tells us that these labels are vital for politicians to galvanize, or even polarize people to create an “us vs. them differentiation”, and from there, makes it easier to vilify the “other” side. Look back to the cold war.  Soviets (Commies) were the enemy, we were the ‘good guys’. No one cared that your average Soviet citizen was very much like us. Simply wanting to make it through life with a meaningful career, a family, hopefully a legacy to pass on to the next generation and to live in peace. Simply because they belonged to a different nation with a different approach to their government, we could label these people as the enemy and feel justified in any of our actions against them. 

Even today, we need only look at the rhetoric from our politicians. Immigration it seems is a very polarizing subject, as well, as what a person’s religious beliefs are. Al Qaeda was responsible for the 9/11 tragedy, yet all Muslims seemed to be vilified, and subsequently persecuted by the general population. Ignorance breeds this mob mentality, and politicians are not helping with their rhetoric.  In fact, it seems to be a key part in how some get into power.  Simply look at Ontario’s “Ford Nation” or President Trump, and the rhetoric used to “fire up the base”. Blatant lies and half-truths are accepted, and people suffer for it.

Today we have labels for just about everyone. LGBTQ+, Straight, White, Black, Indigenous, elitist, globalist, and so on. Some are simple accurate portrayals of a given group of people, such as gay or straight. Others prove to be more euphemistic, as the term globalist has strong hints of anti-Semitism when used in today’s discourse. Humanity, it seems, is geared more for a WWE style Battle Royale than any meaningful progress toward peace.

If Grandma were alive today, she would ask why we need to be so complicated. Keep It Simple Stupid! At the end of the day, we are talking about persons. Really, does it matter what the label is?  The label allows us to de-value a person by maintaining this “us versus them” mentality.  “A person, is a person, period!” is what I can hear Grandma say very clearly, and I agree. 

If we want to fight for equality, then we must stop the segregation by identification. Personally I could care less about the colour of your skin, or your gender or sexual orientation. I value a person for what they are, a fellow member of the human race. I am not trying to detract from the efforts of women, or the LGBTQ+ community, but if these people truly want equality, rather than fight for the right to recognize your label as being equal, drop it, and start speaking in terms that you, as a person, have the right to be treated equally. Conversely, those that engage in rhetoric that they, or their particular group is somehow superior to others, and impart their beliefs and judgement on others need to begin thinking in these terms as well. The label matters not. A person is a person, and the sooner we meet in the middle to recognize this as a society, the sooner we move toward a path of peace. We as Humans are all uniquely different, yes, however we are all members of the same species, and therefore are equal in our value.