“Observe your reactions to each episode of the day, observe your beliefs. Question yourselves! Are you willing to question your beliefs? If the answer is negative, then you are full of preconceptions and react mechanically." (Anthony de Mello)
Versione italiana al link : Il gusto per le etichette
But why, after all that history should have taught us, are we always so attached to 'labels', that is to say, to 'prejudices'? Scholars have answered this question by pointing out a series of psychological mechanisms well known to and exploited by those who, in various eras, held power. Prejudice (or etiquette) is:
- convenient and fast: using it, we save that amount of psychic energy necessary to deepen and think critically about an issue;
- reassuring: it gives us the impression of knowing, it keeps us on the safe ground of the known, it brings us the 'praise' of the group we belong to, if not even of the dominant group;
- de-responsibilizing: convinced that 'the bad guys are theirs', we project all the evil, even that which humanly would belong to us, onto another category of individuals. They magically become the scapegoat for all the rottenness of the planet: wars, pollution, pandemics, mosquitoes, mothers-in-law and whatever else. We come out apparently 'clean', because ‘it's all their fault'.
Although labels, names and generalizations are often necessary and useful to understand each other, from the above we can easily deduce that those who abuse them show mental laziness, poor intelligence, insecurity, immaturity and no self-confidence. Unfortunately, inner balance or psychological maturity is not something that comes suddenly, by divine grace, at the age of 35 or 40, especially in a devastated cultural and moral landscape like ours. Nor have we always been able to put, at the highest political or managerial levels, the cream of humanity ... so, in some cases, the use and abuse of certain stereotypes and labels is intentionally used for specific purposes of "divide et impera".