The Rectification of Names
When we look at someone, what do we see? A human being? A person? A woman? But get closer. Talk to her. Learn what she thinks
doctor, a Christian, a martial artist, a vegetarian, a homeowner, a dog owner, a lover, a fighter, as if any of these defined who she really is.
Listen to her quantify, and in the process, disguise herself. Then remember her name—remember the person beneath her subtle cloaks—her proper
, whether given or taken. That is how you will always know and love her.
Would it have really made a difference if Hitler was Christian or Atheist? He was so swayed by his own ideology that neither declaration would have
made a difference. However, like both the Christians and Atheists, who would like no better but to distance their beloved labels from the monsters who
have also worn them, Hitler was guilty of seeing the label before the person, in his case, the "Jew", the "Gypsy", before the individual people.
He would go to any means to destroy those labels, no benefit of the doubt, no rational consideration, eradicate them by name only, and in the
process, the very real people they were meant to describe, regardless of individual worth. Yes, the inverse is also the case. When people believe they
actually are these mystical objects, these platonic ideals, these categories, these sets, their labels—they too commit crimes against humanity. They
see the labels before the person, indeed, before they have even met them, simply because that is all they wish to understand.
In a fit of comedy, people often think that when they jump between label and label, they change something fundamental, or when they express themselves
as such, they've described something about their core being. But on closer examination, it seems that all that has really changed is the language and
vocabulary they use to describe themselves—maybe something like a personal culture, or at least a temporary shift in vocabulary, self-propaganda. As
this culture grows and festers as cultures do, we see the paradoxical twist of the culture controlling the person rather than the other way around.
Are we so superstitious that we think these labels quantify us so much, and we must for some reason live according to them?
If being an atheist was simply a lazy way to say "I do not believe in God", life would be simple; but the label is nonetheless worn and paraded
around like a badge of honor, and actively calling oneself an atheist, or any other religious denomination, is a display, not unlike a peacock, of how
one could only hope
to appear to others—a vain pursuit no less—and how one has idealized himself in some romanticized fashion, by
committing the supposed revolutionary act of using universal terms to describe particular entities, himself, which is the first step towards
dehumanization, generalizing individuals based on fleeting qualities witnessed by a completely biased mind. Turning subjects into objects. Fake it
until you make it.
A Theist is Theist by name only. An Atheist is Atheist by name only. Put them in the same room you'd never know the difference. But let them act out
their culture and their favorite labels in a display of their favorite rhetoric, vanity arises among the lines they've drawn in the sand. They know
that their very name is what brings indignation to the one who hears it, how he relates it to the myriad of preconceived notions he has about that
label. These are not descriptions, but attempts at objectification and disguise. They believe themselves to be defined by these labels, but only ever
to the extent that they are superstitious towards them. What they are willing to do for their ideal, and thus their illusory identity, renders them
into objects, products, and cookie-cutter selves. How they band together under their respective labels, with absolutely no care about who they are
actually standing with, as long as they too posses the same label. A Christian will see the label "Christian" and make a conclusion based on that
label alone, before he ever understands the individual beneath it. How they hide their nakedness of which they fear so much. They are, in this sense,
so shameful, that they feel the need to stand with others in their shame. No one wants to stand alone.
All I need do is ridicule the label, saying nothing of individual people, to watch individual people get offended, even if my ridicule was not to them
as a person. They are not in the least bit defending themselves, but their costume, their superstition. They see themselves as objects, the same
objects I talk about now, yet take it to personal heart. Speak ill of atheists, and be attacked by atheists, as if some fundamental similarity courses
through each of their veins; but what is only shared beneath this or any herd mentality, is the name only.
Nets are for catching fish; after one gets the fish, one forgets the net. Traps are for catching rabbits; after one gets the rabbit,
one forgets the trap. Words are for getting meaning; after one gets the meaning, one forgets the words. Where can I find people who have forgotten
words, and have a word with them?
The Rectification of Names
is the Confucian idea of returning the subject to the subject. It imagines that in order to face reality, to deal
with it and ourselves properly, we should return the objectified subjects to their proper names; strip them of their masks and costumes to see who
they really are beneath all the decoration; to go back to the reality of the matter through the web of language and misunderstanding that stands
before it; to break from the cocoon the butterfly or the moth or whatever lies beneath it no matter what appears; for when we remain underneath these
webs we allow ourselves to die a thousand deaths, where perhaps we should die only once.