Where did this trend start? I have a hunch it was coming on at least by the 1930’s. Alcoholics Anonymous began in 1935 and for all the good they have done, they made a model of labeling yourself by our pathology. “Hi. I’m Bill and I’m an alcoholic.”
Now, there are some good reasons for this. The famous “first step” of the twelve is to admit you have a problem which is a large and difficult step for someone with an addiction. I wish they would have addressed it differently, though. It narrows the focus of a person’s identity too much. Would, “Hi. I’m Bill and I’m fighting alcoholism,” have been too much to ask?
We see it with diseases as well. (I know some see alcoholism as a disease and I’m not taking sides on that here.) People will commonly say things like, “I’m a hemophiliac,” or “I’m a diabetic.” Why? Is the sum of their being wrapped up in a medical condition? I am sure some days it may feel that way and I’m not minimizing the impact it surely has on them, but what happens when they no longer have whatever condition, be it alcoholism or hemophilia? Do they suddenly become less? Have they lost their identity? Why not say, “I have diabetes?”
Is it just semantics? I don’t think so. This sort of thinking and talking gives legitimacy to things that are rightly called illegitimate. Like this nonsense. We wouldn’t have this confusion if we understood that we make choices. The whole materialist presupposition of the last century or more has caused people to scapegoat all of their bad choices onto molecules and genes that had precious little to do with it.
Interestingly, roles that traditionally have been seen as having ontological significance are increasingly downplayed and called “choices” by many moderns. Father, wife, child, and citizen for example. Even male and female (which are genetically determined) are being questioned by some sectors of our society. I’m unsure where this madness will end, but it is showing no signs of abating.
It seems we might find more common ground and more genuine health it we dropped some of our self-applied labels, mostly because we tend to only cling to ones that identify us as part of some group with particular special interests to justify our immorality. If we are honest before God, all we really need to say is, “I’m a sinner.” That covers it all.
It has almost come to the point that if we don’t have some trendy label, we aren’t “cool.” A social media phenomena, perhaps? There is always the condition du jour; ADD, lactose or gluten intolerance, homosexuality, transgender….
Unfortunately, it hurts those who genuinely have an issue. I’ve read a few articles how the gluten-free fad is actually making life difficult for people who have celiac disease, because all of these products jumping on the bandwagon aren’t necessarily gluten-free. Not to mention moral issues. As transgenderism has become trendy, what is a person to do who may have deep-seated issues that are more than an over-zealous quest for novelty?
What if we all refused to call people by their pathological labels? Would it be a step toward lowering their power and giving others the freedom to make better choices? I can’t help but think so.