At what point did my life become nothing more than a collection of labels or tags by which I am instantly recognised by?
I don’t mean the simple police style IC1 Male. More the often, somewhat lazy and disparaging label that identifies me not as an individual, but as part of a wider network of people I barely have anything in common with?
I understand being classified by my job title. It’s what I do for eight hours a day, five days a week. I also understand being referred to by my relationship choices – that of husband, married man or father of one – for I am all three.
What I don’t understand, is when I am classified not by my actions, but more so the actions of others.
My annoyance at such labelling intensified this week with two important announcements – one sport and one drinks related – that saw me cast as a sad, bitter loser who has a somewhat, serious drink problem.
The sport one is simple. With England losing out to Russia in the race to host the 2018 World Cup, the media and swathes of twitter and internet forum users all saw me as being sad, deluded and bitter that England failed to win the bid. I was almost stupid to think we stood a chance of winning. I was wrong to want to host the World Cup in England (give others a chance they typed. We can’t afford it was another regular response). I needed to understand that the world was no longer mapped mainly in the colour pink (an old colonial way of showing what was part of the British Empire) and that England was no longer important. Through one desire I was labelled as being stuck in the past, greedy and more often than not, naïve.
I didn’t for one minute think we would win the bid. When Putin, the bare-chested hero of Russia, stated that he was not planning on turning up to the bid announcement, part of me wanted to sell my shares in Orange Juice and Pork Bellies and go big on a Russian win.
Think, no. Really want us to host, very much so.
In the aftermath of the announcement I tuned in to a radio phone in show where I listened to the presenters, guests and callers and found myself disagreeing with nearly everything those involved had to say. Did we therefore, really have anything in common with each other beyond wanting to see the World Cup in England? If not, why assume we are all the same?
It is the same view with the government announcement that duties, therefore cost, on what is commonly referred to as super strength beers (over 7.5% in strength) was to rise next year. The reason for this move is an attempt to crack down on binge drinking and “preventable illnesses” which includes alcohol abuse.
Now, I drink beer over 7.5%. This is a fairly new thing as I have only just started to get in to drinking what are collectively known as craft beers. There are some craft beers like the monster % “End of History” which comes in at a whopping 55%, but it also cost a reported £500. Not for me, nor the myriad of support groups and media outlets that decried its release.
My market is the more reasonably priced BrewDog “Hardcore” or the American Green Flash “Le Freak” – both tipping the scales at 9%. Because I drink those beers, from a purely tax perspective, I am instantly classified in the same bracket as someone that drinks Tennents, Kestral and Carlsberg “Special Brew”, thus leading some to believe that my health could be at risk. The big difference being that I will only drink one bottle of “Le Freak” – mainly through cost (Le Freak is already the wrong side of £10) – where as a Tennents drinker will happily pick up a pack of four and drink them in one sitting.
Not only will my desire to drink a 9% beer cost me more from next year, through association, I am now also part of a Governmental policy. It is a policy that looks past the fact that I also buy wine at 14%, often for half the price of a bottle of Le Freak. As a wine drinker, am I less of a problem to the NHS and the wider society? Am I viewed in a better light because wine is more culturally acceptable than a bottle of super strength beer? Is there a class argument at play here, and are the policy makers more likely to be wine drinkers than “super strength beer” aficionados?
There have been other occasions in the past week where my choice of activity has led some to label me as middle class (for drinking in a wine bar), a dinosaur (going to see Madness in concert) and arrogant (for being both English and from London). All three are just lazy labels. Class isn’t defined by the venues in which you drink. Good music is timeless and there were plenty of people younger than me at that gig – and yes, I am occasionally loud and forthright, but is that simply down to where I was born?
To label me is to dismiss me; to put me in to a box from where I will only return if you were not instantly put off by your original label. I have more to offer than my job title, my relationship status, my nationality or my choice of beverage. What you find beyond those labels may not be to your taste, but at least we made the effort to get beyond the initial tick box phase. Don’t hate me because I have a child, a dog or that I struggle with the concept of meat free Mondays. There may be plenty of other reasons not to want to know me, just don’t dismiss me because of a label.