A Glass of Chianti

Sunday, June 05, 2005

On Labels - I will take a Gimlet, after all

Part One in the series here. (See, tricks like that make it look like I've been doing this longer than I have. I could have just told you to scroll down one post, but I like to keep things sophisticated here).

Let's say that a guy walks into a bar and orders a lemon drop martini. OK. So, it's probably a girl that walks in and orders that. Fine. So this girl walks into a bar and wants a lemon drop martini. She asks the bartender if he can make one and he says that he could, but he doesn't have all of the ingredients on hand right now. (He's a crappy bartender). He says that she can wait until his assistant returns with the missing ingredients or he can try to make her something else. He suggests a plain martini. The girl says that she'd rather drink somewhere else and leaves. He didn't know enough about what she wanted to make a good suggestion, obviously. Now, say, an entire group of people walks in right after the girl. They all want some variation on a citrus-y drink. Even though he doesn't have lemons right then, he knows a little about the group and he can make enough drink variations with limes and oranges and such to keep everyone happy and spending money. He knows enough not to offer them plain martinis. He also introduces many of them to the elixir of the gods - the gimlet (a woefully underappreciated drink).

So why are labels important? Well, let's go back to the stadium. Let's say Our Favorite Guy has tickets in section A. He's in the highest seats in the stadium because the price is right, but he's situated such that he has an excellent view of third baseman Joe. The baseball season ends and the organization sends him a renewal notice for the next season. OFG notices that the ticket prices have dropped for the seats on the same level as his, but on the other side of the field. We know, because we had a lengthy conversation over a beer with OFG, that he isn't going to change his tickets to take advantage of the new price. He values the view of Joe at $X, he's probably not going to make the switch to a poor view of Joe for a price of $X-5. Other people in OFG's section might, though, if their choice of seats is based solely on price.

"Wait, Sarah!" I hear someone saying. "Why don't we talk about philosophy without labels, since the reasoning is the important thing, after all?" I'm getting there. I promise.

OFG is a guy that has something in common with his sectionmates. He may have more things in common with some than with others, but he likes his section and the people in it, or else he would have moved to a different section by now. Things that affect the section (as a whole) now will do one of two things: 1. They will inspire OFG to convince his section to take a certain course or 2. They will drive OFG out of the section entirely. This is important because you if you know why OFG is in the section, you can predict what his course of action is for a future event. Also, though, if you know why a sizeable group of people in OFG's section are there, you can probably predict what the section will do en masse.

Another guy in the stadium (let's call him Free Thinker Guy) declares that he is an independent agent and will not tie himself down to a section. He doesn't need lines! You have a problem. Without knowing where he stands (or sits, in this case) you can't possibly know what he will do when presented with a situation. FTG probably doesn't know, either, frankly. If he had a guiding philosophy, he would have found a section that best suited his needs by now and purchased season tickets in one section and benefited from the price break.. It makes sense, of course, unless FTG is just rebelling for the sake of being a rebel.

OFG may not agree with everyone in his section, but he has a guiding philosophy, and he makes sacrifices, knowing that he doesn't have to have the same opinion on every issue as the people in his section in order to be happy. It's enough just to have the best fit to serve his needs. FTG doesn't do this. Thus, when, as a group the stadium decides to tear down the section that OFG is in, the people in the section can protest in whatever way they see fit - not buying any more tickets, moving to a different section, etc. and possibly avoid an aesthetic disaster like that. FTG can only protest with his lonesome for any policy change that affects him, which isn't really (probably) going to make a difference to the stadium gods.

I get so tired when I have people that I talk to about politics say that they hate labels. Labels (sections) are good. If something happens you can harness the power of a group and try to direct the group's action, or you can leave and find another section that suits your needs. The best part is you don't have to change your philosophy to do it. It's just as good as being like FTG, but you have someone familiar to pass your nachos down the row. Allies. Everyone likes having friends.

So, when I get around to my "meet the illustrious blogger" post, you'll understand that when I say I'm a conservative, that doesn't mean I'm like exactly like any other given conservative, but that we conservatives share common values, up to a point. Ditto musician. Ditto nerd. Ditto Catholic. (OK, so that last one is a little different by definition. This will come out, eventually, I'm sure).

I say this just to avoid any unpleasantness that might arise, as it has in the past.

I promise I'll get better with the editing. I'm a little long-winded, it seems. Strange, as when I talk to my students, I feel like I don't get in any words at all. I think I'm pretty economical in lessons. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that my advice is, generally, "If you would have practiced that, you wouldn't have messed up the lick 5 times already." This is repeated, on the half hour for several hours each day. It's a tough job. ;)