If you’ve met me for more than five minutes, you know that I’m red/green colorblind. It’s only a mildly annoying disability to have, but I always happen to bring it up in conversation, mostly because of how fascinating I find the fact that I see the world differently than others to be.
My fascination with my own colorblindness got me thinking about why my condition is even considered a disorder in the first place, and that took me down a whole different rabbit hole — if one goes deep enough into the origins of something, there’s a pretty high likelihood that they’d find some man-made reason for why it is what it is. The sky is only called ‘blue’ because of the label that has been applied to it. For me, a person who often sees the sky as ‘purple,’ the only reason that I am wrong is because a very large portion of the rest of society agrees that I am.
In short, we all need to just stop caring so much about the labels we use to identify things. Sure, it’s undeniable that there are empirical facts, and those shouldn’t be up for debate, but the words, phrases, graphics and other devices we use to refer to them are all constructs of society. For example, in Orwell’s “1984”, when he refers to the hypothetical society where “2 + 2 = 5,” the actual numerical amounts aren’t changing, but the labels do.
While the impact of something like what a certain hue is referred to may be less, some subjective labels have much larger implications.
Spelling, grammar and pronunciation constitute one group of things with more of an impact. When you boil language down to its nuts and bolts, all it is is a tool to facilitate communication. Whether or not someone speaks or writes with perfect grammar is truly irrelevant unless it hinders the ability to communicate. When it comes to the term “perfect grammar” itself, what that is is subjective as well. When one thinks about this in that way, the fact that some people put so much weight on knowing and using the “correct” grammar and language seems kind of silly. Half of the SAT, the test that for decades has been the gateway to college, is dedicated to knowing a version of the English language decided by the College Board to be “correct.”
Why do they get to choose? Who is harmed if someone fails to use a semicolon in the right way?
Another very important but very constructed part of life is money. Money only has value because we have all decided it does. Certain jobs only pay the certain amount that they do because society has decided that that’s the amount of money that they are worth.
In the end, it all comes down to power and influence. Whether it’s the dollar bills in your pocket, your score on the SAT or even the color of the sky, whoever has the most influence gets to dictate what is as long as society lets them. If you put 50 toddlers in a room and show them a stop sign, and two adults tell them it’s green while 20 adults tell them it’s red, they will listen to the larger group — it’s herd mentality.
In the end, my goal is not to tell you to go out and scream about how the sky is purple, stop signs are green, a one-dollar bill is worth $1 million or anything super mold-breaking like that. All I think we need to do is recognize that things only exist the way they do because we as a society have made them so. So the next time someone corrects your grammar, tells you that you talk funny or (if you’re colorblind like me) that what you’re seeing isn’t exactly what you think it is, keep in mind that the world just isn’t as set in stone as we usually think.