Over this past weekend I had the pleasure of driving my grandmother, Mommom, back to my house for my sister’s prom. We have always been very close, so the three-hour drive was filled with conversation about whatever topics came to mind. Mommom is very politically involved so naturally the topic of current politics came up. She is very passionate about her beliefs and disagrees with much of what our current president stands for. In our conversation, the topic of environmental policy came up, and we began to analyze the shift in how current policy places us in relation to the environment. In the previous administration under President Obama, effort was being made to invest in more sustainable sources of energy and limit the growth of energy sources that put out an excess of carbon emissions. The current policy being proposed by President Trump’s administration aims to increase industries such as coal, which produce a high amount of carbon emissions but are supposedly better businesses to invest in.
Mommom pointed out that as she viewed it, the Obama administration saw how connected humanity was to what we do to the environment, while the Trump administration views the environment as a resource which we should exploit for the means of business. She did not know it but Mommom basically argued against Trump’s using ideas from the ecological bodies concept and Tuana’s viscous porosity. I proceeded to explain these ideas to her and was amazed by how much they had in common. Mommom was ecstatic to learn that her ideas were more than just her own, but related to a theory created by a scholar.
This exchange made me question the power a name holds. If someone had listened to Mommom ramble on, critiquing Trump, they would most likely take her less seriosuly because in their eyes she is just some unqualified old lady looking for something to complain about. However, if she used the same argument but name dropped the specific ideas like the ecological body concept, her ideas would appear to be more sound, even though nothing about her argument changed. This realization made me question the power of a title and how today’s society places more value on things that are labeled more so than not. Even the news follows this as they name specific events. Think of Balloon Boy or “Cash Me Outside” girl, people discussed these scandals for much more time than they would have if they had not been named. Both of these situations barely qualified as news, they are both extremely scandalous and borderline idiotic, but the public became fascinated by them and they turned into sensations that overshadowed more serious topics at the time. Think of how much easier it is to say “did you see cash me outside girl” as opposed to “did you see Dr. Phil had another girl that could barely speak English and treated everyone terribly”. Both statement refer to the exact same idea, but the naming of the situation holds more power and makes the public want to invest more time in the topic. This girl was nothing special compared to other guests that have been on the show, but naming her caused her segment to spread virally.
People love to categorize things, and simply naming creates a category of importance versus non-importance. In her article about casta paintings, Rebecca Earle discusses how “the process of classification itself was a source of pleasure” (464). Here she is referring to the process of creating a caste system in colonial times which placed each person into a specific category. Earle is referring to a greater scale such as social classifications in caste systems, and in class we discussed greater taxonomies like how we organize life, but I never considered how small titles could impact how we perceive something. It is amazing to me that a simple name can convey importance and separate an idea out from others. Something we take for granted and can do without thinking creates such a drastic change in view. I guarantee that you are more likely to remember that awkward situation with that cute boy you and your friends named the “The Carson Incident” more than that really crucial trigonometric theorem you learned in calculus the same day. In the scope of importance, the math obviously should hold more of a place in your mind, than a silly encounter with a boy, but by naming the situation, it holds more power. What does this say about our society that we place importance on things simply on their name? How many ideas are we ignoring or forgetting because they have not been officially titled yet?