Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Power of Name-Calling

Early in the Harry Potter series, the warlock who killed Harry's parents, Voldemort, was often called "He who must not be named." He is so menacing, so powerful, he cannot be labelled. When something cannot be named, it is not a thing. We cannot make it an object to our Subject - something separate from us, something that is part of our objective reality. If it cannot be labelled, if it cannot be named, then it is beyond our grasp to manipulate.

When we name something, it is the power to pin down what was before something we cannot control. Naming something gives it a face - an identity, a bounded reality. Naming gives us the power to say that Object X is not Object Y. On X, we as Subjects, bestow traits. We dictate what it is. We dictate what it is not. Naming gives the Subject the power to create objects. Naming gives the Subject agency - the capacity to act on an objective reality. History then ceases to be something that merely occurs. It becomes something we can change.

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