Pantisocracy, The Caged Bird Sings

The Caged Bird Sings“Words are really important, we often don’t get to choose our own labels.”

As heard on RTÉ Radio 1

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Identity, labels and what makes the caged bird sing, this week’s Pantisocracy interrogates how we perceive others, how others perceive us and how we perceive ourselves.

“Words are really important, we often don’t get to choose our own labels. Sometimes we’re labelled in ways we didn’t even know were labels, until somebody shouts them at you.”

To give a sense of the experiences Panti and her guests bring to the table for this week’s discussion, we’re going to have to engage in a wee bit of labelling. In Panti’s parlour this week, artist and thalidomide survivor Mary Duffy, singer-songwriter and recovered addict Steo Wall, Minker woman and member of the Council of State, Dr. Sindy Joyce and finally Afro-Irish, musician Caleb Kunle. Each guest has stories of being defined by one aspect of their identity. They also share a creativity that allows them to challenge stereotypes.

As is the custom on Pantisocracy, the Queen of Ireland gets proceedings underway with an opening monologue. This week’s focused on the human need to label.

“Categorising, labelling, boxing, sorting is part of the human condition. We do it so that our brains won’t explode.”

Panti recalled a young, gay Ugandan man she met a number of years ago in South Africa. He had fled his home country after being threatened with death there. Panti recalled the terrifying detail of his story, but something he said about his identity really resonated.

“He never felt black until he came to South Africa. It’s a really simple statement”

This exchange highlighted for her how the things that define us in other people’s eyes are often things we don’t even register as ‘different’ or even noteworthy about ourselves.

“A defining characteristic is slapped on us, chosen by an outside observer who chose it from a myriad potential labels based only on what single characteristic was thrown into relief against the background, from their vantage point. But the background changes all the time”

Pantisocracy airs Tuesday nights at 10pm on RTÉ Radio 1. You can hear this week’s episode here.

© The Listener 2019

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