When I was in college, a sensitivity movement began...a movement that has developed into a new overlayer in our culture.
The idea began in the 1970s, my childhood, my development years. Its origin is allegedly Marxist-Leninist, intended to support the party line.
In 1991, President Bush I issued a serious warning against this movement during a commencement address at the University of Michigan.
By 1992, the year I graduated college, it had deteriorated into satire.
Now, in 2007, it has only escalated in authority, tying our tongues.
The movement is political correctness.
In Wikipedia, I learned a little more about the history:
The often quoted earliest cited usage of the term (in the form "not politically correct") comes from the U.S. Supreme Court decision Chisholm v. Georgia (1793), where it clearly means that the statement it refers to is not literally correct, owing to the political status of the United States as it was understood at that time.
Not correct due to the political status as it is understood at the time.
In the 1990s, the term became part of a conservative challenge to curriculum and teaching methods on college campuses in the United States (D'Souza 1991; Berman 1992; Schultz 1993; Messer Davidow 1993, 1994; Scatamburlo 1998)
We're so afraid to speak---for fear of being incorrect---that conversation has, I believe, deteriorated. In fact, although it is overall a linguistic concept, I believe it has larger cultural implications.
I'm not alone; other critics decry that it is:
* a limit to free speech
* an attempt to derail feminism
* useless and misses sensitivity by providing euphemisms that hide the ongoing bigotry
Liberals call it a conservative tool of controlling, and the insult is returned
Conservative critics of political correctness, argue that it is a form of coercion rooted in the assumption that in a political context, power refers to the dominion of some men over others, or the human control of human life. Ultimately, it means force or compulsion. Correctness in this context is subjective, and corresponds to the sponsored view of the government, minority, or special interest group. By silencing contradiction, political correctness entrenches the view as orthodox. Eventually, it is accepted as true, as freedom of thought requires the ability to choose between more than one viewpoint. Some conservatives refer to Political Correctness as "The Scourge of Our Times."
Even its existence is debated; but not by me. I believe this movement really happened because I've watched, as an adult, the shift in how we think and speak---in how we learn and teach. I agree with the concept that this is simply a pretty cloth covering a scarred society. We can change our language, and the images presented to us but this doesn't fix the real issue. Consider how we've trained our eyes to expect to see artificially contrived images of togetherness that is not a true reflection of society: Benetton ads, advertisements with careful constructs of mixed races and genders, and so forth. I remember how once these stood out to me, and now they seem normal.
I believe, in fact, that this movement has so censored us that we have come to believe that any sort of disagreement or discord is unacceptable. In fact, we revile as politically incorrect any person, situation, or statement that doesn't automatically validate every point of view.
I initially believed in this movement, trusted and supported the basic ideology behind it. But I believe the unfortunate situation Bush I warned about has come to pass: we've become so safe (so scared) that our communication is near death.
Aliki described people so plugged in to technology that they couldn't converse during her trip on a train.
Chani discussed unrealistic expectations that erect barriers to truth and honesty, genuine interaction.
And I expressed my frustration with being limited to unfulfilling generic, light conversations about safe topics only.
What I didn't describe in that post was the palpable discomfort in the room when I politely expressed that I was not okay with group endorsement of a book I considered offensive and controversial (the Secret, for the record). I left out how one person said---in so many words---that disagreeing wasn't really cool, we needed to support every point of view: if one person likes it, we need to accept it.
I was politically incorrect.
I just didn't catch that until a number of commenters alluded to or directly mentioned political correctness.
It was then that the idea for next week's Hump Day Hmm came to me: discuss the implications and effect of the political correctness movement. Any approach is welcome: in general, in your life, with a single situation, from a historical POV, defend it, highlight its positives or attack or criticize it, and so forth. Agree with my assessment or disagree with me. Pick apart the PC advertisements and the role of minorities in media; explain how the roles depicted still keep minorities in a certain place, a safe place. Whatever you approach strikes you. Take a risk...more than anything, in this topic, I want people to feel free to be honest.
You may have already written about it. That's fine...it doesn't have to be a new post. Or write a follow-up and I'll link to both. I don't see this as a short, one week topic, actually.
I see this as a Big Thing, and maybe something we need to reframe.
I hope a lot of you participate; I think we can start something good here.
copyright 2007 Julie Pippert