1. I want to be clear that by challenging the notion of political correctness, I am not advocating saying whatever one wants however, whenever and wherever one wants. That's not what PC is in my mind. Perhaps I ought to define what it is in my mind better than I have. There is judiciousness and wisdom in speech---which is weighing what one thinks and wants to say against the other people involved and the situation at hand. There is courtesy in selecting how one approaches a topic and addresses it with others. I'm a big fan of this, of respect and consideration. Then there is PC, which includes empty and meaningless buzzwords; the idea that by editing language we have cured the problem; and a culture of conformity and repercussion for nonconformity of not just words, but ideas. That's PC and that's what I am challenging.
2. I want to be clear that I do not mean to harangue anyone about not participating. If you are busy, or this isn't your cup of tea...then that's what I meant about choosing by preference and I understand. My point mostly reflects when someone feels "gagged" and wants to speak, but is too concerned to do so. On that count, see point #1 above...and why I am challenging PC.
3. I haven't arrived at any conclusions yet. Right now, I'm simply identifying and processing through a sense of discomfort with a barrier to individualism within thought and language---of expression---that is prompting me to explore a concept thoroughly so I can decide what I think and how I'd like to go forward.
The other posts are great explorations of this topic, and the comments so far (and anticipating further ones) are as well.
This week is the first week since the beginning that I feel any trepidation about the Hump Day Hmm. Initially, I felt anxious that I'd set up this roundtable and nobody would come. Then we got an awesome regular thing going that blew my mind every week and I gained confidence. People were not just interested in the topics as writers, but also a readers. Even better, participants began sending in ideas for topics. I became comfortable expressing my views on the topics, confident that I was extremely fortunate in my readers: intelligent, open-minded and articulate as you are.
But this week, I may have overstepped my bounds.
I asked people to discuss political correctness and its societal, cultural, and communication implications.
I think this topic is uncomfortable to some.
And so I worried it's going to be just me. That's okay. But I also felt better when Snoskred e-mailed me a link to a post. Not just because it can feel a little funny standing by oneself in an empty room intended for a crowd, but because I really do want to hear what people think; even if it is an explanation of how they prefer to not be controversial (although I'm not actually asking anyone to be controversial or say anything provocative, just discuss how and why they communicate in this PC-age). Even if they think I'm nuts.
I'm open to different opinions. I even consider them. I think they are necessary to measure our ideas against for strength and durability, or for change, if needed.
We've lived inside the PC box for a really long time. We've carefully culled our language. But we haven't culled our ideas.
I still hear racism, only instead of using objectionable terms such as the n-word, people are more PC about it now and use the more appropriate African-American to say things such as, "Yeah, you know how those African Americans are...always blah blah (insert ignorant blanket statement here)."
People whisper it more quietly, are more subversive about it...hide it better, use more rational sounding language.
I think that makes it harder to fight.
But aside from bigotry, considerate people, kind people, people who want to be courteous and respectful are caught in an ambiguity of language due to political correctness. I think there are multiple sides to this: the silenced side and the vocal minority.
Consider what Mark Schmidt wrote in his paper, "The Orwellian Language of Big Government"
The state of American politics has become increasingly Orwellian. At the national level in particular, elected positions are dominated by career-minded officials who repeat empty and often deliberately misleading or untruthful slogans. Consider the two most recent Presidential campaigns. After "reinventing government," we "crossed a bridge to the twenty-first century" to a place where "no child is left behind," thanks to the wonders of "compassionate conservatism." As Orwell understood, such vacuity strips political communication of any concrete meaning. The absurd end result was captured by President Clinton's niggling over what the meaning of "is" is. If this trend continues, our language will ultimately be useless to express the ideas that form the basis of rational political discourse in a healthy republic.
Language is at the root of political consciousness. We can only know what we understand, and our understanding is limited by the words and phrases used to frame an issue. The constant repetition of imprecise, politically correct language is sure to have a cumulative effect upon a target audience -- eventually we begin to accept what we are told. Indeed, the main goal of political correctness, like Orwell's Newspeak, is to diminish the choice of words and thereby reduce the range of thought.
This reinforces a quote I had in my last post from Wikipedia:
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."
Right now, politics is the major issue, especially in these increasingly black and white times, before a major election.
You might like to read Mark Schmidt's article. He discusses specific terms, such as "Voluntary Compliance" for taxes, "Big Government," "Compassionate Conservatism," and "Equal Opportunity." It is from an opinion. It's not unbiased. You might agree, or disagree.
Just...have your own opinion. That's all I hope for. Even if you keep it to yourself, although you know me, I hope you'll say it.
I realize my approach to this tackles largely controversial elements. I don't think this discussion has to do that. That's me, the Queen of Provocative. That doesn't have to be you. You might even support PC, or parts of it. I don't think it's all bad. There are certainly derogatory terms no longer commonly said, and I don't miss them. That's good. But I do think it hasn't achieved the original goal and has created a nasty side-effect that comes out at times: silence and compliance, or worse, repercussions to those who don't observe strict silence and compliance.
Amazing voices that I know...are quiet. They don't want the vocal or vituperative special interests to bring down Thor's Hammer on them if they speak up or out, reflect their views, which might be unique or outside the accepted and sponsored view. Some have experienced it, some have learned through witnessing.
In my opinion, it's one thing if a person simply chooses---for example, in blogging---to stay on the sunny side of the street, the light and fluffy topics, out of personal preference, or preferred tone, etc.
It's quite another if someone has something to say, that is strong inside them, but bites their tongue or stills their fingers to prevent backlash.
I understand it, but it causes me to feel very critical of this culture (not of the person), of the contributing factor (political correctness, in my opinion), and generates a desire to tackle and bring down these walls between us.
I also understand the idea of picking one's battles, or more importantly, picking one's battleground. There is a time and place for everything...and the blogging and written medium may or may not be it. I comprehend that this doesn't mean this is absent from elsewhere. I know that a blog doesn't per se reflect the whole of a person or person's life. I was very intrigued by some comments when I posted the idea for this week's Hump Day Hmm. It's fascinating to hear how and why people chose the tone they did for their blog, how they select topics and subject, approaches. I love how diverse it is. I appreciate that I can come here and be as political as I wish, and someone else can be as light-hearted and humorous as they wish.
I hope you guys have posts (email them to me and I'll add them in) or comments. I do accept anonymous comments here, as well.
And in other reading:
Snoskred Political Correctness - The Hump Day Hmmm..
Julie at Learning and Laughter wrote Uncomfortably Correct
Chani wrote Deconstructing the impossible
Sephyroth wrote PC Paralysis
The Queen wrote Just underneath the surface
copyright 2007 Julie Pippert