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Political Corrrectness: The Hump Day Hmm topic for Wednesday, July 25, 2007

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.[22] 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.[23][24] 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 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


S said…
Great topic. Important topic.
Snoskred said…
FWIW I agree with you on the secret. That may be surprising to some who think that I'm all about positive thought - but that isn't really what the secret is about. The Secret is about some people making an awful lot of money out of telling people WISHful thinking will get them the things they always dreamed of. Baloney. in my opinion.

I am all about positive thought but I believe it has to be combined with positive ACTION and EFFORT. Nobody will lose weight sitting on the couch spooning junk food into their mouth. Nobody will get a brand new car just by imagining themselves inside one. Sorry if that is politically incorrect, but it's the truth.

What it has done is make an awful lot of cash for the inventors of it.

I am also about negative thought - when it is necessary and there are situations when that is the case. I wouldn't tell someone to stay in a job that they hate and think positive about it. I would tell them to put *positive* effort towards finding something else, or maybe even starting their own business.

I certainly wouldn't tell a battered wife to think positively about being battered - I'd tell her to get the hell out now.
But I do believe that for much of everyday life - when nothing is life threatening or bad enough to merit being negative about - it is a good thing to be trying to look for the positives in things when we can.

I'm looking forward to the topic so I won't get too much into it here, but I thought I would mention that about the secret. :)
thailandchani said…
I really.. like this!

You've covered it so well. If I would take the time and effort, perhaps I would write a post that is half as good as this one... and that is not being PC. I mean it. Your writing blows me away.

I'll think of an example and rip it apart at some point before Wednesday.


Aliki2006 said…
This is an incredibly important topic--one I've been tinking about quite a bit, especially with regard to technology. Thanks for putting up a link to my post--I plan on writing more about it later, as the experience gave me so mu h to think about.
Christine said…
it is funny that you bring up the Secret. i just was having a conversation about it with someone who LOVED it. I was a little scared but went on to discuss my take on it (though I have not read it in full so she was definitely at the advantage.) but in the end it was all ok and we had a civil and interesting debate.

this is not the norm.

i am so used to tip toeing around and being pc that it has gone too far. I even said something over at emily's (wheels on the bus) that was stupidly pc, and i think i stuck my foot in it.

now don't get me wrong, i take offense at racial and ethnic and homophobic slurs, but beyond that i feel utterly silenced. notice how i have NEVER posted a blog post about politics, religion, etc? i my delve deep personally but not in other ways. i am too damn chicken.

i would love to to the hump day hmm, but i'll likely skip it and write something totally unoffensive to anyone.

painted maypole said…
yeah but that book... the politically correct bedtime stories... it's hysterical
Anonymous said…
I think this will be a very interesting discussion. I will probably be more of a reader/commenter on this one, but I will be a very engaged reader!
flutter said…
Oh how I love this topic
Girlplustwo said…
excellent topic. simply excellent.
Anil P said…
I would term it 'the politics of correctness'.
Julie Pippert said…
SM, Jen, and Flutter...will you play, then? Pretty please? You guys would do awesome with this.


Snoskred. ACK! Where were you last week with that distinction!!! That would have been the perfect reply when the one lady said, "How can anyone not like or object to The Secret? It's just about POSITIVE thinking!" I felt like the Personal Representative for the Dark Side about then. But to say "No, it's about wishful thinking." Sigh. Day late, dollar short.

I'm glad you'll add your voice to this.


Chani, awesome!! Can't wait to see what you bring! And thanks for the compliment. That is the one area flattery will get you anywhere with me LOL. I'm horribly vain about writing. LOL Anyway you know I loved your post, and thought it was awesome. It motivated me to this.


Aliki, woo hoo...yes, your post was a big motivator to get this up (yours and Chani's, both were awesome). I am excited to see what you write.


Christine, the point isn't to break consideration and politeness and be offensive; the point is to discuss the idea of PC in some way...and your reply here is a PERFECT post for it. Oh how I wish you would participate and elaborate on this feeling---that is exactly what I mean. You are so good at just getting right to the heart.


PM it is isn't it! Will you play this week? I really hope so. :)


Emily, that's awesome but I'll miss your post. Your comments will be good, though, so I'll console myself. :) You and Chani have come up with some great topics going forward so I think I am going to pull those together into a schedule of sorts with some flow and post that.


Anil, a ha! A good concept. Perhaps we can count on you to elaborate? Say...on Wednesday?
Mad said…
Mmmmm, everytime I have really spoken my mind in the blogosphere I have been forced to face the music. Call it political correctness or call it picking your battles but I don't care to play at those games right now. There is a lot of defensiveness in blogging. I am moving further and further away from provoking it in others.
Lawyer Mama said…
What a fantastic topic. Fanastic.

I can't wait to see what people write. I don't think I can play this week. I just don't have time, but I will try.

I do hope that the posts will uncover another related topic for next week so that I can jump in. I have so many thoughts...
Catherine said…
I'm afraid that with my Baby's first birthday, a condo full of in laws, and my part time job consuming almost 30 of my hours each week this month...I'm going to miss this topic. But...its a good one!

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