Can we have a moratorium on the use of the words "politically correct" when having a discussion?
Look, when Andrew Dice Clay (who? Exactly) started doing his anti-PC shtick back in the '80s, it meant something. There really were certain mass unspoken thoughts that needed to be vented that people were uncomfortable saying because of prevailing social pressures. There needed to be some sort of counterweight to that. (Just like there probably was a real liberal media...as opposed to "liberal" holding the conveniently circular definition as "anything that doesn't support a conservative worldview"...in 1988. Don't get me started on that topic. We'll be here all day, and I'm planning to go hiking later)
These are now different times, and partly due to the influence of hundreds of media figures who've made their living taking Clay (who was a comedian, gang) to further and further outer extremes, the words "politically correct" (like the word "liberal") have become so toxic that it makes anybody who would dare defend the concept out to be a nutball.
And so I'm going to defend it right now. Look, anytime I hear someone go "this may be politically incorrect to say, but..." what I hear is "I am going to say something that normally would reveal me to be a bigoted asshole, but by invoking the words 'politically correct' I am going to put anyone who would might call me on it on the defensive by pre-emptively implying them to be thought-policing, rigid, humourless jerks."
I have zero -- zero -- respect for this. It just makes me roll my eyes. If you have a controversial opinion, if you think it's going to offend somebody, don't be a pussy. SAY it, have the courage of your convictions, and take your lumps like everybody else. Because here's the thing: the root of the whole anti-politically correct ethos isn't just about free speech. It's also saying people who get offended should just lighten up and take a joke. OK, that's a valid viewpoint as far as it goes, BUT at the same time, if you go there and then won't stand for the payback, you're just a bully. In playground terms, if you can't dish it out, don't take it. And the funny thing about people who like to sling the words "politically correct" around: they're usually people that have the power to throw these ideas out there, and then walk away without any accountability. Once again, I have zero -- zero -- respect for that.
But the original "politically correct" movement went too far, right? Sure, probably...but it's 25 years since Andrew Dice Clay, PC has gone from being a target deserving of the ridicule to a tired toothless whipping boy, and still folks invoke the phrase in an era where I hear people becoming more and more openly bigoted every day, and when called on it, often accuse the other people of being racist. To me it's like beating up on your sister when you're 33 because she stole a cookie when you were 12. When I hear folks talking about "politically correct" I hear people that want carte blanche to say whatever they please about anybody, but then go hide behind a rock when they're called on it. What a load of crap. In what way is that a dialogue? In what way is that constructive? How is that going to lead to any kind of understanding or solution? Oh yeah, that's right, that's not the point anymore...the point these days is just to complain and let everyone know we're unhappy...I forgot.
PC-bashers like to think of themselves as being on the cutting edge of free speech, even though this has become as vapid and mainstream as, I don't know, cable news. I like hearing ideas that are truly out of the box, myself. Here's one to consider: I once expressed my concerns about the oppressiveness of the politically correct movement (this was in about 1992, OK?) to a liberal friend of mine who said, "to me, 'politically correct' just means good manners."
I hadn't thought of it that way before, but the more I did, the more I thought she had a really good point. With the debatable exception of hate crimes, "politically correct" is not enforceable law. It's simply an idea that suggests that if a certain group of people is going to be offended by being called something, then we should respect that, or at least have to think about it. As individuals we have a choice whether to observe that or not -- e.g., I generally call black people black, not African American, because when I was a kid that's what we were taught and the new phrase is a bit unwieldy -- we're perfectly free in this country to express just about any idea we please.
Just as any kind of collective effort isn't the same as socialism, being asked to consider someone else's point of view isn't the same as oppression. It blows my mind that we've gotten to the point as a society where that distinction would need to be explained to anybody. Every social order makes a decision where to draw the line for what is and isn't considered acceptable, and clearly we have moved far, far away from political correctness, to the point where basic ideas about how we should respect and tolerate one another that were just common sense when I was a kid have nearly gone out the window.
We could use a little political correctness right now -- to the degree that it means we remember that the people we criticize are real human beings with real concerns and problems and most of all, feelings, and that maybe, just maybe, we should come to grips with that perspective before we open our yaps. That doesn't mean, say, that one shouldn't come out strongly against illegal immigration -- there's nothing racist about saying people have to respect the law. But if you start throwing around blanket statements about Mexicans being filthy and lazy, for example, you should damn well take your lumps for that. I saw a few people on a message board make this exact same assertion, and when an understandably outraged Latina woman responded, the same people all called her a "hater." I mean, wtf? Again, the first rule of the playground is that if you can't take it, don't dish it out. What deranged universe do we live in where this is considered OK?
Maybe this is the best way I can make my point:
I don't think it's politically correct to say so, but I think people who hide behind this two word phrase in making a point are bullying cowards who are afraid to stand behind and justify their own ideas in the face of real criticism.
But that's just my opinion. Which I now have to defend. And that's how it's supposed to work.