This week’s Hump Day Hmm discusses something that bugs me quite a bit, and I’m not that old – Political Correctness. Naturally, it doesn’t bother me that it does actually exist, but I feel that there is a sense of paralysis that results from the supposed need to be PC.
The paralysis comes in one of two forms – either you change what you say to practically negate any true meaning you’re trying to achieve, or you just don’t say anything at all for fear you might offend someone. I know that I’m guilty of doing both, more the second than the first. However, it’s not all concerns of offending anyone that would keep me from saying anything – I would always assume that someone else would come along and say exactly what I was thinking.
I’ve now learnt that this isn’t always the case and that there are usually people who are in the same spot as me – they want to say something, but are afraid to do so or just don’t bother because they assume that someone will pick up their slack. However, there are some circumstances – such as when the person you’re speaking to just doesn’t like you, or they think that you have some kind of secret agenda – where it is best to say nothing because if you do, you know that the discussion will likely wind up being one of the past and of the present.
In fact, that was one of the reasons why I started blogging again – so that I could say whatever I wanted whenever I want. There isn’t the worry about my words having direct consequences over my participation in one site or another. I’ve also found that, more recently, I’m not visiting the same sites that I used to before I started blogging – for example, I find that I’d rather be reading through various blogs in my Google Reader where I have a wide variety of viewpoints, rather than in forums where it’s seemingly always the same four or five people posting their ideas.
However, where you really see the paralysis is out in the political world. However, it’s not the bloggers or the talk show hosts that show the paralysis – it’s the politicians themselves. A lot of the blame for that probably should be shifted onto their staff as the reality of politics now is that it is a show run behind the curtains. It’s best shown toward the end of season 6 of The West Wing, where the election is ramping up and all the candidates are getting their names out there. In a couple of episodes, there are situations where a candidate chooses to say what he is thinking and gets raked over the coals for actually saying it. Unfortunately there are a lot of people who will never have seen that episode as they felt that the whole show was just a vehicle to promote “liberal” ideas. I’ll admit that I thought the same thing myself, but once I watched three or four episodes, I was hooked and haven’t looked back. In fact, I even found an old episode on a VHS tape and watched it (at least until the tape ran out because it was part of the overrun recording that I had done).
The reality is different of course for our politicians today – they are all concerned about polling numbers, and making sure that they vary their message depending on who they are talking to. There is an element of this as well in the West Wing, but the writers did give the characters the opportunity to speak their mind.
Where do I stand on being PC and saying the right thing? I certainly think that if you’re comfortable with saying something, you definitely need to. Otherwise you might not have another chance to say it. Even if you don’t think you’re comfortable, you should write up what you want to say and possibly run it past a friend – they’ll likely give you tips on how to improve your message and possibly remind you of things that you should include as well. I also think that you should, within reason (as in not making a direct personal attack or resorting to racial or ethnic slurs) say what you want to say in the manner that you wish to say it.
There’s a lot more that could be said, not only for the words we say, but also for the actions we decide to take – especially when it comes to shielding ourselves from things. However, that’s a discussion for another time.