Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What is Political Correctness?

Every once in a while, I hear someone complain, "Why do we need to be politically correct?"  Sometimes, I hear someone say sarcastically, "Oh, that's so politically correct!"  I don't recall ever hearing someone praise political correctness or talk about how much we need it.  So I will.

What is political correctness?  PC says that you can't discriminate against someone for his or her age, sex, religion, sexual orientation, or race.  It's about treating everyone with respect, no matter who they are or where they came from, what they think or what they say.  It's about accepting that other people don't think the way you do, don't feel the way you do, don't believe what you believe or want what you want, and their thoughts, feelings, beliefs and desires are as valid as yours are.  How boring the world would be if everyone were the same.  PC is about getting along with each other, agreeing to disagree, not holding grudges, and listening with an open mind.  This is all good stuff, people.  So why do so many people consider political correctness so bad?

If you know, please tell me.

Human beings have always lived in a dangerous world.  Before we established our dominance, we feared and defended ourselves against predators like the saber toothed tiger.  We continue to have natural predators in the wild, but now we have superior defenses like guns to protect us.  Our most lethal predators come in the form of drug-resistant bacteria and viruses, or diseases for which there are either no effective treatments or no cures.  Humans still need to work together, pool resources and information, to survive. 

It seems to me that people who don't like political correctness are people who believe they are superior in some way and expect others to treat them as if they were royalty.  In psychological terms, they suffer from grandiosity.  In reality, they are probably terribly insecure and fearful, ignorant and naive.  Or incredibly stupid.  They have probably been raised to dehumanize others.  For example, the misogynist may hate women on the surface, but he's really afraid of them and their sexual power over him.  He believes that men are superior to women in every way, and that men must control women for women's own good to compensate for his feelings of powerlessness and vulnerability.  The misogynist believes wholeheartedly in the patriarchal society, expects women to be obedient and subservient, and to be happy to serve men.  He does not see a woman as his equal but as a subhuman creature incapable of thinking or speaking for herself.

White people have done the same thing to anyone not of their race or ethnicity, and vice versa; Christians have done the same thing to people of other religions, and vice versa; Heterosexuals have done the same thing to homosexuals, going so far as to claim their sexual orientation was a mental illness; and the young (especially in Human Resources) do the same thing to their elders.  Is it about competition?  Why don't we all want to get along?

Buddhists believe that we are all connected on a subconscious and spiritual level.  By hurting another, one hurts oneself.  By helping another, one helps oneself.  The Hindu, "Namaste," greets both the human being and the divine within.  These two ideas bring people together, acknowledging their humanity at the same time as their connection.  Yes, they're "politically correct."  And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.


So often, people whom I observe not being politically correct or complaining about political correctness remind me of a child who wants his own way and will throw a tantrum if he doesn't get it.  They aren't aware of how immature they are behaving, and I'm not going to tell them, either.  For I am no fool.....


Daughter Number Three said...

Thanks for this. My favorite quote on the criticism of political correctness:

"It is true that movements of conscience have piled demands onto people faster than the culture can absorb them. That is an unfortunate side-effect of social progress. Conservatism, however, twists language to make the inconvenience of conscience sound like a kind of oppression. The campaign against political correctness is thus a search-and-destroy campaign against all vestiges of conscience in society." - Phil Agre

Gina said...

I LOVE this quote! Thanks, Pat. But it's not only the Conservatives, but a lot of lazy people who have little self-awareness, and not much social awareness that their words and behavior affect other people.