Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Politically Correct

I have some real problems with the concept of political correctness. The most ardent advocates for it on the left and the most ardent opponents of it on the right both make me angry. What makes me really angry is that at its simplest, what is described/derided as political correctness is being nice to people, trying to make everyone feel valued and included.

This straightforward and worthwhile concept ends up being railroaded by people who have their own agenda to pursue. It seems anything can start of good and be twisted into something sick and wrong. It's fair to say there are examples of language mangling done in support of political correctness that descend into madness. In some extreme cases it seems the desire to not say anything offensive devolves into not saying anything at all.

Having a point of view isn't wrong by definition. It's when you insist on the primacy of everything you think to the absolute exclusion of contradictory views that you end up in trouble. Except me. Everything I say is right. It doesn't take a genius to realise that if the left-wing political correctness conspiracy expounded by the right existed in any serious way, they'd really hate me.

And that's where I think the most common version of the political correctness bogeyman falls down. Try searching the net for politically correct and you aren't going to find a lot of sites pushing you to conform to PC edicts issues by our left-wing overlords. You're going to find a bunch of right wingers foaming at the mouth about how they're being oppressed. The fact that they are mostly white and mostly male should not, of course, colour your opinion of how hard their lives might be. There are also many non-white and female opponents (and non-white females, helloooo Michelle Malkin) but the driving force behind this is politically aggressive right-wing white males.

You could be forgiven for thinking the notion of political correctness was invented out of whole cloth by these rabid knuckle-draggers. I find it amusing how quickly these braying fools bury themselves without seeming to realise it. One proclaimed the horror of not being able to offend people, he was being crushed by the necessity to "avoid using words or behaviour that may upset homosexuals, women, non-whites, the crippled, the mentally impaired, the fat or the ugly." Yeah, that's a fucked-up goal right there. If I can't abuse every passing faggot, nigger, chink, dyke, retard or cripple, life isn't worth living.

Speaking as a card-carrying member of the loony left, I will admit that I take some trouble to not be gratuitously offensive to people based on race, gender or sexual preference. Oh shut up, I do so. Sometimes I probably go too far and spend too much time walking on eggshells. But I know the value of a good joke (I differentiate between a good joke and a joke intended solely to humiliate someone). And I know the value of stating uncomfortable truths when appropriate. You want to see a right winger oppress your right to speak freely? Try any of the following:

  • Question the integrity or intelligence of George Bush
  • Question the moral and/or strategic value of the Iraq invasion
  • Question the strategic/political/monetary/moral value of unquestioning support of Israel
  • Question any aspect of christian-centric worldview
Hypocrisy always pisses me off and that fact that PC is pushed as the ultimate evil by people who basically control the world... well, that crosses over from irony to fuckwittery.

The reason I bring this up is that I think that the majority of real PC behaviour on the left (as opposed to insane imaginings of PC dictatorships) comes from being worried that any acknowledgment of the failings of a particular minority will be blown up by the right to condemn all minorities. "Yes, many aborigines have substance abuse/addiction problems and don't have jobs" becomes "All abos are lazy, dole-bludging alcoholics". "Yes, that Mexican was an illegal immigrant who murdered someone so we would have been better off if we had stopped him from getting into the country" becomes "All Mexicans are murdering illegal immigrants and we should throw them all out and build a wall."

Last night ABC's "Lateline" (that's Australia's ABC) program ran an interview with a Crown Prosecutor (that's district attorney in US speak) from central Australia. She was speaking out against the culture of violence and sexual abuse that is prevalent in many aboriginal communities. The stories she told were truly horrible (don't read the transcript linked to above if you are easily upset), the worst imaginable tales of sexual abuse, assault and murder. The cultural norms she has observed seem to protect the offenders at the expense of the victims and she sees little effort, or even will, to change the situation.

It must have been hard for her to come forward, not only because they were horrible stories to have to tell. What I think came across as the most difficult part of her decision to raise these issues was the fact that this will almost certainly be taken up by tabloid muckrakers and racists as evidence that "it's all the abos' fault." There is a world of difference between saying that aboriginal people have to take responsibility for making changes in their community and saying white people have no responsibility in the matter.

But we all know how opposed right-wingers are to the stifling of public debate. Any evidence you have that they try to crush anyone who opposes their view is all in your imagination.


zenstar said...

what really ticks me off about political corectness is when they begin applying it, mixed with "human values" to hardcore criminals.
these people (if we can call them that) have been removed from society for acting like uncivilized animals (i'm obviously not talking petty crimes, i'm talking serial here: serial rapist, serial murderers, etc).
what happens next? they get the vote (in south africa). wtf?
i think a little logical thought should be applied here: do you really want a government that represents a fucktard who is in prison for raping and killing 10 year-old girls?
of course the whole hotel treatment of prisoners thing is an entire other issue. think on that for possible anger blogging. in sa the hardcore prisoners get the luxuries and the petty criminals get fucked, literally sometimes. R10 to rent a juvie for the night. he's brought up to your cell for you too. its been proven. a couple of inmates videotaped the transaction and gave it over to lawyers.
of course they also videotaped the sex they had with the juve (dumbasses) and the response to all this? who let a camera into the prison?
back to political corectness: fuck that! its been taken so far (by both sides) that i think its going to cause a backlash in the younger generations.
i say: treat people the way you want to be treated. if you want to rip off race and religion, do it with people who don't mind listening to you, and don't be offended or surprised when your race/religion gets attacked!
plus, since i'm superior to everyone, i can say what i like because you're all below me :)
i'm not elitist, i'm just better than you.

zenstar said...

R10 = ten rand (the local currency) which is about (roughly) US$1.50

yeah... this country is fucked up.
its a really nice place, pity about all the people.

we lose farmers here at 2x the rate of allied soldiers being killed in iraq.

wanna know why the iraq war doesn't seem so bad to me: it's safer than living here.

a farmer killed in sa every 2 and a bit days, (interpol stats... divide the number of farmers killed over the years by the number of days), and a policeman every 3 days...
my figures may be slightly off, i could have rounded down instead of up... best case scenario: a farmer every 3 days and a policeman every 4.
now you got a little bit of an inkling as to why everyone is leaving the country
(why there are so many "saffers" out there)

Michelle said...

The term politically correct should be abolished already. It's been terribly overused. Now there's rightwing assholes all over the place justifying any old shit they want to say, being stupid, offensive and playing right into the status quo as well as a bunch of rabid followers and then having the nerve to claim they're being brave and rebellious because they're anti politcally correct. Forgive me if I still think what you said just proves that you're an asshole who doesn't know his asscrack from his nostril.

Michelle said...

And that goes for the whole "freedom of speech" thing. Some idiot spouts his mouth (or keyboard) off about some racist, homophobic migoynistic bullshit, thinking he's brave and wonderful, then gets a lot of shit from people who he's deliberately offended, and claims that his free speech is being stifled.

No, it's not being stifled dickhead. You said what you wanted, no one stopped you, but they disagreed with you, so they're telling you you're a dickhead and an asshole and a piece of shit, see, it's those people expressing their freedom of speech asshole. You don't have the right to say what you want and demand a particular response.

Mr Angry said...

Nice to see what inflames passion!

zenstar: I agree with you, coddling violent psychopaths doesn't help anyone. Prison rape and murder happens everywhere and probably has but I can't say I'm surprised if SA is on the particularly nasty end off the spectrum. And yes, there are lots of saffers here :) I even went out with one for a while.

Michelle: with you 100%. Treating people decently is political correctness, it's being human. Spouting racist, sexist bullshit isn't freedom of speech, it's freedom of arseholeism. You're free to be an arsehole and I'm free to rip on you for being such a pathetic, worthless piece of shit.

Dr. Nazli said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dr. Nazli said...

I may be off-topic - but I know you won;t mind.

I did actually read the link - and did so in utter shock and sadness.

PC and culture is inter-related. There are some cultures that are mind-bogglingly inhumane, and the practices are protected often by the self-righteous religious people of that community

As for being PC - there is a place for it and it think it is a good guide for proper decorum and a healthy environment - but i agree ultimately the culture and PC should be strictly about humanity

but then not everybody has the same degree of humanity

moonflake said...

here's an example of PCism at its very life-threatening worst. Recently in SA a big deal was made about the fact that the blood banks are using racial screening to decide which blood donations to accept. This is based on cold, hard fact: black, first time donors have a very high chance, proven by the organizations's own donation records and independantly verified, of being HIV Positive. Next up is colored, then white, then indian. In addition, the blood banks do not get enough govt money to afford to test everyone, and even if they did there is a window period in which the virus in undetectable. So if a donor does something suspicious like doesn't fill out their form, based on their risk profile (which includes a lot of other stuff like age, sexual activity, etc) the donation may have to be incinerated. SA also has the world's lowest incidence of HIV infection through donation, so it's working.

But then the Minister of Health declared the policy to be racist! All blood should be tested, regardless of the expense. The result? The cost of blood has increased to accomodate the expense, and the chance of getting HIV from a donation has quadrupled. And still, about the same amount of blood has to be disposed of because it is infected. All because someone had to be so damn PC that they couldn't see the difference between racial profiling based on bigotry, and racial profiling based on fact.

Mr Angry said...

You're going through the same thing that the rest of the world faced with gay blood donors in the '80s. Eventually common-sense won over even though there was a very strong reaction along the lines of "hey, you're discriminating against gay men".

Unfortunately in SA everything is tainted by the history of apartheid which makes it really hard to make judgements based on race even when, statistically, they are valid judgements to make. It's like if anyone questions the political situation in Israel they are almost instantly cast as anti-semitic. God help you if you're German and criticise Israel.

zenstar said...

don't get started on the gay blood donation thing.
it was discovered that the new blood screening thingie was biased against gay people (again based on previous history with blood donation and the facts that were at hand) so what happens ???
some gay fuckwits go donate blood and lie on the form, saying they're straight to defeat the man, man..
now while i think of most people as people, gay or not, these fuckwits are not people! want to know why?
at least one of these people had AIDS and knew that he had AIDS.
now that is completely irresponsible and doing more damage to your cause than good.
you sir-mam are a fuckwit not a person.
if something goes wrong you have just infected some poor innocent who needed blood in an emergency.
while a perfect world wouldn't need to screen blood on any sort of bias, we do not live in a perfect world (in fact south africa is possibly one of the furthest countries from perfect) and you've just made it a little worse.
i would say i hope you die, but you have AIDS already... in this case i hope the antiretrovirals fuck you up but keep you alive long enough so that you can apologise to the mother of the son/daughter that you may have infected!

Mr Angry said...

Yep, people do messed up things. Sometimes because they're malicious and sometime just because they're too screwed up to know better. But it rarely makes things better to lash out and hurt someone else.

steven edward streight said...

I champion the underlying issue of Political Correctness, the desire to include everyone and to not make fun of anyone.

When right wing evangelical whackos attack PC, they talk about how "innocent" it is to say "he spazzed out", "fat guy", "trailer trash", "colored guy", "those people", "tree-hugger", or "weaker sex".

All these things are said by Non PC twerps with prejudice and White Male Patriarchal Religious zeal, as if God was a White Male Republican, probably American too.

So even though I hate all politicians and politics, as an Ethical Anarchist, I still applaud the sane aspects of PC.

I hate the term "politically correct" which implies you belong to the Communist, Fascist, Demopublican, Labour, or whatever, party.

It' more *correctly* "Linguistically Correct" or "Nominationally Correct" or "Semiotically Precise"...??? Somebody help out here, not you, you white bread cracker.

I grate against the entire insane universe. What's your beef?

OH my new friend, I suggest you activate Word Verification w/Comment Moderation and Email Notification of Comments in Moderation, w/Delayed Posting of Comments...

...before a shitstorm of comment spam hits you!

Mr Angry said...

Stephen: exactly the point I was trying to make. what the right often decry as PC is simply being nice to people. If you wanted a particular term, I'd go with something simple like "inclusive language" Welcome aboard!

Mr Angry said...

Oh, and thanks for the tips for comment spam. I known it's almost inevitable I will have to do that at some point but so far I have had almost no trouble. I have decided to kepp barriers to a minimum until it is absolutely necessary - I want to make it as easy as possible for people to post comments. I happy to work at deleting comment spam for a while for the sake of my readers - I'm sure they all appreciate it, my selfless slaving on their behalf.