An interesting question came up recently. “Does the idea of politically correct have value?”
There are honest, well-meaning people on both the Yes and the No side of the question. When smart people disagree on a simple concept, you have to wonder if anyone has really thought about it.
It appears that the idea has been around for a while. This one suggests that it may not be a very good idea.
“The moment you introduce a despotism in the world of thought, you succeed in making hypocrites — and you get in such a position that you never know what your neighbor thinks.” Robert Ingersoll.
He died in 1899.
How much useful thought is forever unexpressed because it does not suit the popular narrative. PC has a flaw.
The “yes” side of the question draws on the bible, Matthew 7:12 and hopes to influence people to the “right way.”
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”
A similar thought exists in nearly every religion. Empathy appears to be a universal value. I have no dispute with empathy. Rude and diminishing behaviour is unacceptable. The question becomes where is the line between bad behaviour and silly standard?
“Politically correct” is unsurprisingly a political idea. It behooves us to ask how many purely political ideas have any real world value. This one seems to have only the purpose of controlling the conversation. In and of itself, the idea adds little that was not there anyway. Our mothers were not in favour of being rude to people. There were also not in favour of looking for slights. There was always a gray area.
Politically Correct is like a border guard who refuses to allow divergent opinion to enter. Ask yourself how you are better served by restricting input as opposed to entertaining divergent views. Discussion of differences is important.
I it plays out in many ways. I think responsible immigration is a good idea. New ideas. New techniques and values. New philosophy. The key is responsible immigration. When that is not guaranteed, there will be problems and push back.
Most proponents of an open immigration policy are in the politically correct camp. That is a paradox. How is it that a mosaic of culture is value, while a mosaic of ideas is not? After all, culture is fundamentally just an idea.
I must be missing something.
The more insidious problem is politically correct is difficult or impossible to argue on its merits. It becomes a personal attack if you tread wrong, however unintentionally.
As with all rules, to grow it must look for finer and finer gradations of meaning. For now, we are facing the micro-aggression problem. Gonzaga University has decided that asking an Asian student for help with math must be demeaning for them. How long will it be until micro-aggression gives way to nano-aggression? The body of overseers will be vast by then.
It must be very easy to earn a living these days if people have enough time to spend on trivia such as politically correct.
The fundamental argument purports to be about justice, but it is easy enough to see that, in this case, justice is not fact but opinion. The only way to be just is to agree with the PC crowd. We might be better to focus on virtues we can live every day. Fairness and politeness are good ones. Respect too.
It’s not so hard. Empathy. Be respectful. Be polite. Be fair. Learn from others. Everyone has a story. And most of all, stop assuming someone else is offended or should be.
Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario. In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.
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