Splodge 2

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Now, here’s an interesting point to debate. I had a reply to my last blog about splodges of emotion from brasscastlearts:

One thing about Trump that appeals to a lot of people is his disdain for political correctness. The time to stamp that out is long overdue. It is a form of terrorism, more dangerous because it is so subtle. Maybe Trump, if successful in his bid for the White House, will provide leadership in that direction, to turn our heads back around so that we can call a spade a spade without being ostracized, condemned, persecuted, or slaughtered.

This is what I mean by a big splodge of emotion. I hope brasscastlearts doesn’t mind if we explore it a little.

You see, I come at this from the opposite point of view. For me, political correctness is one of mankind’s greatest achievements in the last century. And, yes, I did deliberately say “mankind”. I don’t feel the need to gender-neuter it. More on that later.

At its heart, political correctness is about respect. I don’t want to hurt you, so I will avoid using language that you might find offensive. And just what is so wrong with that?

Let’s personalise this a little. I am fat and bald. It’s okay, I can say that about myself. It’s my choice.

But if you and I sit down in a bar to have a few beers, we are not going to get along all that well if you start calling me bald and fat. My wife and my Mum are the only two people on the planet who can say that. And even then I’d probably sulk.

Except we wouldn’t do that, would we? If we are sitting down together to neck a few cold ones, we aren’t going to start insulting each other. That’s not a good way to win friends and influence people.

The simple truth is that language can be used to hurt people. Political correctness is nothing more than “don’t use words to hurt other people”. Please don’t call be bald and fat. I don’t like it.

But here’s the funny thing. If that was all that political correctness was then life would be simple. We would all shrug and accept it. We’d stop using word X and start using word Y. It’s not rocket science or a massive hardship.

That’s when the splodge of emotion comes in, and it comes in with such a rush of feelings that we don’t stop to think about it. We can’t think about it. The emotions are so strong that there is no bandwidth left for logic.

When we talk negatively about political correctness, what we normally mean is that we feel challenged or corrected. We used to be able to say such and such. Now those words are banned.

And that can hurt. We might feel that political correctness is an attack on us. I might feel that I am in the wrong because I called you a term that I didn’t know was politically incorrect.

It’s the classic fight or flight response. If someone accuses you of being politically incorrect, it can feel as if they are attacking you. And that can provoke a choice of fight or flight – either saying that political correctness is inherently wrong or that refusing to engage at all. Or, if you are the Donald, building a ridiculous wall.

That’s when people like brasscastlearts feels “ostracized, condemned, persecuted, or slaughtered.”

Hang on a minute – isn’t that the point of political correctness? The whole point is to stop people from feeling disadvantaged or hurt. We shouldn’t use the N word when talking about black people, unless we are black ourselves and/or in a Quentin Tarantino movie. That much should be blindingly obvious. We shouldn’t feel as if we are being disadvantaged by not being allowed to say the N word.

The trick is to see the argument from both sides. Political correctness exists to protect people from being hurt or disadvantaged. But people accused of being politically incorrect can also feel hurt and under attack.

People like to argue for their rights. The free speech argument is that I have a right to say what I want. The counter argument is that I have a right to be treated with dignity and respect, which means that only my Mum and wife can call me bald and fat.

What happens when two sets of rights contradict each other? When my rights conflict with yours? What ought to happen is that we sit down and find a compromise where we are both equally happy or equally unhappy. What usually happens is that each side shouts for their own rights and ignores the other side. If we shout loud enough maybe we can drown the other lot out.

We need to turn the temperature down. Way down.

Political correctness is important because it gets to the core of our belief systems about respect and decency and equality. But political correctness can be used as a hammer to beat people with, which is almost as bad.

So, sure we should try to make language as gender and racially neutral as reasonably possible. But we ought not to ram it down people’s throats by insisting on alternatives for relatively harmless words such as “mankind”. And we shouldn’t make people feel bad if they have to adjust to changes in language.

This is subtle stuff which not everyone will understand. We do need our political leaders to get it because they have to represent everyone in their nations – and not just the ones who vote for them.

That’s why Donald Trump appals me. His “disdain for political correctness” is a huge step backwards. He isn’t plain-speaking or calling a spade a spade. He is being downright racist by putting the views of some people over the views of others.

Please, America, please, please, please. Don’t have this man as your President.

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