PEDANTIC POLITICAL CORRECTNESS IS A CANCER
On the side bar, I wrote, “I have been scolded by people 51% more politically correct than I that the word “retard” isn’t kosher. I think that’s retarded.”
I completely understand that the word is dated and offensive. But it is a word that I regrettably cannot bring myself to stop using when I am confronted by instances of extreme foolishness or stupidity. And I am willing to concede that my very use of the word is foolish and stupid. I am not perfect, and while I try to take the feelings of others into consideration, I am bound to make mistakes and do or say something inconsiderate from time to time. Conversely, I am okay with people making mistakes and acting inconsiderate in a similar manner. That is, in my opinion, the true meaning of tolerance.
I also wrote, “While I believe that political correctness is worthwhile, I do think the concept has been taken too far in some instances.” If you are easily offended, this may be the right place to stop reading.
It is very difficult to candidly discuss race, language, cultural appropriation, gender equality, etc. without offending someone. And due to the mere chance of possibly offending someone, an intolerance of tolerance has emerged and it is a cancer.
Tolerance of opinions and behaviors that one dislikes or disagrees with is, in an opinion you may not agree with, the most important facilitator of social harmony.
The drive, by many, to enforce political correctness pedantically does nothing to further social justice issues. Political correctness works wonderfully when it is used broadly to enhance the adoption of concrete policies that improve the well being of the wider community. Paid maternity leave for both the mother and father; and the work that needs to be done to give parents the confidence to overcome their fear that taking maternity leave will hurt their careers is the type of political correctness I wholeheartedly support. As a stay at home dad, I am fully aware how some people view me. I am sometimes offended, but I am tolerant of those views, because at the end of the day they are views. They are not concrete policies that affect me negatively. It’s policies that negatively affect people that need fixing, not the idiotic views of individuals like myself.
Imagine mandatory paid maternity leave for every citizen irrelevant of age, employment status, title, or position? Maternity leave is still largely a bonus offered by employers, and I am willing to bet that paid maternity leave favors white female workers in almost every industry. This is the sort of political correctness effort I support. Crosscutting issues that make positive contributions to society in its entirety. But that’s hard. Nagging people for something said or done (with or without malice) is far, far easier.
Most social justice warriors who fly the flag of this pedantic political correctness go about their work like inquisitors from the Catholic Church. They’re an army of Joseph McCarthy’s rooting out communists. Prohibitionists demanding that we abstain from alcohol. They judge an individual’s language and actions and prescribe language and actions that they have, often individually, approved of. I fail to see how their campaign of nagging, belittling, and shaming people can have any sort of positive impact.
As I said above, I make mistakes and I have acted inconsiderately a number of times in my life. Most people have.
I am reminded of the time I was sitting in a bar with friends, some time during my university years, and I foolishly started acting like I had Tourette’s syndrome. Maybe I was making fun of the man with Tourette’s syndrome. I can’t recall. Regardless, I was being a complete fucking asshole in the bar. After a few minutes of me being an asshole the man got up from his table and walked over to me. He had naturally taken offense. An understanding that I had acted terribly washed over me while he politely explained why he was offended. I apologized to the man, but when he left I made fun of him to my friends at a volume I was sure he could not overhear. I was immature, and some perverse wounded pride kicked in. Nevertheless, inside I knew I had made a serious error and I have never acted similarly again. Do my friends who were with me that night at the bar know this? I doubt it. I’m not very good sharing my feelings of shame and guilt. However, the offended mans polite explanation to me regarding his hurt feelings was, in retrospect, the correct course of action. He did not show anger. He did not resort to the same sort of childishness that I had resorted to. And, most importantly, he did not attempt to prohibit me from acting that way again by telling me not to do it.
If only his method of explaining offense was the most popular course of action. But it’s not, and at the end of the day human nature does not like to admit fault. When people are criticized or humiliated for their actions, they rarely respond well. In fact they often become defensive and resent their critic.
And I would argue that the criticizing, condemning, and complaining perpetrated by many social justice warriors is, by itself, an act requiring the same kind of calm patient words the man said to me at that bar many years ago. Indeed, what I am saying is that the opinions and actions of many social justice warriors is, paradoxically, also offensive.
An intolerance of tolerance has emerged and it is a cancer.
The word tolerance defines as the ability to accept behaviors and beliefs, different from your own, that you may not approve of. Now, this does not mean that someone has to accept a difficult or unpleasant situation even if they do not want to. The man in the bar did not accept the unpleasant situation that I had put him in. But his tolerance of me was clear in how he treated me. In retrospect, I am sure that the man had accepted my behavior. All he did, really, was explain to me why he was offended by it. Doing so, he provided me with an opportunity to reflect on my actions and decide, on my own, the best course to take. It didn’t have to turn out the way it did, but the success rate in an encounter such as the one I was involved in is much higher than it would have been had the man just criticized and humiliated me.
Every single person, at least once in his or her life, will experience an encounter where someone else exposes a mistake in a tolerant manner. And hopefully, people will on more than one occasion reflect on their mistakes and vow never to make the same mistakes again. Reflection is important and it should be remembered that reflection is not always instantaneous. It sometimes takes time, so patience is required.
I’m sure you can recall something out of Hollywood where a sweet old lady drops the N bomb while she rocks back and forth in her chair on the front porch. We’re given a few seconds to chuckle before a much younger character says, “oh, grandma, we don’t use that word anymore!” We’re easy on grandma because she’s old. She’s from a different time. But that’s the point. Everyone, everywhere, is at a different juncture in his or her personal development. And because so many people are on so many different pages it is imperative that we tolerate opinions and behaviors that we may not agree with and take the time to politely explain any sort of discomfort.
It is also important that we, as a society, work towards providing better than adequate health care, education, and housing. These are politically
correct perfect issues that would do more for social justice than calling people out for using offensive language or behavior.
Simply put, through the use of tolerant interactions and measured responses, offensive words will inevitably disappear once those interactions have affected the majority of individual development paths. The only reason it is such a slow process is because nine times out of ten, interactions aren’t tolerant or measured. They’re just the offensive critiques and condemnations that do nothing to make the situation any better.
Perhaps this is why ‘the right’ finds so many sheep for their flock. So many of the issues on the right are just defenses erected to push back against pedantic social justice warriors intent on outing every mistake and shaming everyone who hasn’t yet subscribed to their particular doctrine. But that’s an entirely different issue and I’ve got shit to do. The fumigator is coming today so I’ve got lots of things to put away and tidy up. Plus, I’m pretty sure the dude never spent a day of his life in a classroom, so it takes a little time explaining where I want him to spray and where I don’t.