Political Incorrectness

Posted: 23.03.08 in Blogging

I recall whilst at school in a Religious Studies class, we were asked as an exercise to describe ourselves in six words. Some were selected by the teacher to read out the words they had chosen. He had deliberately chosen students with some questionable views and hardened fronts to start. The first had chosen "straight" as one of his words, and the others followed suit.

He then asked me to read mine. "Straight" wasn’t one of the words on my list. I won’t deny that it was quite a confusing time, and put into that position I did want to affirm my heterosexual orientation, so I followed suit, changing one of the words on my list.

On finishing, the teacher was close to fits of rage. He branded the class as homophobic bigots and dismissed the class. At the time I did feel rather ashamed. I had let peer pressure get to me, and I had described myself with a word that did not immediately come to mind, so I can’t really say it was an honest reflection of my opinion of myself. But spending two hours last night staring into space, reflecting on these kinds of things, I thought to myself: ‘what if I had said "gay"?’.

If anyone in the class had done just that, perhaps they might have been admired for their courage, but they certainly wouldn’t have been admonished for their narrow-mindedness.

It seems that is what political correctness is all about. It’s not so much about ensuring that individuals and minorities aren’t offended by the words or actions of an individual; rather it seems to be a concession by those of the majority to accommodate a minority group.

Having said that, I empathise with the origins of the "PC movement" — its purpose is to give everyone a level playing field, to let everyone know where they stand, and to give the appropriate protocol for those who wish not to cause offence to others.

Conversely, for those that exercise their right to "Freedom of Speech" in order to cast aspersions and wilfully cause offence are entirely wrong to do so: indeed it is quite possibly a criminal offence, and as such Freedom of Speech does not entitle them to intentionally offend someone.

So, in summary, political correctness is a good thing in its foundations, but has lost its way in its development. In my view, I don’t really follow the political correctness protocol, but I don’t cause offence either. Rather, I follow the don’t go there protocol, since for the most part there is no real need to. If you don’t want to cause offence, you naturally stay clear of anything that might.

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