Politically Correct Pagan

All too often I see the term ‘P.C.’ being denigrated as some kind of mealy mouthed nanny state intervention depriving us of the right to freely express ourselves. I would like to tell this story in a different way.

Once upon a time it was considered totally acceptable to pick on anyone weaker than you. Those who were different – racially, sexually, physically, emotionally, intellectually… you name it, anyone who dared to be different or had no choice about failing to conform to norms, was fair game. You could make jokes about them, you could casually undermine them with cruel names, you could insult, hurt and ridicule them with impunity. As the ‘weirdoes’ (as non-PC folk like to call us) had no power, there was no fighting back. Pagans were afraid to admit to their faith. Protest, and you were no fun, a spoil sport, making a fuss. Some fifty percent of the population were also expected to smile sweetly and be good sports about routine sexual discrimination.

If you feel a warm glow of nostalgia thinking back to that, then Gods help you.

There were grass roots campaigners from all kinds of minority groups standing up to this, asking for fair, polite and equal treatment. Mostly it didn’t happen. Mostly it took legislation to stop people who felt entitled to abuse others from randomly spouting whatever inconsiderate, toxic rubbish spewed normally from their mouths. Said people have fought, and resented, and demanded to be allowed to freely express their opinions. Sometimes this is dressed up as their rights being violated, and I have encountered white, healthy, middle class, middle aged guys who truly think they get a rough deal and that one legged black lesbians get all the good stuff in life. This is because, in part, they’ve never knowingly met, much less talked to any one-legged people, black people or lesbians.

Now, let’s consider what an un-pc-opinion actually is. It’s a gross generalisation, rude in nature and targeted at either an individual or at groups, based on assumption. Being un-pc means claiming the right to insult women for being female. It’s about ridiculing the old for no longer looking like young people and mocking this disabled for the bodies they were born with. Racist un-pc statements are all about racial superiority. Most of it comes down to asserting your belief that you are better than the person you are kicking. The un-pc person gets a power trip out of kicking people with less power.

There are times when being specifically rude, or specifically offensive has its place. It has to be specific and it has to do something worthwhile. Most politicians urgently need offending into doing their jobs properly, as I see it. What great social problems do we challenge when we mock a disabled person, make jokes about ethnicity or poverty, or ridicule transgender folk? If there’s a real problem, we should be talking about it. This is not about real problems, this about how some people have a problem with other people not being like them. Nothing at all is happening here except one person causing pain to another so as to feel bigger. It’s not about freedom of speech because for it to be a freedom of speech issue, you have to have something to say. If no actual point is being made, if the whole point is to put someone down because you can… what excuse is there?

We have to challenge people who think that being powerful makes it ok to hurt those who aren’t. Using humour to puncture pomposity and challenge the powerful and hold the unreasonable to account is not the same as using humour to denigrate people with no power who have done nothing to offend you but be themselves.

I see a lot of Pagans online getting into ‘telling it like it is’ which seems to mean being as rude and careless as they feel like. It’s not good enough. Freedom of speech is not an entitlement to inflict pain for the sheer hell of it. Freedom of speech does not entitle anyone to defend an imaginary right not to know how it is for other people and why what they’re saying might not be ok.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

12 responses to “Politically Correct Pagan

  • dkhyde2014

    I think this is a symptom of modern life. I seek both truthfulness and politeness.

    When we lived in smaller, close knit communities, our families and small number of friends were truthful to us, and kept us in check. (Saving us a fortune in therapy, where we rely on paid strangers)

    When we moved to interacting in larger communities, we moved to a more civil way of interacting with each other, enabling civilisation to work (the same root word, also related to politics, and politeness – thank you Sir Terry). Interactions with strangers is more risky, so we place more constraints around it.

    Nowadays we crave that intimacy and honesty lost through lack of small social or family cohesion since we are geographically so disparate. Some people use the public media of the internet or other uncontrolled social channels to explore these issues, and invite the public (strangers) to be honest with them, but that has also normal the behaviour that it’s ok to say anything publicly if you are being honest.

    Honesty and truth are also different. My beloved asks me how her outfit looks, which honestly may not be perfect. But the question she has really asked is how much she is valued, and is she lovely (which she is irregardless of clothing choices) So I respond yes, since in truth she is lovely, but not honestly about her outfit.

    Knowing when to be truthful, honest or polite is one of the hardest things for us humans to fathom, to be honest. But it’s mainly about love or hate, however you dress it up – and if you speak in love, then you’re probably ok.

    • Nimue Brown

      I think that’s a really good point. It’s hard to do that gross generalisation thing when you are dealing with specific people, and our reduction in or lack of community involvement, may be significantly to blame. Thank you – I’d not really considered it in those terms before.

  • dkhyde2014

    Sorry, Normalised, not normal.
    Just because it is normalised doesn’t make it right!

  • Lou Green

    I think it comes down to Empathy. The loud mouthed un PC people who think it is ok to put other people down for nothing other than who they are tend to live in their own ‘I’m alright jack’ world where everything is viewed from the point of how it affects themselves. They completely lack the ability to ‘put themselves in anothers position’ and therefore are totally unable to see or care that what they are doing is hurting others. They are usually the ones that shout the loudest when someone does the same to them though. Sadly, my opinion is that these same people are also the types that think it ok to trample on others in order to get to where they want to be in life so end up being the people who head up large corporations, run countries etc etc and are unable to understand or care about the consequences of their actions and decisions!

    • Nimue Brown

      Yes, failure to recognise that other people have different experiences – that’s a big one. The assumption that I’m ok so there is no problem, I haven’t seen it so it doesn’t exist, I’m not hurt by it so no one should be hurt and therefore anyone who feels differently is silly, making a fuss, etc. And yes, we have far too many of them in places of power.

  • angharadlois

    Hear hear 🙂

    One of the most heartening moments of the past 12 months was when I introduced the phrase “check your privilege” to a Philosophy in Pubs debate. It’s not an uncontroversial phrase; I had wondered if people might have wanted to debate its use, but instead, everyone pondered it for a moment and then said, “yeah, that’s what it’s all about really, sounds about right” – and I suddenly remembered that, of course, these were people whose hobby on a Tuesday night involved questioning their assumptions.

    Some people, out in the wilds of the internet, claim that phrases like “check your privilege” stifle free speech. Free speech is often invoked by the anti-P.C. brigade. I happen to believe quite passionately that nothing should be unsayable, but equally that we are responsible for what we choose to say, and that *everyone* has a right to speak. The people who speak the most seem to grow used to the idea that this is their right, that their voices are important – perhaps more important than those voices are less heard – and can be very ungracious about making way. And people whose voices are less heard can be wary of speaking up for this very reason, which is partly why I still think positive discrimination is a good thing: it holds open a space for people who may take a while to feel able to walk into it and start speaking – space which would otherwise be quickly filled by the same old people telling the same old stories and forgetting that other, equally valuable stories still need to be heard.

    • angharadlois

      Also, given the timing… Terry Pratchett was such a great example of someone “using humour to puncture pomposity and challenge the powerful and hold the unreasonable to account.” He was also one of my earliest and most profound teachers when it came to understanding that everybody had a story, and that everybody’s story – from the Patrician’s to Foul Ole Ron’s to the Librarian’s and the Death of Rats – deserved to be heard. I have spent most of the past 24 hours feeling ridiculously emotionally attached to the memory of the day I baked him a croissant.

    • Nimue Brown

      It’s very easy or a person to be blind to their own power and advantages. There’s also the issue of being able to accept that maybe not everyone experiences things the same way.

  • Cadno Ddraig

    There is an excessive introspection and self-absorption, called narcissism, which is enfeebling and detrimental to one’s well being. Prolonged and obsessive reflection about issues of identity and health can drag one into this morass and become consuming, eclipsing joy and breadth of vision, and preventing one from seizing with gusto the wealth of wonderful pursuits and experiences available to us regardless of our sex, race, appearance or gender-identity. A lot of dialogue about valid issues of fairness and justice has deteriorated into a narcissism – characterized by feverish self-labeling into ever more recondite categories and sub-categories – which then shields itself from due criticism by waving the banner of Political Correctness.

    I don’t ever remember the time you speak of (I’m 53 years old) when it was “totally acceptable to pick on anyone weaker than you”. If my father or mother had caught me bullying or denigrating anyone because of his or her sex, race, disability, or any other trait, I would have been punished with a swiftness and severity which most liberal minded people of today would consider far less than PC. I cannot imagine any one of my teachers failing to rebuke or punish said behavior, either. That being said, I lament, heartily, the current backlash of the troglodytes against fairness, justice and sensitivity across the board.

    At root,I think the entire Enlightenment conception of “human rights” needs to be revisited and re-imagined as “human responsibilities”. The whole notion of “my rights” is too passive, too self-centered, too childish. Do I really have a right to live in a just society, or do not I rather I have the responsibility, the imperative, to help create a just society? I think the latter cleaves more closely to the truth and is ultimately far more empowering and far more conducive to robust community building. It strikes at the diseased roots of both contemporary liberalism and conservatism, so called. But it’s not PC to say so.

    • Nimue Brown

      I think it is, and should be entirely politically correct to talk in terms of responsibilities. I’d go further and say that with responsibility, the idea of rights becomes meaningless anyway. Apparently I have been exposed to more sexism, racism and prejudice than you. The playgrounds of my childhood were rife with all 3, and there was plenty of it other places, too.

    • Nimue Brown

      We also need to recognise that it is a lot easier to assert rights, real or imaginary, when you have power, and that people who are less powerful, due to poverty, illness, age, or other people’s intolerance, do not start from the same place.

  • Léithin Cluan

    Really good stuff. As I say a lot, my right to swing my fist ends at the tip of your nose. I might really, really like and want my right to swing that fist, but I can’t do just anything with it. Rights can’t exist without countering responsibilities.

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