Tag Archives: political correctness

Manners, respect and political correctness

Every time I encounter someone expressing the idea that ‘this political correctness has gone too far now’ I immediately wonder who it is they’re prejudiced against. Who do they want to blame, shame, attack or abuse? This is in part because I’ve never found a problem in critiquing behaviour, especially individual behaviour.

It is basic good manners to use the words people prefer you to use – to not describe their race, religion, cultural heritage, body shape, disability, orientation or anything else in terms that are designed to put them down. If you want to use offensive language, the problem is not people being offended, the problem is that you have no manners. If you have a problem with something someone is doing, it is totally possible to talk about that without using offensive language. It’s actually more powerful to avoid language that people can latch onto. Your point may be derailed if you make it badly.

I think often the problem is that some of us are reluctant to listen to anyone else. It can be hard to hear that someone else has far bigger problems than you do. It can undermine your sense of entitlement and your feelings of importance. And of course this is often exactly the point. The feelings of entitlement and importance, and the need to be ‘above’ someone else is often a big part of what’s causing the real problems. If your white guilt is more important than the experiences of people suffering from racial abuse. If your hurt male ego is more important than women being raped and murdered. If feeling normal as a heterosexual is more important than queer people being imprisoned… these are huge imbalances, and need facing.

It’s the people who complain about political correctness, who, in my experience, are most likely to try and weaponise their own offence. And it works, because they’ve got enough power to do that. This is the scenario if you are offended by homeless people begging, or by images of starving child victims of war, or by paying your fair share of taxes. If you are offended by having to include people who are not like you, and offended by resources going to people who are not like you, your problem is probably you.

I also know that the people who want to be allowed to be un-pc are not likely to be moved by any of these points. So, I shall call them out where I can for being ill mannered, because it might be more effective. I’m also going to try laughing, because laughter is a powerful thing, and people don’t enjoy being told how funny and outdated their ideas are. My experience of anti-pc people is that they want to be taken seriously, and have their opinions respected, which may mean that giggling disrespect is the most effective means I have for getting them to stop with that shit.

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.