[Warning: This post contains some minor profanity. I use the word “asshole” quite a bit. If you don’t like this word – or if you happen to be an asshole and you’re sensitive about it – perhaps you should read something else. I recommend Sut my Dit and Other Stories.]
It seems that everyone agrees: Political Correctness is a Bad Thing. A Very Bad Thing.
Charlton Heston, while still alive and holding his gun in his still warm hands, called it “tyranny with a happy face.” That’s about as clever a thing as he ever said.
Simon Cowell said “I hate political correctness. I absolutely loathe it.” But, you know, Simon doesn’t like anything.
Peter Hitchens – not the dead atheist guy; his brother, the smug posh British journalist – deemed political correctness “the most intolerant system of thought to dominate the British Isles since Reformation.” Who knows what that means. I think he’s trying to say, “I’m way smarter than you.”
Novelist and short story writer, Doris Lessing calls it a “… self-appointed group of vigilantes imposing their views on others. It is a heritage of communism”. This is the only thing of Doris’s that I’ve read. She has a dramatic flair, I think.
Vigilantes? Communism? Yes, indeed. Others have said political correctness is fascist. Totalitarian. Stalinist. Marxist. It is the result of brainwashing. It’s wilful ignorance. Enforced orthodoxy. A very popular characterization comes from someone unknown: “Political correctness is simply a speed bump in the traffic of truth, free thought and speech”.
According to the popular wisdom, political correctness stifles free speech. It bullies free thinkers. It suppresses the truth and silences all who would dare to tell it. It ruins careers. It is an oppressive, omnipresent, overwhelmingly powerful and cruel force that especially infects the worlds of politics and academia, though it is found everywhere. “You can’t say anything anymore,” its victims cry.
And yet, no one appears to be afraid of it. Normally, in the face of a powerful evil force that mercilessly punishes the free expression of unacceptable opinion, you would expect people to cower in silence. But just look at all the writers who begin their columns or blog posts with a declaration that what they are about to write is “probably not politically correct”. They go on to write their heresy, heedless of the grave consequences that will most certainly befall them when the forces of political correctness find them and carry them away in the night. What courage. There are entire websites devoted to hatred for political correctness. How brazen. Rather than fall in line, almost everyone publicly and defiantly stakes out for him or herself ground that is decidedly politically INcorrect. Recklessness indeed. Don’t these people have careers and reputations to preserve, families and loved ones to protect? We didn’t see this sort of mass open defiance in Mao’s China, or Stalinist USSR or during the McCarthy era in the US – all of which are declared to be “just like” the oppressive regime of political correctness that now grips us.
Another odd thing about the scourge of political correctness is that, despite the fact that it is everywhere, no one claims personally to be politically correct. This powerful movement threatens to destroy western civilization, of that there is no doubt. But it appears to be a movement without members. No one takes a public stand proclaiming, “Oh yeah. I am PC. Very. And we’re taking over the world.” Nor is there any oppressive infrastructure. No identifiable entity carrying the mantle of political correctitude. No re-education camps offering enlightenment through toil in non-traditional occupations. No gulags where inmates are forced to repeat gender-respectful slogans while being flogged.There is no political correctness politburo, no cabal of politically correct ayatollahs issuing earnestly worded fatwas against those who offend PC sensibilities.
There isn’t even any clear definition of what, in fact, political correctness is. By most accounts, political correctness is characterized by the insistent use of “inclusive” language and an obsessive fear of giving offense, especially to those who are historically marginalized – racial and religious minorities, disabled people, gays and lesbians, women, the poor.
And, how does political correctness wield its fearsome power? How does it enforce its inclusive, inoffensive linguistic Code and thereby crush dissent, stifle speech and kill the pursuit of truth? Well, again, it’s not clear, but it appears that the main weapon of political correctness is criticism – identifying when a speaker or writer has used sexist or racist or otherwise “exclusivist” language and suggesting that he or she just might, therefore, be racist, misogynist, homophobic or some other bad thing.
Wow. That is exactly like the Soviet Union under Stalin.
This is ruining the world. People are not free to say or write whatever stupid thing comes into their heads without having to endure painful criticism. Perhaps name-calling. Where is Amnesty International?
I’ve never had any problem with political correctness. I can say whatever is on my mind without much fear. So, I’m in a position to give some advice to those who find themselves vexed by political correctness. There’s really only one rule: Don’t be an asshole. That’s right, if you have persistent problems with political correctness, if you just don’t get it, you’re an asshole. Not a person living as an asshole, or a person with asshole behavioural characteristics. You’re not nice-challenged. You don’t have a social disability. You’re not sphincter-centric or anally-animated. Ironically, there is no politically correct term or expression to describe you. You’re an asshole.
Of course, you’re saying, “I’m not an asshole”. Few assholes admit to it – just like no one admits to being politically correct. People don’t accept a name for themselves that has been made up by others – by people who don’t like them or the way they live or think or the things they believe and value.
That’s why no one stands up for political correctness. We all claim that the expression doesn’t apply to us, even though it is applied to many of us all the time – by assholes. It’s a way for assholes to trivialize our concerns, dismiss us, imply that our political views are mere fashion dictated to us by others.
So in the interests of a truce here, to get us beyond this, I will admit that I am politically correct and will accept that title. In return, of course, I expect all you assholes to look my way when I yell out on the bus, “Hey asshole”.
Now that I have owned up to being politically correct, I’m going to go further. I am going to take responsibility for the entire movement, since no one else seems to want the job. I’m rushing in to fill the power vacuum at the top of the PC power structure. This is what has been missing in the PC world – Leadership. There’s been no one in charge. No one to mind “the brand”. We PCers have been allowing others to define for us what we’re all about. There has been no standard, no authoritative voice to help distinguish what is “Real PC” from all the silliness that is attributed to us – the lies and rumours, the satire, the mockery.
For example. There is a story going around that, somewhere in the U.S., some group of dumb PCers has told teachers that they have to call Easter eggs “Spring Spheres”. I’m going to assume this is simply bullshit – just another story designed to trivialize legitimate concerns about blood-of-the-lamb hegemony in the public sphere. But, come on. “Spring Spheres”? I don’t think so. Eggs aren’t spherical. And, despite what you might have heard, the story of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection actually doesn’t include coloured eggs. Or a bunny.
So, as the Director General of Political Correctness, let me assure you that this egg story, even if it is true, is not an instance of official political correctness. At worst, it is the work of a well-meaning, but misguided, wannabe who did not check with head office.
Further, let me assure you that it is perfectly acceptable under PC rules, despite what you have likely read and heard, to order your coffee “black”. I refuse to use the words “venti” or “bold”, for personal reasons, but confidently ask for it large, dark and black. Nor has there been an official PC ban on the word “blackboard”. People don’t use that word anymore, not because PCers have declared it offensive to certain racialized groups, but because those things have, for years, been green. And the use of the expression “gravitationally challenged” to refer to fat people? That is alleged to be PC. Be serious. That’s not us. Under my leadership, the expression would be “gravitationally attractive” – so much more positive. But, if you insist on calling fat people “fat”, be my guest. Asshole.
Same with this “personhole” controversy. Again and again, we hear that the politically correct hordes are forcing people to change the time-honoured, near sacred, name of the “manhole cover” because it offensively violates the PC dictate against gender-specificity. As the head of PC, this is not a hole I would choose to die on.
But, let’s just assume, for the sake of argument, that we called “manholes” something else. Some term that doesn’t contain within it the assumption that all those workers who go in and out of those holes in the pavement over the course of a workday are, without exception, men. A term that reflects the reality that, maybe, on occasion, it will be a hard-hatted woman’s head sticking out of that hole. Would the world end? Probably not.
But for now, call it what you want.
I don’t know about you, but I feel goofy referring to the woman who delivers my mail as a “mailman”. So, that’s official. We use a gender neutral term “going postal” to refer to mass murderers, even though they are invariably men, so I think we can make the leap for letter carriers.
I’ve considered the arguments of the politically INcorrect that their quest for truth – their need to “tell it like it is” – requires that they use words like faggot, cripple, retard, dyke, kike, wop, dogan or bogan. I’ve rejected those arguments. Please use the appropriately respectful terms. The list of acceptable terms is subject to change – so keep your eye out for my newsletter. Or, you could just shut up. I have also rejected certain truth-distorting expressions used by the politically incorrect. Like “collateral damage” for civilian casualties. “Rational allocation of scarce resources” for greed. “Right to work state” for anti-union jurisdiction. “Job creators” for rich, fat, tax-evading, avaricious douche-bags.
Calgary City Council voted last winter to change the name of a member of council from “alderman” to “councilor”. This meets with my definition of political correctness and I will endorse it and take credit for it. It was controversial, as so much of my work is. A couple of women alderboys actually voted against it. Some wanted to change it to “alderwhiteman” to more accurately reflect the city’s heritage. [I just made up that last bit. Who says the politically correct are too earnest for irony?]
I want to make it clear, however, that we’re not responsible for the imposition of the metric system, nor for the French words on your cereal box. We didn’t invent the spritzer, the latte or sensible shoes. But multiculturalism? Yeah, that’s us. And employment equity. Pay equity. So, yes, we’re making your life miserable. Equality does that.
Peanut Free Schools. We PCers often get resentment-soaked credit for that one, but it’s not a linguistic thing, so sort of outside our jurisdiction. Still, many people seem to think it is just the sort of precious nonsense the the PC movement would come up with. The non-politically correct point out frequently that it is just so unfair. It’s so much easier to spread peanut butter on bread than to dig out a slice of ham and unwrap one of those pesky cheese slices. They’re comfortable, it seems, for the sake of convenience, with putting their kids’ classmates at risk of dying purple from anaphylaxis. Tell me again why you don’t think you’re an asshole?