Hear Me Out

No offence, but political ­correctness has gone too far

A NEW RESEARCH report recently made international news, including a poll showing that around 80 per cent of Americans think political correctness (PC) has gone too far and should be reined in.

The term itself is a blanket one that supporters will insist is easily definable, but that is not actually the case. I looked up synonyms for the term, and found the following: considerate, ­diplomatic, inclusive, inoffensive, respectful and sensitive to others’ viewpoints.

So long as the law does not demand I be any of those things, I cannot see any harm in holding them up as positive virtues. As I understand it, the PC movement began as an attempt to remove disparagement of certain people or groups from public discourse, and I can’t believe 80 per cent of people think that is a bad idea.

But PC has gone a lot farther, as can be seen in the rest of the list of synonyms I found: non-discriminatory, multi-culturally sensitive, nonracist, non-sexist, gender-free, politic, bias-free. These words are far more doctrinaire, and demanding of specific behaviours.

“Non-discriminatory” sounds fairly benign, but covers too much ground. We all ­discriminate every day, on subjects such as what to wear, what to eat, where to go and what to do. We ­discriminate regarding people, too. There are some with whom we’re happy to spend lots of time, and others who, by virtue of their character, we avoid instead.

“Multi-culturally sensitive” is another ­misleading term. Does it mean we must be aware that we share our country with people from different backgrounds and should take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about them? Or that we are to assign no ­negatives to what we may consider primitive or regressive values so long as they have a “culture” to back them up? PC says the latter.

If you take “non-racist” to mean nobody should be denied opportunities because of their ethnic background, you’ll get no argument from me. But if it means the mere mention or suggestion of a person’s racial makeup (even in the most benign way) is forbidden, it chokes off a lot of potentially positive and interesting discourse.

The same goes for “non-sexist”. If it means removing any negative stigma attached to a person’s sex, then it’s hard to argue cogently against it. But PC seems to demand we remove all reference to it, across the board, in whatever context or situation. A step too far, I think.

“Gender-free?” What the heck is that? Without gender we wouldn’t be here. Beyond that, it leads to such absurdities as people who insist gender is just a made-up concept while at the same time demanding we all use new pronouns for every real or imagined gender “type”.

Then there’s “politic”, which the dictionary describes as “characterized by shrewdness in managing, contriving or dealing; sagacious in promoting a policy; shrewdly tactful”. No offense intended (though intention counts for naught when you’re discussing PC), but the average social justice warrior of my experience doesn’t meet any of those definitions. They seem to be more of the blunt instrument, my-way-or-the-highway types for whom shrew would be a better descriptor than shrewd.

And finally, there’s “bias-free”. As with “non-discriminatory”, this flies in the face of reality. We all have biases of one sort or another and one of our challenges as responsible adults is to identify them and make sure they do not negatively affect our practical judgement or relations with others. We gain nothing by ­pretending otherwise.

I think these terms and the PC behaviours upon which they insist are the real source of public disenchantment with the whole PC movement. I have no problem believing 80 per cent of the population are fed up with all the shenanigans to which they have led, and you can count me in, too.  Jim Chapman