I hate to admit it, but the folks on the right are… well, right – when they accuse the left of being neurotically, overly-sensitive.
Let Dogs Be Dogs
I got on this topic at the dog park of all places. Every time I take Remy there, I love to play with the other dogs, and I especially love the affectionate dogs. I let them jump up on me, lick my face, etc. I don’t mind – hell, I encourage it.
But every time a dog jumps up on me, its owner invariably freak out and yell at their dog for jumping up on me. I assure the owner that I don’t mind. “Maybe you don’t, but other people do, and I don’t want my dog getting into any bad habits,” they tell me. To which I reply…
“FUCK those other people.”
Seriously – fuck those other people. First of all, if you are at a dog park in the first place, I assume you both own dogs and love dogs. If either one of those is not true, you shouldn’t be there. (If you don’t love dogs, you shouldn’t own them, either.)
Further, I don’t give a shit if your clothes get muddy because my dog jumped up on you. Don’t wear nice clothes to a dog park. Don’t wear white to a dog park. In short – I’m not going to restrain my dog from being friendly because you exercise poor judgment.
Now maybe you don’t want your dog to jump up on people at the dog park so that the dog doesn’t jump up on people outside of the dog park. But I argue that you’re probably in your own home or otherwise have the dog on a leash and have ways of controlling your dog’s impulses in those environments.
I admit that if I had a more aggressive, unfriendly dog, or if I were in other environments, I might be a little more concerned about my dog – or other dogs – jumping up on people. But my dog is friendly, and she does most of her affection at the dog park where – as far as I’m concerned – dogs should have free reign to be themselves. I refuse to scold my dog for being herself to placate uptight pricks.
Political Correctness Is Valid… To a Point
We don’t ordinarily think of dog jumping and face licking when we talk about political correctness, but they operate on the same basic principle. People believe they have a right to never experience discomfort, inconvenience, or an upsetting thought, so everyone else has to modify their behavior and speech to avoid offending everyone else.
As a gay man, I understand the value of political correctness. My parents aside, I’ve been fortunate enough that very little homophobia has ever been lobbed directly at me. I used to be bullied a lot when I was a little kid for other things, but by the time I realized I was gay and came out, I had grown into a formidable and intimidating figure. I suppose most people just didn’t have the guts to give me shit to my face. But I experienced homophobia indirectly – be it ridicule and jokes that wasn’t directed at me, but I could still observe, or the institutional assumptions of heterosexuality.
Even indirect homophobia and institutional assumptions can take a toll on someone psychologically, and our society is far too dismissive of psychological health.
Political correctness is – well… Let’s start with this… Political correctness is a misnomer. Politics has nothing to do with it. We should stop calling it political correctness. I don’t know if there’s a way we can abbreviate it, but political correctness is really “how to talk to people without being a complete douchebag”, and I don’t think there should be any rational argument about whether that should be something we want in civil society.
Not talking like a douchebag (or PC for short) is a valid thing that can help to reduce bigotry and hate toward women, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, LGBT folks, etc., and the psychological scarring that results. It has an appropriate time and place for its usage.
Taken Too Far
The problem is – the left takes political correctness too far. It’s not enough now to avoid being a douchebag, now everyone is expected to avoid ever saying anything that could ever possibly be interpreted by one person in a planet of 7 billion people that possibly, remotely offensive, ad absurdum. The result has been the ridiculous proliferation of “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings”.
After I retired from law, I spent 13 months either secluded or surrounded only by my fellow haunters, and I was free to express myself and unleash my real personality. When I began to work again and was surrounded by Normie co-workers, I found it extremely difficult to re-establish boundaries and filters to avoid getting into trouble at work.
This is not to say that I talk like or treat people like a douchebag when I’m around fellow haunters. On the contrary, most punks are incredibly open-minded and intolerant of intolerance. They’re good people. But we’re also sick and twisted and fucked up in the head – in a way that offends the fragile sensibilities of Normies.
“But Captain,” you say, “aren’t you just being a hypocrite – venerating political correctness when it benefits you, and blasting political correctness when you find it inconvenient?”
Maybe. That’s a valid argument. I’m certainly not trying to be hypocritical, and I will argue (in a moment) that I’m not. But I am human, I don’t analyze everything perfectly, and I’m sure I express more than my fair share of inconsistencies.
I’m going to list my criteria for when political correctness is taken too far and if you evaluate my actions and my words against those criteria, except perhaps for the occasional momentary lapse in judgment – I believe my internal consistency holds up.
Good Political Correctness vs Bad Political Correctness
Good Political Correctness: not talking to someone, about someone, or treating someone like a douchebag.
Bad Political Correctness:
1. Intent Not Taken Into Account
It is okay to politely inform someone that you find something they said or did to be offensive. It is okay to explain to that person why you find it offensive and request that they not do it again in the future.
It is not okay to admonish, condemn, and jump up and down on someone for offending you when they clearly intended no malice or harm. Technical infractions for saying the wrong word in a light-hearted joke should never be the basis for a pissing match.
2. Never Forgiving the Offender
The whole purpose of political correctness is to get people to change their behavior and speech. No one will feel particularly motivated to modify their behavior if they will forever be haunted by that one thing they said or did in the seventh grade.
It’s one thing if someone exhibits a pattern of behavior that persists to the present day. It’s quite another to ruin a person’s life – a person who has lived a relatively good and virtuous life – based on poor decisions in the distant past.
We don’t give the same prison sentence to a burglar that we give to a murderer because if we did, there would be no incentive for a burglar – once he has burgled – to not escalate to murder. The same reasoning applies here. If we’re going to issue life sentences to everyone who has ever told a racist joke, then they have no incentive whatsoever to stop telling racist jokes.
3. Victim Complex
Some people seem to go out of their way to find things to be offended about. It’s almost as if they crave it. Maybe they like the attention. Maybe they enjoy screaming at people. Perhaps they like the coddling or apologies they get afterward.
I’m all for good mental health, but I feel like the “victim” has to own some responsibility and make some efforts on their end, too. People in general need to stop talking and acting like douchebags. But the chronically-offended need to develop a slightly thicker skin, too. If you are constantly reacting as though you are made of candy-glass, then maybe it’s not everyone else that’s the problem, eh?
The unifying theme to all of this, however, is moral judgment and superiority. Human beings – for whatever reason – get some sort of catharsis out of putting other people down to raise themselves up. If the only reason you’re being offended is because it gives you an opportunity to demonstrate that you’re better than someone else… fuck off.
Political correctness has a valid place and use in our society. People should face consequences and be admonished for being douchebags and being abusive to other human beings.
But there also have to be some rational boundaries where we can still tell jokes or stories without worrying that someone’s ears are burning. Grow a thicker skin, consider intent, forgive to let grow, and don’t get pissy just so you can stick your nose up in the air.