Blast from the past

I was talking to someone the other night and the idea of political correctness came up. I remembered that in University, I'd done a piece on the concept that, perhaps, political correctness had had its day - It hadn't actually achieved what it had set out to. It had come into a life of its own, to the point you had to REALLY guard your words to ensure you weren't crucified for being 'un-P.C.'

Keep in mind, this is simply my personal view - I'm not trying to dictate to you, I'm merely expressing an opinion.

So, in that spirit, let's revisit the topic...

Has political correctness had its day - Take 2

The birth of the term 'Political Correctness' came around in the 1990s. It was once used more as an ironic self-description but was brought to the fore in its current form (in the US, at least) by The New York Times. The idea behind it was to ensure that language, policies, and measures would not offend or disadvantage any particular group in society.

It was hoped that the adoption of this way of thinking would mean that we would have to challenge the preconceptions that were once taken for granted, and therefore prevent society from just sweeping the inhibition and suppression of individuals, groups, and ethnicities under the rug. By doing this, we would learn from our mistakes and not repeat them, eliminating racism, sexism, and bigotry. A lofty and commendable idea, but I'd say, overall, that it failed.

I would argue that there are several reasons for this. For one thing, the majority of people are closed-minded and cling to their own preceptions of the world, and will fight tooth and nail if you try to poke holes in their beliefs, no matter their background, (lack of) religion, or level of education. Also, instead of actually tackling the problems of racism, sexism, and bigotry, it simply blanketed certain topics off-limits from certain groups. If you broke the status quo, you had to be VERY CAREFUL about what you said, for fear of being tarred as racist/sexist/bigoted/all of the above - thereby disadvantaging a group from speaking about certain issues, meaning political correctness had broken its own statute.

It has long been accepted that constructive criticism helps to foster learning, growth, and understanding. Does this mean that by being politically correct and not challenging ideas is, at the very least, slowing the progress of these ideas and preventing society from moving forward? Quite possibly. It also creates misunderstanding and uncertainty - by not being able to question the tenets of religions, beliefs, groups, or cultures (for fear of being seen as insensitive), we don't learn about them. What you don't know, you fear.

I'm not saying we need to run around and criticise everyone and their beliefs - What I am saying is having a conversation can't hurt. Be sensitive about it, but ask a question. Don't tell them they're wrong, just say you think something different. Maybe we can replace the concept of being politically correct with being tolerantly correct (that term may need to be looked at by a brains-trust).

But in saying all of this, I don't want to detract from the successes the idea of being politically correct has had. With a few exceptions (I'm looking at you, you right-wing crazies), we as a society don't just throw racial slurs around anymore, the (for some reason uphill) fight to equality is happening - albeit slower than it should (HOW ARE WE NOT THERE YET??), and we're a little more considerate when discussing people's stature, waistline, or sexual orientation. There's less malice and negativity behind our words.

Now, whether that's us actually changing as a society, or through the fear of being denounced by our peers as being un-P.C., well... that's something only you can know about yourself.

Does that mean that Political correctness has failed? Or succeeded...?

I'll leave that one up to you, as like I said - this is just an opinion.