Political Correctness is a good thing. We should be considering the feelings and history of the people with which we interact. No man is an island, and we all need to interact in ways that are productive and peaceful.
Hmmm… bold statement JI fail to see what it has to offer that empathy does not cover? It seems to me that 'political correctness' as a label, successfully serves to shame and silence. No one seems to self-identify with it, own it, and to fill out the empty shell that is 'PC'.
What is it to you, because I only see you writing "a good thing is a good thing"?
Well, I see that PC is an actionof empathy not equalor separateto it; it is an extension of empathy, if you like. I understand that you would think that PC is used to shame, however we cannot only look to the extreme ways in which it is used to find out what it actually is, and what it iscan be defined by us, to a large degree. I do think that there are those who do identify as being ‘PC’ like, for example, those in positions of power (i.e. managers, leaders of public offices etc.) who have to represent the interests of people with diverse back grounds. I’d like to get to the core here: if you were to define PC, as you understand it, how would you do so?
I reckon that we slowly aregetting closer to acore here. I agree with the notion that empathy is an essential human value (and trait, which makes us distinct from all other species) and from which PC manifests itself. In other words, an empathetic person canact PC, but being PC does not make you empathetic. So far so good. To (not) answer your question, however, I have a hard time defining PC because I fundamentally view it as a concept with two opposing ideas.
Maybe it would make it easier for us to look separately at the two words. I mean, to be PC you clearly must be by definition something else, something more or something less than just 'correct'; you will be politically'correct'. Take then the word ‘politics’ – which is here, admittedly, oversimplified - is made from nothing but opinions (which of course can be influenced and shaped in countless ways). PC then, must mean that you are in some way 'correct' in your opinion, but is that in a factual, normative, or aesthetic way, etc., and who decides that? Of course, this is not to say that such a construction can't have a powerful impact… I mean look at "living death"
Well, I’d say it is hard to discuss something you cannot define – it makes it difficult to continue. But, perhaps I can try and define it as I see the phrase (trying not to get too historical and such): Political Correctness is an action that is madefrom an (empathetic) desire to be inclusive. Of course, whether or not it’s original usage was meant as a negative ‘stab’ at those who try to be ‘so open minded, that their brain falls out’ or if it was an actual attempt to create inclusion, I have no answer. However, I think that it’s main usage should be when managers, leaders or those that must represent many peoples (those in power), need to act in a way in which their subordinates feel adequately ‘looked after’ or ‘represented’. That PC has become an operative term for the every-day occurrence between peoples is, in my eye, a step too far – where PC becomes a stopper rather than a way to enhance dialogue and community. You ask what defines ‘correct’ – that is a big question if we think of it in philosophical terms, however I’d rather take a pragmatic approach. Defining ‘correct’ usage of language must be up to those who are engaged in dialogue – together. If I meet a person who I might call ‘he’ but who prefers to go by the pro-noun ‘them’ (gender neutral), and that person requests I refer to them in that way, then it would be ‘PC’ of me to oblige. However, I would argue that even then, it should be a common practice to seek to understand ‘why’ the person prefers something over something else, and that other person must agree to seek to be understood, and likewise, seek to understand. If these conditions are met, then being PC, pragmatically, is a way in which we can better understand each other. As I said however, I would say that I would want people in power to attempt to represent those whom they govern in an inclusive way, where by those being governed feel safe and free to be who they wish to be. Is this not the basic human urge? To be free to be who they want to be? So I’ve identified two levels of PC here i) that practiced by those in power and ii) the pragmatic dialogue between two or more people. The former is something I would posit to be a good and just way to govern, and the latter which, if practiced in the way I described above, could be a great platform for a healthy community. I’m not sure I understand your opposing ideas claim – could you expand on what you mean?
I'd say you can discuss everything. The fact you don't/never agree on a definition is usually a catalyst for a discussion (e.g. what is democracy, justice or freedom?), not a show stopper – just as in this case. You started out by arguing that PC "is a good thing". I am doing my best to tell you that as a universal claim, that is simply not correct. Let's take International Voice as an example of my point. We are trying to build an organization for dialogue on contentious issues centered around globalization, and doing so by deliberately bringing people together, who do not share views on both the subject matter and each other; we're trying to create a non-communityif you like. I argue, that if this organization is PC, you're not going to attract a broad spectrum of opposing views, on the other hand you argue that PC has to be the foundation for exactly such an organization (please correct me if this is not correct). Does it boil down to a choice between a like-minded group of individuals, where everyone agrees with one another, or a small forum of people, who are in constant disagreement? Or can we reconcile, whilst at the same time being productive?
I like your thoughts on inclusion. Of course the reverse to that is exclusion, and maybe this is where my view of PC as an oxymoron comes from. As I briefly posited, politics is about opinions, which materialize themselves as choices, which in turn simultaneously result in inclusion andexclusion. Therefore, it is challenging for me to attach 'correctness' to politics from the very outset. We have to establish some kind of yardstick to assess it up against. You're solidly defining PC in procedural terms (and maybe I am misguided in focusing so much on the result) to which I would then ask you, does it make a difference to be inclusive if your end result is just as exclusive as before? If the inclusion was all a charade in order to appease others before a choice is made? I know, I am leaving the pragmatic course, which I think you have correctly charted, but contrary to what you stated earlier, I believe it is important to exhaust the extreme ways a concept is used in order to grasp it, we cannot ignore that. Also, and maybe again misguided, I believe that the concept is born as a negative stab – and that it is serving this function very well.
Lets take your first premise: that the phrase ‘PC is a good thing’ is problematic as a universal claim. I might be obliged to agree. I stated, lazily, in the beginning that ‘PC is a good thing’ and you are right in that in instances where the extreme use of PC is utilized to silence and stop understanding and dialogue, then it is indeed not a good thing. I did however, attempt to give a pragmatic, operational understanding of the term that seeks to be a good thing – of course it is my particular hope that PC is used in that way (i.e to further understanding and dialogue). Your second, that opposing views in a ‘PC world’ would essentially make for little dialogue and your related third premise: that it would then create exclusivity is, I think, I bit of a red herring – especially in the context of our organization. PC need not be a sweeping ‘mode of conduct’ in each and every interaction. If we used PC on a pragmatic level when speaking to each other, it has its benefits, however when discussing issues of diversity and inclusion, I tend to agree that PC – i.e. that not being able to discuss due to issues of inclusion and non-offense – would be a barrier to progressive dialogue. If, as we hope to do, we engage with different groups of people with different meanings and opinions, it would be prudent to make sure that everyone understands the premise for discussion. That premise to allow for honest and open sharing with a genuine attempt to seek to understand, and to seek to be understood (the motto of International Voice – it wasn’t chosen just for a catchy line to have under the logo). To discuss world views openly and honestly is something quite different to meeting and casually conversing with people ‘on the street’ (so to speak). So in short, I suppose that PC for me, has a limit of usefulness when trying to be inclusive on an everyday, normal-meet-random-people context. However, when we need to discuss ‘big issues’ we need to carefully set up a safe and understanding environment where all views can be shared, and consequently discussed. The massive assumption here is, of course, that facilitated dialogue between two opposing (or even slightly different views), is something that furthers common understanding and tolerance of each other. It is an assumption that bases itself in the view that unintended ignorance of others way of life is the basis for prejudice and exclusion. That however, is a discussion for another day.
The authors of this blog are alternating members of International voice.
This blog is formatted in such a way as to resemble a real conversation you might have with a person in real life. The bloggers aren't allowed to look things up, research concepts or the use heavy academic language; we try recreate the condition of having a normal conversation 'on the street'.