Monday, August 31, 2015

Political Correctness

As a Christian who takes James 3 seriously, I believe it's important for us to be mindful of the way we talk to others. My sense is that this message is the more relevant one for the typical person who would read my blog. So I try to be conscious of who is in my class or audience so that I don't accidentally say something offensive.

BUT there is an opposite extreme, where the word police themselves become the oppressors. A colleague of mine drew our attention to this piece in The Atlantic yesterday. Like I said, the problem at hand seems to apply especially right now to "liberal" institutions.

Employees at IWU went through various training sessions this past summer. I was glad to see that we were following the "reasonable person" standard mentioned in this piece. We want diversity. We want to be loving in all our words and policies. But it would be just as wrong to create an environment where overly sensitive people set the standard.

Here are two quotes that most stood out to me:
  • "According to the most-basic tenets of psychology, helping people with anxiety disorders avoid the things they fear is misguided."
  • "Congress should define peer-on-peer harassment according to the Supreme Court’s definition in the 1999 case Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education. The Davis standard holds that a single comment or thoughtless remark by a student does not equal harassment; harassment requires a pattern of objectively offensive behavior by one student that interferes with another student’s access to education. Establishing the Davis standard would help eliminate universities’ impulse to police their students’ speech so carefully."
This movement won't win, although it might very well wreak some havoc in the meantime. We human beings are animals. This is just another kind of enslavement and oppression that will lead to the kind of anger that elects a guy like Trump, where things could go overboard the opposite direction. It leads to violence among the repressed. You can't change human nature.

Even more the need for us to return to a sense of truth that is not primarily oriented around the subjective. We have lost any sense of objective truth. "Emotional reasoning" is one of the very first fallacies we cover in philosophy--something isn't true just because it feels that way to you. Yes, it means it may be real for you (if you are truly in touch with your feelings), but that doesn't make it true for anyone else. And it certainly does not make it a public truth.

Some people are just over-sensitive. And if we make them the standard for our words and behavior, then society is about to become something akin to living with the Gestapo. There will be no more laughing.


Rick said...

The concept of the individual overrides everything. It is the ultimate authority, even to the point we can define ourselves and all others must adhere to it.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Rick, the problem is not individual liberty, so much as it is identification of social groups. Political correctness is what the "powers that be" determine about public policy. And when politicians are given the right to define what group has particular rights over and above another, then we haven't sought justice, in a humanitarian sense, but a socially defined one. It is true that we cannot make judgments except as defined by and in categories, that is what makes for distinctions and for protections about citizenship, the nation state, etc. Today's world and the elite want to undermine the ability for the "rest of us" to define for ourselves what we value. Then, we can expect that civil liberty will not be justice, but justice will be defined and carried. out by an empowered class, which is where we find ourselves to day IN Political Correctness. Such governments are not free societies but oppressive ones. The nation state has ceased to be valued as an organizing structure, and now, it seems that "humanity" is what we are all "fed". But, "humanity" is an abstraction, really. But it is useful to appeal to the "masses"!

Rick said...

Good thoughts, but I would differentiate "individual liberty" from "individual authority" in regards to Ken's post about "truth". I also think the "powers that be" are not just political/governmental. They also can consist of industry, and/or academia, and/or social groups that use intimidation and shaming tactics when appealing to self-truth.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

A couple of thoughts, Rick, as there are probably as many ideas allowed in our country as there are people.

The Founders did want "self governance" (personal authority), as it pertained to one's character and one's personal opinion about "faith issues". Therefore, in a place like IWU where "faith" is an important value, how is "truth" held?

Laws are truths that set boundaries and define crimes. Political correctness, in this sense, is what the judges determine will be the standard for our country.

Recently, there have been a rash of murders and disrespect of police officers. It is true that some police officers use their authority to intimidate but we've seen these suffer the consequences to their crime, too. But the reaction in the African American community and dignifying rage as protest, has not benefited our nation's peace. In fact, it has made it more dangerous for police officers and their families. Political correctness has driven the media to highlight and report on particular cases that underwrites a political agenda, while disregarding similar cases where "black on black" crime has escalated (or where a black on white crime occurs). Movements, such as "Black Lives Matter" become an entitlements to violence. Remember the images that are reported over and over make "emotional impressions" via group identification; Trayon Martin, Ferguson MS., Baltimore MD, ETC.

Therefore, I think it dangerous to make for a "collective conscious", because people are "herd animals" that identify in packs. Packs are competitive by nature and this is what drove our country to greatness; individual liberty and industry. We must not allow political correctness to destroy our nation's peace and inhibit prosperity. Political correctness will always be a part of an ordered society, but just what are we promoting in our values as a society?