Political Wrongness

This post was originally published on Gather.com, and is reproduced here (primarily to try to keep my writing in one spot).

I was skimming some articles, reading some posts and comments: when I came across an interesting one. The post was about some difficulties in Afghanistan, and the comment was: “They will make good slaves for the chimps pipeline deal.” (Now moving this post to a new system, I’m unable to find the original source: but it doesn’t really matter.) That was the totality of the comment. It did not really relate to much directly in the argument, other than that the individual who wrote it obviously had a rather dim view of “Taliban-sympathizers”; the apparent thrust of the point was that those (non-Western) men and women were best conquered and put to use in producing oil for our consumption. He apparently didn’t have much respect for those who would be exploited (enslaved… yes, he does use the word); the comment essentially (specifically?) refers to them as sub-human.

This is not the kind of thing I enjoy reading on Gather (or any social networking site). Usually it’s either not there or I guess I skip over it. Or it’s not in the kinds of posts I read. I know it exists, and it has been directed at me. But it is the kind of “discussion” (and I use the term loosely) that does not add to our community here on the Internet.

“Just a joke.” “A misunderstanding.” “It’s really quite minor.” “Get a life.”

I can hear the words justifying the comment even as I write. Sounds too much like those politicians we despise so much. And if others are willing to let it go with that, so be it. But I’ve known very few “jokes” that did not have a root (and a strong root) in real feelings and hurts and emotions. To me, that is one of the points of humour: being able to express feelings that are valid but not totally acceptable: in ways that are less sharp. I draw the line at a comment like this one. This is not a valid emotion. This is hatred. (And I can hear/see the comments now: is not hatred a valid emotion? Answer that yourself.) (Since this post was written, “hate legislation” has been passed; but I don’t know if this qualifies under that. It is still, though, hate.)

Now I understand all the anger against political correctness. I’ve been rebuked a time or two myself for saying things that were not appropriate (particularly after my accident when words came out of my mouth before being processed by my brain). But words are strong, powerful weapons in our world today. Often we don’t realize how powerful they are, and how much hurt they can inflict. We live in a world where multiculturalism is the rule, and where a word in different contexts can go from insulting to complementary in a flash. Using a word in the wrong context says enormous amounts about a person. But if I’m trying to compliment someone (or insult them), I want that to be clear. And if I’m not trying to do either, I want that to be clear as well.

Some say that we’re going too far in regards to political correctness. If it weren’t for this kind of comment, I might even agree. But the point of being politically correct is not to cover your feelings or ideas, it is to express them in ways that are culturally sensitive, so that the words will reach more ears. The point is to improve communication. Being politically correct is not an attempt to reduce the number of thoughts and ideas expressed by a speaker; it is an attempt to increase the number of thoughts and ideas received by an audience. As speaker (or writer) and thus the source: I think that is our responsibility.

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