“I just don’t understand where political correctness is leading us.”, said one of my ex-colleagues during one of our classes at a college I briefly attended. “Why in the world would anyone have anything against treating others respectfully?”, I wondered to myself. As it turned out, I might have been the one who was wrong in that situation because political correctness isn’t as simple as it seems. There is much, much more to it, other than the basic faculty of being a polite and respectful individual.
What is Political Correctness?
“Political correctness, as School of life puts it, involves an acute sensitivity to the suffering of minority groups traditionally overlooked by the dominant forces in society- and a commitment to teasing out examples of adversity in the large but also the small moments of daily life.” Political correctness is dedicated to promoting empathy, justice and fairness. It can also establish proper and just human interaction, the kind that is especially favourable in professional environments.
Who does it benefit?
So, apart from polished business people and minorities, who else does political correctness benefit? Well, lots of people- primarily the law-makers. It helps them to arrange a simple set of rules of conduct for addressing lots of different types of people and establishments. It almost serves as a guide book for what not to do or say in certain social situations. If it is so helpful, why does it make people so upset then?
Misuse of the term
The term itself is fairly innocuous and self-explanatory, but its misuse has caused a great deal of upset. People feel as though the term is used solely to express unnecessary grievances and make people feel guilty about being ignorant when speaking out of turn on topics they couldn’t possibly know enough about since they aren’t privy to them yet. Additionally, it censors people’s language by altering their natural manner of verbal expression. It seems as though there are two very distinct dichotomies in this scenario: the one in which we follow the rules of political correctness perfectly and are considered model citizens, and the other in which we disregard them completely and become side-lined. Fortunately, though, there is an apparent and apolitical alternative.
What is the alternative?
There is one plain and obvious alternative here, and that is politeness. Politeness is universal, rather than selective. The ambition of politeness is to be courteous of everyone despite their background, ethnicity or religious beliefs, whereas political correctness compartmentalizes respect.
Politeness, owing to its apolitical nature, offers everyone equal rights, regardless of their political stance, because it is a fundamental standard for treating one another. Where political correctness fails is in its approach; it acts prescriptively rather than descriptively, meaning it orders people what to do and say rather than giving them an option to come to the proper conclusion of behaving in accordance with what society deems appropriate. We are more likely to follow the rules if they are not imposed to us as non-negotiable requirements.
So, where is political correctness leading us?
Well, the answer depends on who you ask. Personally, I believe political correctness should not be banished from the rules of human conduct. It should instead undergo a severe modification which will produce a solution that would be acceptable to everyone. I don’t think the answer lies in getting rid of it completely, since it has plenty of indisputable benefits that provide a strong foothold and nip any potential antagonism in the bud. Conclusively, the state of political correctness currently is leading us nowhere; people are angry, hurt, disappointed, and they are using any given opportunity to be offended and to belittle others instead of educating them. Once we learn where to draw line and how to imply the basic principles that politeness has been teaching us for generations, society will assuredly begin to flourish.
Sources: Is There an Alternative to Political Correctness?
A Progressive’s Guide to Political Correctness
Jerry Seinfeld Is Tired of Political Correctness — Late Night with Seth Meyers
Political Correctness Works For No One | Jonathan Kay | TEDxUTSC