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Political correctness - it's doing my head in!
Member Name: Mauri
Political correctness - it's doing my head in!
Advantages: As helped to shape a more tolerant society
Disadvantages: Some misguided in implementing it
Words matter, language is a powerful tool that can be used to provoke, cajole, persuade, praise or insult. The power of language and words should not be underestimated and indeed some believe that the words people use not only reflect but shape their idea and attitudes. Political correctness when applied to language has the function of making language inclusive or neutral ensure that minimal offense to racial, cultural, or other groups.
It wasn’t so long ago that many derogatory terms where common place in the media and everyday life, nigger, coon, queer, yid, Paki, faggot, puff, kike, spastic, cripple and many more were routinely used by people with little thought to the offense the it might have given to those people the those groups. Over the years these terms of reference have changed and more acceptable words have replaced the offending ones and the process is ongoing developing as language develops and attitudes change. In these circumstances I don’t have any problems with so called politically correct language.
More contentious changes have also been made in the filed of gender specific language, where certain professions have been considered male oriented and the language has reflected this thus in the yes of many making it more difficult for women to achieve equality of employment.
"Tomorrow I will meet my new doctor; I hope he is friendly."
Could be changed to
"Tomorrow I will meet my new doctor; I hope they're (he or she is) friendly."
To many this might seem pedantic but personally I’m not opposed to adopting such changes especially in published material if it helps to emphasise that women can do the same jobs as men. Again many of these concerns are now trivial since sexual equality in the workplace has made great strides in the last few decades but at the time when many schoolgirls were not considered to take up such male careers the use of ‘correct’ language was important.
Today for many people political correctness is much more than the use of language but seems to extend to they way we represent and define our culture. So why has also become a derogatory term?
We’ve all heard the many stories of how sometimes even well meaning bureaucrats and public organisations have taken the idea of political correctness to an extreme angering many that believe this is an attack on their free speech, even their traditional way of life. Inevitably this give rise to antagonism and resentfulness to those groups who are seen as the perpetrators of these changes, more often than not it gives rise to xenophobic, racist or ant–gay feelings.
Religion particularly seems to spark off great controversy, some famous examples have included
1) Birmingham city council banning Christmas celebration opting instead for the more neutral ‘Winterval’ festival (The Sun).
"The dead hand of political correctness is throttling the life out of the festive spirit,"
2) Luton council banning Christmas celebrations in favour of a Harry Potter themed event called Luminos (Daily Mail)
“cancelled Christmas for fear of offending Moslems"
3) Various councils banning hot cross buns from schools in case they upset non-Christian pupils (The Daily Telegraph).
4) Chester council banned Christmas cards from saying Happy Christmas.
5) 'PC madness' resulted in a local millionaire in the village of Sonning near Reading being banned from ‘putting up his annual charity light display outside his home’ (Telegraph Online).
6) We hear that 74% of British employers have banned Christmas decorations for fear of offending non-Christian workers and that by law all religious festivals have to be celebrated (Daily Mail).
7) Other famous examples include Baa Baa Black sheep being changed the Baa Baa Rainbow sheep or being banned altogether (The Mail On Sunday/Daily Express and the BBC news).
The World’s gone PC mad!!
But wait!- HERE I WOULD STRIKE A WORD OF CAUTION, DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ!!
Let’s go through these once again and see if we can figure out what is really going on…
Did Birmingham really ban Christmas? Well not quite. According to the council
official statement, a festival called Winterval did take place in 1997 and 1998 but never since. It was a promotional campaign to drum up business for Birmingham's recently regenerated town centre. The festival began in November and finished in January BUT during Christmas period it said
"There was a banner saying Merry Christmas across the front of the council house, Christmas lights, Christmas trees in the main civil squares, regular carol-singing sessions by school choirs, and the Lord Mayor sent a Christmas card with a traditional Christmas scene wishing everyone a Merry Christmas".
So not quite what The Sun had in mind then…
Similarly in Luton although a festival called Luminos did take place one November weekend in 2001 it was not an alternative for Christmas it does not use an alternative name for Christmas and the event didn't replace the council's own Christmas celebrations.
How about Hot Cross Buns surely this would be a prime target for that PC terrorist attacking our great British Christian traditions?!
Sorry to disappoint you but this is true either…the story was published by the Sunday Telegraph in 2003 and it was totally false in fact authorities had done nothing of the sort and most had never served hot cross buns in the first place this was the figment of some journalist’s imagination. The Sunday Telegraph admitted as much and carried an apology in following edition unfortunately the apology did not appear on the online version and the story still get quoted and recycled by eagle eyed anti PC’ers.
Did Chester ban Happy Christmas on cards? Not really their cards said Seasons Greetings as do many Christmas cards and have not changed in decades.
How about the millionaire and his charity lights? Again this is a case of the truth getting in the way of a good story… the display by Vic Moszczynski involved 20,000 lights, and were supplemented with large illuminated snowmen and amplifiers emitting Christmas songs into the street. Wokingham council got an injunction against him, after it received complaints from neighbours, reported traffic snarl-ups and had to spend £7,400 for policing Moszczynski's neighbourhood. Even so a display was not banned it was still there in 2006 if a little toned down it still featured a featuring a snow machine and Moszczynski was the guest of honour at a shopping precinct in Reading to switch on the Christmas lights.
Now we come to the famous survey were 75% of British employers have banned Christmas celebrations this must be true? Well again the facts need to be dug out of this one. The survey in question like many other surveys did had questions such as
"Do you admit to banning Christmas decorations because you are worried about offending other faiths?" which seemed designed to provoke certain responses and in the end people were asked
"Are you aware of your legal requirement to celebrate all faiths?"
Fortunately though there is no legal obligation to do so.
What about the Baa Baa Black sheep story? This story goes back to the 80’s and originated from the Lambeth ‘Looney Left’ council suggesting that certain language in traditional books should be reconsidered so maybe an element of truth there although nothing was ever banned. A warning issued by Birmingham council that Baa Baa black sheep could be offensive to black people was issued and duly scrapped in 2000 after black parents complained it was ridiculous…
The more recent controversy in Oxfordshire about ‘Rainbow sheep’ replacing ‘black sheep’ is less well-founded in truth. The nursery in question run by the charity PACT did indeed use the line 'Baa-baa Rainbow Sheep' but the line did not replace but was used along with the traditional one. A spokesman or should that be spokesperson for the charity said that this was done not for fear of offending ethnic minorities but for educational purposes. They said
“Children sing a variety of descriptive words in the nursery rhyme to turn the song into an action rhyme. They sing happy, sad, bouncing, hopping, pink, blue, black and white sheep etc and they also exchange boy and girl at the end of the rhyme. This encourages the children to extend their vocabulary and use up some energy."
Nothing sinister there then.
In fact the more I look into these stories the more I’m convinced that there isn’t a sinister leftie anti-Christian conspiracy to attack the British way of life but a sinister right wing agenda to make people believe this is indeed happening and thus to foster a misconceived sense of nationalism, traditionalism and intolerance. I suspect that even in cases where ‘PC has gone mad’ it is more to do with individuals thinking they are doing the right thing or wishing not to do the wrong thing than any concerted effort by any groups lobbying on behalf of disgruntled minorities.
So is PC doing my head in? No not really I think there is a sensible debate to be had over how language should be used to make a multicultural society more inclusive and how we should be sensitive to others feeling on different matters. This does not mean having to change the way we speak to adopt ‘cumbersome’ words to replace perfectly good words we have already and I don’t think this is happening or if it is change is happening naturally not being forced as the Daily Mail et al would like us to believe.
As far as PC diminishing our traditions and our culture I think this is mostly a smokescreen and hides a much nastier agenda by a few extremist to fragment society, a smokescreen that unfortunately many can’t seem to see through.
Don’t believe the hype!
© Mauri 2007
Summary: Anti PC- A hidden agenda.