I was prompted by the posting of a fellow forum member to think about what causes offence these days and to consider if we gone too far. Maybe this very posting of mine will be too far for some people, but that is the irony of expressing my viewpoint.
I well remember the jokes and incredulous conversations we had at the advent of political correctness (sometime back in the seventies). The ideas proposed seemed laughable, as if one day we really would be talking of “chalk boards”, “chair persons”, “visually impaired”, re-writing or banning nursery rhymes and so on, but indeed here we are and it is a very serious and important part of our everyday lives.
Of course terminology is only one aspect of the now well-established, but vague set of rules and standards pertaining to political correctness which we must adhere to. As I see it, the ethos of PC is soundly based, in that it should ensure we all live together within an idealism of mutual respect, but over time this has gradually become self-defeating. We now actually live in some fear of making inappropriate comments or inadvertently insulting someone. We can be assaulted, sued, lose our jobs or even sent to prison.
The problem is that we don’t always know what is inappropriate or insulting, we don’t know who may take offence, or even why. We can’t always account for how someone may interpret our comments, so we choose to confine our real thoughts and remarks to within very close and trusted circles. Those who are well clued up on what to say and what not to say, can usually avoid the pitfalls but are nevertheless calculatedly capable of purposely causing offence albeit in a subtle or less obvious way.
We tend to steer clear of any perceived negative discussions concerning, race, colour, sex, sexuality, religion, disability ......... have I missed anyone out? If so, no offence intended.
I consider myself to be fairly au fait in PC philosophy and modern thinking, and am fairly confident that I do not cause unintentional offence, but what concerns me is that as a society we are now too cautious about addressing issues openly and honestly, in case, just in case we disrespect a minority group.
Most of us have heard jokes about the stand-up comedian called, Joe King, or the girl with one leg shorter than the other, Eileen Dover, or Sue Ridge, the toilet cleaner, but what about the one-legged Sikh called Balan Singh? A few years ago I uttered the latter joke to a work colleague only to be met with a disapproving response. I asked her what was offensive about it, like could it upset the disabled or was it insulting to Sikhs? Now this is my point - she replied that she didn’t know why it was offensive, but somehow it just seemed to be.
The ever present threat of terrorism is a frightening aspect of daily living, particularly for those living in cities, using airports and undergrounds. Although there are many terrorist groups, the Islamic ones seem to be the most prolific, and whereas I do not doubt that the perpetrators are a minority of radical fundamentalists, why is this indemnifying statement so regularly emphasised by politicians and television presenters during discussion? Is this an example of damage limitation should any Muslim take offence and complain?
The World Health Organisation is rightly concerned at the rampant spread of AIDS which is still mainly passed on by promiscuous homo-sexual males, but whenever I hear discussions on this topic, the speakers seem to draw disproportionate attention to the other less prevalent causes. Fear of upsetting or offending gays? On this subject and topically, why is it now acceptable to brand a critic of gay marriage “homophobic” as if such a person must be ill and suffering a phobia of sorts. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t a phobia an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something?
I could go on with other examples but I feel I’ve conveyed the idea.
There is never a valid reason to persecute, intimidate or even mock legitimate minority groups and individuals, but why should ordinary decent people have to worry about certain individuals who actively search for reasons to take offence?