A couple weeks ago a news item appeared which would be seen as absolutely ridiculous if it was any other society but ours! Supposedly, at basketball games, shouts of “airball” in response to an extremely errant shot are seen as disrespectful chants. An email sent by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association to its schools was a reminder about phrases which could be construed as disrespectful by other teams. One of those phrases was chanting “airball”.
Whether this is a one-time thing and dies out, or whether this encourages other schools to go further I don’t know, but this is another reminder about the reach of Political Correctness.
When I first started paying attention to Political Correctness, I think in the early 1990s, I started searching for a word or phrase which would encompass the mindset of this type of thinking. After a few years I found the phrase which really captured the essence of what this whole phenomenon was about—PC equals “semantical mysticism”!
I wish I could remember who came up with that, but I think this phrase fits the PC movement. I know people who get extremely upset if a word or phrase is used which may seem detrimental to some group, gender, or whatever. It is hard to talk with those people since so much of what would pass for general conversation has to be interrupted and clarified as “offensive” and hence corrected. There seems to be a “religious-like” devotion involved.
I recall an online discussion group related to a course I was taking and a conversation with someone named “anonymous”. I didn’t know what gender to refer to “anonymous”, and since it is natural to use pronouns in writing, I referred to “anonymous” as “he/she”. That started a number of back and forth responses and finally “anonymous” said if I had to use a pronoun I could use the pronoun “they”.
Now, “semantical mysticism” has a religious component to it. Mysticism is hard to define but the religious connotation is not hard to sense. “Semantical” obviously refers to language issues. “Semantical mysticism”, then, describes a system, religious as far as I’m concerned, which is built around correct words and phrases.
It is a challenge to substantive thinking, that in a increasingly secularized world in which the “Divine” has been lost, while accepting the fact that there is no religious vacuum and something has to replace the “Divine”, that one of those things is language! It is hard to believe that language could do this but with all the spiritual changes our nation has undergone, a lot which has brought condemnation by some, it seems that language has emerged, among other things, as a “protector” of many of those changes.
In the back of these people’s minds, I think there is a desire for some kind of utopia, whose path to the “ideal” society goes through the correct use of language. Somehow if the right words and phrases are constantly used, than all the angst that people have will be easier to handle and life will have the right kind of atmosphere to grow in. I guess if I took a basketball shot and hit nothing but “air”, if I didn’t hear chants of “airball”, I could get over that miss a lot easier! Reflective people will see the nonsense of that idea!!
As a social observer, I have begun to analyze Political Correctness as operating upon two levels: words and then activities, both of them being affected from a “binary” analysis .
PC started with words: examples from this link illustrate numerous words or phrases that convey, evidently, horrendous things in some kind of hidden way. The amount of words attacked is breathtaking when viewed over many sources! My personal favorite, though, is “mankind”. Now that is a loaded word!!
In the last few years PC has now gravitated towards judging actual actions. A particularly egregious example being the “dangerous” game of tag. That game was banned in one school “to ensure the physical and emotional safety of our students”.
And God help us if we are one of those in charge of a schoolyard full of children who then break out spontaneously into a contest of “cowboys and Indians” with real “finger guns”!
These kinds of examples can be multiplied, unfortunately, quite a bit.
But there seems to be a pattern to all this, which if left unchecked, will change our society even more than what has occurred now. And it should be a warning to us that much of this comes from the political Left! As they gain ascendancy in more and more of our political and academic structures, it will only get worse! We will also have a generation eventually, which will be so disconnected from reality that if hard times or catastrophes occur, it won’t be able to cope!
The two levels can be further be broken down into the binary activity consisting of “positive” and “negative”. Here “positive” is used in a sense of making something more specific or precise (not in the sense of something good). The following are examples and how the binary approach operates within the two levels of words and actions.
For words, one example I love to talk about is the phrase “master bedroom”. Supposedly this is both “racist” and “sexist” and when homes are being put up for sale Realtors should use some other phrase such as “owner bedroom”. This bedroom example represents the “positive” approach of PC—–remaking a word into something more palatable
A negative aspect would be the example surrounding the football name “Redskins”. PC pundits want this word totally removed from our lexicon. Even the President chimed in on this one!
With actions, a positive action example would be the so-called participation trophies all players, especially very young, get in some sports activity. Supposedly if one or another player is rewarded specifically for excellent play, it hurts the other players “self-esteem”. So trophies are still given out, but supposedly it is better now, if everyone gets one.
A negative approach upon actions involve games such as “cowboys and Indians” or tag mentioned above. These activities are to be totally banned by some from playgrounds.
So speech is constantly analyzed for some kind of hidden meaning and actions are analyzed for hidden “distress”. The PC wrath then descends on the perpetrators!
Now we can understand that PC is not monolithic ,in which everyone who buys into this thinking agree on every single thing. Not all schools will ban tag and not all sports teams will give out participation trophies, right now. But as time goes on and PC becomes more effective and as more like-minded PC people emerge, they will find more jobs in places such as Academia or Government and then pursue more profound changes of greater lengths upon us. And this can occur so slow and piecemeal that we won’t realize how absurd things are until it is too late!
I fear that laws and statutes will be the third level of activity by the PC crowd. They can’t rely on people changing on their own, but the force of law will be needed. That will become a catastrophic time for our society if this takes place!
It can happen! Right now Left-leaning universities are some of the main purveyors of PC mumbo-jumbo. What if that grows to all universities? What if these PC people gravitate towards judgeships, Senators, etc. What if one day most of the positions which can bring changes through laws and judicial fiat are occupied by those who believe in Political Correctness’ vision. Will those PC folks then try to actualize a utopia through those channels?
I think they will.