Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Truth and Political Correctness

On Monday we discussed in class whether it is possible for truth to be an element in politics. Disagreements ensued over what the definition of a liar is, and whether someone can be considered a liar if they believe what they are saying whole-heartedly, and are just manipulating truths to meet their aims. I’ve thought a lot about this since class, and began wondering about the role political correctness plays in this lack of truth.

Being politically correct, to the degree that we are now expected to be, is a fairly recent phenomenon. People have to watch their words about whatever they say, and have to be overly careful when making any sort of comment about anyone of a different race, religion, or background from you. Even in writing this blog post, I am feeling the need ingrained within me to maintain political correctness, and will make sure not to use any possibly offensive examples to reiterate my point. As a personal example, I have even noticed that the way my Father criticizes Obama is very different from how he normally criticizes Democratic candidates. He is a staunch Republican, and will usually be quite harsh about the Democratic candidate, but he has definitely toned down his distaste in the case of Obama, which I think is probably because he doesn’t want his political views to be confused for racism. In class we mentioned truths that are never spoken of, such as truths about the diversity level at Rhodes.

With all this being said, has political correctness, instead of being a tool to help bring greater toleration, become something that just forces people, Politian’s especially, to hide the truth? I think so. There is nothing wrong with encouraging people not to use stereotypical or insulting classifications about certain groups in society, but its gotten to a ridiculous point where those issues can’t be discussed as freely. People may shut their mouths, but that doesn’t mean their views have changed. Politian’s have had to learn to be much more highly calculated on what they say and don’t say than ever before, because this is an age where accusations run rampant.


Courtney Martin said...

I definitely agree with you Virginia. Being "PC" in our modern world is becoming an innate way of speaking. I feel that in our generation we are extremely cautious to cross the boundary of being offensive. It is something that we have grown up learning, whether we realized it or not.

When talking to my grandparents, I catch them saying phrases that make cringe a little. They do not say things deliberately to make the situation uncomfortable, but rather they do not know that fine line that we have become to accustom to adjusting our speech. But is it just our speech that is being refined to the PC world? If we are growing accustom to speaking PC, then aren't be refraining the flow of our thoughts as well? I feel that the Politically Correct speech is possibly prohibiting our natural flow of thoughts.

Ryan Carroll said...

This is a really nice post. The race barrier between people in America has presented a huge hurdle in the path toward a completely fluid society. It seems that so many people are afraid of how others might think or react that it is now taboo. In my opinion, this political correctness is not only counter productive in discussion of politics but draws a thicker line between the differences that should have never "mattered" in the first place.

My father is exactly the same as yours, constantly fearing any word he says could be construed as racist, but it is this feeling that keeps people from discussing the issue. I feel that if the topic of racial divide was somehow brought into very formal discussion between groups, the discussion's tension would dissipate from society, leaving everyone on the same page rather than constantly guessing and worrying about what is all right to say. I constantly consider myself too idealistic in human interaction, but people separating themselves or others because of a phenotypic expression of genes is just ridiculous. People are people, and their color changes absolutely nothing about their humanity or personality (or at least it would not if this tension that you write about did not exist). Now culture on the other hand....

Ashley Ladd said...

I also agree, and I think you expressed your point really well. It makes me think though, about how different ethnicities would like to be treated. A minority is treated with caution so that one does not appear to be racist. Similarly, when a person is physically handicapped, maybe having an underdeveloped limb, they want nothing more than to be considered normal. Nobody wants to be "babied."
I think the way people act towards minorities is contradictory to what the minority would want, and it is sad that the world has come down to people having to hold in their thoughts in fear that they will be judged and generalized as racist.

Scarlett D'Anna said...

Your comments near the end of this article really made me think about “political correctness” in a different way. In particular, your statement about hiding the truth by being PC hit home for me. In today’s society, where the media infiltrates every aspect of politicians’ lives, they are compelled to be PC all the time. But what are they really thinking?

Yes, I would be horrified to hear a Senator call ethnic minorities or homosexuals derogatory names; but I am more appalled by the idea that a Senator who holds such views could hide them from the public, take office, and attempt to pass prejudicial legislation based on such beliefs. If a politician with strongly prejudiced views (against whatever group) appears to be politically correct, then the public really has no idea what that person actually believes. This is an extreme example, but it’s easy to see how the expectation of political correctness could shield government officials’ actual opinions from the American people.