Politically Correct is a term which is relatively new but stems from a perspective eons old. To put it simply, being Politically Correct is when you refrain from speaking from a perspective that might offend a social or political group even if your perspective is a fundamental principle that you ardently believe in. But then we must look at what might be considered offensive and determine if preventing someone else’s feelings from being hurt is actually our responsibility. We now must question where we draw the line between being actually assaultive or damaging and merely being expressive. What now happens to our right to be expressive? Does someone’s right to feel safe or secure now supersede our right to be expressive? There are many factors that contribute to how this may play out in our daily lives such as mixed company, political settings, proximity of children, vulnerability of participants, laws, customs, traditions and a whole host of other venues that may be used as a premise for the demand of its support or negation. Where do we begin? How did we arrive at this point? Probably the best place to start is our culturally progressive evolution toward tending to looking outside of ourselves for validation and approval through putting the importance of the feelings and opinions of others over our own. In this, self-effacement has become a required norm rather than an option. Here an example would be best in keeping with clarifying what we’re dealing with.
In my recent participation in a primarily spiritual group I encountered a circumstance that exemplifies the dilemma we face in understanding Political Correctness and how it can positively or adversely affect the participants in a situation.
The scenario occurred in a weekly meditation group that usually begins with good spirits, playful bantering, discussion of political and social events and relating personal encounters from the previous week before our sessions begin. The moderator was already present as I entered. No one else was present. Greetings were exchanged and a discussion ensued replaying some of the political and social issues and perspectives that had highlighted popular concerns during the week. Our discussion progressed to potential alternatives to actions that might be taken to ease some of the concerns people generally felt. At the peak of an engaging part of the discussion an older gentleman entered the room and shuffled to a seat. He listened for a few moments and then commented that the conversation was upsetting to him. He then stated that “the good lord had put us here to love one another.” I answered that that is just his opinion. He then stated that he didn’t want to be in this vibration and left the room. The moderator said he was sorry as the man left and then others entered the room. The usual bantering and joking ensued and we soon moved into silence for the beginning of our session. Before we began the moderator told the group that he’d like to apologize for his part in upsetting one of the participants who had left the room and asked that in future sessions the participants restrain their energies and expression as they entered the room to prevent disturbing other members in the group. The request was met with silence. It was obvious that this had put a damper on the elevated energy that usually permeates the group. We conducted our session and the group broke normally at its conclusion. I left very quietly while being pensive about what I had experienced. It had disturbed me but I couldn’t quite figure out why. It was a while before I came to understand what had actually transpired.
Let me first start off by saying that it is my choice to be either insulted or complemented by what someone else says. I must take responsibility for my own reactions. I really can’t blame anyone else for what I internally feel or generate myself. Therefore, I have no right to complain that someone has verbally hurt me even if I let myself buy into what they’ve said to me or about me. What I feel is my responsibility not a function of what someone else does or says. This being said, I am also not responsible for what anyone else feels as a result of what I say. They also have no right or room to complain. There is an old childhood saying that says, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.” That alone says we either have or should have control over our own feelings and well being short of any physical contact. Let’s move a little deeper.
Our culture has become infected with a trending feeling that we must “dumb ourselves down” so others may feel comfortable and secure around us if we even think that they might feel frightened, jealous or intimidated by how we express ourselves. This perspective can very quickly become a slippery slope. It is a type of suppression that lends itself well to manipulation from within the cloak of political correctness and social etiquette. Psychologists call this the tyranny of the weak; those who use helplessness or infirmity as a guilt inducing tool evoking the relinquishing of our personal control and self-preference. In a crude fashion I can liken this type of behavior to someone dressing up as a beggar to panhandle in order to prevent having to get a job or a person who feigns sickness in order to evoke sympathy and special favors. Their behavior and assumption is geared toward us giving them deference in a number of ways. Currently, in our culture, we have become so brainwashed into believing that we are responsible for everyone else that when we do what’s good for ourselves we’re viewed as selfish or narcissistic.
I’m not promoting emotional anarchism as there are many instances where kindness for the frailty of another may be called for. But there are those of us who use that frailty as a tool for manipulation. Hypochondriacs are a prime example. And there are those of us who use the frailty and helplessness of others as a platform for their self-interest and our manipulation. We see this through guilt inducing tactics in blood drives, charity organizations, pet rescue commercials, feed the children commercials and more all insinuating that it is our responsibility to take care of those “less fortunate” while encouraging us to feel guilty if we don’t donate. A political example of this is “affirmative action;” the manipulation of one group to the advantage of another. The pendulum of who we should feel responsible for has swung way to the “others are more important than we are” side. In politics, I believe this is a stark reflection our population’s reaction and cheering on of Mr. Trump’s “America First” over the continued draining of our own country’s resources supporting every country who “whines” at us complaining about their woes and needs for rebuilding after they’ve done irreparable damage to their own resources themselves.
Now that we’ve done some exploration and laid some groundwork for how and what political correctness might encourage, let’s move back to my group experience expressed previously.
Was the older gentleman wrong in expressing his discomfort in remaining at the session? Not at all. He said what he felt and took action that reflected his feelings. He acknowledged his feelings and acted according to what he thought would be best for himself. A mature and commendable action.
Was the moderator wrong in apologizing for his part in the elder gentleman’s choice? No. He also made a decision based on what he felt and took action by informing the group of what he wished for his group in future sessions.
Were my feelings about what occurred wrong? No again. Although it took a little while before I clearly understood the dynamics of what had occurred. None of us had ill will at heart. Just preference based on what each of us had felt and decided based on our own previous and individual experiences. I doubt any of us felt manipulated or pressured toward any kind of action beyond our own choice as conditioned by our own historical experience.
I have not gone back to the group. I feel that if I can’t freely express myself there that it would not be a place for me to flourish or feel comfortable. But again, that was my choice based on my own preferences about how I’d like to live, whom I’d like to interact with and to what degree of freedom I’d like to have in doing so.
The important part of all of our individual decisions is that we didn’t take the actions of one another personally. Had we done so, blame, insult and all the other imagined insults would have led us toward taking immature and insecurity based manipulative action in order to exercise control or save face. Since we all remained responsible for our own feelings, the experience simply resulted in our individual choices leading us to put ourselves on an individual path comfortable for each of us.
If we are honest with ourselves, political correctness becomes unnecessary. In my opinion, political correctness is simply a manipulation and self-deception under the guise of needing a required personal sacrifice or suppression of one’s expression…yours or someone you’re “acting on behalf of.”
So the next time you hear the words politically correct, take a closer look. Is someone or something being shielded from the light of day or the truth? Is someone benefiting from the suppression of someone else? Odds are, most likely there is.