This is social, not scientific, commentary.
Stereotypical Profiles – Politically Correct Thinking
I have been thinking about the whole “political correctness”, sensitivity, etc. topic. Probably because I have run across people who think nothing of blogging with stereotypes firmly in hand. Not that I am against stereotypes, per se. I’m not. That whole segment of thinking has its place and use, as the brain utilizes certain processes to categorize and reuse information. However, I think we’ve been educated to the misuse of stereotype to degrade and diminish our fellow man, which whether it starts out intending oppression and persecution or not, can slip terrifyingly fast into that mode.
Most of us have no problems seeing how vigilant we should be about eschewing Anti-Semitism, or other racial discrimination. We have the history of the Holocaust and that of ‘Jim Crow’ to illustrate social consequences of allowing false views of groups of people -for the purpose of structuring society in a specific way- to run unchecked.
I use that benign generalization, ‘structuring society’, because that is how the rationalization starts out. For Society’s Good. But then there is trouble in Paradise- as it has been prone to for a very long time now.
The trouble is that mankind plays a sort of shell game. We protest with fervent indignation at those proscribed discriminations of the day to make our world a better, kinder one; only to slyly substitute the preferred and allowed travesties of the new villian.
The problem with this is that it undermines our better, kinder world. It cloaks our propensities to degrade and oppress groups of people who share our same flesh and right to dignity. It means â€œPlus Ã§a change, plus câ€™est la mÃªme choseâ€ for social ‘evolution’.
I believe that things can change, but we are going to have to get honest in the way we produce that change.
To call upon Bob Dylan again,
“There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief,
“There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.”
…”There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke.
But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate,
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.”
The Joker speaks
Yes, I have some things to say…whether in “self-parodist” mode or not. It is in the form of appeal to your rational thinking.
If, if, we may allow ourselves to create villians of the ‘Christian Right’ as we once did of ‘Pinko Commies’, if we allow ourselves to paint Israel as evil nemesis or any number of variations of making our side seem as purely righteous in image as possible, what are we really producing?
An excuse. An excuse to destroy other people and take away their human rights for the sake of making it easy on ourselves. I say easy because to do the work of having a society that keeps the lines of justice and order while opening the mind to difference and dissent requires blood, tears, and sacrifice. We have to deny ourselves the rights to condemn to oblivion without fair trial. The fair trial of society is to dispute and give testimony for the establishment of true facts, just as in any trial.
I have heard in more than one place that no amount of dispute will really change peoples minds. That is plainly mistaken. Our whole idea of education, of public debate, of freedom of press, gives testimony to the opposite conclusion.
We can, by what we express in word and in writing, change the way people think. We can enlighten or we can delude; we can make a difference for good or evil.
That is why misrepresentations which villify will always raise a red flag for me. And why I will maintain that it ought to, for all of us.
I believe that we have the capability to discern between good-natured fun at some people’s expense and maligning denigration. Sometimes it needs to be pointed out and addressed, but the distinction is not out of reach.
Look out how you use proud words.
When you let proud words go, it is
not easy to call them back.
They wear long boots, hard boots; they
walk off proud; they can’t hear you
Look out how you use proud words.
-Carl Sandburg. Primer Lesson
So, to sum it all up, I guess what I am saying is not that we shouldn’t use words, even for harsh purpose, but that we should be mindful of where we are going with our words. Are they producing what we believe is in the long-term benefit that we say we want for our society? Not to sweat the small stuff, but in our general attitudes towards people in racial or creedal groups?
Let’s not pretend it doesn’t matter.