Just One Caveat, Or Two, Or Three…

Sometimes people say the darndest things.  Well, conditioned to say the darndest things.  Over the past few decades or so, political correctness (PC) has conditioned people to above all else, not offend.  The implementation of PC has made for some strange conversations.  What’s most silly about the phenomena is it is entirely self-imposed.  Groups of people have decided to shame other people into — not even into silence on their beliefs, but shamed them into lying about them all together.  The result has been a successful one; people are embarrassed to believe things, and it’s their own fault.  We (I don’t include myself in the collective we, I have no problems being vocal about my convictions) allow those who wield the PC hammer to have that authority over us.

Pearls Before Swine By Stephan Pastis

So I was not surprised, as far as it goes, while having a discussion with someone I met while working and they had the fear of the PC police written all over their body language, as well as woven through out their point, which became muddled with caveats.  Caveats such as: I don’t want to say you’re wrong, I’m not trying to offend you, I’m not saying you have to believe what I believe, and the coup de grâce: I’m not saying I’m right.  I must say, having a discussion with so many caveats is more frustrating than any point made could have been offensive.

Rather than sifting through the merits of their views on the discussion, I intentionally diverted the conversation toward a much more important topic: It’s ok to think you’re right and others are wrong.  The particular topic is neither here nor there.  The PC police had gotten a hold of this woman and gave her the baby seal treatment until it became a part of the foundation of how she filters her beliefs.  It was almost as if her caveats were the tester for truth for her views.  She told me she used to hold one of the positions I voiced, but it no longer seemed fair and loving to her, so she adopted a more fair and loving position.

I had to ask her, why don’t you want to say I am wrong?  After all, I have a different view than you.  If you think your view is correct, then I must be wrong (which is what prompted the caveat avalanche).  It bewildered this poor woman that I was actually saying that both our views could not be correct.  At this point, I abandoned defending my position or addressing her own.  I wanted her to see that there is nothing offensive, per se, about holding different views from someone else.  It seemed as though she could see this in theory, but the drive to not offend me by saying she thought I was wrong was a nagging weight on her.

In the end, I think I was able to get her to at least see that she thought her view was true.  The subjective view of truth is pervasive now more than ever.  Fear of offending someone coupled with a high value on self-esteem is a dangerous combination when forming convictions.  It artificially gives prominence to some views over others, not because they are true, but because they conform.  I think I am right and those who disagree are wrong.  If you don’t like that, you have two options: Ether change my mind, or change yours.  Thinking your own view is correct is only offensive to people who have been taught to be offended.  Dispense with the caveats and speak your mind.

Comments

  1. That is one of the best PBS strips ever.

    Excellent points. Politeness and tact are virtues. But political correctness is saying things you know to be false in order to maintain your popularity.

    I like to point out to people that I’m not offended if they disagree with me, but I am mildly offended if they think they have to pretend to agree with me when they obviously don’t.

  2. “I wanted her to see that there is nothing offensive, per se, about holding different views from someone else.”
    If only people could understand that when I say I’m atheist.

    • Jason

      I thought you abandoned me here. I am not easily offended, and I think a good many people are overly offended. I even know people who go out of their way to find offense with things. I don’t find atheism offensive. I do however attempts to scrun theism from public view arrogant and offensive.

  3. You seem to be genuinely baffled by attempts to be “politically correct,” so I am going to make a genuine effort to explain the other side to you. You seem to think it is 100% about upsetting people who simply hold a different opinion than you, as though if I know you like Taylor Swift and I prefer Beyonce, the PC approach says that I should hesitate to let on that we disagree on our musical preferences. That’s a very naive mischaracterization.

    In reality: sometimes, when we talk, we use terminology or sentence construction that demeans others and/or further solidifies the hierarchies of privilege that keep some segments of the population oppressed. You could compliment someone by saying, “You’re very articulate, for a black person,” or you could say, “That was a really moving speech you delivered.” Both may express the same sentiment of “good job communicating!”, but the first is not considered “politically correct” — and for good reason. Black Americans have long been considered (by racists) to be inherently inferior to white people, especially in endeavors related to education and intelligence. Telling a black person that they are “articulate” rings these alarm bells for them. You say, “The particular topic is neither here nor there,” but I’m pretty sure that the topic, the content of the statements being made, is the key motivation behind most instances of “calling in the PC police.”

    • NFQ

      What you are talking about is not what I am talking about. I suppose the only way to really illuminate the problem is to tell you all what the topic was. The woman was getting some “spiritual-ish” (like “the Secret”) book in the mail and was telling me all about it. She had been waiting for it for some time. Then after she told me about all the wonderfullness of this ideology, she asked about my religion. When I told her I was a Christian, and asked a few questions about how the ideas in the book work — just so you know, I am in person not as confrontational and pointed as I am here — she stopped herself and that’s then the pardon-begging began. Her body language and apologizing would have been appropriate had she been praising Hitler only to find out I’m Jewish. It wasn’t that I was getting offended, but she couldn’t help but to insist she wasn’t trying to force it on me. It didnt even get to where I was going to ask her questions designed to show her that this kind of “believing makes it so” is has problems.

      The problem was pluralism, not back-handed insults from either of us. She truly held the belief that telling someone they were wrong was offensive.

  4. Marshall Art says:

    Jason,

    Stating that you are atheist isn’t offensive to the believer. It is offensive to God. It would be like saying “Jason doesn’t exist” and acting as if it was so. Though I’m not offended to hear someone say they are atheist, I am saddened.

  5. Marshall Art says:

    NFQ,

    Your example is poor. To say, “He’s articulate, for a black man.” isn’t a breech of political correctness. It’s just plain insulting. Regarding race relations, for example, political correctness would demand the use of the term, “African-American” over “black” or “colored” despite the speaker having no ill intent behind his word choice. I would have no problem telling a black person that he is an articulate speaker if he is indeed so, but I would never think of doing so as if it was astounding to me that a black person could be. (Few people of any race are so articulate in their speech as to be labeled so, since an articulate speaker, at least to me, is one who gets across his point in a clear and concise manner.) If a black person is offended when being so complemented, it is that person who has the problem.

    Political correctness is the insistence that certain speech and behaviors be deemed unacceptable. These rules were implemented by self-styled arbiters of social etiquette whose agenda for doing so is to force changes in cultural values that are generally in opposition to existing traditional values. For example, it would be politically incorrect for me to say that such people need to go pound sand.

  6. NFQ,

    Some things are relative to the speaker of “I like Taylor Swift.” Someone saying “I like Katy Perry” does not negate “I like Taylor Swift.” They are not mutually exclusive. One person can like Taylor Swift and another can like Katy Perry at the same time.

    The trouble comes when Jesus says “I am the Way the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” That is exclusive. Islam, Mormonism, Buddhism, Scientololgy, Secular Humanism, Atheism, et al. are all religions that try to get to God (or to make themselves gods) through other means than through Jesus.

    They cannot all be right, but they can all be wrong. The evidence points to Jesus telling the Truth. That is why I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. Let God be true and every man a liar. I am not deliberately offensive, but I cannot help when people are conditioned to be offended by the Truth.

    • That is exclusive. Islam, Mormonism, Buddhism, Scientololgy, Secular Humanism, Atheism, et al. are all religions that try to get to God (or to make themselves gods)…

      Facepalm. …Very cute, DogTags. Very cute.

      In response to everybody who responded to me: Political correctness means being sensitive to the fact that your words have meaning and connotation for the person you are speaking to. The fact that you are a white, male, heterosexual, middle class Christian may mean that you have not experienced certain trails in life because of your many positions of privilege. I may offend some people when I use the adjective “black,” but I may offend some other people if I call them “African-American” (when they are in fact not of African heritage). The important thing is not necessarily choosing the right words for the people you are talking to all the time — how could you? everyone has different experiences and different preferences — but rather, being receptive to someone’s request that you change your language and being friendly and approachable enough that they are likely to feel comfortable making that sort of request. And it means not using words that are very likely to be offensive to other people, when you have the ability to anticipate it — e.g, not calling a gay person a “faggot”.

      You might be interested in reading this primer on privilege, or this list of examples of white privilege and this one about Christian privilege in the US.

      • Nfq

        What would you say the odds are you will address the overall point of my post. That the form of political correctness I am confronting is the form that produces pluralism. That it is pervasive enough that some people are afraid to say their views are correct and differing ones are incorrect for fear of offending someone? Or should I succumb to the fact that you are going to discuss political correctness in a way completely irrelevant to this post?

        • John, I was under the impression that I was addressing your post. You wrote that “The PC police had gotten a hold of this woman and gave her the baby seal treatment,” and I was pointing out that political correctness is not (in my experience) typically based on pretending nobody has a different opinion, nor does it involve anything like “police” or “the baby seal treatment” (presumably clubbing?).

          Perhaps this woman, whose beliefs about the supernatural are not in line with Christianity, is used to being told to convert or burn — and knows how unpleasant that is — so she was sensitive to that possibility when talking to you. You don’t understand it, because

  7. Sorry, deleted that last bit accidentally as I was posting that comment. My last sentence said something like, “You don’t understand it, because of your position of Christian privilege.”

    For what it’s worth, I agree that it’s silly to pretend that we can all be right about mutually exclusive factual claims. I just don’t see this as the work of the “PC police”, and taking it out against whoever you see as “those people” sounds counterproductive.

  8. NFQ,

    I beg to differ with your re-interpretation of what is political-correctness. PC has nothing to do with not using disparaging/insulting terminology. It’s about controlling the masses and turning them to a particular ideology. It is not PC to say homosexual behavior is wrong, it is not PC to say there is no such thing as an “African-American,” it is not PC to say sex should be reserved for marriage, it is not PC to say that women have no business in combat, etc. PC is a lot about social engineering and who has the right to say anything. PC says Christian clubs are not acceptable on college campuses while Muslim clubs are. PC is what the anointed consider appropriate ideology. PC is claiming that people have a right to not be offended, which specific part of PC this article is about!

    • Who says those things? Tons of people say that homosexual behavior is wrong, including tons of people in the government. I don’t even know what you mean by the statement that “there is no such thing as an ‘African-American’,” but I understand the other statements you mention and I hear them expressed often. Atheists, Muslims, and other religious minorities advocate for being included among the array student groups, rather than allowing Christian clubs only. This whole business about the “PC police” being out to get you sounds to me like part of a narrative of persecution that you tell yourself so that you can feel special. It just isn’t true.

      What would be better? For no one to argue with you about whether homosexuality is wrong? For no one to stand up and be outraged when atheist club posters get vandalized and their groups get banned from campus, while Christian groups get loads of funding? For conservative Christian social values to be enshrined in law?

      You can criticize this woman for being excessively worried that she might offend John, but that doesn’t sound like it’s your real objection. It seems to me that you are actually upset that there are people out there who want to have a discourse among a plurality of opinions, welcoming and respecting those who are different from them. You’d much rather live in a world where no one out there pointed out that some of your opinions are misguided, silly, impractical, and/or bigoted. (Funny, since this post purports to be about being willing to tell other people that they’re wrong. Other people, I guess, as long as they aren’t you!)

      • nfq

        I was absolutely was criticizing this woman in my post about being so worried about offending me. It is political correctness that has led to pluralism. What you describe as a world where other views are expressed, is actually a world that demands that all views are accepted. That is the rule this woman was trying not to break, the “everyone’s view is valid” rule.

        This isnt about homosexuality, so let’s drop it. The conversation that prompted this post was that of religious/spiritual pluralism. And I was very clear about that.

        • What you describe as a world where other views are expressed, is actually a world that demands that all views are accepted.

          Why do you think this is so? The marketplace of ideas I imagine in a world where everyone feels comfortable being themselves is good because it’s only by that dialog that we can figure out which ideas and opinions are the best, and reject the others. But we reject the ideas, not the people.

          • nfq

            I actually agree with you. but (no offense intended) you are out of touch with the way most people interact in the market place of ideas. Bloggers are different kinds of people than “normal” people. Bloggers write because they want the differences of opinion. Most people dont. The majority of people I have talked to outside of this venue equate their opinions with themselves. Rejecting their opinions — to them — is rejecting them, as a person. People I know who are Christians who have read my blog have been highly offended at posts where I criticized certain Christian beliefs. Most people are not emotionally equipped to handle pointed critical discourse. It is highly emotional and offensive to many people.

      • NFQ,
        I don’t know if you intentionally did so or not, but you completely missed my point and misrepresented what I said. YES, the PC people do everything I said.

        Try being a little bit more up on the homosexual agenda: People are losing their jobs, incurring fines, being jailed, forced to attend indoctrination classes, etc, just for speaking against homosexuality. THAT is PC to the hilt.

        You also need to be up on the news about what happens on college campuses as Christians are forced out and preferential treatment is given to Muslims. And telling the truth about Islam is a certain cause for PC police to attack you and call you and “Islamaphobe.” And I’ve never read about atheist clubs being banned – unless it is from Christian colleges, but that is their right as private institutions to insure that any club adheres to their doctrinal position.

        The PC police are not interested in discourse of differing opinions. They want all opinions other than their viewpoint silenced, and it happens daily. Look what happens to anyone in academia who challenges the religion of evolutionism!

        And a major problem with the PC police is that they consider all moral beliefs to be of equal value, all cultures to be of equal value. But that isn’t true. Problem is, they deny objective truth also!

  9. Marshall Art says:

    NFQ,

    I don’t see that you’re any closer to understanding the plain point John is making. He thinks it is so because it is so. There is indeed a segment of our society, mostly on the left side of the spectrum (really, ONLY on the left) that demands that all opinions should be regarded as equally valid. I get that nonsense with regularity at MY blog. Left-leaning visitors will insist I’m being intolerant of the views of others (as if I block their ability to present them) simply because I maintain their’s aren’t valid opinions, which they aren’t. Sometimes they’re stupid. To them, I’m supposed to “agree to disagree” as if we can maintain two or more disparate views in the same space. No one is arguing that differing opinions can’t be expressed. The point here is that some insist it is wrong to point to another person’s opinion as wrong, or to argue in favor of one’s own as if it is indeed the better (if not best) point of view. From this point, some will express their opinions in a manner so as not to offend the “opponent” should their opinions conflict. This is, as I understand it, what John dealt with in speaking to the woman in his anecdote. She will not express conviction. She will not dare to suggest that her opinion is sound and has merit (regardless of whether or not it does—that isn’t the issue) due to the influence of PC “peer pressure”.

    To be more succinct, the point is in regards those who refuse to defend their opinions as being right/true/factual to avoid hurting the feelings of the person with the opposing view. If one believes one’s point is true, it is logical that the other is likely not and there should be no worry that the person holding the opposing wrong opinion might be offended by the expression of it.

    • Marshall

      Yes, that is the point.

    • There is indeed a segment of our society, mostly on the left side of the spectrum (really, ONLY on the left) that demands that all opinions should be regarded as equally valid.

      Yeah, the “PC police” must be those awful liberals always trying to make conservatives stop arguing with them. I guess that’s why conservatives are always complaining about the “liberal bias” in the “lamestream media”, and creating special conservative-biased media outlets that they then tout as “fair and balanced.” (It’s only fair and balanced when it reports the conservative view. Mention that poor people are having some trouble, or that gay people might not be the worst thing ever to happen, or that you don’t need God to understand how tides work, and you’re oppressing the conservatives like the heathen liberal that you are.)

      Your friend might be unwilling to admit that her opinion is sound and has merit, John, but I doubt very much that it’s because of the liberal PC police having clubbed her into submission. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that in this context of being “fair and balanced,” anything that deviates from Christianity is assumed to be the work of the devil. I’m scared to tell people my opinions on religion, too, and it’s not because I think everyone is equally right.

  10. Marshall Art says:

    “Yeah, the “PC police” must be those awful liberals always trying to make conservatives stop arguing with them.”

    Now you’re getting it! though it isn’t what John’s post is about. But I’ll bite.

    Conservative outlets, that being FoxNews, as there is no other of which I am aware (even radio stations in my area created for conservative talk shows often use the usual news sources for their news breaks), do indeed present news in the least biased manner. Do not mistake opinion shows, like Hannity or O’Reilly as news shows. They are opinion shows.

    “Mention that poor people are having some trouble, or that gay people might not be the worst thing ever to happen, or that you don’t need God to understand how tides
    work, and you’re oppressing the conservatives like the heathen liberal that you are.”

    Where’d THIS come from? Conservatives are well aware that poor people are having some trouble. We even know that not so poor people are having trouble and that comfortable people and well to do people are having trouble. What do you mean by this? Conservatives are well aware that homosexuals are not the worst thing to ever happen, especially considering Jerry Sandusky and Osama bin Laden and your average street gang. What do you mean by this? Conservatives don’t look to the Bible to understand how tides work or when life begins or what causes climate change. What do you mean by this? But libs “oppress” when they refuse to grant a forum for right-wingers, religious or political, to express their views and debate them calmly. (Which is why there have been so many conservative shows popping up over the last 15 years.)

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