By Dominique Blain
Political correctness has run amuck too long and it’s my 2006 wish that it dies the putrid death it deserves this year.
Too many students have faced a wall trying to voice their concerns with our Nov. 29 “Controversy over colour.” While they felt free to write letters to the Eyeopener, they didn’t want them to be published, and they didn’t want to be quoted in stories.
Some who finally agreed to comment publicly about the story expressed concerns of being labelled racists. And those who were too shy — or scared — to come forth publicly not only have to deal with being censored out of fear; they have to digest the fact that, apparently, their opinions are not important, not valid and, now, not voiced.
Political correctness has genuinely well-meaning roots, but the pendulum has officially swayed too far. If it keeps going, the string will snap and so will the people — and then any lessons PC might have offered could be lost for a long time. Proponents of political correctness say that, for instance, racist language promotes racist thought. But linguists — whose job it is to study these things — just don’t agree with that logic to that extreme.
They can only say that language influences us. In any case, force-feeding opinions through political correctness is an insult to a person’s intelligence. And I would go on to add that political correctness in the early 2000s has blunted our abilities to think critically. Obviously, I’m not the first to propose this; anyone who has tuned in to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has been exposed to a modicum of critical thought.
The problem is that while most of us are being entertained by someone else’s critical thought (and about someone else’s culture at that), few of us are ready to engage in any of our own. Imagine my shock when, over the break, engaged in conversation with highly educated (read: masters of engineering) friends of friends, they claimed they watched only BBC World because it was the only unbiased source of news.
An unbiased source of news? Do people still really think those exist? Here’s a hint: Although editors don’t spend all their time writing editorials, they do spend a mighty lot of time deciding what makes it into the paper (or broadcast) and what doesn’t. And setting the agenda can be much more powerfully biassing than reporting can be. Unfortunately, the lag in critical thought has eclipsed that idea from the most educated minds.
Next time your favourite topic (be it the environment or our judicial system) doesn’t make it to your paper, ask yourself: Is it because there wasn’t any news, or because editors decided it wasn’t important? Universities and our society are teaching us many things, but apparently critical thought is not prominently listed.
I suggest we all spend more time in 2006 asking pertinent questions and less time fighting over their wording.