By Chinwe Ochu
This is 2016 and contrary to the dreams of our ancient forbears, we are not any more self-assured than we were in 1916; rather even less so. It’s a sad situation when one doubly bites one’s tongue before making obviously harmless statements. A term like political correctness was born to absolve over- sensitivity.
Political correctness originated in the West (the United States or Europe or somewhere around here) to cater to the need of human beings struggling with some sort of low esteem or the other. These ones take offense with everyday words and make multiple mountains out of a molehill while defending over- sensitivity. Common words like black, fat or even blind have become ugly and sometimes a taboo to utter.
This piece is not making excuses for rude, disrespectful, inappropriate and general unkind speech; that is definitely a different ball game. Or is it advocating lack of tact in speech. The funny thing is that conventionally- unacceptable words have suddenly become somehow tolerable while normal everyday words have been constantly misconstrued as insensitive.
When did people become so sensitive? When did it become acceptable to walk on eggshells especially when saying truth? When did this powerful form of censorship become the gospel? Political correctness has practically turned us all into pathetic liars- clipping everyone’s balls not to say what they feel and mean.
This is the problem with political correctness. It usually does not accurately convey the essence and meaning of words or phrases. Words are watered down and sometimes lost completely. Another flaw with this concept stems from the phrase itself -‘political correctness’. Who has the final word on what is correct or not? Why do some who embrace political-correctness feel the need to present it as the “correct” way while dismissing other views as “incorrect”? Who profits from this view?
For instance, for a fabulous 5ft4inches- lady like myself, I have accepted and for years too, that I am short- statured. Ask proponents of political- correctness and they say: “She is petite”. “She is cute”. I am all of these things and I’m grateful for the use of flowery words, which by the way do not fully describe me, but no thanks. I have enough self- confidence to admit that I am short and not ‘vertically- challenged’. What does that even mean? How does the word ‘challenged’ make me feel better?
There are factors that contribute to overly concerning oneself with how one is addressed while expecting everyone to equally apply political correctness.
Low self-assurance: People who have little or no regard for themselves often pay inordinate amount of attention to the manner they are addressed. The most common use of political correctness is when the word ‘fat’ is replaced with ‘big’, ‘big- boned’, or even ‘horizontally challenged’. In some parts of the world, no one says the word ‘fat’ anymore because it would be offensive. Telling the truth is now offensive? When did having a bit of flesh become such a huge mistake? I have always believed that good health trumps the number that appears once you mount the bathroom scales. So, love yourself and you will not even notice how people describe you.
Lack of responsibility: The culture that allows one to make excuses and not take responsibility for one’s actions continually feeds political- correctness. Blaming others but oneself for the hurt one feels has fuelled over-sensitivity. Why not rise above all the offense against you and allow others really tell you the truth? Truth is liberating and you will find that out once you cultivate a positive, eyes-forward outlook to life and living.
The strong desire to please everyone is also contributory to being politically- correct. The irony is that while cautiously trying not to cause offense, it just cannot be helped with the ‘new’ phrases that have been coined for common everyday descriptions. We are all fallible and not everyone will like you no matter how ‘correct’ one sounds.
Some of the politically- correct words are offensive and downright ridiculous. Below are samples:
Perverted = sexually dysfunctional. This phrase completely waters down sexual pervasion.
Alive = temporarily metabolically able. What does that even mean? Will a simple ‘alive’ not suffice?
Body odour = Nondiscretionary fragrance. Really?
Gay = Different. Are they really just different?
Wrong = differently logical. No. Wrong is wrong. No amount of embellishment will make it right.
Fired = Laid off. Laid off to where? I prefer sacked, even.
Poor = financially inept. As polite as this might sound, it’s really insulting to call someone inept.
Blind = visually challenged. A blind person is not challenged visually, they just cannot see.
Finally, life is sweeter if you follow these simple rules- Be kind. Be polite. Speak the exact truth.
(This article was first published in 2014)
Chinwe Ochu is the Assistant Editor, ORDERPAPER.NG