Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What is the problem with "political correctness"?

Even though in Germany the whole issue of "political correctness" is not as prominent as it seems to be in the States (from what you hear in the media or from people you know who were there), the phantom of "political correctness" nevertheless rears it's head here as well.

Basically, as a member of a group always discriminated in the past (the women), I like the idea of laws or at least guidelines protecting my right not to be discriminated against. But if you take a deeper look at the whole issue of "political correctness", you realize it's not the great thing it is supposed to be.

It's nice to tell people not to judge someone by his looks, gender or the colour of his or her skin. But what does that basically mean? It means people don't get it themselves that all those things do not define a person. So what should we be doing? We should, if you ask me, teach our children that those things don't matter. We should make sure we get to know someone first before we judge him or her. The problem in those sentences is the little word "should", because as long as not everyone is doing it, we'll always have discrimination. No amount of "political correctness" will change the human mind, it will only change the way they talk, hiding what is really on the people's mind.

And there's times when the pure idea of "political correctness" doesn't even help. Of course, we Germans tend not to speak bad about Israel, as there's the whole World War II issue - and a lot of people probably think we should keep very quiet in foreign politics -, but the really bad point is, we can't speak bad about Israel because of "political correctness". What the Israelis - or at least the government in Israel - does to the Palestinians, is bad, no matter who says it. They were there first. The war going on there is - if seen with the eyes of someone who's not from that area - absolutely pointless. I know, to them - all of them, actually - it's the Promised Land, but to me - and most people not currently fighting for it - it's just a great stretch of desert not able to sustain half the people living there. I could understand two parties fighting for, say, Bavaria. It's a nice place, there's a lot of fertile land, good climate and you can make tons of money with tourism. Yes, I really could understand people fighting about who has the right to live in Bavaria, but fighting for Israel or Palestine?

Finally "political correctness" makes it very difficult to say the truth sometimes. Just because in the past people went around saying that most foreigners were criminals, today people hush you when you say that one certain foreigner is a criminal. While the first statement about all foreigners (or most) being criminals surely is wrong, the second statement quite often might be right. There's foreigners committing crimes in Germany - and a lot of Germans doing it, too, of course.

I don't really think "political correctness" will help the world to change, because the seemingly happening changes are not from within. People don't stop saying something against certain minorities, because they believe it's wrong, they just stop because it is not "political correct". And what exactly is "political correct"?

The word itself suggests two things. There is something "correct" and it has something to do with "politics". So that would suggest that there are things in politics which are not correct at all. Such things might be discriminating remarks against women, foreigners or other groups in a country that are considered "minorities", even though that does not necessarily mean they're really a small part of society.

But "political correctness" has grown into a monster which watches us very carefully and tries to attack us every time we say something that could be seen as a discrimination of minorities - even if it's objectively correct.

So maybe the real problem by now is no longer the discrimination (although it's still a problem), but the corset we've created for society by obeying the rules of "political correctness".

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