In the past week, while having breakfast with two other freshmen who were majoring in politics, I was asked, “What do you think about political correctness?” I gave my short opinion but could not go on further as we had 10 minutes left until class. So if I had to answer fully it would be along the lines of this:
There is a difference between political correctness and etiquette. Etiquette is the set of rules and social tools that we use to successfully interact with one another. Systems of etiquette vary differently among cultures, but the foundations are the same. We use things like euphemisms, and specific mannerisms, so we can have these social interactions to begin with. Etiquette is a negotiation. It is a complex toolbox that we use so that we are able to get along with each other without forcing anyone to adhere to a certain moral code. This negotiation also helps us have better conversations while discussing controversial topics. It involves choosing our words carefully — to the point where we don’t silence the opinions we wish to address. It also requires that we be very tactical and conscious of getting the other person to understand our perspective. Basically, using words and linguistic tactics can get both of you in the same boat.
Political correctness, however, is not a negotiation. It is a monopoly on truth and language with a set of principles that compels you to act and speak in a particular way that you may not agree to. My biggest problem with this idea — apart from the fact that it only makes people sometimes pretend to respect each other — is this self-righteous claim on what is acceptable to say and what is not; even though some seemingly politically incorrect statements can be somewhat true. This is all said and done in the name of not offending anyone.
Well, what is wrong in being offended? Why is it a problem to confront anything that is not in our borders of comfort? If you are offended by an opinion or some statistical fact, then is your fear of confrontation due to the constant support of your thoughts and perspectives in the same environments in which you feel save? Every critical opinion has some degree of offense one way or the other. If it is not offending a group of people, it is most likely offending someone else. Every joke, especially those controversial ones, will definitely be offensive. But to some degree they will have a point, as comedy and satire’s intention is to make us reflect or re-evaluate our conventional perceptions of what is true or morally correct. And our ability to speak for or against these opinions freely determines how well we can reach valid conclusions. These important, though potentially uncomfortable, conversations are necessary to further progress in political thought, and we should not be discouraged from having them out of a fear of “political correctness.” They must be preserved to the optimum level.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. Email Mert Erenel at [email protected]