Political Correctness Essay, Research Paper
Political CorrectnessThis is an English exam paper prepared for the EVU2ADM/+K course at Niuernermik Ilinniarfik, Nuuk. The main topic of this paper is the USA, and I have chosen to concentrate on the issue political correctness. My purpose with this paper is, by giving examples, to shed some light on how the use of a certain kind of language can affect the public opinion, and how this – via political correctness – is actually happening in today s America. I will try to answer the following questions about political correctness; what is political correctness? why political correctness? how is political correctness expressed?What is political correctness?Most people have a more or less vague idea of what political correctness means but apart from being a buzzword in the last 10 years what is political correctness actually? In other words what is the fundamental concepts of the expression?Why political correctness?The opinion of the famous writer George Orwell was that by controlling the use of languages, the certain codes used to express consciousness, one is able to control the thinking process itself. This opinion is expressed as the concept Newspeak in his book 1984 ;”The purpose is not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It is intended that when adopted a heretical thought should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words.”(Based on Orwell’s 1984 appendix On the Principle of Newspeak )Is political correctness a way of controlling the code and the ethic form used in the thinking process and eventually in that way what is being thought of in that code, i.e. language similar to the Orwellian Newspeak? What is the purpose of political correctness?How is political correctness expressed?In what ways does political correctness refer to modern people s daily life in the American society? How does political correctness come into view in the public opinion? There have always been changes in the English language. This is how the language came about and evolved from standard British English to American English.During the last few years, as the world is becoming more sensitive to the rights of minorities, women, animals, etc. a new form of changes has taken place. These changes have become known as political correctness (PC).Although PC has excited more debate than almost any other philosophical issue in recent years only a very small amount of written material apart from newspaper articles about this subject has reached Greenland so far. This, because PC is a rather new and, first and foremost, an almost all American phenomenon. The majority of the material collected for this paper consists consequently of various newspaper articles. I would like to mention the following newspapers:The Federalist Paper, PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly. The newspaper articles have given me an impression of how certain celebrities interpret the concept of PC. Furthermore the internet newsgroup (an electronic written discussion forum) “alt.political.correctness” has been of incredible help, giving me an understanding of the fundamental concepts of PC together with a view of opinions on the subject by some common Americans. I have picked up a selection of the most humorous messages and enclosed these as a supplement to this paper. Finally the books “The closing of the American mind” and “The politically correct phrasebook” have been of use. The first by giving an explanation of the historical background that made PC come into existence, the latter by further deepening my understanding of the essential idea behind PC.What does the concept PC actually mean?There are very different opinions on what the concept of PC actually does express. According to the politically correct [aware | oriented | conform | saved], political correctness is merely good sense and openness to others. Political correctness emphasizes virtue, having tolerance and respect as its foundation. The virtuous member of the PC community must be unprejudiced towards all ethnic, racial, religious and sexual groups, especially if they differ from one’s own and particularly those which are neither Western, nor male in their makeup. In effect, PC morality is a sort of passive and moderated application of Christian love to various groups that for some reason or other are unable to speak up for themselves. Opponents on the other hand, fear that such a conforming ideology threatens freedom of expression and amounts to political censorship. Let us hear the viewpoint of an opponent, a famous American actor:”In my own life, I have a code of ethics, I know where I draw the line between right and wrong. Politically correct is a small group of people trying to tell other people how you should live your life, I have rebelled against that from the time I was 12 years old. People were saying, `Oh, here’s another actor that has some point of view.’ Well, I never spoke as an actor. I spoke as a highly regarded taxpayer. Last year I paid more money than Bill Clinton ever paid in his whole life! In one year! And, as such, I feel I have a right to complain or applaud or say whatever the hell I want to.”(Bruce Willis Copyright 1995, Entertainment Weekly, Inc.)Opponents furthermore accuse the PC movement of being hypocritical, and of outright ignorant misrepresentation and corruption of concepts:”Politically polite people take great care to voice only the opinions that are least offensive to the most sensitive members of any identifiable group of people — even when those opinions don’t appear to have a sound basis in reality. Politically correct people actually believe all that nonsense. In other words, a politically polite person makes no comment when he meets a member of another ethnic group with a bizarre haircut; a politically correct person complements him on it.”(Marilyn Vos Savant. copyright 1995, Parade Publications)So there seems to be some quite contrasting views on the concept of PC. But why PC in the first place?One could start by considering the following : Since the content of information supposedly is independent of how the information is coded (according to some obscure law of logic), does a language in any way limit the thoughts thinkable in that language?The majority of people believe that a name is just a name and should be considered only for recognition purposes, not for meaning. But according to George Orwell the answer to the above question is yes; by making certain thoughts more difficult to express, hence less easily being thought of, the appearance of a language is very important.PC as well, argues that language and the words are interactive parts of the history of culture. Culture shapes language and then language shapes culture.
“Contrary to the assumption that language merely reflects social patterns such as sex-role stereo types, research in linguistics and social psychology has shown that these are in fact facilitated and reinforced by language”(Marlis Hellinger, in Language and Power, ed., Cheris Kramarae et al.). Biased language can also “powerfully harm people, as amply demonstrated by bigots’ and tyrants’ deliberate attempts to linguistically dehumanize and demean groups they intend to exploit, oppress, or exterminate. Calling Asians ‘gooks’ made it easier to kill them. Calling blacks ‘niggers’ made it simpler to enslave and brutalize them. Calling Native Americans ‘primitives’ and ’savages’ made it okay to conquer and despoil them. And to talk of ‘fishermen,’ ‘councilmen,’ and ‘longshoremen’ is to clearly exclude and discourage women from those pursuits, to diminish and degrade them.” (Sanford Berman)The goal of the PC movement is to make language less wounding or demeaning to those whose sex, race, physical condition, or circumstances leave them vulnerable to the raw power of words. How does PC come into view in the American society?Ideological crusades are not a new thing in American society. President Truman’s 1947 order authorizing the FBI to conduct loyalty checks on federal employees started a witch-hunt across the USA. The “nigger” citation in the appendix thoroughly describes the historical evolution of a politically correct phrase. Nowadays a multitude of examples show how PC is present in today s American society. The English language is very male oriented, (look at words such as mankind and forefathers) that is why many extremists have opted to remove the words man and his from anything that they appear in. These extremists change words such as manhole into femhole, history into herstory and so forth. This is called reverse discrimination. Even some computer games somehow incorporate a level of political correctness:THE LAST BOUNTY HUNTER “PC people (as in “politically correct”) might take offense at its Afro-American grave-digger character, who delivers a grinning, mugging insult whenever you get shot. (Copyright 1995, Entertainment Weekly, Inc.) THE BLUE RIBBON CAMPAIGN for Online Freedom of Speech, Press and Association works against the Communications Decency Act, a recent government decision that, in a very PC way, is about to introduce a higher level of censoring on the Internet. The following book review shows us that politically correctness has reached as far as to include the Little Mer-person by Danish novelist H.C. Andersen:”Once Upon A More Enlightened Time: More Politically Correct Bedtime StoriesWho knew that Hans Christian Andersen needed sensitivity training? Or that the Brothers Grimm were sexist and classist? Sad but true, according to Garner Garner fashions a warped world where gluttons are “food-centered, “zombies are “differently-dead” and a mantis “was at one time a praying mantis but had been prohibited from such practices by court order.”Garner updates the language in classics like Hansel and Gretel (”Deep in a forested bioregion”) and also destereotypes familiar characters such as the Ant (a “type-A personality” who develops a peptic ulcer) and the Grasshopper (studies hatha yoga and leads a “leisure-centric lifestyle”). Garner even rewrites some time-honored endings: the tortoise who outran the hare is disqualified after his urinalysis shows him to be “a heavy user and abuser of steroids.” And guess which “capable young woman” doesn’t marry a handsome prince? That’s right: Sleeping Person of Better-Than-Average Attractiveness. (Alex Tresniowski PEOPLE Online: June 19, 1995)”Political correctness has also gotten to church. A new version of the New Testament omits references to sitting at the right hand of god out of regard for the left handed. It changes the opening of the Lord’s prayer to our father hyphen mother, who art in heaven. The son of Man is turned into the human one and the word “he” disappears completely. Where wives loved, honored and obeyed their husbands, they are now Committed to them. Even children are spared having to obey parents, though they must, in a kinder, gentler way, heed them. Slaves become people who were enslaved and the blind are referred to as people who are blind, though it isn’t clear what is so politically correct about using four words instead of one. The PC movement is worthwhile is many ways, and I must say that I fully back up the intention of the PC movement. But there needs to be some boundaries.I mean, when is a word really sexist? Is the word man really offensive? If we follow that rule then anything with the word man in it, that does not have any correlation with the Latin word for hand, should be changed to a more neutral term. The direct attack on labels are creating a reverse effect of ridicule that doesn’t serve the original purpose of PC. Why can t we just remember to watch words that could be biased in some way? Most of the arguments against the PC movement boil down to the main belief that the English language is being ruined by people with linguistically narrow views. This threatens the Americans most valued constitutional freedom. It is not that some people are tired of watching what they say, it is that they are tired of being sensitive to others’ requests. As I see it, reverse discrimination along with the “cult of victimization,” are key elements of the politically correct movement, encouraging people to view themselves as members of oppressed and aggrieved groups, rather than as individuals who have the power to improve their own lives. We all like to believe that we have the freedom to choose what to think. But the very system of political correctness seems to be a kind of natural working law in any given society at any given time, a law that we just recently have become aware of. Political correctness was once part of the larger movement to distinguish ethic and moral diseases, but has since been singled out and abused severely. Now PC is entirely associated with language and the revamping of phrases. The resemblance in the character of the Christian and PC movements is revealing. Both movements are based on a genuine desire to make a kinder, gentler world.However, both movements are infected by intellectual intolerance. An intolerance that has turned the PC movement into a campaign of language policing. There is a need for an unbiased language which would make us a more civilized race. The tragedy is that the movements often resort to closed-minded and dictatorial methods to spread their beliefs. Sadly, the PC movement’s oppressive means seem to have undermined its goals. LIST OF LITERATUREVarious issues of :The Federalist PaperPEOPLEEntertainment WeeklyParade Magazine”Alt.political.correctness”, The Internet newsgroup”1984″, by George Orwell, 1948″the closing of the American mind” by Allan Bloom, 1987″the politically correct phrasebook” by Nigel Rees, 1993————————————————————–