I recently read an article about climate change and the emotional consequences thereof. The coming devastation is making people ill in advance; their fear, sense of impotence, and grief manifest in various ways, including increased anxiety and depression. Some are even developing PTSD. People are being traumatized by the coming trauma.
In an effort to mitigate the emotional consequences, some politicians are suggesting we “depoliticize” the language. Don’t address global warming, change the words we use. Be circumspect and obscure so people aren’t negatively impacted. For “people,” you can read business, and for business, read “big business.”
Is it ironic that the politicians suggesting this are the same ones who deride “politically correct” language when it comes to interacting with people?
They aren’t alone. Large numbers are put out by the requirements of “politically correct terminology.” I think they used to call it “being polite.” The complainers seem to feel that being polite and inclusive, that being unable to say horrible things or make racist jokes at the local grocery store infringes on their rights unbearably. Mention their religion, however, and hypocrisy rises from the ashes of smug.
They aren’t constrained from speaking their “truth,” of course. The “politically correct” movement doesn’t prohibit them in any way. They just don’t like what happens next. Those who whine about restrictions to their rudeness often mistake freedom of expression with freedom from consequences. And yet, sometimes, I think they have a point. Sometimes I think our tendency to embrace the euphemism will be the death of us.
I’m not referring to interpersonal relations. I don’t have a problem asking people to stop using words as weapons (though I use fewer words in the real world, and the phrase “jerk” might possibly appear). I do have a problem with softening the language to minimize the uncomfortable and unpleasant. Mitigating ugly truths to avoid causing stress is a patronizing, paternalistic mistake.
I don’t think we should sanitize the hard and ugly. It’s a mistake to try and make the messy, tidy. It’s a mistake to make the intolerable sanitary and suitable for the masses. We shouldn’t worry that describing horrors will enrage and distress.
We should worry when they don’t.
I’m good with the scarily descriptive words people are using to describe the climate crisis. I wish we did it with more universality.
I miss rape.
Not the act itself – according to statistics, it’s going strong. Rising even. But where I live, “rape” isn’t a crime. It doesn’t even exist. The new term legal term is “sexual assault.” I don’t love that it feels less horrifying. As though the act is about sex and not violence. But an argument was made that calling it “rape” was discriminatory towards the accused. Apparently, it made them seem like bad people. Or something along those lines. Better to link it to sex and turn it into a nudge, a wink, and a blame-the-victim.
Or how about “impaired driving causing death?” That doesn’t sound so bad. Almost like a blameless crime. We all know driving drunk is a bad choice. Choosing to proceed with selfishly stupid and subsequently killing someone doesn’t deserve a benign description. It’s premeditated murder: call it by name and have the consequences fit the actual crime.
If calling the pending environmental apocalypse “apocalyptic” stresses people out, sugar coat it. Neutering the truth changes reality, right? And we need it to change, on occasion. Other people are horrible, it’s true, but sometimes, condemned behaviours hit close to home. Far better to think about them as beyond our control.
We’re not bad people because we do bad things.
It could have happened to anyone.
What do you think about the idea of “political correctness?”
Are you good at taking personal responsibility (I’m not great)?