Politically Correct

The thing is, it’s called “political correctness” because it is, in fact, correct. The most popular example, the one about “Merry Christmas” being changed to “Happy Holidays”–we say “Happy Holidays” because it’s correct. People are celebrating like six different holidays by the end of December. Christmas, Solstice, Hanukkah, Saturnalia, Kwanza, New Years, etc. Of course you can still say Merry Christmas (I still tell people)–but if you’re talking to someone who’s not celebrating because of Christmas it simply isn’t accurate. And on a deeper level, it is erasure. I’m not offended by Merry Christmas any more than I would be by Happy Hanukkah (unless you just assume I’m of either religion)–but that is because I am celebrating nothing in December, and I’m not expressing my religious identity through any of these holidays. Consequently I am solely on the receiving end of best wishes, and returning respective best wishes appropriately.

“Well how the hell am I supposed to know?” you demand.

Happy Holidays.

Knowing someone’s religious affiliations and practices is extraordinarily intimidate: getting it right shows you care about that person. If anything it is a way to differentiate between blanket greetings and intimate wishes exchanged with loved ones.

I’ve found that those who complain most about political correctnes (1) have a different definition of it and consequently a strange perception of what is politically correct and (2) they don’t realize they contradict themselves with this definition. If they define political correctness as restricting language in order to avoid offending, then demanding that the title of your holiday be upheld and respected while erasing the identity of others is in itself an act of political correctness.

I understand that hearing the word “Christmas” gives everyone warm fuzzy feelings. Hell I don’t even celebrate Christmas and I get warm fuzzy feelings around Christmas, because I’m surrounded by people who do celebrate it and the emotions are absorbed. But if you’re arguing that people shouldn’t be offended by “Merry Christmas” (which, I have yet to meet anyone who has actually been offended by being wished a Merry Christmas) why have you the right to be offended by “Happy Holidays”?

It is incredibly intriguing that those who accuse Leftists of being faux activists and hipsters–which many of them certainly are–do not hesitate to adopt that same hipster mentality in explicitly expressing political incorrectness in the hopes of being perceived as “edgy.” Rebel against the “suffocating, mentality numbing overly-sensitive oppressors”! It’s not racist if you’re “INTELLECTUALLY” racist… Right? Right? This is not only the same mentality of faux activism but really bad faith. If you point out “this race is the most violent”–what, exactly, are you attempting to accomplish? How is this resolved? Though it may be a social construct race is not typically easily alterable, and it is rarely the cause in the first place. You have termed the statement to betray that you view race as the cause–the problem–rather than the much more likely factors of situation; dangerously, you have contributed to the cycle of a self-fulfilling prophecy–it is not about keeping yourself from offending people, it’s about keeping yourself from destroying them through misanalysis. And when you do this to a disadvantaged minority who does not have access to resources and is less likely to seek out resources due to a number of different restraints and restrictions and now believes who they are is the problem, destruction is practically inevitable.

Our perception of race–closely tied to our perception of culture–is highly problematic. It fuses together the notions of violence with the qualities of being human. Culture that is tied to race is not violent: rather, violence is an intrusion. Violence is its own culture. It is something that is prevalent on a global level–when it isn’t overt it is just as dangerous in its subtlety. It doesn’t have a race. I’m always amused when people who doubt that we live in a rape culture ask me “Well what about these people?! You call US a rape culture–look at THEM!” (Just to be clear, with the current state of the world today, every culture has a rape culture.) But that’s it: No, I didn’t call you a rape culture, I specifically said we live in one–the elements are there; it’s not that it is a rape culture (unless we are speaking of everything that makes up rape culture being a culture by itself which it most certainly is) but that we have one and we live in it. And rape culture needs to stop.

I don’t believe humans are always awesome all the time and that everyone is good at heart and all that (well, sometimes) but the majority of people in any given culture will view violence as an intrusion. With the nature of privilege and power, we will no doubt absorb and reflect some of the same mentality as those who spread it, but I sincerely doubt most people want this. I don’t want to sound like I’m advocating a war on violence or something absurd (*groan* oh God please, just no) but just as someone who’s known (and grown up with) quite a few people whose cultures would be perceived as violent, they have nearly always viewed this as this is not how it’s meant to be; this is not how we has human beings behave and treat other human beings. And though this consciousness may be buried under layers of the tyranny of power and privilege conditioning, it does exist and resurface.

That is my experience.

12 thoughts on “Politically Correct

  1. Great post ;)

    I am very hesitant of policing the way people speak, because I know it can easily be turned on its head given the inclination for over regulation of everything. But at the same time the point of erasure you raise is extremely relevant.

    I choose to try to be the least offensive possible. Doesn’t mean other people need to do the same? I don’t appreciate being termed “over sensitive” for noting these things or being told “I blow things out of proportion”, the way we interact is such a crucial means of wider social ordering that it has important ramifications.

    Sounds like a ramble, sorry.

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  2. Riven

    completely offtopic. I’m finding it hard to search previous entries now you’re on wordpress. I’m sure you expressed an opinion ages ago about numpties who use the argument ‘but in Saudia Arabia we cant x,y or x’ as a reason for dickish behaviour towards muslims in the west. Trying to find what you said so I can use it in an online debate I am having. Someone is saying ‘when I was in a muslim country I had to respect their laws about covering so why cant immigrants respect britisth culture and remove headscarf/funny clothing/niqab etc. I need a pithy comeback :-)

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    1. Is it because WordPress’s archive widget only shows months? =( I was afraid things would be harder to search. Did I write that entry? o.O I don’t know if it was in those terms. But that argument is *such* a fallacy! The whole WE have to do it so why don’t THEY have to do it completely ignores the question of right and wrong, whether it’s something we should do, what’s best for both the citizens and the immigrants who either are or will eventually become citizens and what’s compatible with the country in terms of who decides what the culture is especially since CITIZENS also wear headscarfs, the characteristics of the West especially as a democracy, and responsibility people have to make these decisions without just going on a whim. And that last reason is why people use it: to escape the responsibility of having to think for an easy answer. Interestingly, it’s an argument they’ll only use when it’s about immigrants. You’ll never hear we make THEM learn our language so why shouldn’t we learn THEIRS? (That example may be unique to a USian attitude though.)

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  3. Flint

    You covered a lot of topics in this post, I actually kind of wish you’d made it 2-3 separate ones (omg, someone’s criticizing Nahida on her blog! This never happens!).

    That said, I think it’s interesting that neither of us are Christians and yet we both say Merry Christmas and enjoy elements of the Christmas season. It’s not that either of us are cultural Christians either (which is another topic)–you’re Muslim and I’m pretty avidly pantheist/pagan.

    But I feel that Christmas is a part of our culture, and that by growing up in this environment, you and I have as much access and right to Christmas as anyone else. To be perfectly blunt, most Christmas traditions are pagan anyway and the “reason for the season” is a Winter Solstice celebration, not the literal birth of Christ (you don’t herd sheep in December, hurr).

    You’re right, though, (almost) no one is trying to force anyone to say Happy Holidays or stop them from saying Merry Christmas, but they perceive the presence of HH as a “war” on Christmas, and that their interpretation of a syncretic pagan/Christian holiday is the only correct one. That they are the ones who have ownership of shared experiences (including the fact we’re probably going to have Christmas off work and certainly school whether or not we want to celebrate it) and that they should be the ones to frame the reference of how we talk about and experience it.

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    1. +1

      Also, those who are being “forced” to say Happy Holidays are the ones running businesses and changing their signs after realizing that people are more likely to buy “holiday trees” than “Christmas trees.” Capitalism baby!

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      1. Flint

        Who the hell is forcing them? I still see Christmas Christmas everywhere BEFORE HALLOWEEN, WHICH IS SACRILEGE. In, uh, maybe 3rd grade we had to do a bunch of songs onstage, there was a big “holidays” one, 1 Kwanzaa and 1 Hannukah song, and MULTIPLE Christmas songs. I remember my parents being outraged about us “having” to do those songs, even though Christmas got the most spotlight (literally) by far.

        Or maybe they were mad the three I performed in were the holidays, Hannukah, and Kwanzaa? I promise you I didn’t care and the Jewish one had a much cooler beat than the crappy Christian songs.

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      2. I like Christmas carols! Except “Jingle Bells”–that one’s annoying and it wasn’t even written about Christmas.

        Edit: ….Aaaand seconds after typing that comment, now it’s stuck in my head. #$&%!

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      3. Flint

        Some of them are really good. It’s the cutesy ones that are really horrible. I was missing my front teeth as a kid because my mum dropped me down the stairs when I was a baby, and for years adults would love to ask me if “all I wanted for Christmas was my two front teeth.” They always think they’re the absolute first person to ever think of it, too.

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  4. Pingback: Politically Correct (via the fatal feminist) « Diary of a Madman

  5. I love to wish people:

    “A happy celebration of the fact that our SUN, which we figuratively place at the centre of the zodiac wheel ON THE CROSS formed by the solstices/ equinoxes, figuratively DIED on the winter solstice on December 21st at its lowest point in the sky, but has now started to move again or in a sense has been RESURRECTED after being figuratively DEAD FOR 3 DAYS and that we can all find this point where the SUN RISES UP TO THE HEAVENS on the 25th December by following the line made by the 3 brightest stars of Orion’s belt, which are also known as the 3 KINGS which line up with (or FOLLOW) the BRIGHT STAR IN THE EAST known as Siruis and together point to the place where the SUN rises (or is figuratively BORN) on the morning of December 25th.”

    I saw the sun rise last Christmas morning AND could predict where it would pop up by drawing a line from the 3 kings through Sirius to the horizon while it was still dark (not that I didn’t know anyway). Being all about nature it was actually a very moving experience. And absolutely bloody freezing too!

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  6. Fyrehardt

    Wow, @abandonculture…I might have to borrow that post as a facebook status near the holidays to counteract all the Christmas Warriors in my family. I have never read such an awesome description of the holiday :)

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