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Tue, 01 Jan 2019

Political Correct Communication

It seems almost as if being political correct is something people do not want to be. As a matter of fact, to move forward as humanity, we though need it very much. Let's take a look at the why and what it actually means, shall we?

I think we all have heard of the Golden Rule: "The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as one's self would wish to be treated." I hope that we can agree on that. The idea behind is to envision oneself in the other person's shoes, figuratively, and see what it would do to yourself. If you don't like it, don't do it. Sounds easy?

Well, it isn't. When it comes to discrimination, which is something systematic, that doesn't work. There is also a power difference involved in discrimination, and here it starts: It's not possible to envision what some words might do unto others. Most of of the people within the Debian community are most probably white, able-bodied, cis (identifying with the gender assigned at birth), hetero, and male. Just to name a few most prominent categories. So even if we try to envision oneself in the place of the other person, we haven't experienced systematic discrimination like racial profiling, not able to enter a restaurant, being looked strange at whatever toilet we go to, have heads turned on us and people whispering when walking down the street hand-in-hand with our partners, or being cat called. And we might envision that being called "fag" isn't the nicest thing, people forget one thing: There is a huge power difference especially also in language.

How many discriminatory words can you come up for black people? Disabled people? Non-hetero people? Trans people? Women? And then take a step back ... and try to think about how many discriminatory words you can come up with for white, able-bodied, hetero, cis and male people. And then try to realize how even language plays into that power imbalance. Especially on the internet where the only thing you get from others is written language. So the one way to work with that is to actually listen to those facing discrimination and acknowledging that some words are off limit.

So next time you tell someone they are just a special snowflake, or that they should just swallow it down because that's the way things work ... think about this. And think about what you actually are transporting when you oppose to a political correct approach: When you consider political correctness something awful to strive for because it seemingly limits how you speak to and about others. Because honey, no, it doesn't. Anytime you belittle a political correct approach you are just showing one thing: That you are unwilling to be a safe space for the people around you, and simply don't care.

Oh, and one more thing: Free Software and Debian in specific always was political. Don't tell me that's news to you. Working on Free Software is an extremely strong political statement. It is to improve the world for everyone through making software available to everyone. And yes, that everyone includes non-white, non-cis, non-ablebodied, non-hetero and non-male people too, surprisingly to some it seems.

Enjoy, and happy new year!

P.S.: Part of this content is inspired by the German language book: Eine Frage der Moral from Anatol Stefanowitsch. If you understand German I urge you to read it. It gives a good insight.

/debian | permanent link | Comments: 9

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Gustav wrote at 2019-01-01 20:13:

This is all fine and dandy as long as it is voluntary, like for the Debian project, communities etc and what you face for not conforming is exclusion or banishment -- but if it goes far enough that one defines speech as force and it as violence and start using and changing the legal system to enforce ones owns definition of what is politically correct, then you suddenly literally do not have freedom of speech and a perfect political weapon to use against whoever one sees as an enemy.

Rhonda wrote at 2019-01-01 22:42:

Dear Gustav - I've seen only advocates of freedom of speech to be as ignorant and disrespectful of others. The freedom of speech ends where the freedom of another one is limited. It's not so much about ones own definitions. Listening to oppressed people about oppressions is not optional. That plays into the Paradoxon of Tolerance:

"We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant." -- Karl Popper

Ansgar wrote at 2019-01-02 02:31:

"I've seen only advocates of freedom of speech to be as ignorant and disrespectful of others"

Really? Over several centuries all advocates of something recognized as a universal right have been ignorant and disrespectful of others?

And while there are some people who abuse freedom of speech (for hate speech and so on), it is very important in any democracy as it gives people the freedom to discuss and complain about the state. Certainly people should be free to do so?

Freedom of speech is what protects from laws such as the Russian gay propaganda law (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_LGBT_propaganda_law) or China's Great Firewall.

"Listening to oppressed people about oppressions is not optional."

You can't even do that without freedom of speech. Do you happen to be an advocate for free speech now?

Super wrote at 2019-01-02 04:28:

"We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant."

But to do what exactly? And who gets to decide ???

Dominik wrote at 2019-01-02 08:56:

The problem I have with this is that the PC culture is constantly changing the meening of words. So you communicate on quicksand - what was OK 5 years ago is now verboten and if some body digs it up your career is gone!

Winni wrote at 2019-01-02 11:22:

"The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as one's self would wish to be treated." I agree 100% with this. But I also think that this "Golden Rule" has absolutely nothing to do with political correctness. As George Carlin said, "political correctness is fascism disguised as manners." Originally PC used to be the metaphorical lipstick put on the pig's mouth, but over the years it has evolved into a form of Orwellian "Newspeak", which factually serves as a means of mind control to suppress unpopular opinions that do not agree with the party line.

Churchill already said that "the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." Or as it also was paraphrased: "The problem with democracy is that even the stupid people can participate." And Freedom of Speech is only worth anything if people are allowed to say things that are not popular and that totally differ from what everybody wants to hear -- or that differ from the official party line.

So, no, PC is not the solution, it has become part of the problem.

We can only go back to the "Golden Rule" and hope that it will produce the desired long term effect.

Rhonda wrote at 2019-01-02 12:40:

Ansgar, you are of course correct, and I failed along the same path with rejecting Political Correct approaches, by conflating it with the zealots who use the Free Speech hammer to be abusive. Thanks a ton for making me aware of that, and you are absolutely right. Free Speech in itself is indeed something extremely important, and I didn't want to deny that.

Dominik, what meaning of words do you address? Those that were originally rooted in discrimination and where the oppressed are fighting against it finally? I have a tweet for you, and especially read the Neil Gaiman quote in the reply: https://twitter.com/UglaStefania/status/1073531814747226112

Winni, Political Corectness isn't censorship, no matter how much it is claimed to be. You are free to say whatever you like, but others are free to show you the door for it. https://xkcd.com/1357/ So yes, PC approaches puts people on equal grounds when discussing things. It's about basic respect for others. And no, it never was about "unpopular opinions". If you like to behave like an asshole towards other people, feel free to. But also live with the consequences of that.

Dominik wrote at 2019-01-04 14:34:

Nice quote - I love The Graveyard Book.

I have a nitpick with the quote. Politeness is required but respect is not a given - it is earned. Never require respect from strangers but demand politeness.

About the words: there is a whole lot of medical terms that are nowadays vorboten and the medical profession has constantly invented new terms for the same conditions.

I don't like a useful project like weboob purged from the repository, just because somebody could take offense at a substring of the name. Also master<->slave is completely non offensive on a technical level in code. How many programs do I need to get from source and compile myself if this PC madness continues?

"Most of of the people within the Debian community are most probably white, able-bodied, cis (identifying with the gender assigned at birth), hetero, and male." Are we playing Intersectionality here? Well how about we drop this game of identity politics and put the individual in the center of attention and try to ignore the oppression Olympics that compel people to state there privilege by declaring there ethnicity, age, sexual organs and orientation at the beginning of there speeches. I regard such behavior as appalling.

Also a lot universities are producing more activists then scientists that use PC culture / respect / decency / COC as a wedge to gain power in Organizations and communities - as this is what they are told to do by there Professors. Using words like cis, that nobody in the broader public uses, makes you smell of activism and I don't like this a bit in the community around my preferred distribution.

Rhonda wrote at 2019-01-04 14:59:

Thanks Dominik, it's almost ironic how well you are proving what @UglaStefania is saying. Thanks for that. :)

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