Political Correctness Is Not The Opposite of Free Speech — It’s A Safeguard


Recently, I have encountered quite a lot of friends and strangers who staunchly oppose political correctness. However, the arguments I so often hear in favor of free speech (see: not the opposite of political correctness) only seem to contradict their own points. In fact, some of these arguments are so poor, they actually corroborate the “ridiculous demands” for political correctness.

For instance, while I will not speak for every person to ever do this, I will say that when a person uses a clichéd phrase with no further explanation to describe a political or social view, it is a pretty strong indicator that the person has poached said view from another person. Moreover, one can deduce that such a person likely does not think for himself or herself.

Here is a common one: ‘pussification of America.’ This references the apparent threat to the toughness of the American people through unrestrained and excessive political correctness. People claim this phrase for their own all the time; in fact, I heard someone do it just today! For the record, no person who says, “As I always say, political correctness is the pussification of America,” actually came up with the term ‘pussification of America.’

Overt insult to women aside, when attempting to make a point it is best not to steal phrases and ideas from other people — unless they are cited as such. There is no inducing anyone into consideration by recycling stupid, made-up terms that one could easily mistake for the verbal expression of a fourteen-year-old.

Here are some better ideas: explain yourself further or engage in discussion! These are the direct verbal route to thinking, and even possibly convincing others to see things your way.

There will always exist differences in opinion, but if we can learn to express those differences in a healthy and respectful manner — as a society — we will be well on our way to improvement for everyone.

While I’m here, this ubiquitous and overused notion of the ‘participation trophy’ needs to go.

One day, a few years ago, some person realized that his or her child was given trophies not for achievement, but for merely playing a sport. The child had done nothing worth noting that season, and yet cheerfully pranced through the front door after school wielding an undeserved trophy and a newfound sense of pride — or at least that’s how I imagine it. Apparently, this person then publicly expressed this observation and the hypothesis of the “dangerous participation trophy” was born.

While the concept is not incorrect, since trophies do become less valuable when more people possess them, and since those deserving, in such cases, must share them with others, I think this preconception does not factor in the intelligence of children. As a rule, I think we give children a lot less credit than they merit.

To cite my own example, as a child, I received a variety of trophies for both playing well and simply participating. However, I recall valuing my “participation trophies” less than the ones I earned through performing skillfully. I distinguished the difference with ease and there was no false sense of pride about me. In fact, I recall thinking, “Oh, this is one of those activities where they give us all trophies,” and that was precisely the extent of my notice. These trophies had no effect on my work ethic, my perception and conception of my own abilities, or my motivation.

Of course, not all children view things as I did, but for the most part I do not believe a child’s work ethic and sense of self rest solely on the presence or absence of participation trophies. I think implying such a thing discounts the many other events in a person’s existence, not to mention a child’s comparative performance at a particular task. This idea almost implies that children are entirely without perception. A parent’s denial of his or her child’s flaws has a much higher chance of affecting a child’s attitude than a silly trophy.

So why do people continue to use the ‘participation trophy’ trope as an example? It is because people simply do not have their own ideas, and they do not take the time to develop their opinions.

The point is that we should treat our society with honesty. This includes our view of the world and the language we employ to describe it. If our children do not perform well, give them kudos for the effort and advice for next time. If we disagree, we can express those beliefs respectfully and without superficiality.

For the record, freedom of speech is not permission to speak to offend or to treat others without regard. It is not sanction to endorse racist or bigoted remarks and ideologies simply because we can. It is not clearance to ignore or disdain movements for equality or the greater good because they do not suit one’s intolerant narrative. It is simply a cause for independent thinking. It is an open opportunity to question that which we are told. It is occasion for us to choose our words carefully and wisely because they would have greater effect without safeguards.

We must continue to teach respect. There will always exist differences in opinion, but if we can learn to express those differences in a healthy and respectful manner — as a society — we will be well on our way to improvement for everyone. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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