What’s wrong with being politically correct?

I’m more than a little tired of hearing Spanish friends refer to passers by as ‘el negro’, ‘un moro’ ‘la sudaca’ or ‘un paki’, usually followed by an unwanted explanation of why political correctness is just a stupid English obsession. Similarly, it just doesn’t fucking wash when you say “It’s not racist, it’s a joke” as you do your hilarious ‘slitty eyed’ Chinese impression.

Spaniards, please understand: political correctness is not some evil trend that’s trying to steal your freedom. It is, as Stewart Lee puts it, “…an often-clumsy negotiation towards a kind of formal linguistic politeness”. Political correctness is not a perfect thing, but it is a good thing.

And the truth is, I think you really know this already. It’s suggested by the way you feel the need to endlessly justify your racist jokes and your clumsy stereotypes. Just stop it.

11 thoughts on “What’s wrong with being politically correct?

  1. I can only half agree. Political Correctness as an officially approved attitude is, in its effects, tantamount to fascism. I’d like to scrap that term and come back to the old concept of respect. Respect is personal and is not subjected to political manipulations.

    We should leave our problems to where they belong. We should fight our fights where they belong. We should not make political what is personal. And we should not be afraid of having those personal conflicts, for it is better to have them on a personal level than delegating it all to politics. When politics gains too much influence we will not be more free, but more oppressed.

  2. I coincidentally had a 2+ hour conversation with some Catalan friends last night on this subject. Not so much about political correctness aspect, but more the racism aspect that people often link to political correctness, just as you have done. I am unsure if your Spanish friends cover Catalans as well, so we maybe be talking about wholly different peoples. Or maybe not.

    Moro, sudaca, paki were all discussed along with other terms. The general outcome (though one or two disagreed) was that due to the history between Spain and North Africa / South America and the terminology used in the past by various groups, moro and sudaca were nasty terms that often have an insult nestling within.

    Paki however, was not seen as anything but a shortening of Pakistani. There is very little history between Pakistan and Spain and everyone agreed that there isn’t really any history of using paki as a racist or derogatory term. It’s a colloquialism as one put it (hmmm). No offence is inferred by its use in identifying someone or indeed something (often a corner shop run by Pakistanis). However in Britain, due to similar reasons as sudaca here, paki is seen at best as offensive but more often than not, racist.

    By including paki in your list, what you have done Tom is to take your notion of racism / political correctness (garnered from UK?) and apply it to a completely different history and culture in Spain (including Catalonia?). You then use it aid your suspicion that they are politically incorrect bunch and potentially racist.

    I don’t think you’ve thought this one through at all. Just because in one language and culture, a term is seen as racist, does not mean it transposes to other languages and cultures. It’s all about the historical significance and inferred meaning you see. If I have you wrong Tom, I’d like to know why you think paki when used in a different culture and language is politically incorrect / racist.

    As quoting comedians is now way cool, I give thee David Mitchell: “In a free society, people should be allowed to do what they want wherever possible. The loss of liberty incurred by any alternative principle is too high a price to pay to stop people making dicks of themselves.”

    The last five words sum up people who do the ‘slitty eyed’ Chinese impression as a ‘joke’. The two sentences make a lot of sense. At least to me.

  3. Actually, I disagree with you. Political correctness started in the US then moved to the UK, two of the worst countries in the world for constantly trying to monitor what people say. And it sure as hell hasn’t helped them much. In fact, I would venture the UK is far, far more racist than it was when I lived there 20 years ago and the US is one of the most racist countries I’ve ever lived in.

    You can’t control what people think and having them use PC words instead of what they really say just hides the racist which, IMO, makes them a lot more dangerous. People will think what they’ll think and stopping them saying “chink” or “wop” honestly isn’t going to make them stop thinking it.

    Also just because people use a word in fun or to describe someone, it doesn’t mean they’re racist. Here in Thailand people use the word ‘farang’ to describe white people of usually European descent. Some ‘farangs’ get very upset about it and call it racist, but it’s not at all. It comes from the Thai word ‘farangseit’ meaning ‘French person’, which has just been adopted to mean all white folks. And if half the farangs in Thailand would learn something about Thai culture instead of spending half their lives in bars or picking or bar girls, they’d figure out the term ‘farang’ actually has a lot of respect in it.

    But, Thais are very open about their prejudices and have no problems using non-PC words to point them out. I much prefer it that way.

  4. I think political correctness is going way too far and certain people get confused and don’t know what to do.
    I was at work in England a couple of years and this happened:

    A guy walked into the office and said to the lad sitting next to me, ‘can you show me who john smith is’. My collegue pointed over to a group of people and started nervously trying to explain exactly which of the group John Smith was. He said ‘err.. he’s the one in the white shirt’, but their were a few people with white shirts on. ‘err… the one with the glasses’, but a couple of them had glasses on. This went on for a while and I was thinking to myself, why can’t you just say ‘he’s the black lad in that group over there’. John Smith was the only black person in the group of people. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with being black, so why couldn’t he just say the word ‘black’?

    I don’t even think my colleague was trying to be politically correct, he had just been made paranoid by the politically correct culture that pervades everything now and he was terrified that he might say something ‘wrong’. I know for a fact that John Smith wouldn’t have been offended by being referred to as a black lad.

    1. I gave you a thumbs up for this concise comment. (Pity it just shows indirectly.)

      Was it despair? Spite? Irony?

      I see we all want the same in essence, we’re just quarreling about the form.

  5. One of the things that Stuart Lee is saying is that the silly incident in my office is a small price to pay for the massive advances that political correctness has bought about. There have indeed been massive advances, I just don’t think they have been bought about by political correctness.
    Another thing that he pretty much says in his first video is that if you say ‘political correctness is going too far’, you are just a racist. That’s bollocks!

  6. I have to agree with Neil: for 99.99% of Catalan people “Paki” is short for Pakistan√≠, which phonetically is a 5-syllable word: it is just too long. There is no malice intended.

    The problem with PC is that it is just a way for the establishment to tell people what to think. By framing the debate in what is PC and non-PC, we don’t talk about the underlying issues of whatever problem we are dealing with.

    Now it has become a way for the Daily Hail brigade to complain that we are going PC-mad so they don’t acknowledge their own narrow-minded prejudice.
    I would prefer we call a spade a spade and if someone makes a racist or homophobic comment, then they should be told exactly that, not just “Oh that’s un-PC”. Now we call people like that Top Gear twat or tabloid columnists “un-PC” when in fact we mean they are stupid narrow-minded arseholes.

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