Monday, August 4, 2014

Political Correctness and...






A spate of political correctness has been shadowing over our middle-class culture for the last few years.

By political correctness, I understand insinuation to a "morally justifiable" power structure through the use of words, or phrases. When a power structure is morally justifiable, that means either a deep-seated belief in a person's ideoverse, or seeing the stance as pragmatic, practical.

When the power structure is laid bare through words (in fact any semiotic - that includes body language, relationship, professional attitude, sartorial and accessory fashion : in fact any interpersonal and social actitivity) in a manner which assumes the power relation is natural, we call that political incorrectness.

At least, I understand the term this way, checking its practice in and around my circles, media and distant communications.

Politically correct statements, on the other hand, try to refute this naturalness of power position. I wish they could see the origin and continuation of this myth wherever possible.


Myth = Showing an artificial, created concept as a natural phenomenon (TVCs/ Ad films use the power of myth to persuade potential buyers) (One of the major forces of any statecraft is the reinforced creation of leadership and happiness myths. The process of such creations is sometimes called hegemony)


In both the cases, it is conditioned. Worse, this conditioning is the root of most other conditioning. No wonder this is almost impossible to see as conditioning at all.

Political correctness is sometimes equated with euphemism. We are taught by our parents not to call a lame man lame. In the line of behavioral psychology, this may condition our personality to some extent where we become inherently uncomfortable with differences.

I guess, euphemism is more about the other person, than about me. It is a way to ensure that I don't hurt the other's psyche. In both the cases, the society ensures acceptance.

My question is, does it really do so? Is political correctness, practiced very meticulously, a good thing?

And how is it leaked, despite trying to be correct all the time? It is leaked, and that shows something is repressed.

Some examples are necessary.

These days we use English words without gender. At least, we try to do so. Actor, writer, director (this was always the word. I have never seen Directress or Realiseteuse, its French equivalent) - numbers galore. After all there is no gender specific word for engineer, doctor, painter or singer, probably because these professions hardly saw a girl before the French enlightenment.

I myself have a problem with the word woman. It has come to our modern form from the Old English wīfmon, which means wife of man. Husband  came from the same root from where husbandry comes. Both the words signify tilling the ground for cultivation. 

In North Indian languages, the popular word पति (pati) means lord, owner. Its counterperson पत्नी (patni) is just the counterword - owned. So, the power structure in embedded deeply in the languages.

Male and female partners are words much more acceptable to me, interms of functionality and idea. But, in reality, are they really partners? And would it be easier to form an ideal team if just the words are changed, but the structure is not?

Surely this leads to a debate around the primariness of language. Does language reflect the structure, or does it influence too? It is commonly accepted that language influences the structure a lot. But, can that influence be guided? Is it dialectical? Is language a kind of symptoms for a greater malady? 

And finally, can we go to the root through symptoms?

Example 2. In today's Times of India frontpage, two reports are published. Both are on the violation of the female. 

In the first report, a judge, who happens to be female, had to resign "from the judicial service to protect her "dignity, womanhood and self-esteem" ", following sexual harrassment.

The trio of dignity, womanhood and self-esteem are given within quotes by the TOI team. Evidently, this was written by the judge herself, in her resignation letter.

What strikes me is why she had to write womanhood? Why not just humanity?

In the second report, the TOI team themselves reported the female person in question (I personally prefer the word girl regardless of marital status, anyone younger than the middle-age category) with the information "a 27 year-old mother of two young children."

What has the violation of a human being to do with her being the mother of two children? This information excess reeks of the same attitude that coined the word woman. Surely, this shows that political correctness in the use of words is not sufficient to rub the "incorrect" mentality off. It leaks here and there, in every page.

This blog is getting too long and unwieldy. 

Time to wrap up.