Outside the Whale: The Power of PCBy Tanya Willow
Writers have more places to express themselves today than in all history — from online newspapers to blogs. But with all the opportunity and formats to express ideas, and with our country and with local communities like Canton facing so many problems, why is the writing so banal? Online columns read like personal diary entries, with details about the day with the baby, at the spa or the best facial creams, overrun with the words “my” and “I” and pre-occupied with personal trivialities. Do writers in these new media lack imagination? Courage? Both? Or is the lack of thoughtful material a symptom of something bigger? More universal? More corporate?
We’ve been living under the pressure system created by political correctness since the 1990s, giving us an entire generation that has grown up under its righteous banner. Under its occupation, any expression of thought that does not absolutely conform to the neutrality of PC will be dismissed as bigoted or ignorant. There is no real discourse under its flag. All ideas must be considered equal to all other ideas, and to do that there must be very distinct rules and limits around the way ideas can be expressed and what topics are considered acceptable. Consequently, a column on how the diaper changing went this morning seems like a discussion worthy of a reader’s time.
The PC banner flies at our public schools with ever-increasing enthusiasm. Schools — a place where ideas have never really been advocated — worship PC. The last thing any educational institution wants to do is offend. Ideas, especially good ones, upset convention, and so PC protects schools, but at the cost of discourse and of teaching the young how to critically think.
We have a generation that does not know enough to disobey a GPS when its authoritative computer voice tells them to take a right down a Canton railroad track. And their writing — if what I’m reading online is representative — is not the revolutionary, anti-war, anti-establishment writing of their baby-boom parents. It is the writing of obedience and conformity, almost nationalistic: articles tell us to salute the flag and patronizingly tell us how to bring up our children — the PC topic of bullying is, of course, a safe favorite — and carry on about the virtues of school summer reading (which invariably assigns the most horrid books that would squash any curious mind’s interest in literature).
Sure, my generation in our bitter later years learned that resistance is futile, hopeless debt inevitable, and the 401K stock retirements we were promised would be better than our parents’ unionized pensions all a lie, but at least in the beginning, before the system drained our strength, we kicked back a little at “The Man.” Today’s young march off to universities (or war), at its outrageous cost, with credit cards in pockets that charge loan-shark rates and come out in hopeless debt (or injury) to jobs that pay less than a year’s worth of tuition — if they get a job at all. And despite all the formats available and places to express these concerns, not a word of protest or suspicion from a generation of writers. Just advice on facial cream and the best spas.Cowardice is intrinsic within the values of PC. Perhaps the PC generation of writers is a fearful group, terrified of offending or being criticized. They are either too scared to take up important topics or they have been so washed in hopeless mediocrity — the highest aspiration of PC since no idea can be left behind and must sink to a level obtainable by all — that larger concerns outside of their immediate surroundings literally do not occur to them. The slogans of PC have resolved all those bigger questions for them, and so they can focus their energies on their interior worlds. In other words, themselves.
Slogans are most commonly used by the advocators of war, politicians and advertisers, so our lack of capacity to fight them through precise language is dangerous. Ha Jin, an international author who lives in Foxboro, was interviewed in the Paris Review about his native Chinese language and how it was stunted during centuries of oppression. Though English is his second language, it gives him more ways of expressing the suffering of his characters. Political dissidence is harder to conceive with a language that has no means of expressing it. You might emotionally know that you’re being oppressed, but when you have no means of expressing your instincts, you fall into a quiet desperation that does your oppressor no harm. That’s what PC does — it stunts language and therefore opposition.
A friend’s son was reprimanded in Canton for using the term “snow-gun” in school. It’s what they’re called. They literally shoot artificial snow out on the slopes. The kid is 8. He loves to ski. He expressed his experience skiing, called them “snow-guns” and was corrected. Guns — even the word — aren’t allowed in school, you see. So what are called “snow-guns” on the slopes had to be re-named as “snow-makers” in school, despite “snow-gun” giving the imagination a far clearer picture as to what the device looks like and does.
For some, the change of the word “snow-gun” to “snow-maker” may seem unimportant, but it’s an example of stunted language. Limiting children’s means to express themselves to further the PC agenda is sophisticated bullying. This PC repression isn’t unique to Canton — if it were, it would be far less frightening. The PC banner we are all living under finds its way online and on television, in our daily conversations and in all of our discourse and retards our ability to fight the nefarious lies of powerful institutions. And when minds are stunted early, they tend to accept convention and banality more readily.
When language is effective, then some ideas are able to rise above others. Clear, concrete language leads to clear thinking, and clear thinking leads to opposition, which is imperative during a time when our wealth and our political might is being moved into fewer and fewer hands under the rationale of slogans. Leave who has the best facial cream and spas to the paid advertisers. Technology’s ability to give all kinds of formats for writers’ individual expression is not enough. Clarity of thought, without the fog of PC, is far more important.
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