What’s most cumbersome in these times where our society is so outraged, is this invisible barrier – what one is allowed to say and what one isn’t allowed to say – political correctness.
What exactly does this mean? Political correctness refers to language, actions, and policies that are intended or designed to specifically not offend or disadvantage a particular group of people.
The Sword of Political Correctness
In recent times, political correctness has evolved to mean more than that. It lurks above us like a sword and with the smallest wrong word that may come over our lips, it threatens to defame us. In our society – and this is not only true for Germany – public speaking can sometimes feel like walking on broken glass.
The threatening brute medial forces, public outrage, hate speeches, lurking carrier ends, a population that is arming itself … I sometimes wonder: what’s next? The speed that this development has taken on is indeed distressing.
Can we do something about it? Maybe a more precise communication? How about an improved version of communication with regards to language, actions, and policies so that the public can really feel that a politician is nothing but a human being who has to ponder many questions about how one’s work can get done?
The German politician, Helmut Schmidt, who passed away at the end of last year, had cultivated a concise and witty language pattern. The difference between him and most politicans in Germany today is that he was perceivable as a human being by the way he spoke. I cannot remember ever catching him being politically correct. He’d rather say nothing or briefly state that one shouldn’t antagonize at such an age. And there were also situations in which he showed his emotions, in which he exposed himself as a human being. This in particular, is something that is noticeable only with very, very few politicians today. (An unemotional communication is one of the facets of political correctness, by the way.)
This way of communication – widespread in politics and economy – is determined by an imprecise phraseology. You may notice many public persons making use of it. Content wise, it doesn’t yield much and more often than not, it uses verbiages. And in a subliminal way, it reminds me of this secret linguistic code that is being used for written job testimonials in Germany.
This form of political correctness has become worse in the last years, and one cannot not see it: it doesn’t make communication easier. The opposite is true.
It is as if one has to learn a foreign language. The linguistic maneuvers are like a fog. If you get caught up in it, if you are being lulled into it, you could keep doing your daily routine in the most placid way after having heard terrible news, and you could easily pretend as if nothing had happened. This form of speech softens every message and makes it elusive. It makes people apathetic and lethargic, and I have a suspicion that it is one of the reasons for the majority of people to remain silent.
A Culture of Debate
Yet, the only thing that will really move us forward is a debate conducted honestly and without taboos.
A debate that is based on respect for every being. A debate that is based on appreciation for life, and one that has the goal to collectively achieve a better culture of debate than the one we have right now. A debate in which a single person isn’t denounced until their life’s end just because s/he has dared to speak out something unspeakable.
We are forced into a corset, constricted by fear and almost expecting medial distortions, for which we certainly don’t have to wait too long.
How are we supposed to establish an earnest, meaningful discussion, when we have to weigh up every word for possible twofold interpretations or historical negative context?
How are we supposed to come up with courage for discussions, when statements that are taken out of context outrage or upset us, without realizing that such provocations have been done deliberately through mediocre journalism, sometimes, to generate attention and sales?
How are we supposed to grow as a society, when acceptable opinions are being provided, and discrepancies from this allowed spectrum of opinions are hushed up or defamed?
Surely, it always depends on the tone of a message. Comments of destructive tone and content rid themselves of their existential right.
However, there are also many perspectives that are unheard of – for the above mentioned reasons, but they surely would be worth listen to.
A Climate of Latent Fear
With the current practice of political correctness, a climate of latent fear has been created.
It is no wonder that so many adult citizens do not engage in public discussions – because of the fear of social outlawing, because of the fear of the spiral of silence. The silent majority is not only silent because of apathy and lethargy. No. The fear of possible backlashes is another likely reason.
I am convinced that there are many people who would have something valuable to contribute.
Germany, which loves to call itself the country of poets and thinkers, offers many bright people a home.
Can we really afford to abstain from the ideas of so many creative spirits – with all the problems we are facing?
How can we straighten the debate?
Probably not instantaneously.
It is a process, which will only happen and take on speed when a respectable majority of people admits to this code of a sincere, valued and tolerant culture of debate. It is necessary to include, that these people need to have the courage to endure emerging conflicts.
This probably won’t be happen without scars or tears. Nevertheless, do we have an alternative?
We don’t, not if we really want to be serious and sincere.
Hence, the question that needs to be asked is: do we truly want to find solutions to our social problems, or not?
They won’t show up out of nothingness. There is going to be a strenuous effort of collective disputes. And to allow this to happen successfully, we need to get rid of the corset of political correctness.
With a new form of communication – political correctness 2.0 – we could begin to combat some “sacred cows”.
One of that is, for instance, the fact that Germans have a tendency to make themselves look small. The eternal German guilt.
The word ‘guilt’ has developed a strong churchly imprint in the last centuries. I cannot get rid of the picture that this particular term of guilt is always being used, when there is a necessity to follow an unorthodox pathway. When there is the attempt to try something new.
This sword of guilt is being used by various circles and groups of interest, who apparently know that they only need to unsheathe the sword, and Germans would wince away and back down.
It is a form of manipulation, and if we wouldn’t allow ourselves to be influenced by this form of manipulation, we would be able to accomplish a more precise culture of debate. We also would have better chances to find solutions to our social problems.