To PC or Not to PC? That is the Question.

Image result for bill maher donald trumpFree speech isn't just a right, it's a responsibility. Use it or lose it. Speech shouldn't make you feel good -- that's what shoulder rubs are for. Information should make you become good. (Or, at least.. better.) If there's an argument to be made that education and understanding are our highest ethics, it's because they lead us out of ignorance and incrementally towards the end of human suffering. 

But while unpopular ideas and challenges to the status quo are crucial to the future of human flourishing, there's also a point where you sincerely don't need to be an asshole on purpose.

Did you know that there is a difference between a trigger warning and a safe space? I didn't. I initially heard them as the same thing because my natural default setting is a very libertine, humor-oriented, "the more offensive, the better" policy. (This might not surprise you, but I'm a white male with a privileged upbringing. I'm impulsive and loud. Thinking about the different feelings of others before my own was something that took me a long time to teach myself -- frankly, I'm still learning.) 

But safe spaces and trigger warnings aren't synonyms. In certain ways, they're opposites. 

A "safe space" typically means a closed-off area of a college campus where people of a given (generally marginalized) demographic are encouraged to come reinforce their pre-existing narratives. They aren't allowed to be asked questions, and they aren't expected to participate in a given talk or lecture, for their emotional comfort. 

A "trigger warning" is a lot like a spoiler alert. It means we are gonna talk about topic x, so participate at your own peril.

For example, "We're about to discuss _____, so if you're a victim of ____ who suffers post traumatic panic attacks, take this under advisement, because we're not going to stop, even if you get uncomfortable."

A trigger warning is about the freedom to engage in inflammatory content with responsibility for emotional fragility being passed squarely to the fragile. Safe spaces, it seems, are about the privilege to attend an institution of higher learning and be supported for one's disengagement.

They didn't start out so bad. Originally, the term meant that if you were gay, the university won't tolerate Johnny football dunking your head in the toilet. It encouraged self-expression and challenging the status quo--which, back in the 80s was a significantly more difficult.

But at this point we've surpassed equilibrium. We've stretched acceptance and comfort to unsustainable levels of mandatory; it's an internet bubble in the social ecology waiting to burst and currently pushing needlessly on the ulcers of old white men who's final thoughts on their death beds 15 years from now will be to roll their eyes wondering why Kanye gets to use the n word and they can't.

We definitely don't want to cater to the intolerant or mentally inflexible, but flexibility is a two way street. The idea of picking your battles seems a little bit lost on young liberals who wish to bestow fame and fortune upon Milo Yiannopolous by rioting at his appearances. (Assuming those riots aren't false flag marketing ploys, which they very well may be.)

Mental flexibility means holding seemingly contradictory stances in one's head simultaneously. Not to be confused with the Fox News viewer who holds actually contradicting concepts minutes apart. Rather, it's about nuance. It's the ability to admit that Muslims deserve refuge and constitutional protections, and also that Islam is scripturally the most problematic of the major religions for the best values of modern civilization. Both of these concepts should be fairly obvious, but a lot of people are less interested in empiricism than in what their opinions represent about themselves.

Politics as social hygiene is an ugly mess, and frankly a huge bummer.

Political correctness -- which is mere decency taken to an institutional level -- can risk inflexibility of thought. There's a tendency to patronize marginalized groups, to over-compensate for their subjugated background. Muslims, to continue the example, may deserve extra considerations in a similar but smaller manner as black students vis a vis college admissions. (Deserve is a weird word. It implies karma or some other pseudo-spiritual balance sheet. More accurately, they ought to be given. [The only thing we deserve is a fat slap in the face for conspiring against our less duplicitous Neanderthal cousins for control of resources, and an eternity of grocery-sized Walmarts to sort it out.]) But what they oughtn't receive is toddler treatment, saying their horrific liturgical dogma is equally valid to whichever Christian and Hebrew papers to which our forefathers incidentally subscribed. Their individuals oughtn't be let off the hook upon committing atrocities in the name of this dogma, despite outstanding geo-political discrepancies.

When I hear that some redneck bakery doesn't want to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual couple, it's incredibly troubling. But do I believe the government should force bakeries to provide gay wedding cakes? Of course not. That's the second dumbest thing I've ever heard. However, if and when it happens, I'm okay with it. Why? Because homophobia is the first dumbest thing I've ever heard. And if the law overcompensates in the direction of decency, with an eye on future view of history, it's way better than leaving the ignorant to their mean-spirited superstitions.

In other words, decency is better than freedom.

The idea that freedom is over-rated will sit unbelievably poorly with some. The sad truth is that there's no Clockwork Orange eye-ball procedure available to force out psychopathy, spiritual dogma, and other sources of oppression from a large population. In the meantime, we are left to police ourselves on superficial issues such as kindness and consideration while the state takes care of serious issues like property rights and recreational marijuana.

What kind of policeman do you want to be? Do you want to look the other way while your coworker tells racist jokes and discusses what a fine object the nearest female is? That's what I do, because I'm mostly worthless. The temptation to squirrel away social capital is undeniable.

Police by example. If you're privileged enough not to have a traumatic personal history or an institutionalized double standard, maybe cherish the small thrills outside of getting water cooler laughs at the expense of others. Because it's all thrills. Even though it feels like all obligations, it's a privilege to have an unending cascade of adult responsibilities. If your brain can't handle that, it's been too many seconds or minutes since you've compared your life to that of a family in Sudan.

The far left may have their heads up their asses, but relief for the oppressed is a much more noble preoccupation than low taxes and casual harassment. To everyone who watches Fox News at volumes just shy of The Who in concert, I beseech you to take your desire to be left alone and expand on it past the point of your 1040 forms. Demand courtesy for the things that make you different than your peers. Then, demand that for strangers. You don't have to call it "political correct," I agree it's incredibly un-sexy. Try calling it, "Not being an embarrassing dickhead."

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