In his dystopian classic, 1984, famed author, George Orwell, creates a world in which every movement you make, every thought you ponder, your language and account of history is surveyed by the watchful eye of Big Brother.
In Oceania any frivolous attempt at expression, liberation, contention is criminalized and curbed by a slew of thought police, television screens and those nearest and dearest to you.
Oceania may be fictional but the potential for of us to become citizens of an expressionless state is all but a reality.
Our government may not be installing television screens in our homes and a ministry completely dedicated to lobotomizing our desire for freewill may not exist but our thoughts, opinions and ideas are being carefully monitored by the new thought police – the modern day activist.
These activists care not for activism, per se. Don’t expect them to take to the streets and fight against injustice.
Their plight is political correctness and they genuinely believe they are doing the world a service by ousting the bigots, racists and homophobes at the sacrifice of free speech and free thought.
Because of their campaigning, debates have been cancelled, as have concerts, certain religious gatherings and anything in between. People have lost jobs and have had their reputations ruined.
Should you go against the sentiment of the activist, it is at your own peril.
However, you may or may not know whether you have overstepped the line. Political correctness has become so widespread and all-embracing that it is creating a new language for us to adhere to – much like the poor souls who dwelled in fictional Oceania.
Even I no longer know how to describe myself without offending anyone.
Apparently I can no longer be referred to as a single white female. Rather, I am a melanin- challenged, cis female assigned female at birth, awaiting spousal assignment. Good. Double plus good!
And if you think I’m overreacting, look around you. Actions against “offence” are shaping a new, cleansed, utopia.
Because of a fear of offense, we now live in a world where:
A flirtatious come on is now an act of misogyny
Recently, lawyer Charlotte Proudman got the internet all fired up after posting tweets regarding an inappropriate message she received on Linkedin from fellow lawyer, Alexander Carter-Silk.
The dastardly message was a comment regarding her profile picture:
“I appreciate that this is probably horrendously politically incorrect but that is a stunning picture…”
Proudman’s response was that of sheer condemnation. His, albeit ill-placed, message was labelled “misogynistic”, “sexist”, and “offensive.”
She further suggested that his remark was a purposeful eroticisation of women in an attempt to suppress them.
She considered her ousting of the “belligerent” Carter-Silk as an act of “feminism.”
Feminism. Thank you very much, Proudman. Not only have you managed to perpetuate the stereotype that all feminists are man-hating nazis but you’ve managed to steer the plight of feminism completely off course.
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Feminism is an important phenomenon that seeks to bridge the inequalities between the sexes and gender stereotypes. It concerns itself not with hysterical twit-tweets ousting the advances of men.
Besides, like or hate it, women still need men to reproduce and the act of reproduction usually begins with a flirty advance or two.
Should acts similar to Proudman’s continue, feminism will eventually be considered nothing more than man-hating gratuitousness. Furthermore, true acts of misogyny could very well be swept under the carpet.
Call me crazy but, should you receive a compliment you don’t want, why not try the old “thanks but no thanks” and spare feminism of any negative connotation?
You are not allowed to question things in a place of research
If you’re one of the eager aspiring academics, willingly embarking on a tertiary education to expand your mind and engage in the fruitful realm of student debate, you may have missed the boat.
The old and expressive act of engaging in dangerous ideas has been curbed by an onslaught of rules and regulatory bodies that aim to stamp out the use of anything considered offensive.
In the US, there has been a push among the Ivy League institutions, namely Harvard, to forego the teaching of rape law lest it disturb a student. Even the word “violate” is considered an offense.
Professors are also being asked to issue Trigger Warnings should the content of their lecture be deemed emotionally arousing and the slight mention of racial stereotyping can be considered a microaggression.
In the UK, the student union has taken to the “safe space” label. This indicates that a teacher, student body or institution does not tolerate hate speech, harassment or anything anti-LGBTQ.
In that vein debates on abortion are being cancelled and flying spaghetti monster posters are being torn down for fear they may spark religious offense. Even discussions on the Nordic model for sex work are being considered “whorephobic”.
You are indeed safe but from what? It seems that the safe place label is being masqueraded as a means to stifle free speech and right-aligned political discourse.
While homophobic, racial and prejudicial slurs aren’t the most welcome thing on campus, or anywhere else for that matter, should they not be challenged, head on? Especially at universities – the breeding ground for innovative ideas and research.
By coddling our budding minds we are merely cleansing society of the potential to challenge the status quo – something I consider far more dangerous than an offensive idea or slanderous remark.
You are killed for political and/or religious satire
In January, this year, the world watched, as the story evolved of two gunmen entering the headquarters of French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, opening fire and killing 12 people.
Their crime? A procession of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed in, what was considered, an offensive manner.
This was not the first time the self-professed atheist and secular magazine had been attacked and Mohammed has not been only “victim” of satire.
In fact, the magazine has been known to attack anything from right-leaning politicians, Christianity, Judaism, proponents of the far left…
Furthermore, they aren’t the only magazine that does it. Nor is the late Luz the only cartoonist that has put pen to paper in an attempt to ridicule what is perceived as shortcomings of a government, religion, institution or individual.
Satire is there to shame, yes, but also motivate the aforementioned into improving. If we are killing our satirists who will be left to hold the magnifying glass up to society’s imperfections in a way that engages a wide span of that society itself. The government?
Besides, if satire has hit a sore spot, why aren’t we looking introspectively at society to discover the flaws that may exist.
If it offends, and more often than not it does and is supposed to, then the easiest solution is to turn the page.
Fight for your right to offend
These are only three examples. There are countless examples of individuals being burnt at the stake for going up against populist sentiment. Many more have been forced into silence for opposing a status quo that has become so obscure in its fearfulness towards offense that one no longer understands what is offensive.
This can lead to several negative outcomes.
The first is the silencing of unpopular ideas leading to such individuals heading underground. There, their ideas remain unchallenged. They are permitted to fester and grow until the oppressed individual seeks to attack the very society that silences them.
On the flip side, if we are not challenging what is popular, progression can be at risk. Remember, racial equality and feminism stemmed from ideas that were, at one time or another, considered “offensive.”
There’s the fear of political correctness breeding a generation of snowflake children that are unable or unwilling to face life and its reality.
Lastly, there’s also an existence without humor.
So, I ask you, what would you prefer to hear less of? Comments that offend? Or notions that challenge and provoke? And yes, while many slurs and taunts have already been challenged, lets keep them out there to be challenged further.
It is, after all, through this challenge that society’s trajectory can be pushed into a different direction. One that may be less offensive after all.
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