”In this Exploring Liberty lecture, Friedman discusses the main premises of The Machinery of Freedom and offers a few additional conclusions he has reached in the years after the first edition of the book was published in 1973”
——— I fail to see how a sugar tax would be effective, but what this article tells me is that obesity must be discussed properly once again. Nowadays it seems impossible to do so without being told to stop ‘fat-shaming’, as if all criticism of unhealthy lifestyles is unjust. This leads to constructive criticism being ignored unfortunately… Although its fair to say that pointing out problems with the aim of merely hurting feelings is unnecessary, people make the mistake of forgetting about the fact that tackling obesity is important. It’d be nice if the government didn’t feel the need to get involved, they’re only going to make a mess.
So often we see arguments dismissed on the basis that the point articulated is deemed hurtful and/or offensive. It’s become culture, especially within university campuses, to put large amounts of energy into essentially censoring words and ideas that can be subjectively deemed offensive. It’s getting ridiculous. More recently there’s been somewhat a backlash against this modern day ‘politically correct’ environment that continues to brew with no sight of a halt. However I find it difficult to comprehend how we got into this position in the first place, and I’ve come to the conclusion that despite the perceived good intentions, the creation of this culture that seeks to minimise psychological pain for the sensitive does more harm than good.
I could list endless examples of political correctness gone crazy, albeit I don’t feel that’s necessary. Although, I could refer you to Bill Maher’s fairly current rant:
or this hilarious (facebook video link) that exposes how preposterous the ‘thought police’ have become…
Jerry Seinfeld – “They (college audiences) just want to use these words. ‘That’s racist. That’s sexist. That’s prejudice.’ They don’t even know what they’re talking about.”
I see political correctness as merely a tool of groups looking to appeal to the commons; highlighting the detrimental possible effects of certain words makes you look good in comparison to others, hence I see it as a type of emotional manipulation. That’s not to say people purposefully attempt to deceive, as for the common person to extensively support a certain political movement they must genuinely believe that the goals of that movement would be beneficial to themselves and others; most people aren’t merely ‘selfish’, they’re instead self-righteous. Most people see themselves as moral beings.
People dislike being wrong, being seen as inferior intellectually; belittled. When one is belittled they must either respond by belittling the other in return more convincingly or accepting the argument of the other and joining their crowd. Otherwise that person loses their reputation, how they’re perceived by others, which due to pride is mankind’s greatest weakness; to be perceived of well is all important in all situations. Let me here note that this is all based off of observation… The fame of an idea is nothing but what that idea sounds like in comparison to others, and emphasis needs to be put on the words ‘sounds like’, for politics has become a game of emotional bargaining. Since the demos tends to be ignorant of famous ideas in depth, people are swayed by authority, what the most emotionally engaged believe, hence ideas are often accepted not by analysis of the idea and others but by faith alone. Whether or not people realise then, being selective of words and excluding people who don’t share your sentiments by claiming they’re not able to see through their ‘privilege’ or are simply ‘blinded’ easily attracts the commons whom wish not to be seen as morally inferior for reasons of pride.
Now that I’ve brought to light the appeal and benefits to adhering to politically correct ‘rules’, I want to zoom into the idea of ‘micro aggressions’ and the notion that people should warn people before speaking of issues that may be renowned to lead to strong emotional responses (trigger warnings).
Firstly, micro aggressions are described to be small actions or word choices that seem on their face to have no malicious intent but are thought to be somewhat violent nonetheless; thought to be some type of offensive innuendo. However it’s so easy to identify something that genuinely wasn’t meant to sound like a slur to be a type of slur. How would people really know what people actually think unless said explicitly? It leads to people being called out for pathetic reasons. One strangely funny scenario is one that I’ve heard from a few members of the LGBT community. Despite me understanding the difference between gender and sex, including the biological explanations as to why some people suffer from gender dysphoria and subsequently are not cisgendered, it is actually incredibly asinine to suggest that people shouldn’t ‘assume’ that you’re cisgendered, when by far cis people are the majority. It just seems there that people are pretending to be offended, a cynical point made in this piece by Reason… (Read here) These type of reactions are described as “prefabricated” and merely “crowds out legitimate grievances”; I must say I concur.
So do people need to be warned about words that may bring out these possibly prefabricated reactions? Whilst it may sound a noble idea I read an interesting essay recently demonstrating why this type of protection in the name of emotional well-being may be disastrous for both education and surprisingly mental health.
“According to the most-basic tenets of psychology, helping people with anxiety disorders avoid the things they fear is misguided.”
This seems to make sense, the essay argues in support of this quote in more depth, but consider the tactics of cognitive behavioural therapies in treatment; is it not true that there is an obvious reason people are encouraged to face their problems rather than to avoid them? My issue extends further though. Returning to my scepticism in light of the Reason article I find it hard to accept the implied extraordinary fragility of the collegiate psyche. I feel people spend so much time claiming how some things may be offensive but much of the time the majority of people actually aren’t offended and aren’t in need of any trigger warning. Even if it were the case though, I do not see why psychological harm should be considered a harm that one ought to be protected from. Sometimes people disagree with you and sometimes people say things that may hurt your feelings. But so what? It’s an unavoidable fact of life and as I will point out later, trying to escape this fact can be dangerous.
What’s sad is these ideas are creating a culture whence people must think twice of their choice of words before articulating their opinions, lest they face the charges of being insensitive assholes. The benefits of freely flowing speech becomes suppressed, thus trigger warnings act as a type of ‘political censorship’ where free speech very much does come under threat; people obviously don’t trust people enough to weed out clearly bad ideas through repetition and widespread acceptance so instead use the tactics of asserting the moral high ground and calling dissenters out.
The benefits then, of protecting people from psychological harm is outweighed by the endless benefits of free speech for any limit damages the effectiveness of the Socratic Method. Cognitive dissonance easily arises from this method, where people may feel serious discomfort arising from a doctrine they’re beginning to get tempted by. This is a sign of learning nonetheless and is necessary. Yet I fear the ever increasing politically correct climate helps subdue the emergence of dissimilar views held by others.
The essay I previously referred to which I recommend reading goes over more of the problems including expanding on the argument that ‘hiding away’ from words and ideas that may offend prepares well not for professional life, and instead makes worse the possibility of anxiety and fear, with an interesting statistical link considered in support. The point was also made that this culture has developed due to recent generations engaging in more safety based techniques to parenting rather than a more free-range approach. This may be the reason why these ‘activists’ tend to be young, value emotion over logic (dare I say it) and see being an ‘activist’ as a type of end in itself, as if the title acts as an ego boost. People like to safely believe what sounds upright, and stray from diverging once they’ve joined the collective that they’ve witnessed increasing in popularity.
Enough of the rambling though. The quarrel is that the conversation needs to reopen. At the moment, those that adhere to the politically correct culture and prescribe people ought to look out alongside them for sensitivities are seen as correct and morally superior (I may be wrong but as an observer that’s the vibe I’ve received). But do these people actually do more harm than good? Are these forms of protectionism truly bad for education and mental health? I for one find it difficult to disagree with the arguments made in the essay, which I shall link below.