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I've become ultimately sick of this "politically correct" backlash that has gained power in the last few years. People say that what has been coined as "politically correct" is thought control, inane, and ultimately pandering to oversensitivity.

I don't agree.

Being "politically correct" (a term that I have learned to hate) has nothing to do with pandering. It has to do with two basic ideas: respect and the importance of how we speak.

The first is easy: Respect. So an ethnic minority prefers to be refered to in a way that other groups are not used to using. So what? Does it kill us to say Native American instead of Indian (besides that it is more factually correct)? Why shouldn't groups of people be allowed to define themselves as they wish to?

Further, if a person lives his or her life with true respect for others, that person has a basic desire to not offend or cause discomfort in another person. So, that person will watch what he or she says. The "this is gay" example is an obvious one. One never knows who around them is not heterosexual, let alone who has a friend, loved one, or family member who may not be heterosexual (which is, incidentally, most people). Avoiding using the term "gay" as a derogatory term is simply cautious, therefore avoiding the possibility of unitentional conflict or offense.

The second idea is harder. Western peoples are not really used to thinking about the way they speak as having power. It has only been in the last twenty years or so, with the rise of postmodernism and social theory that examined speech, that this idea has gained any credence.

Clearly, this is a possiblity. How we speak shapes not only how we view the world, the norms and structures that we set up in our minds that create our perception of the world around us, but it also shapes the world of others. Perhaps if subversively racist, sexist, homophobic, heterosexist, xenophobic, and anthroprocentric language was obliterated, a lot of those attitudes would also fall. If we don't use language that shapes our world in a racist, sexist, etc. way, perhaps those ideas wouldn't be as accessible.

Maybe, if we allowed a little of what so many people call "politically correct" speech to invade our language a little bit more, it would be easier to live in this place.

Well said, but there is another, more insidious side of the politically correct movement.

Quite often, the goal of political correctness is to outrun a set of connotative meanings that have accumulated over time. This would be fine, except for the fact that those connotations are sometimes based in fact.

So, the end result is often an unending procession of new, more "acceptable" terms for things that are fundamentally problematic. That is to say, the language of political correctness can momentarily step ahead of perception and understanding, but it cannot permanently distance itself from the underlying problems it hopes to deemphasize.

Of course it matters how we speak - this is a major premise of George Orwell's 1984. Newspeak and Doublespeak are employed by a totalitarian government to hinder dissent.

It is my assertion that political correctness is in fact the realization of this very same strategy, albeit originating from a totalitarian populist movement.

"An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public" - Carl Sagan

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