If you come across a disgruntled baby-boomer (You know, those old folks who regularly get blamed for almost everything? Side note: It would not be crazy to think that baby-boomers reached a unanimous consensus on how to destroy the world at a clandestine meeting sometime after all of the LSD they took at Woodstock wore off, after hearing some mainstream millennial political views.), you have come across someone in our country’s largest age demographic – a demographic that according to Pew Research consumes 60% of its news through the dated, limited, profit oriented (Thus stylish entertainment over mundane substance.) medium of television based media. You also have met someone from the generation that is most likely to harp on about “political correctness”. Political correctness refers to unspoken societal rules regarding acceptable communication within our modern society. What, at first glance, one might understand to be some level of basic decency, can quickly transform into almost authoritarian policing of art, music, film, comedy, and many other methods of human communication. “Political Correctness” at a base level is agreeable; nobody ought to have a problem with a genuine racist or homophobe being terminated from their place of employment. Nobody has the right to actively harass anyone else, and make their lives miserable. The problem here is akin to the old adage: “Nobody looks for trouble like a bored cop.”, with the bored cop in this analogy being the general public, driven to look for communication to police. The public is made up of people, and people like to feel validated. Nothing validates an individual more than the sensation after doing something truly good. We live in a society where instant gratitude is the norm, which means that corners are often cut in order to achieve gratification. This creates an enormous problem, of which I will go into some detail describing, as well as offer my humble solution for.
If one carefully considers the examples provided by the aforementioned television media, they might notice a pattern of cutting corners for instant gratification. Television news stations are a business, and the primary focus of any business is to maintain/increase profits, which is difficult in an age where the internet is king. This corner cutting is done by a cyclic bombardment of headline after headline of stories purported to be “breaking news”. Alleged breaking news seldom documents any noteworthy event, rather it likely features a mere exaggerated dramatization of a regular occurrence, designed specifically to captivate the attention of viewers, and multiple the number of people with an emotional investment in their content with the sole intention of increasing advertising revenue.
You might reasonably wonder what potential negative outcomes can result from such unscrupulous behavior? After all, news stations have no physical product; they are not like oil companies. When an oil company cuts corners it results in physical damage that can be objectively observed by even the least interested of parties, and there is the inevitability of justified public backlash in response. There are boycotts, lawsuits, and bad press – all of which serve as a mildly effective deterrent from such behavior. The media creates content, and that content is mentally consumed by the viewer, thus leaving no outside physical traces of wrongdoing, which begs the question: Can there be damage that isn’t inherently visible? The cost of corner cutting within the media cannot be quantified in terms of wildlife lost, or acres of land destroyed, but perhaps it can be understood as damage to our ability to communicate. We have become a society addicted to anger. People of all walks of life have valid reasons to be angry about various injustices within our society, but it has reached the point where feelings of sincere peace are seldom attained by individuals with any regularity. Perhaps humanity civilization has progressed faster than the speed of it’s collective intelligence, and our evolutionary instincts are still geared more toward jungles of trees rather than jungles of concrete, but regardless – this is something that is highly exploitable. Why tell viewers precisely why something is the way it is, when you can pass off low grade information in an attractive manner? There’s a reason why these stations generally consider looks above intelligence when hiring commentators. When you leave people with mere talking points and anger, is it any wonder why civil discussions occur less frequently?
Communication is important. Society is driven by creative ideas. In order for us to innovate in any fashion, there needs to be effective communication. Effective communication is honest, and accurately expresses the information which it attempts to share. If architects fail to communicate effectively with builders, the end result is poorly constructed buildings. If coaches fail to communicate effectively with players, the end result is a poor performance. If doctors fail to communicate with patients, the end result can be death. What happens when the majority of society feels too angry to have civilized discussions? The unfortunate end result is that many people begin to isolate themselves among only those with whom they predominantly agree in order to avoid conflicts as a result of this anger, and thus we as a whole fail to progress. When matters that truly impact our lives such as politics and philosophy are considered taboo because we do not believe there can be fruitful discussions about them, red flags should immediately begin to rise.
What does all of this have to do with political correctness? The qualifications of communication to be deemed offensive or politically incorrect has expanded, while carrying the same ruinous implications for the accused. Today I came across several articles documented serious anger as a result of a scene in the children’s film “Peter Rabbit”. In the movie, a fictional, digitally animated rabbit, and his forest dwelling companions do battle with their archenemy, Mr. McGregor. The fury creatures’ plan of attack is to throw blackberries at Mr. McGregor, who is allergic to the fruit. This scene has generated serious backlash, and even resulted in an apology from the film’s studio, as groups claim that the scene is offensive to allergy sufferers as allergic reactions are highly damaging. I’m going to hope that these same people never saw Tom and Jerry, because attempted homicide is a rather serious matter as well. What was created with the intent of being understood as a benign comedic scene in a children’s movie, has been described as something to be deemed as highly offensive and thus something that warrants careers to be ended, and thus livelihoods threatened. What would motivate someone to feel justified when actively attempting to inflict these punishments upon another person? It is very likely driven by the pursuit of instant gratification. Who does not wish to occupy the moral high ground? Who does not desire to destroy monsters, and feel validated for doing “good”? The issue is that monsters are being manufactured, because defeating monsters is something that is universally considered good, and the offended sometimes have become the monsters themselves.
While allergies should be taken extremely seriously, can anyone honestly be offended to the degree where they feel justified inflicting harm upon others? As someone who suffers from a chronic illness, I understand how serious these things can be. I know about the countless trips to see doctors, I know the feelings of being constantly vigilant to preserve my health, and I know far too well the alienating feeling they can cause among healthy peers yet I do not find any justification for such a reaction. People with chronic illnesses often joke about their conditions, and I’m no exception – it helps me, and many others accept our illnesses. Laughter is one of the most healing experiences someone can have, and being able to laugh at something demonstrates that you are bigger than whatever it is that may trouble you. People laugh when they can relate to something; when they hear something funny that they understand on a deeper level. If you understand nothing about a joke, you might laugh because you understand it to be nonsense, but that still requires an understanding of what is rational versus nonsensical. In order to take a scene such as this so personally, you have to presuppose that the scene causes some sort of harm. If one is truly honest with themselves, they would realize that there is little to no actual harm being inflicted beyond mere projections of bad intent. They might also conclude that when there are choruses constantly shouting”Wolf!”, society as a whole inevitably becomes de-sensitized to the point where legitimate issues begin to be preemptively dismissed.
Thus, in order to deter individuals from crying wolf, and to protect against actual wolves I humbly suggest that society brings back sanctioned duels to the death, as it would reinvigorate the value of good, upstanding character within our society.
You might think that I am joking, but I am not. Consider the state of those in the film studio that created “Peter Rabbit” — the very people who now could lose their livelihoods, and quality of life solely due to the feigned outrage and indignation displayed by some of the public. Those who worked as a part of that innocent film crew currently have no defense or recourse against the attacks of their accusers. If one is to accuse another of causing great offense, to the degree where they feel justified in pushing for severely detrimental social outcomes as punishment for said act, there should be a threshold for the offense to warrant such actions. If these accusations carried with them the potential for the accused to offer a duel in the defense of their honor as a rebuttal, many people would think twice before choosing to unfairly levy claims against the integrity of others. Journalists would hesitate to publish fabrications, and politicians would be less likely to dishonestly accuse them of doing so. Genuine monsters would also be deterred by this, because they would be exposed as the cowards that they are, and this is so because I do not know a single person who would willingly perish for a lie. It would eliminate consideration for false problems, and allow us to effectively tackle the real ones. When people are held accountable for their words and actions, it encourages honesty, patience, and more civil dialogue. Honestly, patience, and civil dialogue are all necessary to effective speech, and in order to maintain social order. A society which disregards effective speech is a society that will be slower to progress.
All of this, of course, would be completely voluntary by consenting parties. If you are not so keen on the concept of potentially risking your life in order to settle a social dispute, fear not! You would not be compelled to accept a duel in any manner beyond the communal social pressures one might face to defend against a challenge to their personal honor (“Put your money where your mouth is, or keep it shut!”). As a deterrent against potential abuses of this system (ie: Some jerk with nothing to lose choosing to frequently challenge others to a duel as a means of skirting personal responsibility.), it would be rather obvious to members of the community that the jerk is overzealous in their behavior, as duels would be a relatively rare occasion. It would be great for the economy, as it would create jobs in a new, closely regulated field. It protects free speech, and would likely be a bane against criminal violence, as there would be a legal means to solve a impassioned blood disputes.
Perhaps they would be televised and sponsored by the beacons of corporate integrity known as Sprite or Burger King.