Don’t Be A Dick: Understanding political correctness in modern society

A group of people in conversation. This opinion writer discusses the matter of understanding political correctness in modern society. (Helena Lopes/Creative Commons)

A group of people in conversation. This opinion writer discusses the matter of understanding political correctness in modern society. (Helena Lopes/Creative Commons)

Do you remember when you were in grade school? At the beginning of each school year you would gather with your class first in the classroom and later in the auditorium to go over all of the major school rules. Different schools and different classes had different rules, but one rule always remained the same. It’s a rule that has moved through history and its origins can be traced back to the Bible. This rule is the Golden Rule, a.k.a. treat others the way you want to be treated. It’s only outclassed by the Platinum Rule which asks people to treat others the way the other person wants to be treated. It’s a rule that reflects the idea that people like to be treated in different ways.

In more modern times, the concepts of the Golden Rule and the Platinum Rule can be roughly translated into a simple four word phrase: don’t be a dick. It’s one of the founding rules of the internet and a really simple way to figure out how to live your life. It goes a long really nicely with the other familiar elementary school rule, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” These rules are very simple. In fact they are so simple that we expect kindergarteners to get them.

However, there appears to be a certain group of people that doesn’t understand what is and isn’t acceptable to say in public. I’m talking about the “anti-political correctness” crowd.  Political correctness is a term used to describe language, policies or rules that are worded in a way so that they don’t cause offense to a particular group. Again, basically trying not be a dick. For members of the anti-pc crowd, however, political correctness is somehow an act of censorship. Apparently the idea that you should respect the way someone wants to be treated and respected your fellow citizens is somehow akin to the silencing of voices.

Anti-political correctness has been around for a long time, but has recently seen an increase with the rise of Donald Trump and the increasing progressiveness of the country. Trump famously ran on a platform that was supposed to “Make America Great Again.” He was going to close all political loop holes, end political correctness and strengthen our “damaged” country. He was going to tell it like it is, no matter how many people it offended.

Noted conservative Jordan Peterson has also been critical of “pc-culture.” In an op-ed for the National Post, Peterson bluntly reiterates that he will not call people by their preferred pronouns because some of the pronouns are words he doesn’t like. Additionally he feels that there is too much government oversite and that the government shouldn’t have the ability to punish those for using different pronouns than someone wants. Also apparently people shouldn’t get pick their own pronouns. That argument confused me too.    

Putting it bluntly, the idea of anti-political correctness is rubbish. If you are anti-political correctness supporter than you aren’t some kind of hero. You aren’t speaking the truth when others won’t. You are a bully. Plain and simple.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I was raised to treat others with respect. No one ever had to explicitly teach me the Golden or Platinum Rule because we are all, in most ways, the same. Human beings crave closeness and acceptance and they want to be accepted for who they really are.

As our world changes and we learn more about others it makes sense that society will become progressive. As things get more progressive, ideas that were not accepted before start to make more sense and wrongs made in the past should be righted. If you feel that political correctness is somehow causing an attack on you and your beliefs, then maybe the problem is not with society.  See political correctness is not about becoming a “sheep” or giving into the will of others. It’s about respect plain and simple. Respect for others and understanding is one of the many things that makes us human. If a bunch of kindergarteners who can’t read yet can understand it, then the rest of society can to.


Amar Batra is a senior staff photographer and weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email amar.batra@uconn.edu. He tweets at @amar_batra19.