Debate Epilogue: A Gentleman’s Lament

In the debate between Chris Seaton and Mario Machado on the question of political correctness versus progress, there is a tacit tension that goes unmentioned. Well, until now, anyway.  Contrary to the assumptions of the unduly passionate, not everyone who rejects the accouterments of an ideology is in disagreement with certain of its goals or even methods.

As Mario argues, the imposition of authoritarian language and tone demands is not merely phony pretense, but dangerous in the ways Orwell warned us about long ago. But as Chris argues, greater civility would go a long way toward getting along.

As an old guy, I hold open doors for people, men and women. I perform random acts of kindness, for no better reason than I believe it to be a good thing to do. I help a great many people who need it, asking nothing in return. I do these things not because I fear some scold watching my every move, who might chastise me, or call me mean names if I fail to adhere to whatever orthodoxy prevails at the moment. I do these things because that’s how I choose to conduct my life. I behave like a gentleman.

Here, not so much, you say? Perhaps, but just as I choose to be a gentleman otherwise, I choose not to suffer fools gladly. To some extent, the two are incompatible, although I pointedly note that no one forces anyone to read SJ or leave a comment, so as the Oracle of Lincoln says, volenti non fit injuria.

There are occasions that I intentionally tweak the forces of political correctness. I will type out the word “girl,” even “gal” at times, which I realize will infuriate the scolds who roam the internets in search of things to find offensive. Some might see this as trolling on my part, being deliberately offensive to evoke an outraged response from the unduly passionate. I do not.

At no time do I take a stick and beat the insipid scolds. I merely use words, relatively ordinary words at that, which they have decided are never to be uttered upon pain of shrieking. I refuse to allow them to dictate the words I’m permitted to use. Sure, I can afford to do so, as I have no need of their approval and no fear of their condemnation. They’re silly little pimples in my world, waiting to popped.

The “words are violence” mantra is a lie, a pretense that the outraged use to rationalize their condemnation of lingual heretics. Some, like preferred pronouns, are too ridiculous to be taken seriously. No one is entitled to invent their own language and expect others to “respect” it. And no one is entitled to ram it down other’s throats.

The problem that arises is the conflation of refusing to accept the premise of eliminating words that someone, somewhere, finds somehow offensive with some underlying bias against people of another gender, race or sexual orientation. A white woman wearing hoop earrings does not inherently hate black women. A black guy wearing a sombrero on Cinco de Mayo doesn’t necessarily hate Latinos (or if I was being up-to-date, Latinx). And a man using the word girl is no more doing violence against females than the responsive woman smacking him down by calling him “fragile little boy” to show how fierce and brave she can be on Twitter.

Civility, like so many other conclusory words these days, means whatever someone tells you it means. If you fail to adhere to some sensitive soul’s demands, you are uncivil. There’s no argument about it. They decide whether you’ve met their standards, and because they are more marginalized than you depending on the victim hierarchy of the moment, the demand that you be civil has no applicability to them. It’s their job to correct you. It’s their job to attack your lack of civility. To do otherwise would be complicit.

Should we be civil? Of course we should. It’s a far kinder and gentler way to conduct one’s life. But can you be sufficiently civil to not outrage someone hunting for reasons to be outraged? Only if you accept the premise that large swathes of language are now forbidden. And when in doubt, moderate your language, even if it means you’re incapable of expressing clear thoughts and rely on trendy euphemisms or conclusory vagaries just to be certain not to offend anyone.

Be civil, but it won’t help. You can never be civil enough to appease the phonies claiming offense because they turn over every rock in search of it. Be civil for yourself, not for them. They will never be satisfied. And because of that, their shrieks have no relevance in a gentleman’s world.

24 comments on “Debate Epilogue: A Gentleman’s Lament

  1. Hunting Guy

    Gilbert Gottfried

    “I just don’t accept midgets as human beings. There’s only so much political correctness I can accept. “

    Reply
  2. PseudonymousKid

    Dear Papa,

    You’re so genteel. If only everyone acted like you, we would have peace and harmony. Holding doors open has everything to do with political correctness. Sure.

    Too bad for the politically correct crowd that some are persistent in their attempts to offend. You can take my sarcasm, disrespect, and snark from my cold dead lips or hands or whatever. I’ll find a way to be offensive regardless of what words you want me to use. Best to disbar me, muzzle me, and cage me now before I offend again.

    There’s only one hope. Everyone buys the soap with all the nutty stuff about the “All-One” printed all over the bottle, reads the fine print, and accepts the lessons. Even “racists” and “misogynists” have lived experiences, right? We all still have more in common than not. Act like it.

    Best,
    PK

    Reply
      1. PseudonymousKid

        Being an ass doesn’t always serve the client or myself, so sometimes, sure. It’s your fault. You took me to the psych that gave me a name for my “condition.” Oppositional defiant disorder. Maybe I’ll get my own padded room someday.

        Reply
  3. Richard Kopf

    SHG,

    As regards your trenchant post, all I can say is:

    “Yes, zir-ee Bob!*”

    All the best.

    RGK

    * This, of course, is derivative. The etymology of the original is both interesting and ironic. For the “zirs” out there who are no longer “sirs”, Google it if you don’t believe me.

    Reply
      1. Richard Kopf

        SHG,

        No, I did not. Please be more careful.

        The archaic French root of the word is based upon the nominative feminine singular form. In this day and age, it is uncivil to imply that female persons are sharpened tools.

        All the best.

        RGK

        Reply
          1. Richard Kopf

            SHG,

            “It is a sad truth, but we have lost the faculty of giving lovely names to things. The man who could call a spade a spade should be compelled to use one. It is the only thing he is fit for.” Oscar Wilde, “The picture of Dorian Grey” (1890).

            All the best.

            RGK

            Reply
            1. SHG Post author

              I surrender. Oscar Wilde always wins.

              A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally.

  4. Nemo

    Whatever PC was in theory, or in the beginning, it is currently a system for punishing* people who, in the PC user’s eyes, were not nice enough.

    Speculating, but what probably doomed it from the start was when it adopted the methods of the most easily offended, authoritarian people in the local church. Those folks would destroy anyone for using offensive language, and thus people employed euphemisms such as “darn”, “heck” and “the F-word”. Well, at least when the church ladies might hear.

    The fact that such behavior was a “solution” that changed nothing, it merely demanded lip service, seems to have eluded them. Anyone with even the vaguest clue, back in the day, knew that “heck” meant “hell”. Does anyone these days fail to understand that “the N-word” stands for “nigger” just as much as “the F-word” stands for “fuck”? What has the euphemism gained us, beyond replacing an offensive word with a (mostly) inoffensive one that means exactly the same thing?

    The PCers and SJWs are the church ladies of the 21st century, save that instead of coming unglued if naughty language pops up around them, they seek it out and attempt to crush it by crushing the user of the offending word.

    Banning something always sounds good, but people don’t seem to understand that once you ban something, the only tools you have left are intimidation and punishment. The War on Drugs is a great example of how well that works, right down to the collateral damage and unintended consequences.

    Fear works, in the short term, but in the long term, people acclimate to it, so the only way to try to keep it viable is to keep escalating. Trouble is, once you reach death penalty for parking violations, where do you go from there?

    *Not really a responsive asterisk, but I’ll work it into my conclusion. PC is a rule set without formal force backing it, so informal force is required, and the threat of informal force is the supposed deterrent. The preferred method of enforcing Politically Correct standards is to visit real-world harm on people who violate it, and spectacularly, so as to intimidate bystanders into policing their speech more carefully, lest it happen to them.

    Rule by intimidation seems so simple, on its face – until you consider the fact that some people don’t intimidate worth a damn, and many more will hit the point where enough is enough as the escalation co0ntinues, leading to much the same thing.

    What’s not to love about a system that allows you to be as cruel as you like to those you dislike, all while being defended en masse by your fellow-believers? The Left stole one of the worst aspects of the Religious Right, and made it their own, but it’s still the same thing.

    Regards,

    Nemo

    Reply
  5. Brian Cowles

    To some extent, being a gentleman and not suffering fools gladly are more compatible than not, I believe. Some groups, especially the entitled self-righteous and the terminally stupid*, need things drummed into their heads that civility can never do. In the end, I know I at least have learned more from your “uncivil” comments than the “civil” ones.

    Reply
  6. Skink

    You wrote three successive posts that are more-or-less about how I can behave, but things are still unclear for me. Can I still say “great ass” if it’s true?

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      I only wrote this post. The other two were by Chris Seaton and Mario Machado, both of whom are younger, smarter and better looking than me. I, however, have the pass key to the hotel. That said, thank you for the compliment. I am rather callipygian.

      Reply
  7. College Kid

    This is a pretty long comment, so skip to the end if you want a little sum-up.

    In my experience–what with being on a college campus, the nesting ground for the PC crowd, and in a fraternity, where most of my brothers call each other faggots as often as they call each other friends–I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to “be PC” from those who scoff at it. I want to talk specifically about pronouns.

    When you’re on the outside looking in, the “feelings” that PC people have seem irrational, or even imaginary. When someone asks to be referred to with “they” instead of “him,” it seems that it’s our first instinct to question their request. Are you looking for attention? Why should I acquiesce to your demand when it just seems flat-out wrong? But I think these feelings are things that actually define their lives. The requests that seem “politically correct (ugh)” at first thought are, in reality, core parts of how they look at themselves. If I had a core part of my identity constantly questioned, I think I’d get a little frustrated. I might even go to a “safe space” where I can gripe about my problems to people facing my same struggles.

    I think a good example that everyone understands is having a preferred nickname: if Robert asks to be called Bob, does anyone roll their eyes and say “You’re not actually Bob, you’re Robert. Stop trying to dictate my language.”? And if someone deliberately called them Robert day after day because they have free speech and they won’t give into some damn trend, don’t you think it’s acceptable for Bob to be a little pissed? And would you be surprised if Bob went to his buddies with similar nickname-related issues to gripe about what he was dealing with?

    I guess what I’m trying to say, in this long and very confusing comment, is that maybe the “preferred pronoun” crowd isn’t looking to be coddled; they’re just trying to be accepted after years of being told the thoughts and ideas they’ve been harboring all their lives weren’t real.

    I’m always curious to hear your thoughts, and great post as always.

    Reply
    1. Morgan O.

      Your Bob analogy isn’t quite on point. Bob is a commonly accepted abbreviation of Robert. Refusing to use it is a similar level of rudeness to using someone’s first name when you shouldn’t. Imagine instead that Bob insists that everyone use a nickname he picked up one summer in the Netherlands, like “Reusachtig”. And then getting mad when you fail to pronounce it correctly, because dammit you should know how to pronounce Dutch vowel combinations.

      I use the wrong gender pronoun (of the available two)? Correct me, absolutely, and I will apologize. But English has defined rules. Expecting me to essentially stop using the language correctly in order to satisfy your feelings isn’t seeking acceptance. It’s demanding compliance.

      Reply
      1. SHG Post author

        The “Bob” analogy is wrong for a different reason. A name is what we use to call a person to his face. Our standard is that we all have a name, and that name is whatever it is. A pronoun is what we use to talk about a person rather than to a person. It’s purpose is different, merely a mechanism to communicate. If you want me to call you “Reusachtig,” I may have great difficulty pronouncing it, but that’s my problem. I will do so because that’s your name and our convention is to use whatever a person tells us is their name.

        Reply
    2. SHG Post author

      …in reality, core parts of how they look at themselves.

      This is a very Millennial thing to say. It’s also utter nonsense, a teary-eyed rhetorical ploy that kids find so evocative despite its absence of substance. You are whatever you are, both to yourself and to others. You think you’re brilliant? Someone else may think you’re a moron. Maybe both are right. Maybe neither. So what? You are no more entitled to demand that others acknowledge your brilliance than they are entitled to you deleting your account.

      The saddest, and most pathetic, part of your “core” assertion is that you aren’t real unless you receive outside validation of your existence. Be pissed all you want. Someone, somewhere, doesn’t like you, which leaves you two choices: cry about how unfair and mean they are to you or go about your life any damn way you please, just as they will. Your “core parts” are whatever you want them to be. If they depend on someone else, then you don’t deserve to exist.

      Reply
  8. Richard Kopf

    Dear College Kid,

    I enjoyed reading your comment. You have a point. But the problem for me is illustrated by Bob. If I call Bob Robert knowing that he hates my use of the word then I am an asshole. Bob and Robert are of course very common words. If on the other hand I am asked to use a word that either doesn’t exist or is grammatically incorrect then I am likely to be confused or justifiably annoyed by the dissonance. In short, and for example, the rest of us should not be forced to speak and write like the Beowulf poet because a couple of old English scholars think that would be neat.

    All the best.

    RGK

    Reply

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