Instead of stifling our differences, we must encourage people to contribute their special skills to society
The current election is so nauseating that it is truly hard to bear. However, in this column, I would like to focus on a specific facet of Western society that Trump seems to be exploiting precisely by going all out against it: political correctness. According to Wikipedia, the term “political correctness” describes “language, policies, or measures that are intended primarily not to offend or disadvantage any particular group of people in society.”
Over the years, we have been using more and more of this form of self-censorship, and despite the initial good intentions, we have gone too far with it. In some cases, being excessively politically correct might be funny, though quite outlandish. We can joke about how some US schools turned Christmas trees into Holiday trees, or about European Parliament’s proposal to outlaw titles such as “Ms.” and “Mrs.” to indicate marital status so as not to cause offense.
However, when legitimate critical thinking is stifled under the guise of political correctness, there is reason for alarm. When Germany refrains from dealing with its migrant rape crisis for fear of being accused of Islamophobia or xenophobia, this is a serious case of excessive political correctness. Or, when academics and members of the German Green Party seriously consider building separate cities, or as they call it, “New Aleppo,” for Muslims within Germany, it is a sure sign that European culture has already been lost. France and the UK have succumbed to Islam years ago. Now that Germany has joined them, there is no one left to stand up for such values as democracy, free thought, and pluralism. In a matter of years, Europe as we know it will be decimated. But it will all be done with political correctness.
Why We Are Doing This to Ourselves
The 20th century radically changed everything humanity knew about society. The growing sense of self-entitlement drove nations to wars on a global scale, and societies to radically change centuries-old formations.
As the lines between social classes began to blur, people became increasingly sensitive to how they were addressed. Words that were used in a matter-of-fact manner suddenly became derogative and were substituted for less direct titles, and therefore more obscure. In this way, prisoners became inmates, jails became correction facilities (which they are not), the poor became economically disadvantaged, and old people became senior citizens (though we rarely treat them as such). Thus, in the name of good manners, we stopped telling the truth. Trump’s campaign style is exposing our hypocrisy as a society, and his success is proof that people are fed up with the “progressives” oppression of real pluralism.
We Are Not the Same; We Are Complementary
There are approximately 10 trillion cells in the body of an adult human being. Of these myriads, no two are the same. Each cell performs a different task, even if slightly, without which the body’s overall health would be impaired.
Like cells, each human being is unique, yet together we form a single global society. But unlike cells, we denounce complementarity and seek equality instead. Our egos place us in constant competition with each other so we think that whatever someone else has, we must have as well. We all must have what we need, but we have different needs and different things make us happy. We confuse being equal with being the same, so we aspire for the same things, which eventually make us equally unhappy.
Equality is not sameness; it is the equal right we all have to develop our full, unique potential. If we grew up in a society that helped us cultivate our uniqueness, we would not need to compete because our uniqueness would make us special. As a result, we would utilize our unique skills to benefit the whole of society. Everyone would be different, yet complementary, just as cells are in a healthy body.
Building Constructive Freedom of Expression
Complementarity is true not only in our bodies. All around us, reality consists of competing elements that complement one another. Our egos garble our perception of reality, making us focus only on the competition and overlook the complementation. Yet, nature maintains life through both facets. In the end, only those elements that fit in with the environment and contribute to the success of the entire ecosystem survive. Elements that focus solely on competition eventually destroy their own environment and therefore perish along with it. Ironically, the process of natural selection guarantees that excessively egoistic elements will not survive.
But we, humans, have so far seemed to “beat the system.” For more than a century now, we have been exploiting and depleting everything around us—from natural resources to vulnerable people and nations. If we do not change our mode of operation, we will perish.
Today, instead of stifling our differences in the name of political correctness, we should embrace them and encourage people to contribute their special skills to society. This will revitalize our societies and allow for new ideas and positive dynamics to develop.
By building our societies on different people collaborating to create a solid society, we will harness the complementing force that counters the competing one, the ego. This, in turn, will allow us to maintain our individuality, yet compensate for our egoism through contributing our skills to society rather than using them to exploit others.
A Gradual Process
After decades of self-imposed muzzling, we feel the need for change. Yet, we need to see that we do not simply lash out at one another. We must find the middle ground between maintaining our manners while holding knives behind our backs, and ruthlessly disparaging one another in an all-out war.
We need to redevelop critical and creative thinking, but without jeopardizing other people’s ability to do the same. If we do away with political correctness too abruptly, it will create chaos that will threaten the stability of our society. The process must be gradual and follow one simple rule of thumb: Competition and complementarity must always coexist.
As we gradually introduce the cure of balancing competition with complementation, political correctness will slowly die out. People’s enthusiasm with Trump’s blunt verbiage indicates that we need to start calling things for what they really are. The American society is disintegrating from within; the European society is on its final breaths, and people feel that someone should lift the veil from our polite humbug before we all kill ourselves softly with politically correct words.
There is a positive, constructive force among us suppressed by years of verbal censorship. We can unleash it and rejuvenate society if we do it in order to rebuild social cohesion and mutual concern. We can become like the rest of nature: robust and vital. But we will succeed only if we dare to speak our minds truly, freely, and then unite above our diverse views.
Featured in Haaretz