The average person wants to be nice and not hurt anyone’s feelings, but that quality is being taken advantage of by political correctness culture.
In today's current state of affairs, we need to be aware that oftentimes our desire to uphold the social contract is being used to manipulate us. Ultimately, we need to ask ourselves, which is more important – being nice or staying true to our beliefs?
Is Political Correctness Overblown?
To get a complete grasp on the situation, let’s start by defining political correctness. This is understood as the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against. It may sound all well and good, but it can quickly become distorted, wrongly asserted, and blown out of proportion. This can result in many of us talking past each other rather than to each other.
Rather than attempting to understand the other’s point of view, we can fall into the trap of accusing others of committing a moral faux pas. Over the years, many people have spent more time lobbying against statues, the names of sports teams, inappropriate jokes, and what holidays to celebrate than we have on pressing issues like health care reform or the fact that the life expectancy is now going down in the U.S. because of high suicide and overdose rates.
With the trend to be more politically correct came grave consequences for slipping up. When someone makes jokes about a group of people that are considered to be historically “privileged,” everyone laughs. However, there’s one grave mistake you can never make in comedy today and that’s punching down. The idea of “punching down” is to attack or criticize someone who’s in a less powerful position, but people have distorted this to mean “don’t ever joke about one of the protected classes, i.e. women, people of color, or the LGBTQ community.”
Ironically, there is bigotry found in this way of thinking. Now, being black or a woman is inherently supposed to place you below someone based on characteristics that are beyond either person’s control. It’s presuming that a person belonging to a particular social group will perform in a certain way or be inherently less successful because of these characteristics. This tends to be the biggest blunder that results in a mob launching a campaign to cancel them, for blaspheming against one of the protected classes, albeit unintentionally.
Countless people have fallen victim to cancel culture, which many in the media like to write off as a nonexistent or made-up phenomenon. Maybe someone with a huge following or celebrity status can persevere through smear campaigns – and that’s if they’re lucky – but your average person won’t have the same resources or community to turn to when a mob is calling up their employer and making serious claims that suddenly make the employee a liability. Before you know it, your reputation, livelihood, and ability to move forward are all hanging on the line. It’s not enough to just disagree anymore. The "cancel culture" mobs want to force you into submission.
Arguing in Bad Faith
Many well-meaning people fall into the trap of making faux apologies, desperately trying to explain why what they said wasn’t meant to be whatever “ism” you want to insert (racism, sexism, etc.), and ultimately, seeking the approval of people who only want to see them fall. In my opinion, it's always a waste time to argue or seek the approval of those who argue in bad faith. They have no intention of offering up forgiveness and nothing will ever be good enough. Their goal is to make you concede more and more until you admit that they were right, you were wrong, and you’re an erroneously evil person.
When Franklin D. Roosevelt talked about organized money, he said, “They are unanimous in their hate for me – and I welcome their hatred." This is the attitude I take towards people who insist on bickering about frivolous comments or fabricated oppression points. I choose not to participate in the moral panic of social justice warriors, and neither should you. It tears at my soul when I log onto Twitter and see some bright-eyed, good-intentioned 18-year-old girl desperately seeking forgiveness for the grave misstep of wearing a dress that was inspired by another culture. After all, we’re social creatures, so, understandably, people want to avoid conflict and seek comradery with one another.
Performative niceness has been elevated to the king of all virtues – above honesty and truth.
The problem is, the second you engage, you’ve already lost. In an instance like this, you have nothing to explain. You don’t have to justify your desire to live in a world that doesn’t segregate cultures from one another. Performative niceness has been elevated to the king of all virtues – above honesty and truth. It’s a mistake to tread down this road. It further fuels conformity and orthodoxy to the commandments of faux social justice – a religion I refuse to follow. It’s a false god that spits in the face of real injustice; it’s a distraction.
The Role of Agreeableness in Exploitation
A large factor at play here is trait agreeableness – a personality trait that characterizes how well someone gets on with others, often at the expense of their own interests. Someone high in agreeableness will put others’ needs before their own, while a disagreeable person will look out for themselves. Agreeableness has its advantages, as people with this trait tend to be kind, warm, loving, cooperative, and sympathetic. However, when taken to its extreme, agreeable people are at risk of exploitation.
As Professor Jordan Peterson has explained, men and women tend to be more similar than they are different, so most people fall somewhere in the middle. However, when you take a look at the extremes, almost all of the most disagreeable people are men and almost all of the most agreeable people are women. This has significant and broad societal implications, such as men being disproportionately likely to be arrested, while women are less likely to negotiate and get paid as much as their male counterparts.
When applied to political correctness, women are more likely to care about popular opinion and may face more pressure to conform from their inner circle. It’s also women who tend to want to avoid conflict or hurting others’ feelings, which is the pinnacle of being highly agreeable. While we certainly don't want to promote aggressive behavior often found in radical feminism, the issue with being overly polite is when two varying interests are competing against each other.
On the one hand, you may want to be truthful, avoid lying, and stand up for what you believe in. On the other hand, you know that doing so may result in ostracization from your social circle and you may face real-world consequences that jeopardize your friends, job, and performance in school. If you find yourself in a situation like this, what should you do?
Pronouncing certain beliefs in public to save face will eat away at you over time.
You’re ultimately autonomous in your decisions, but I can tell you from personal experience that pronouncing certain beliefs in public to save face will eat away at you over time. If your so-called friends won’t stick by you for being transparent about your beliefs, then the difficult truth is that they’re not friends worth keeping around.
By professing lies, your facade is the one receiving approval and applause, all the while you know that you’re not living in accordance with how you genuinely feel. Life is too short to spend a second of it pretending to be anyone else, and most people can sense inauthenticity. Living a lie will take a toll on your integrity and self-respect. If you find that you’re someone who feels the need to give in to social pressure or to please people, it's best to fight against that initial instinct and let yourself feel uncomfortable. When it gets tough, remember this: a lot of necessary things are going to be uncomfortable.
To Argue or Not To Argue, That Is the Question
Unfortunately, social media has a tendency to bring out the worst in people. The ability to hide behind a screen in anonymity while lobbing insults or accusations at someone across the world who they’ll never have to face in real life has caused many people to act in ways they normally wouldn’t.
If you're on the receiving end of online bullying, my advice is to take the comments with a grain of salt. There’s always going to be someone out there who’s hunting for outrage as a distraction from their ordinary life. Surely no one enjoys being attacked online or in real life, but what you should refrain from doing is backtracking or apologizing merely for social approval.
I’ve seen Twitter mobs out for blood over the silliest controversies – culturally appropriating a dress, speaking a certain way, wearing a particular hairstyle, or listening to a certain artist’s music. Rarely do I ever see the person stand their ground. This is an issue, because the second we let peer pressure compromise our belief system, we don’t have much hope for mature discourse.
Don’t fight for the sake of fighting, but be committed to telling the truth.
Unfortunately, even in situations where the person being attacked clearly has done nothing wrong, what’s considered right and wrong can quickly become muddled if enough people say so. Oftentimes, even media outlets will pile on, which causes the person to panic, delete evidence of their original statements, and recant everything.
This is also why it’s so important not to just stand by as these sorts of kerfuffles take place. Without any sense of refuge or support, people are less likely to stand up against a mob. Keep in mind that there’s nothing nice about being forced into subjugation. “Agree with us, and we won’t attack you” is not worthy of our accommodation. Sometimes you need to decide that your desire to be nice or be liked isn’t as important as standing up for the truth.
When the mob demands an apology for something you know to be a benign or harmless comment that they’re intentionally feigning offense over, your best course of action is to stand your ground.
Don’t fight for the sake of fighting, but be committed to telling the truth. Don’t ever espouse beliefs you don’t truly believe. I say this full well knowing how scary it can be when you’re on the receiving end of a witch hunt. Whether you stood up for an unpopular opinion in class, refused to agree with your friends on politics, or refused to apologize for making a joke on social media – when you’re the “enemy,” you feel the heat. But lying or bending the knee to the mob will only cause you to feel out of alignment with your values and beliefs, ultimately leading to unhappiness and a diminishing sense of self-worth.
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