By Amy R. Babcock
One of the main topics of political discussion is that of collusion. We hear about how the Russians allegedly interfered with the 2016 election. But if you really pay attention, this supposed collusion took place in the form of social media posts that made one candidate look bad while simultaneously making the other look good.
Some of you just read that part and thought, “What do you mean allegedly? How can you say supposed?”
Others of you read it and thought, “Oh here we go! Another leftist snowflake trying to harass the president!”
If your thinking falls within the prevue of either of those, then you are missing the point. I am not talking about taking a side, I am talking about how easily we seem to be influenced by rhetoric from either side.
I told you all about the super simple social experiment I ran recently in my last piece, Defusing Society. While I am not claiming to have utilized any scientific methodology for this experiment, the purpose of it was to see if people could really be so easily angered by something they read. I purposely chose to stay away from using a political post for this venture, because politics can be a very combustible topic.
While most of the comments on that post were benign, and some even humorous, there was one individual who stood out from the group. In the past, I’ve seen him attack others on social media simply for posting an opinion that differed from his. And more recently, I’ve seen people posting things for the sole purpose of inciting a negative reaction.
But here’s the question: as a society, are we really so easily influenced that our very thought processes and opinions can be swayed with just a few words?
I understand that there are those out there that want to be able to be free to express their opinions without the need to worry about offending someone. For these people, being politically correct all the time seems more a burden than it really is. Why can’t we just say whatever we want? Freedom of speech, right? But should there be limits on that freedom?
Let’s examine this further. If it’s true that people today are easily swayed by the words of others, whether in a meme, an article, or from a newscaster or radio host, then that would mean that even negative words from their peers would influence their way of thinking. Given this, political correctness is not only warranted, but also should become the norm. We want to believe that individuals are capable beings that can think for themselves. But can they, truly?
Right now, scientists are being ignored and silenced. Science is one of the fundamental truths we have. Science isn’t based in opinion; it’s based in provable facts. And yet, there are so many out there who doubt their findings. This is most evident when it comes to issues of climate change. We know that our industry is having a negative effect on the climate. We can measure temperature changes, and we can see rising pollution levels. Yet, because there are those who worship the all mighty dollar and are therefore loyal to those that donate large funds to campaigns, they publicly deny the science. They use their influence to sway the thinking of their followers into believing them. And they use the tactics of a schoolyard bully to get their point across.
Take for example, Greta Thunberg. She is a teenage climate activist. She has been traveling all over the world, trying to get the adults to listen to the facts. She has given up school and inspired her own parents to make fundamental changes in their own lives. She regularly consults with scientists to ensure her facts are always correct. But rather than listen to her message, many out there are finding ways to degrade her in the public eye. They bully her on social media for having Asperger’s. They talk about how she’s too young to know what she’s talking about. They’ve even sketched unflattering pictures of her to post on their newsfeeds.
Perhaps some of you think these things are not important enough to worry about. They are, after all, only the opinions of a few. But if we allow this baseless denigration to continue, are we not giving voice to the bullies?
Here’s an argument that happens far too often. A child is bullied at school. No one comes to his aid. As he grows, he gets tired of always being a victim. Eventually, he finds a gun and goes through the school, killing students and teachers, alike. Later, after the chaos had ended, the media and politicians talk about the different sides of the story. Some will call for gun law reform, while others talk about anti-bullying campaigns. They choose a side and belittle those that do not agree with them. Yet, how can we talk about finding a way to put an end to bullying when so many adults are still actively being a bully to others?
Yes, parents need to teach their children to respect others and not degrade them. Yes, parents need to be watchful for signs that their child is having issues with their peers at school. But there are two problems. First, we can’t teach our children to be respectful and accepting of others if we allow other adults to bully an individual. That’s hypocrisy. And that way of parenting never works. Second, how can parents be watchful of their child, who may be having issues with their peers at school, when these same parents must work long hours just to make ends meet, which means they spend less time with their children?
You’ll notice I didn’t touch the topic of gun control. Again, my point is not to inflame you by choosing a side. My point is to make you think.
Political correctness should be the norm, rather than seen as a burden on free speech. One thing you learn in elementary school is that repetition is the key to learning. This is true. Therefore, I posit that if we require people to be politically correct, regardless of how it might be viewed as removal of freedom of speech, then our descendants will see this as the norm. I am not saying we should not have differing opinions on any given topic. But I am saying we should think about how to discuss these differences in a better way. There are, after all, a multitude of ways to get one’s point across without the need to humiliate another.
This is something I practice in my own home. My children have been taught that certain terms are not only hurtful, but unnecessary. They understand that some terminology actually serves to denigrate or demean any group, ethnicity, religion, gender identification, or sexual preference. And this is not the way to treat other humans. The only thing my children are intolerant of is intolerance, itself.
Perhaps this is the answer to fixing the flaws of the human condition: to be intolerant of intolerance.