Monday, 22 September 2008

To be PC or not PC, that is the question.

It is difficult to pick up a newspaper or magazine and not see a reference to Political Correctness or PC for short. Wikipedia suggests Political Correctness is 'behaviour seen as seeking to minimise offence to gender, racial, cultural, disabled, aged, or other identity groups.' Feed Politically Incorrect into Google and it will come up with a mind boggling 2,890,ooo hits.
There's no doubt joining the PC Brigade has proved a good career move for many. In my days in teaching those at the bottom of the pile, so to speak were referred to as 'remedials'. To be succeeded in the seventies by the term Special Educational Needs; Plus the word dyslexic came to the fore and hordes of bright young teachers specialising in such matters appeared. Funds seem to pour in their direction, often to the detriment of less fashionable 'middle of the road' pupils. I wonder if the new stagers 'cared' more that we old stagers, or were more skilled and understanding for that matter.
A 'PC' approach has done some good for much in the world was insensitive at worst, indelicate at best. I once sat on a public platform when a local politician referred to people as 'mongrels'. The ignoramus actually meant 'mongols', a still unfortunate term overtaken by the more acceptable term 'Downs Syndrome' in increasingely enlightened times. In 1950 a local paper published a letter from the 'Chairman of the National Association of Backword Children' whilst a probation officer lectured an International Friendship League meeting on the problem 'ugly children' faced.
We, not me personally would have dogs called 'nigger' and keep our shoes sparkling with 'nigger brown' polish. Mothers would threaten misbehaving childen with the term 'I'll give you to a black man' whilst your disabled playmate would be referred to as lame if lucky but more likely crippled. All absolutely unacceptable and rightly so.
The problem seems to be, where does political correctness end and good old common sense begin. I have been given three 'Santa positions' this coming Christmas; All unvolunteered and unpaid I might add! But they'll be no sitting on Santa's knee, more's the pity. Political Correctness forbids it. (Am I bound by the same rules for those young ladies around seventeen to twenty five?) School sports, no chance, far too competative; the list is endless.
Which brings me to the reason for this particular blog. Some time ago I wrote a book of short stories, something I'd always wanted to do. (There's Nowt so Strange as Folk.) In the cold light of day a year or two on I wonder if too am guilty of of political incorrectness. Am I letting the 'correct' brigade get to me or am I just as bad as those of whom I despair. Three 'stories' for your perusal.
The Queen visits a local asylum long ago. She stops to speak to an inmate who is working in the gardens. “And what are you in here for, my good man?” she inquires.
“There’s nothing the matter with me,” he replies, “They’re holding me here against my will.”
“We’ll see about that,” replies The Queen, “I’ll take up your case when I get back to the palace.”
“Thank you, thank you so much” says the inmate as she walks on up the drive.
The Queen covers ten or so paces when a large house brick hits her on the back of the head. She staggers to her knees and turns round.
“Don’t forget!” shouts the inmate.
I remember this story from childhood. We found it funny and meant no offence to anyone.
The patients at the psychiatric hospital, for these are more enlightened times, are working in the hospital gardens. They are wheel-barrowing loads of soil to create a new vegetable area. One patient is wheeling his barrow empty, upside down. Asked why he is doing this he replies, “I’m not daft, and I’m not killing myself, that soil’s as heavy as hell!”
I am assured this is a true story, though it is second generation and no proof exists regarding its validity. The point being it is an old story still doing the rounds so to speak.
I visit a friend at another local psychiatric hospital. A patient, trouser-less, kicking a football, runs at speed across a lawn until he is out of sight. The atmosphere is rather menacing. I am pleased when a patient, known to me, invites me to a game of table tennis. We walk to a games room nearby. The atmosphere is unusual, not helped by a middle-aged patient who mournfully plays a clarinet as his elderly mother sits attentively nearby. I am handed a table tennis bat. It is at this stage I realise only one half of the table plus net had been erected. Flummoxed, I stand at the end where no table exists. My opponent serves, the ball, the ball bouncing on his half of the table, I try to volley the ball back with no success. The second service has the same result. Three things concern me: does he know one half of the table is missing? what happens when it is my turn to serve? And finally, is he too embarrassed to say anything or, heaven forbid, is he actually ‘taking the mickey’ so to speak? After all, I got the end without a table, when all is said and done!
The point being this story is absolutely true yet it still might be regarded as politically incorrect when I repeat it. George Du Maurier was probably right when he compared life to ‘beer and skittles’.
John Gay the poet summed it up perfectly when he wrote in the eighteenth century.
Life is a jest; and all things show it.
I thought so once; and now I know it.
The only thing is, John Gay knew nothing of being 'PC!

1 comment:

VioletSky said...

I think the whole deal with Christmas has gone way overboard.

Yet, there are some terms, as you state that are beyon belief if they are still being used. Sadly, I endured some "it's my house and should be able to say what I like in it" times when visiting my cousing last month. The "N" word was bandied about and seen as being just fine, a joke. After all, it was used in youth as a crayon colour... I didn't want to start a row since I was the visitor, and it was a wedding, but I was very dismayed and disappointed in the attitude.

Your story of the half table tennis table is highly amusing!! Who knows what goes on in patients minds.