Politically Correct Democracy or Human Brains?

When Dave Taylor posted today, “to be unPC is “critical” to our “healthy democracy,” I wondered about the words PC (or politically correct) and healthy democracy. Consider these words less from common usage, but from a brain based perspective, and you’d likely redefine these two.

By the way Dave, sincere thanks for raising keen topics like politically correct and democracy of any sort.  Would you agree they hold opposing views – depending on angles spotted from where one sits in any PC or unPC dialogue.  How so?

My first jolted response to PC came while speaking at a University in London. While there, I met up with an African American scholar and friend for lunch and we slipped into a movie that caught my eye. While I don’t remember the title of that flick, I’ll never forget my embarrassment at subtle racial slurs that passed for humor in this classic narrative. Would I’ve seen its toxins had not my close African American friend sat with me? It changed the way I heard because sardonic racism suddenly came through a victim’s ears. In fact it heated my amygdala for the first time, and changed the way I viewed both terms.  PC and healthy democracy both redefined themselves to me that day, and since then I’ve wondered if both these terms couldn’t use a face lift in response.

Interestingly, the movie’s diminishing lingo passed public scrutiny under freedom of speech, even though credits listed an all white production team. This humor reminded me that I’d sadly seen my well-respected colleague also face subtle discrimination back in the United States at times. Although no comment came between us in either case, traces of inequity ticker-taped across my mind as if part of the movie’s plot.

Since that time I’ve reflected more on both these terms, and wondered about damaging wakes that drown healthy communities. In true democracies, people likely laugh at self while building trust and equity with those who differ. Interestingly, the term PC is almost exclusively spoken of in pejorative manner, while unPC tends to render popular, intelligent and freer speech. An intriguing shift of meaning here – which confuses open discussion even more.  PC becomes the cynic’s straw man, and possibly even prevents social change needed to initiate more mutual dividends in visible ways. What do you think?

Here are a few brain based conclusions I’ve reached recently:

1. Diminish races, disabled, aged, genders or human differences, and expect an unhealthy democracy.

2. Cynics literally rewire brains to create conflict much like addicts can create oppression by default.

3. Humor opens minds, increases learning and aids memory, when it tosses serotonin, not cortisol into the ring.

4. Opposing views tend to expand dendrite brain cells, when people raise opposite views in order to learn from both.

5. Tone transforms PC and unPC into tools for open discourse, much like Dave did here, from all backgrounds, and with respect that flows meaning into deeper pools.

Whenever I stumble into these terms, I tend to cringe at words used more for straw men or to retain a status quo. Terms that bar us all from spotting problems or offering solutions to shape burgeoning democracies with humans as core currency, and high performance minds holding down the helm. Thankfully the way we raise and banter issues across our different pasts, also allows people to hold new alternatives up to the rainbow freely – for another look.

Maybe the way Dave Taylor raised this cool conversation initially, is precisely what leads more people to a genuinely healthy democracy.  And who would deny that our democracy could use a tad more health, or that we’d not all cotton to humor that appeals to most? What do you think?

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5 Comments

  1. Ed Borasky says:

    Speaking of films, I never did go see “Borat”, even though the star is Jewish. Now that some time has passed, maybe I can bring myself to rent it. Maybe not.

  2. eweber says:

    Ed that’s another example of a movie some called funny – yet others saw it from toxic truths that rippled underneath and into their lived reality. Didn’t see the movie yet I’d read reviews about some who found its cynicism and satire hard to take.

  3. Dave Taylor says:

    Interesting conversation starter, Ellen. I think that my main point was that since my view of “PC” is “be kind to everyone and avoid every possible slur or insult”, my assumption based on that is that a truly PC society would have no jokes, no satire and no humor. After all, who could you make fun of without them being slightly tweaked or embarrassed by being the proverbial butt of the joke?

    There’s a great scene in the film “Rush Hour” when Asian actor Jackie Chan sees African American (Black?) actor Chris Tucker say “Whassup my niggah?” to a black bartender. Chris leaves the scene and Jackie then says the same thing to the man, with, as would be expected, comic and unexpected results. It’s quite funny because it both highlights that people in a subgroup can talk to each other in ways that are awkward – or downright rude – for someone else not in that subgroup, and because it’s a surprise to the audience and one that makes you feel just a bit uncomfortable too.

    In a politically correct world, one that’s scrubbed clean of any possible tension or upset, that scene wouldn’t be allowed in a movie, yet how can we learn to face our own prejudices and see the banality of our limited expectations of others by race, gender, weight, height, physical appearance, speech patterns, geographic origin, class, (and on and on and on) without the critical outlet of humor?

    Which isn’t to say that this sort of humor, parody or satire, always makes you happy or honored in the greater community. I’ve always hated how computer geeks are portrayed in movies, for example, as fat antisocial slobs who are inevitably cowards and slovenly bad guys (think Jurassic Park, for example). The key idea, though, is that I support the filmmaker’s right to portray people as they see fit: if I don’t like it, I won’t see the movie and thereby am able to vote with my wallet.

    And that’s something we can all do: vote with our behavior and action. If you don’t like something that seems “racist” then don’t support it. That’s how a democracy works, in my opinion.

    Dave Taylors last blog post..Why I like living here in Boulder, Colorado

  4. eweber says:

    Thanks Dave, what a fascinating notion of communication, where humor still reigns and yet where community can be fashioned on robust insights and great talents from many pasts! Love your notion of voting with your actions!

    Imagine a democracy where people went out daily to vote with their actions! It adds zip to life! Imagine the hilarity that’s possible with that kind of transparency and vision for humankind. Now that is not only the elimination of a weaker word (PC) that comes with too much baggage to be useful to many, but also frees us up to create more dynamic ways to laugh harder and live life at the edges with purpose and passion!

    Vote with your actions is a fascinating brain based term by the way, Dave, because each time a person performs any action, that person reshapes literally the human brain for more of the same! Add that to your last paragraph and differences would emerge as talent growth in any democracy. Not quite what we have now – but hey… “I’m just saying!” Thanks also for the terrific tone you add to hot topics, Dave. That skill allows often unspoken aspects of the topic to emerge rather than hide in the wings because of PC, peer pressure or a reckless sense of speech that’s free:-)

  5. [...] Target agreement is disagreeable settings. 2. Reboot brainpower through growth surveys. 3. Offer fresh perspectives to time worn terms. 4. Check out cynical results and name their outcomes. 5. Replace meta-messages with genuine [...]

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