Thursday, July 27, 2006

Politically Correct Language

There are two sides to politically correct language. First, it provides the majority a way to show respect and recognition to formerly marginalized members of society. In the last few years we have changed how we talk about people with disabilities - instead of saying ‘that deaf guy’ we now say, ‘the person who is deaf’. Likewise, we now call Indians, Native Americans (or in Canada, First Nations). (it is curious to note at this point that there are still several tribes within driving distance of my house who resent being called First Nations, and instead choose to call themselves Indian – It is also curios to note that not so long ago, the term First Nations referred to the 6 Nations. But let us leave the latter is for another day.)

Although I can no longer remember my exact source, I read in the introduction to a dictionary that the Spanish monarchy commissioned the first European dictionary between 1492 and 1494, after the Moors were driven from Spain. The decision to standardize the language was justified by the idea that: Political unrest is caused by passionate thought; passionate thought can be limited by limiting the vocabulary of the people; therefore, by altering and limiting the vocabulary of the people we can prevent political instability.

It is popular these days for the ‘White’ majority to show ‘respect’ for marginalized individuals by referring to them in politically correct terms. Yet, this only strengthens the divide between the two groups of people and disallows any self labelling that these groups may desire.

Politicians in this country divide and conquer. It works well in the short term, but does not create a stable base for social structures. It divides humanity from the world we live in and from each other.

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