OK – I admit it. I am getting old and cranky.
It’s not that I think I should rule the world -well, yeah, actually I do, but I know that is not going to happen.
What I really want to know is when and how did all this change come about? I don’t mean technological change. As an early adaptor I was always one of the first to try new gadgets. No, I’m referring to societal changes, and not just those expressed by the younger generation who always, at least for a period of time, have to rebel against the current way of dong things.
So what turns me in from a sweet senior into a raving maniac? To begin with, the notion of “political correctness”. First, I think it is one of the greatest challenges to our democracy that we face today, and as proof number one, I give you the case of Laurier University who censored a graduate teaching assistant who was so bold as to show a clip regarding the use or non-use of different gender pronouns, in her class on critical thinking. How dare she require her students to think critically – in a university yet! Some students who clearly have the gene for complaining and not for critical thinking, complained, and in an egregious case of bullying (which she had the foresight to tape) the administration called her to account for her wayward behaviour. The President has since apologized.
Proof #2. Halifax Councillor Shawn Cleary recently declared he would no longer use the word Marijuana. “Let’s do what we can to not perpetuate racism,” he said on Twitter, suggesting that it was a racist word used to denigrate Mexicans who supposedly were the ones who brought it in during the 1930s and contaminated the pure white race! His fellow Councillor, Matt Whitman, tweeted: “Next year it will be legal to smoke it. But not say it. Only in Canada!”. Guess who felt he had to apologize?
Proof #3. A man in Nova Scotia had his personalized licence plate – GRABHER – revoked. Grabher is his last name. He had this plate for years. A woman, ONE woman, was offended, and complained. Government stepped in because ONE person was offended and revoked the plate.
It’s not just that one or two people complain about something they find offensive that concerns me. It is the reaction of authorities and people who, presumably, should know better. This over reaction to a very small vocal minority is very worrying because if democracy isn’t about listening to the majority and enacting the wishes of the majority, then what the hell is it?
Of course I don’t think one should go around deliberately insulting people or using terms that to them that they find personally offensive. That is just common civility and politeness. But when any one in power bans words, they ban ideas. Orwell wrote in 1984: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”
Another modern issue that annoys (and confounds me) is the tendency to judge people from the past in view of today’s values and morals. Would that we were all so all knowing that our actions would be without blemish 200 years from now. We tear down statues, rename buildings and bridges, and hold marches.
Our morality, however, appears to be very selective. We overlook the affairs of leaders (FDR, Eisenhower, JFK, MLK, but demonize those who expose themselves or who grope women. I don’t think either behaviour is particularly admirable, but why aren’t we demonstrating to remove the names of the former from roads, bridges, tunnels and libraries?
We have elevated the position of victim to that formerly held by hero. In an overly emotional confusion between empathy and sympathy, we apologize profusely, and because that is never enough, we provide money to make the hurt go away. That is not to say that individuals and government should never apologize for stupid, bone-head, racist decisions made in the past. But, unfortunately the act of apology does not seem to keep individuals and government from behaving in the same stupid, bone-headed, racist way in the future. Nor does receiving money seem to keep individuals from continuing in their victim mentality.
My final, at least for today, cranky opinion concerns entitlement. This is not just confined, as many suggest, to the millennials. They surely do expect many things simply by virtue of their being alive. But I have seen older people exhibiting the same kind of behaviour because of what they think they deserve because of their experience and time spent. Let me share with you Mark Twain’s observation: ”Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”