Monday, July 16, 2012

Political correctness - an error of the "left"

There can be no doubt I'm no fan of "political correctness" - defined as:

     noun - demonstrating progressive ideals, esp. by avoiding vocabulary 
     that is considered offensive, discriminatory, or judgmental, esp.  
     concerning race and gender

Although I support without reservation the efforts by racial minorities and women (among others) in the USA to achieve true equality under the law and in actual practice, I'm a firm believer in the exercise of my right to free speech.  The idea that mere words can on their own cause damage to such a cause is absurd to me.  Words are only words, and they easily can be distinguished from, say, physical violence.  If I choose to use offensive words like nigger, spick, raghead, blanket-ass, camel-jock, beaner, wop, kike, chink, or cunt, the people who fit those words have a clear choice:  to be offended or not.  In other words, you can only be offended by mere words if you choose to be.   I don't see that as my problem - it's yours, pure and simple.
It's supposedly "progressive" - a concept associated with left-leaning social views - to choose voluntarily not to use such offensive language, at the very least in the presence of those who might be offended by such words.  In my personal perspective, I don't see such voluntary muzzling of my word choices as progressive at all.  I consider any such attempt to convince me to censor myself to be a violation of my Constitutional right to free speech.  No one can argue that I've been responsible for limiting their opportunities to succeed in life by using such words.  No one can argue that my use of such words has caused them any physical harm.  Psychological harm caused by the use of such words is completely a choice on their part.  I have no intention to hurt anyone by such words - epithets exist in our real-world lexicon and I see no compelling reason to avoid using them!

I certainly recognize the power of "mere words" of course.  I'd like to believe that my use of mere words can be persuasive in influencing how people think, or more relevantly, to stimulate people to think for themselves.  I have absolutely zero interest in using the power of "mere words" to sway large numbers of a population to follow my ideas like mindless sheep, however.  The fact that certain words I use might be offensive doesn't mean that my intention in using them is to harm anyone.  Rather, I like to use politically incorrect words for their shock value.  They can jolt an otherwise somnambulant audience to attention.  Their incongruity in certain contexts has that capacity.  It seems delightfully inconsistent with what many people choose to label me with - a "liberal" persona. 

I personally can't imagine being offended by some epithet that conceivably could be used to describe me. Hence, I have trouble imagining why people would be offended by my word choices.   Elsewhere, I've told the story of a good friend who happens to be an African-American (the currently politically-correct description).  He called me a "honky" and I called him a "nigger" and we got along just fine until circumstances forced our separation.  In the era of political correctness, several media divas have run afoul of this trend toward political correctness, even losing their jobs by the mere use of certain words felt to be offensive to someone.

As I see it, political correctness is a massive load of shit, and the left-leaning "progressives" are responsible for its introduction and spread in our society.  If I want to call a spade a spade, am I not to do so because said spade might be offended?  Who said we all have a right not to be offended?  Funny, I just don't see that in the Bill of Rights or the Constitution.

If what I say offends you, you have the right to call me an asshole or whatever else might come to mind.  You also have the right to pay me no mind whatsoever.  You can conclude I'm an insensitive prick, or even a stupid bigot (despite the falsity of such a conclusion).  If I'm a bigot, I'm an equal opportunity bigot!  I'm equally willing to offend anyone, without regard to race, religion, or gender.  But please, please don't ask me to avoid certain words, simply because you choose to be offended by them.

Personally, what offends me are not words, but things like wars where we kill and maim innocent civilians for the sake of keeping the oil flowing to our society.  I'm offended by massive defense budgets seen as sacred cows even as we slash at social programs aimed at helping people through difficult times.  I'm offended by a "war on drugs" that persecutes people for victimless crimes.  I'm offended by welfare for the rich even as we restrict welfare for the poor.  I'm offended by persistent prejudicial practices in our society that limit the opportunities available to racial minorities and women.  

When I compare the impact of mere words to those offensive aspects of modern America, the notion of "political correctness" fades to insignificance.  If you live in a world where your opportunities are blocked at every turn by malicious people, who really cares what name they use to describe you?  Is that really important?  I just don't think it's worth the attention.  Let's just drop it!

Domesticated livestock versus feedlots

On a recent vacation, we encountered the usual feedlots on the western plains of the USA - such encounters are always unpleasant when the wind blows the stench toward the road by which we're passing.  This year, on our vacation we saw a sheep confinement feedlot for the first time!  A distinctly different smell from a bovince feedlot, but still a horribly obnoxious odor.  There are cattle, sheep, swine, and chicken confinement facilities around the nation, as well as the possibility of other species.  All of them strike me as the animal equivalent of Auschwitz for the creatures so confined, forced to live and lie down within their own excretions.  The smell is a clear alarm bell for anyone not numb to the unpleasantness of these facilities - the alarm is for an ecological disaster underway, a scream from the environment:  "What's happening here is terribly wrong!" There have been recent occasions where ponds holding the concentrated excretions of thousands of creatures have been overrun by flood waters, dumping the contents over the surrounding lands and into the rivers and streams.  Imagine that in your backyard!

I often hear from locals that the foul miasma coming from confinement facilities for livestock is "the smell of money" - I disagree strongly with that statement.  I believe it's the smell of greed and an environmental disaster underway.  Humans can get used to almost anything, as demonstrated by those living around Auschwitz.  In order to pack on the pounds for market and survive the experience long enough to make it to marked, the creatures are treated with various chemicals such as growth hormones (for obvious reasons) and antibiotics (to mitigate the threat of disease in the otherwise disease-friendly environment of decomposing excrement).  Such chemicals subsequently arrive in our homes neatly packaged in plastic-wrapped styrofoam packages from our local megamarkets, with no external indication of the "extra" content they're carrying, beyond the meat's nutritive value.

I spent my summers as a boy on a farm in western Illinois - I know where food comes from.  I don't think I'm an urban bleeding heart when it comes to using livestock to feed humans.  I have no problem with it as a matter of principle, although the way meat is produced today isn't ecologically sustainable.  During my boyhood days, the way that farm was operated was what we would call "organic" today - no herbicides, no pesticides, no chemicals unless an animal was sick enough to be treated by a vet.  Yes, when manure accumulated in the barns during the time the livestock overwintered in a sheltering barn, it smelled bad as it was scooped out to be dumped on the fields in the spring.  But it was soon plowed into the soil and provided organic fertilizer for the crops.  This was the first time I encountered that awful smell, and I found myself wondering about the process, even then.  Did the animals find it unpleasant when forced to lie down in straw redolent with their own decomposing shit and piss?  I still don't know, of course, but it hardly seems possible they would choose so, if offered the choice.

Cattle feedlots are designed to pack on poundage (fat) to increase the profit and to put that marbling of fat into the beef that Americans (and others around the world) so enjoy.  The cattle so confined likely spent the early months of their lives in pastures, roaming about and feeding on grass as they were weaned from their mother's milk, but are switched to a diet of corn and chemicals in the feedlot, to bulk up before going to market to be slaughtered.  They must have some sense of an awful change in their quality of life.

Unless I'm mistaken, the livestock taken from the farm where I spent my summers did not go to feedlots, but rather directly to the slaughterhouse.  Thus, in today's terminology, the meat they provided would be called "free-range" and would command a high price.  Back then, that just was the way it was done.

I eat meat from livestock all the time.  I'm no sentimentalist when it comes to that.  But confinement facilities are clearly cruel and cause a cocktail of chemicals to arrive on our dinner plates when we consume meat and eggs coming from them.  They're an open, festering, pustulating sore on the ecological landscape and are virtually certain to contribute to health problems for the consumers of the meat and eggs passing through confinement facilities.  Do we really want this?  I know I don't, and my feelings about that are reinforced every time I pass a feedlot!