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Has PC culture gone too far with micro aggression

personperson Where is my mind?'Merica! Veteran
edited July 2016 in Buddhism Today

I've been hearing occasional media reports and stories by comics and others about how over the top PC some college campuses have become. Looking around I came across this article which refers to some research detailing the origins and causes of the trend.

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/the-rise-of-victimhood-culture/404794/

The researchers label the new PC culture a "culture of victimhood" as opposed to honor or dignity cultures.

To me the sensitivity is out of control and unhealthy and could be considered a form of censorship.

Then I read a follow up defense of victimhood culture

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/the-problems-with-the-term-victimhood-culture/406057/

and I can see the positive aspect, defining the culture as an empathy culture instead.

In the context of Buddhist speech ethics I wonder if being much more cautious of our wording isn't what is called for?

On a funnier note, for me at least, I saw this video of Triumph, the insult comic dog, interacting with a panel of students and noticed how I was smiling and laughing at his jokes but the students were pretty stone faced.

Should this trend be encouraged or opposed?

Edit: BTW is that someone in the background of the video with a NEWBUDDHIST sweatshirt?

lobster

Comments

  • IchLiebteIchLiebte US Veteran

    In some ways.

    The fact that minorities are demanding acceptance is making the majority feel threatened. It's ironic because minorities have felt threatened due to bodily and emotional harm. The majority feels threatened because minorities are finally being heard.

    Some people just don't know when to quit however, as in your first link:
    "White students appropriating the Spanish language, dropping it in when convenient, never ok. Keep my heritage language out your mouth! If I’m not allowed to speak it, if my dad’s not allowed to speak it,"

    This person is clearly angry about a lot more than just a word and needs to let this go. Maybe conflict has been bubbling within them for a while regarding people on the team or maybe it's entirely coming from a different place. They aren't being nice, though, and that really isn't okay. If a person honestly thinks another person is doing something wrong, that first person should gently correct them. But this is obviously a non-issue. Most people in the US speak Spanish as a second language if not their first.

    The problem is: How do you determine what's ridiculous and what's actually offensive? Usually I meditate on it for a few days.

    personVastmindRuddyDuck9shadowleaver
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited July 2016

    I think it's crucial to note that Oberlin has classes, academic classes, that analyze in minute detail using terminology that is now current but that most of us have never heard of, power dynamics in American society between genders, races and cultures. Oberlin has always pushed the envelope with social change and intellectually and politically cutting-edge ideas. There's undoubtedly some of this type of instruction going on at other universities as well, so that this is one component of what is driving this tendency among students. We can't fully understand it in clear perspective without also discussing these latest academic trends in gender studies, women's studies, ethnic studies.

    This is also part of a broader trend in private schools especially, to recruit members of marginalized ethnic, class and gender groups. And what these (mostly) elite schools are finding is that the students they've recruited don't feel at home among these bastions of traditionally white (formerly exclusively male) education and power, and aren't altogether grateful for what the school administration perceives as its largess in making its brand of higher education accessible to what was formerly viewed as the underclass.

    The students feel like they're in an alien world, and there are plenty of "mainstream" students who don't hold back in communicating their feelings that students of color don't belong. This kind of thing was going on even at the big state university where I worked in the 80's into the 90's. To their credit, administrators at Harvard (for example) are scrambling to adjust and to catch up to what has become a bit of a runaway train of change on campus, to make the university more hospitable to a diverse student body. While some student demands may seem nit-picky or unrealistic, I think the overall spirit of the movement is in the right direction.

    Universities had an opportunity back in the 80's and 90's to include an ethnic studies requirement as part of their general studies requirement, so that students could better understand the demographic and cultural changes society was going through; some seized that opportunity, others didn't. Now we're seeing the consequences of a dominant society that has neglected to understand the experience and perspective of historically marginalized elements.

    I see the situation as a challenge to us all to open our hearts and minds, and follow the teachings of compassion: to place ourselves in others' shoes, and use the resulting insights gained from empathy to move our corner of humanity forward to new levels of achievement, well-being, actualization and social and economic equity.

    As for the issue of "micro-aggressions", -- much ado about not much, IMO. That's simply an example of the internet facilitating a space for students to vent. Before the internet, they did that in their ethnic student association meetings, and in their dorm rooms. But because those venues were private compared to the all-accessible internet, no one who wasn't involved every heard or over-heard the complaints, and had no opportunity to respond.

    person
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @Cinorjer said:
    But being a crusty olde fart, I've learned that I don't have the right to not be offended.

    Tee Hee.
    Are we allowed to be offended by Donald 'duke nukem' Trump and his band of enablers?

    In Little England (the country formerly known as Britannia) we are currently providing 'reality politics' as real time entertainment.

    Kind and courteous language might in Buddhist/spiritual terms challenge our complacement confusion that the 'Middle Way' is the mediocre way. In fact it is a form of political and social extremism eg:

    • 'My little pony', ahimsa - do not harm anything or anyone, including yourself, fleas, crop bugs or members of the KKK. 'Be like a rainbow'.
    • The best way to live is in self obsessed, un-productive single sex isolationist communes.
    • Social ills, disability, bad life chances/experiences can be traced back to pre-foetal development

    Did I mis-speak again? :3

    Cinorjer
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Speaking in broad PC terms, it amuses me when comedians of ethnic origin, here in the UK, begin their stand-up routines, they always play the humorous race-card. Almost from the word go. Either against 'white folks' and their ignorant attitudes (always with emphasis on the humour, mind) or against their own race, picking random cultural attitudes and describing them to extreme and humorous ridicule.

    If a white comedian were to use such humour, they'd be branded racist....

    Similarly, a handicapped comedian making "cripple" jokes, is ok. But get an able-bodied comedian making the same jokes, and they'd be pilloried....

    Most white comedians now use anecdotal humour, chiefly about their families or friends...it's the only way to get laughs. self-deprecation and poking fun at the missus and the kids....

    dhammachickmfranzdorf
  • @federica said:
    Speaking in broad PC terms, it amuses me when comedians of ethnic origin, here in the UK, begin their stand-up routines, they always play the humorous race-card. Almost from the word go. Either against 'white folks' and their ignorant attitudes (always with emphasis on the humour, mind) or against their own race, picking random cultural attitudes and describing them to extreme and humorous ridicule.

    If a white comedian were to use such humour, they'd be branded racist....

    Similarly, a handicapped comedian making "cripple" jokes, is ok. But get an able-bodied comedian making the same jokes, and they'd be pilloried....

    Most white comedians now use anecdotal humour, chiefly about their families or friends...it's the only way to get laughs. self-deprecation and poking fun at the missus and the kids....

    Well now, we here in the US do have comedians who make a good living laughing at the stereotype of the white Hillbilly or Red Neck. And you have comedians like Dara O Brian who kill an audience talking about his Irish culture. But humor is a strange thing. Yes, a white man talking about black stereotypes would be lambasted as racist, while we can laugh along with a black man. And a married man can complain about his wife and women in general and we feel safe to laugh. And so on. I suppose the line where someone says, "Hey, not funny, Dude!" is a fuzzy thing.

    Deformed
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    This paragraph kind of sums up my feelings on both sides

    These critics have a point: There are indeed some microaggressions that may not be worth interrogating or intellectualizing. The internet, in particular, has contributed to an exhausting cycle of retributive outrage that spins the smallest error into a scandal. But at the same time, microaggressions do not emerge from a vacuum. Often, they expose the internalized prejudices that lurk beneath the veneer of our carefully curated public selves.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/microaggressions-matter/406090/

    Maybe being aware of microaggressions is a healthy thing, but it can go too far. So what is the line between justified and over the top?

    I'm thinking about the ethics of moral outrage

    http://www.bioethics.net/2016/01/the-ethics-of-moral-outrage/

    and the microcomplaint

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/15/fashion/the-microcomplaint-nothing-too-small-to-whine-about.html?_r=1

    and thinking that the quick access to the broad public that social media offers has allowed any minor annoyance that arises during the day to escalate and solidify rather than simply getting over it and moving on with your life.

  • I'm reminded of several years ago when sexual harassment was first addressed in the Air Force. At a particular installation, over a period of a weeks, several airmen found themselves facing "Article 15 Non Judicial Punishment" for sexual harassment. None of them knew they had done anything until called into their commander's office and slapped with the Article 15's.

    It turned out that a certain female Captain had decided to enforce the new directives, as she interpreted them, regarding what constituted "sexual harassment". Per her interpretation, if she was offended, it was sexual harassment. As said before, None of the hapless airmen were approached or otherwise told told of their infraction prior to their individual Article 15's which had resulted in fines, extra duty and/or reduction in grade (demotions). One airman, for example was seen by the Captain reading a copy of Playboy magazine in a waiting area. That was enough for her.

    Eventually (a) the Captain was counseled and (b) a clarification of and clear procedure were established for the application of the directives and guidelines pertaining to what constituted harassment, sexual or otherwise, and the appropriate steps to follow.. But until then, officers and airmen (both sexes) were walking on thin-shelled eggs...

    That was military PC with a bite.

    personCinorjer
  • Tara1978Tara1978 UK Veteran

    It seems to me that we have gone too far in both directions. The PC culture where everyone has the right to be offended by the tiniest slip up in understanding by another group/culture, and the vicious arguments that take place on many Internet forums and FB when a point of view is voiced (thankfully the folk here on NB are generally quite delightful). The internet seems to give a licence, by its anonymity, to behave in a way quite unacceptable in face to face situations.

    Good manners, respect for others and a friendly smile can go a long way, sadly this is being lost in the 'me' culture.

    personSwarooplobsterdhammachick
  • I think the exploitation of identity politics has fueled a lot of cynicism toward both a perceived "PC culture" and its antagonists, where people overreact and completely broadbrush on both "sides." It's a big feedback loop that seems to largely eschew any nuance in favor of freaking out, and has done everyone a huge disservice. It certainly doesn't help those who are already marginalized within society.

    A good example of a recent cultural freakout was the coming release of the new Ghostbusters film. The film features four women playing the main roles. When the trailer for the film was posted on YouTube, there was a lot of negative reaction to it, reasons which ran the gamut, posted in video reviews, comments, ratings, etc. A smaller but very loud group of reactionaries made some misogynistic comments about the film, but lots of mindlessness and hate usually gathers in online comment sections - this is certainly nothing new. By then, lots of articles and published reviews started portraying the film's detractors as "sexist" and "misogynistic", where reactionaries started coming out of the woodwork on both sides, and the mindlessness ensued. It has also been discussed that the studio tried to leverage all the "controversy" to increase profits from the film.

    I think it's a great example that encapsulates the problem.

    person
  • DeformedDeformed Veteran
    edited August 2016

    @Cinorjer said:

    @federica said:
    Speaking in broad PC terms, it amuses me when comedians of ethnic origin, here in the UK, begin their stand-up routines, they always play the humorous race-card. Almost from the word go. Either against 'white folks' and their ignorant attitudes (always with emphasis on the humour, mind) or against their own race, picking random cultural attitudes and describing them to extreme and humorous ridicule.

    If a white comedian were to use such humour, they'd be branded racist....

    Similarly, a handicapped comedian making "cripple" jokes, is ok. But get an able-bodied comedian making the same jokes, and they'd be pilloried....

    Most white comedians now use anecdotal humour, chiefly about their families or friends...it's the only way to get laughs. self-deprecation and poking fun at the missus and the kids....

    Well now, we here in the US do have comedians who make a good living laughing at the stereotype of the white Hillbilly or Red Neck. And you have comedians like Dara O Brian who kill an audience talking about his Irish culture. But humor is a strange thing. Yes, a white man talking about black stereotypes would be lambasted as racist, while we can laugh along with a black man. And a married man can complain about his wife and women in general and we feel safe to laugh. And so on. I suppose the line where someone says, "Hey, not funny, Dude!" is a fuzzy thing.

    Comedy has evolved though, and the younger and middle-aged generations actually use a lot of creative ways to hilariously portray "racial issues" in a satirical way. They satirize the very awkward tip-toeing of older generations.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @Deformed said:
    I think the exploitation of identity politics has fueled a lot of cynicism toward both a perceived "PC culture" and its antagonists, where people overreact and completely broadbrush on both "sides." It's a big feedback loop that seems to largely eschew any nuance in favor of freaking out, and has done everyone a huge disservice. It certainly doesn't help those who are already marginalized within society.

    A good example of a recent cultural freakout was the coming release of the new Ghostbusters film. The film features four women playing the main roles. When the trailer for the film was posted on YouTube, there was a lot of negative reaction to it, reasons which ran the gamut, posted in video reviews, comments, ratings, etc. A smaller but very loud group of reactionaries made some misogynistic comments about the film, but lots of mindlessness and hate usually gathers in online comment sections - this is certainly nothing new. By then, lots of articles and published reviews started portraying the film's detractors as "sexist" and "misogynistic", where reactionaries started coming out of the woodwork on both sides, and the mindlessness ensued. It has also been discussed that the studio tried to leverage all the "controversy" to increase profits from the film.

    I think it's a great example that encapsulates the problem.

    Yeah, the problem really does stretch beyond college campuses, politics and culture seem most obvious. Freaking out over nuance sums it up well. We should be able to talk about things without blowing them all out of proportion.

    Deformed
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    edited August 2016

    Am I wrong or is everyone insulted in one way or another every day? Some of the insults are so old they simply roll off the back. Some are new and the defenses/calluses have not yet developed.

    As for avoiding an accusation of being un-PC, I think it's easiest just to say, "I don't care for x, y, z" or "that hurts."

    Isn't it the attempt to create some sort of "we" generalization that makes things so annoying? I don't think it is possible to speak a word without giving someone else an electric shock ... that's the nature of language, no?

    Deformed
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited August 2016

    @genkaku said:
    Am I wrong or is everyone insulted in one way or another every day? Some of the insults are so old they simply roll off the back. Some are new and the defenses/calluses have not yet developed.

    Honestly? Nope. Can't honestly say I am...

    Isn't it the attempt to create some sort of "we" generalization that makes things so annoying? I don't think it is possible to speak a word without giving someone else an electric shock ... that's the nature of language, no?

    Not really. Language is just a tool. It's the application that can actually harm or heal... Almost every word could be said to have two sides....

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    edited August 2016

    Almost every word could be said to have two sides....

    @federica -- Just two sides? Can I quote you on that? :)

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    It depends. What do mean by 'quote'....?

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    Some of the college campus things in the US (and Canada too I believe) may be well-intentioned but are very misguided. There are some things in which PCness is needed. It is called for to speak with caution and care with everyone, but especially people who our societies have already rung through the wringer and continue to do so. But having a son in college, I can tell you that some of it goes way too far and unfortunately some of that ridiculousness is having an ill-effect on people.

    For example, a yoga classes for disabled people that was being taught at a college was canceled. Because a small group of students filed a petition saying that they are
    misappropriating Indian culture. Now, you'd think silliness like this would be passed on, but it was not. The class was canceled because of the uproar and disabled folks lost their yoga class over literally a bunch of misguided ignorant young people. There is a lot of ignorance in that group and while their big intentions certainly have a place, they still need some guidance from "real" adults in their lives, whether counselors, teachers, parents, senior buddies, or whatever.
    http://www.ottawasun.com/2015/11/20/free-ottawa-yoga-class-scrapped-over-cultural-issues

    I do think, however, that this trend will find a balance. I think we need to challenge our views on a lot of things, and especially the things we choose to put out into the world. We like to think everything we have to say is really important (especially me because I say so much yet so litte!) and our thoughts get too big for their britches and sometimes you can't take them back. I think this world would be a much better place if we all learned to talk less, listen more, and truly think about what we are ADDING to a conversation of any type by opening our mouths. Too often we flap our lips just to say something. Especially places like here, or FB. You see a topic, you read the initial post or headline and you don't bother to read hardly any of the comments, in such a rush to type your own brilliant response. But if you take the time to read the comments, you'll find that others, probably many others, already said exactly what you are about to say. You aren't so brilliant after all. Our egos don't like that much.

    person
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    Cups come in for a lot of abuse....

  • Will_BakerWill_Baker Vermont Veteran

    To me the sensitivity is out of control and unhealthy and could be considered a form of censorship.
    -I tend to agree with this. For me, it comes down to intention, and I feel, generally speaking, the intention of PC just isn't empathetic. JMHO

    Keromeperson
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    Update

    The University of Chicago sent a letter to incoming students this year saying that they do not support trigger warnings.

    Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.
    Fostering the free exchange of ideas reinforces a related University priority—building a campus that welcomes people of all backgrounds. Diversity of opinion and background is a fundamental strength of our community. The members of our community must have the freedom to espouse and explore a wide range of ideas.

    http://time.com/4466021/uchicago-trigger-warnings/

    This seems like the right move to me. Being sensitive to cultural stereotypes has value, but a college campus is a place to learn and be exposed to new ideas, so if that sensitivity reaches a point where it closes down free discourse then it has gone too far imo.

    lobster
  • I can't help but think that if more people saw the world and those in it through the Buddha lens, they wouldn't be so easily offended at every turn. I can't control others and how they react to the "micro aggression " du jour, but they choose to be enraged by the words and thoughts of others.

    lobster
  • Yep. I grew up with the saying "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" and apparent free speech.

  • In the 50's American society underwent a phase where the individual was forced to completely conform to society. This was coming from the conservative right. The tyranny that is taking hold today is coming from the progressive left. Where it is expected for society to conform to the individual. This is going to have the effect of creating narcissistic individuals who demand that life goes there way all the time. That is what I think of political correctness.

    Treating people like delicate snowflakes is actually not respectful at all. It's condescending. Going to college is a great way for some people to meet people from different groups and and learn and debate new ideas. Political correctness stifles this sort of cross pollination. This whole thing about cultural (over)sensitivity and micro aggressions stifle any opportunity for the very people it aims to protect to become enriched and to grow.

    All of the rights that people have including gay marriage were gained through debate that was not always politically correct.

    lobsterpersonWalkerBeej
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited September 2016

    Hi @bart B) Welcome

    I think you make an insightful point. Being correct is not as relevant as being respectful. I find it very difficult to be respectful of El Dorado Trump ... maybe if I talked down to more Republicans? ;)

    I feel that the politically extreme are the causes of upheaval and sometimes not in a good way. When civil rights, gay marriage, suffrage, peasants rights etc were first suggested, they were a challenge ...

  • Terms like "political correctness," "multiculturalism," "Identity politics," "triggering," "micro-aggression, " etc., come out of the womb of cultural Marxism or if your prefer, the Frankfurt school. Philosophically speaking, such terms are ideological constructs which have no basis other than a will to power: my domination of you.

    The EU has gone way too far with PC, not to mention multiculturalism, diversity, and all kinds of nutty ideas like bending over backwards to promote Islam, one of the most violent religions on the face of the earth. If they are not careful there is going to be civil war. The U.S. is not far behind, its universities have turned into Mosques of PC with an army of SJWs looking to shout, yell, and even scream, making sure they deny anyone who disagrees with their outrageous trash, their First Amendment rights.

  • @karasti said:

    For example, a yoga classes for disabled people that was being taught at a college was canceled. Because a small group of students filed a petition saying that they are
    misappropriating Indian culture.

    Yes, I have stopped eating all pasta -- yes, even ramen noodles (god this is so painful for me). Noodles originally came for China. Of course I am just kidding, but there are people—ignorant, nutty people—who are hurting others by such nonsense. They need to stop, and stop NOW.

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    My favorite PC story involved one of the British Mitford sisters (Jessica? Nancy? don't know) at a speaking engagement in the U.S. All of the Mitfords were well-educated, well-funded and unwilling to play social patty-cake with anyone.

    Anyway, at this particular speaking engagement, a contingent of black hecklers interjected one cat-call after another. She took it for a while and finally stopped and addressed the group, saying approximately, "Excuse me, but do you consider yourselves to be my equal?" And when the enraged caucus indicated that they most certainly did, she said simply, "Well then please treat me that way."

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited September 2016

    Sir Thomas Beecham was in New York in the 1950's, with his wife, participating in a series of Orchestral Concerts. One evening, they happened to be out strolling and wandered into the Bronx, where they looked for a place to eat... They entered a restaurant, and sat down, but they soon noticed that they were being stared at, talked about, but insofar as service was concerned, they were being ignored.
    Finally, Sir Thomas asked one young man, "I'm sorry, but could we please place an order for food?"
    The young man called across, clearly understanding that Sir Thomas was not American, or familiar with the area, "Look dude, we only serve coloured people here...."

    Sir Thomas looked across at his wife, then looked back at the young man, and replied,
    "That's all right then. We're pink."

    They got served.

  • @lobster said:
    Hi @bart B) Welcome

    I think you make an insightful point. Being correct is not as relevant as being respectful. I find it very difficult to be respectful of El Dorado Trump ... maybe if I talked down to more Republicans? ;)

    I feel that the politically extreme are the causes of upheaval and sometimes not in a good way. When civil rights, gay marriage, suffrage, peasants rights etc were first suggested, they were a challenge ...

    Thank you for welcoming me lobster. I just want to say that I am very happy with this forum. It is very hard to find a Buddhist discussion group where everyone is not monolithic in their political beliefs. I enjoy the discussions here.

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