Buddha & Voltaire discuss political correctness in a wine bar!
“Sticks and stones will break my bones …. but your words they really offend me!”
“Namaste mero saati” said Buddha on entering the wine bar and settling down on a settee, legs tucked under him. “Namaste Sid, sanchay cha, baat kanna bhayo?” replied Dr C.
“Come on you two, drop the Nepali we all know you were both born there” I said. “So how are you and have you eaten?”
“I’m fine” he said, “but I’ve been contemplating on this growing phenomenon of yours, political correctness and I’ve invited an old mate to join us. Here he is now, can I introduce François-Marie Arouet though you probably know him better as Voltaire”
“Bonjour mes amis, thank you for inviting me to your little wine bar, I see that your bottle of wine Dr B has a picture on the label of one of my literary heroes M. Rabelais, what is it?”
“Ah, well spotted Volty, it’s a Domaine Charles Joguet, Cabernet Franc 2011, and Charles uses Rabelais as a symbol of Chinon where his family owned vineyards, but also of being “earthy”! I replied.
“Oh he was certainly earthy in his writing, bawdy too, a great satirist that often got him into serious trouble with the ruling classes, just like myself”
“Ah, that brings me to our little visit today Docs, we are both extremely confused and concerned about this creeping disease called political correctness, I think a little enlightenment is called for” said Buddha.
“Oh hell don’t get him going on this Sid, he’s always banging on about it. Just keep your voice down B, we’re in a public place and somebody’s bound to be offended by you”
“See, see, THAT is censorship and political correctness already before I open my mouth, and from my own wife. Why don’t you go and sit outside so you can’t hear what I say, so won’t be offended C?”
“But I WILL be offended you clot because I KNOW what you will say, I’m staying here so I can control you!”
“This is fantastic Sid, I can call you that Siddharta can I, are they acting or is this for real?” said Volty.
“Oh it’s real” said Buddha, “but let’s deal with an example via a couple of articles I saw recently on the World Wide Web. They are about the expression, person of colour”.
(One day a student approached me after class and asked, “What should I call students who are of Asian descent? Is it OK to just say Asian, or should I say what group they belong to?” He continued, “What if I make a mistake and call a Chinese student Japanese? I don’t want to appear racist.”)
“Ha ha, good example, over to you my dear wife who is a person of colour”
“Bugger off, I’m not a person of colour, I’m a brown Asian woman from Nepal, and our daughter is half-brown too for obvious reasons” said Dr C
“Hang on” said Volty, “so you’re offended Dr C by the use of the term person of colour that is meant to overcome any offence by the term ….. brown, mon dieu this is madness”
“Correct” we all said …… “political correctness madness in fact”.
“So logically, Dr B, as a white person, and I apologise if I offend you with that term, you are actually a person of non-colour?” said Buddha
“Precisely, and I DO take great offence when the word “white” is used in the generalised stereotyping of white trash, white supremacist, for example. At least respect my reciprocal rights and call me “person of non colour trash” for example, otherwise I would have to report you for a hate crime”.
“What is this hate crime, surely we are now getting into the realms of curtailing freedom of speech and expression, especially when I read about protests and violence in universities to prevent presentations by politicians and academics a minority may disagree with?” said Volty. “I spent two years of my life living in England and writing about their wonderful approach to democracy and their institutional rights to freedom of speech, the satirists who lampooned government, religion, clergy, aristocracy …. surely if this right is removed then Society is breaking down?”
“We need to discuss this further folks, I’ll send a message for George Orwell to join us, can I get some rice pudding, I always eat rice pudding after enlightenment. Here’s one of my quotes to ponder on while we wait” said Buddha (Sid to his mates).
“They blame those who remain silent, they blame those who speak much, they blame those who speak in moderation. There is none in the world who is not blamed.” OM!
Freedom of speech is the right to articulate one’s opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship, or societal sanction. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.
Freedom of speech is understood to be fundamental in a democracy. The norms on limiting freedom of expression mean that public debate may not be completely suppressed even in times of emergency.
Justifications for limitations to freedom of speech often reference the “harm principle” or the “offence principle”
Because the degree to which people may take offence varies, or may be the result of unjustified prejudice, Feinberg suggests that a number of factors need to be taken into account when applying the offence principle, including: the extent, duration and social value of the speech, the ease with which it can be avoided, the motives of the speaker, the number of people offended, the intensity of the offence, and the general interest of the community at large.
University campuses have historically been bastions of free speech. UC Berkeley was the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement.
Some organizations believe that universities have increasingly restricted free speech on campuses. Young Americans for Liberty is one such organization. Speakers are often banned, restricted, or even attacked mostly by left wing activists if their views, though often academic rather than political, are disagreed with.
“It seems that the right of freedom of speech that was enshrined in numerous constitutions is now under attack by religious institutions.” Salman Rushdie