Correctness -> Correctiveness

All right. Time to talk about the abuse cycle again.

I’ve hit a point where I can see the dramatic irony of some memes that address political correctness. Here’s a quote that I particularly like after searching for something sufficient to include in this post:

Political correctness is America’s newest form of intolerance, and it is especially pernicious because it comes disguised as tolerance. It presents itself as fairness, yet attempts to restrict and control people’s language with strict codes and rigid rules. I’m not sure that’s the way to fight discrimination. I’m not sure silencing people or forcing them to alter their speech is the best method for solving problems that go much deeper than speech.

+George Carlin

A couple disclaimers: I’m Trinidadian-Canadian, not American. Dual citizen, and I define my nationality on documentation as Canadian even when travelling to the Caribbean. Pernicious is defined in Keinnayi’s dictionary as “having a harmful effect, especially in a gradual or subtle way.” For those with an interest in etymology, because semantics is powerful, Kei goes on to say that it’s “late Middle English: from Latin perniciosus ‘destructive,’ from pernicies ‘ruin,’ based on nex, nec- ‘death.’” Thank you, precious computer. So now that those points are clearer …

The particular context in political correctness I’d like to informally write about is in the area of mental health. With awareness campaigns everywhere, the latest petition against Target®, a conversation I had with an older man hired to rake leaves off student properties’ lawns, my involvement in Suicide Group, oh and grad school … I’m tired and need to say something within my space.

At least on Merlight, the listener isn’t compelled to listen, let alone hear. So if my opinion ruffles feathers, guess what? Whomever has those feathers allowed them to be ruffled. You may not be able to control your feelings – our biological makeup is reported to be faster in manifesting feelings before thoughts – but you can influence your behaviour. (CBT’s empirical selling point, right there.) Reacting and lashing out at first impression, first perception, is not justifiable in a general sense. Feelings are a source of information, not something to suppress, repress, or wield an iron fist over.

Okay. On one hand, it annoys me when I find evidence of people self-diagnosing. One does not simply compare oneself to a verbal description or another person and assume they have a “right” to declare themselves as afflicted with a disorder. Mental illnesses aren’t a fashionable label or an excuse for self-pity. There is real tragedy and beauty in being labelled with a disorder. In the society I live in, more often is it tragedy.

A few of my vocalizing peers take a very idealistic, by-the-books approach to psychotherapy. However, I know I can only go by what is said in classroom discussion, I don’t know these individuals as persons. Objectivity is fantastical.

No, mind, we’re not going into my argument against abuser-abusee rhetoric at the moment. Hang on. Back to mental health! (Apparently it’s bad to say “victim” these days. Seriously. SERIOUSLY. And I thought me not being allowed to refer to older x2 adults as “elderly” was frustrating enough.)

Man: Oh so you’re studying that mental health stuff?
Me: /frowns
Man: Oh, I’m sorry, was I not supposed to be using that term?
Me: No, I was trying to figure out your stance on the term, and I’m hurt that you assumed you had to question yourself.

After 13 years of multidisciplinary collaboration in my medical community, here are my current diagnoses in DSM format: V – schizophrenia spectrum; IV – schizotypal personality. I give both to those who ask because the public is divided on if they prefer the dimensional (V) system or the categorical (IV). I prefer the dimensional, but based on the current classification used most widely in the real world, generally people want the categorical. An example is the fierce debates around Asperger’s being incorporated into autism spectrum, but I ain’t going there right now.

My fundamental issue with self-diagnosers is that they are not psychiatrists or psychologists, not even qualified to practise psychotherapy. In Canada, registered psychotherapists (as an official designation) can’t diagnose, according to their College. (In Canadian context, a College is a regulatory body that protects the interests of the public; it isn’t an educational body and certainly not equated to an Association.) They can raise suspicions and frame behaviours as symptomatic of a disorder – and this has to be done carefully if approached at all – but can’t outright say the client is/has such-and-such. Even if you managed to purchase a legal copy of DSM-V and read the criteria, that means little. DSM is based on statistical reasoning, and diagnostics require familiarity with the structure and function of the system it was designed for.

That said, now to another side. An article was presented to me, one attacking people for saying things like, “I’m anxious over this paper. This exam is depressing.” The argument is based on political correctness. The author went on to rant (I use rant because it’s clearly opinion based in style) about those with “genuine” anxiety and depression lack safe space and are diminished as human beings when “normal” people carelessly toss around these terms.

This is why I brought etymology and semantics into this post earlier. Oh and context, a maddening yet vitally important concept.

I was reading a chapter in a class textbook for a theology course, and came across schizophrenic. My first reaction was anger. I looked back at the way the author was using the word. I realized something that changed my anger into appreciation: The author used schizophrenic as an adjective, a description – not a term. When I was able to understand his usage of the word, I chuckled at the pun. Any offense I felt dissipated, because I took the time to work through my feeling as information, and opened myself to listening. Had a good laugh too.


Screenshot from Keinnayi’s dictionary. I love my computer. She’s good to me.

Likewise, I joked to myself after reading that article. “Next thing I know, I’ll get yelled at for saying I’m depressing the gas pedal when I’m driving.” Today I caught myself, because the way the vehement arguments are going, that could be a reality.

Anyway, in the context of the quoted “offensive student,” the student is using those words as descriptors, not as terms. It’s similar, if not the same, reasoning used to describe a person as narcissistic and yet narcissism has its labels in psychiatry and psychology realms. Let’s not forget Narcissus, where the word is said to come from, who is a character in a narrative. I’m pretty sure narcissus is a flower name as well. Nowhere do readers of this opinion piece are given what’s going on in the offender’s perspective, we’re just handed a dogmatic argument for political correctness. Honestly, I’d rather call this political correctiveness, to me that better implies the goal behind the movement.

I’ve noticed another pattern lately. If my conversation partner refuses to consider my points of debate holistically, they most often turn to logic and nitpicking my points. It’s exhausting to converse with such defensive tactics. Father does this, schoolmates do this, etc. The last outright vicious attack was a Witch War on Facebook. I entered the fray because the prosecutor was judgmental in their wording, despite being asked to pay attention to their language use. It was boggling how the prosecutor backed themselves up with us not understanding their context, but somehow we’re supposed to mind read and know precisely what they meant despite their refusal to attempt the same for me. I bowed out with a politely snide remark – “Thank you for this unenlightening discussion” – and apparently the prosecutor HAD to have the last word with a figurative lunge for my throat, ending with a dismissal of everything I said because they couldn’t see how any of my points related to the arguments. I gave up right there, unwilling to engage anymore. Later did I voice my guilt and shame to the original recipient of the attack, and was supported by more than one person who appreciated my input.

That acknowledgment and gifts of gratitude meant more to me than winning a word war.

Did people have to agree with what I said? No! The point of all that is to show you, reader, that having a voice is empowering. Political correctiveness (sorry, I like this term better) is censorship. Yes, that ugly, dirty word that gets tossed around when speaking of the Other as oppressor and abuser.

I refuse to say that misperception is a legitimate concept. “Failed to see” is a better way to describe it, but once again, I say all these things from MY point of view.

Yeah, family. You want to harp on every word I say and how I say it? Then have a taste of your own medicine when I do the same to you. It’s downright dirty, but if you’re going to hold me accountable for my self-awareness and measured intelligence, then why should I expect less of you?

Sun’s setting soon. I’m tired, I’m done for now, and I need to fix something about my debit card and find more bread. Ethics exam is coming up quickly, plus a final paper and colloquy for theology. No rest for the casted wicked, I see. 😉