According to a recent survey commissioned by Australian Seniors Insurance Agency, 86 per cent of people over 50 believed “having to be politically correct all the time” was ruining society, and 86.6 per cent said it was “inauthentic”.
The first thing that struck me when reading that was why an insurance agency would be asking that question.
The second was that my generation are a bunch of hypocrites.
The argument put forward against political correctness is that it stifles free speech, that we can’t discuss important issues for fear of offending someone, that we can’t pass off stereotypical insults as humour.
These same people who find political correctness such a burden are the ones who scream blue murder if anyone suggests it might be a good idea to move Australia Day from the day when Terra Nullius was appropriated by an invading force.
As these people solemnly declare Lest We Forget on ANZAC Day, anyone who dares to mention the tragedy of war, or asks that we remember today’s victims, will be mercilessly hounded.
Discussion about changing our flag from a representation of our colonial past is howled down. Anyone who disrespects the flag in any way feels the fury of those wearing Australian flag thongs and singlets.
Saying Happy Holidays to children departing for the Easter or Christmas break unleashes an enormous backlash from grandparents who want Easter hat parades and Christmas carols to be compulsory.
And woe betide anyone who doesn’t stand for the National Anthem.
Apparently correctness only becomes political when speaking about the less powerful. Any questioning of adherence to the traditions of the past is quashed.
As people criticise Islam for oppressing women, they accuse those who speak about female discrimination in our society of playing the gender card or of being ‘feminists’, like that is a bad thing.
Any talk about the inequality that is such a drain on our economy and a blight on our society is met with cries of class warfare and the politics of envy.
Any attempt to protect the environment is condemned as green lawfare or even worse, socialism.
Calls for marriage equality are spun as an attack on religious freedom and, even more bizarrely, on freedom of speech.
Should marriage equality be passed into legislation, the Catholic Church want the right to sack any employee who marries their same-sex partner, just as the public service used to sack women when they got married.
People want to reserve marriage for heterosexuals but if you try to reserve computers bought with Indigenous grant money for Indigenous students, all hell breaks loose.
As I listened to John Eales’ regret at having turned his back on the All Blacks doing the haka, I thought about the importance of showing respect.
As I read cries for help from those incarcerated on Manus and Nauru, I felt heart wrenching empathy for these people whose lives have been destroyed by politics in both their homelands and here.
As I read the list of female Muslim world leaders, I wonder about the calls to free Muslim women by people who treated our first female leader with such disrespect. It is unfathomable that the supposed bastion of freedom and opportunity, the US, has never had a female leader.
The article quoted an interview with 55 year old Bathurst teacher Vicki Evans who says she’s constantly being told off by her three children, all in their 20s, for opinions they say she shouldn’t be allowed to express.
Ms Evans says that her children’s sensitivities are clearly not a product of her parenting, but blames universities and television for encouraging political correctness
“You can’t say anything that’s offensive and that could be deemed to label anyone. You have to be always aware of perceptions, apparently.”
Our children have grown up in a multicultural society, a society where women have control over their own reproduction and are not confined to gender-based roles, a society where homosexuality is not hidden away in a closet, a society where Aboriginal descent is not a shameful secret. Our children come from an ethnic mix which is less concerned with the symbolism of our past and more concerned with empathy and tolerance. Religion plays less of a role in their lives than it did in their grandparents’.
Schools work tirelessly against bullying while the children’s grandparents fight for the right to be able to offend, insult and humiliate people for who they are.
Programs to increase understanding and acceptance of diversity, like the Safe Schools program, are reviled as sexual grooming and social engineering. Grandparents who grew up when homosexuality was illegal think their grandchildren must not even speak about it lest they become somehow infected by the disease.
Endless research has shown the harm caused by exclusion and isolation, the stultifying consequences of low self-esteem, the anguish of depression and mental ill health.
The grandparents of the world should be the nurturers, the carers, the protectors of peace and the facilitators of the future. Instead, we have perverted the noble fight for freedom and inclusion into a defence of a past characterised by war, intolerance, hatred and division. Instead of sowing seeds that will benefit others, we are greedy and selfish, wanting to protect our privilege.
Instead of belittling the political correctness of Gen Y, we should recognise that our children are better people than us and should be applauded for their enlightenment, not dragged backwards by their grandparents’ ignorance and fear of change.
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