Mind Matters: Political correctness

I have been thinking about political correctness because I recently watched a documentary titled Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich.

I did not know that it was socially acceptable to call someone filthy rich. I would not want to be called that.

Once an insulting term like filthy is pinned to you, bad things can happen. Take, for instance, the actual book titled Eat the Rich.

Political correctness rules out publicly saying things that insult, threaten, demean or stereotype a group of people.

Also ruled out: victim blaming.

There are good reasons for these rules: to maintain a civilised society and to protect the public.

But how is a person to know all the specific rules? Read on for examples.

If you start a sentence "I am not racist, but," you are going down the wrong track.

Ditto if you say something that puts a large group in a negative light.

Hillary Clinton found that out four years ago when she said that half of Trump supporters were "deplorables".

Another rule: You cannot say that a woman contributed to her own sexual assault by becoming unconscious from overdrinking.

That statement would fit in the victim-blaming category and is especially unacceptable because females make up a historically oppressed group.

I think you can publicly warn women (and men) not to drink heavily in public because of the risk of sexual assault.

I would not bet my career on that though.

Jokes are an age-old method of putting down a group. You understand the sting better when the joke is directed at your group.

I was a young lawyer when I first heard this one: "What are 500 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A start." Wow!

You can no longer refer to someone as a manic-depressive.

Now mental health professionals say that this is a person who has manic-depressive disorder. You can expand the logic to individuals who have diabetes or any disorder.

Some terms become politically incorrect over time because of the stigma associated with them. Imbecile is out; so is mentally retarded. The modern term is a person with an intellectual disability.

If you are like me, you want to go your own way, regardless of what society thinks.

But if we see ourselves as closely connected to others, the urge to be politically incorrect diminishes. If your pain is my pain, I will speak with care around you.

John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Psychology, University of New England.

This story Why you can't always say what you want first appeared on The Canberra Times.