Monday, July 23, 2007

Sully's Soapbox: Political Correctness

[Mario Party 8 Recalled due to disability slur]


The GAME retail chain has recalled the seemingly innocent Mario Party 8 mere hours after its release, citing the fact that the game contains "a swear word" as the reason.

For years now, I’ve been growing increasingly fed-up with notions of political correctness, and I have to say, this one takes the biscuit. Recalling a chart-topping kid’s game because the word ‘spastic’ is featured in single line of dialogue? Madness! Why are people so easily offended all of a sudden? The fact that Nintendo UK felt they had to resort to such a drastic, expensive measure to safeguard against ‘concerned’ members of the public, looking to retard the growth of the Video-game industry troubles me a great deal.

As a person with a deep and genuine appreciation for the English language, who takes personal offence to seeing ‘texting language’ used in inappropriate forums, I feel compelled to point out the factors at play here that genuinely upset me.

The word was used in context. I don’t care how much of a niggard you are when it comes to freedom of expression, regardless of how much a word sounds like something offensive, or can be construed into something offensive; (a queer affliction brought about by (ab)users of a language), if it’s used in its original context, it’s fair game.

The English version of this game was translated in America. Are we suddenly unaware of language variations between cultures, despite years of hearing the word ‘fanny’ (a crass colloquialism for the female genitalia here on the British Isles) from imported media? Children and adults alike have been listening to it for years from the likes of trusted family entertainment sources such as Sabrina the Teenage Witch and The Simpsons, and probably since before the Flintstones. Why the double standard?

The intent to offend simply wasn’t there! If the game featured a person with cerebral palsy, and that character was the recipient of the ‘spastic’ label, then maybe I can understand the reaction, but as an instruction to make a train wobble? Good grief!

The underlying issue I’ve had with matters of political correctness all along is the fact that it’s complete and utter bullshit. All of it. Switching to euphemisms doesn’t do anybody any favours. I find it more insulting that a person who is crippled has to be labelled ‘disabled’, or ‘differently-abled’. One implies outright uselessness, the other is just condescending. Cognitively disabled? Please. Look up the meanings for 'retard' and 'disabled; - which has a more positive connotation? Having to stay within the confines of political correctness is also an exercise in futility, as the shifting paradigms make navigating the linguistic minefield more hassle than it’s worth. The end result; people are less likely to talk about 'real' matters amongst their peers, for fear of causing offense.

Language is a technology, people – we need it to communicate, and though it we identify concepts, and no matter how many times we keep re-labelling the concepts, it doesn’t matter, because these new labels become offensive in time. This isn’t just my radical thinking, either – look at this Wikipedia article on the Euphemism-treadmill to get a more comprehensive insight as to what I’m whining about.

Can we just stop with the controversies? Can we stop being so ridiculously sensitive? Not just with regards to euphemisms, but also a healthy respect for the flexibility of language?

Ireland’s Taoiseach (‘Prime Minister’ to our overseas friends) was the subject of a great deal of negative attention, with people calling out for his resignation (bear in mind he was only just re-elected) because he made a ‘suicide joke’. When I conversed with some of my friends about it, they were quick to denounce the act without even a loose idea of what the word was used in relation to. This is what Bertie said during an address to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions conference;

Sitting on the sidelines, cribbing and moaning is a lost opportunity. I don't know how people who engage in that don't commit suicide because frankly the only thing that motivates me is being able to actively change something

If that offended you just now, stop; slow down, read it again. It’s completely innocuous. This as an affirmation by a public figure that he has the positive energy and the drive to push forward and make things happen, and says that those who idly moan need to take a more aggressive approach.

He did not say ‘I think suicide is funny.’ Nor did he did not say ‘I think people who commit suicide are stupid’. He did not say ‘I have no sympathy for those who have lost loved ones to suicide.’ Those meanings were harvested by those looking for a reason to be upset, and shame on the media for entertaining these people and their warblings.

I’m aware that this has dragged on about 500 words longer than it ought to have, and it wouldn’t have killed me to organise my thoughts before putting my hands on the keyboard, but my final plea to anyone who reads this is; please stop sucking the joy out of the English language. Please stop making certain phrases taboo for the sake of it. To be offended by the label attached to a concept is so abstract it’s absurd.

Let’s turn our backs on these black days, pay no heed to the chinks in the chain, and.... Okay – you see what I’m doing here, yes?

Life’s too short, let's just enjoy our language.

Agree? Disagree? I want to hear about it!


Mega said...

Well said my nigga!

Sully said...

*Slaps forehead*

Not quite what I was getting at, but thanks for your contribution, Mega!

Mega said...

I believe MindQuiz, the brain training game on the Nintendo DS was also pulled for causing offence. I quote ''poor performance in one section sees the player labelled in an offensive manner.''HAS THE WORLD GONE MAD!!!!

heelan said...

Ha, funny you mention that... one of the teams here and work called blind people blind (shock horror) and some tard in a suit suggested they refer to them as 'the vision impaired'. I mean seriously, what the fuck.

Has a single blind person ever complained about being called blind? I hate stupid people. I say less time being politically correct and more time thinking of inventive ways to stop fuckwits reproducing.

Now if you'll excuse me im off to watch Stevie Wonder fight Steven Hawking in a ladder match.

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