I was teased as a kid.  Some days were better than others and some others weren’t so great, but the fact is that from the time I entered first grade through high school graduation, there was something in me which drew the jibes, catcalls and slanders from my fellow students.  Somehow I was different, though exactly how I had no idea back then.  This whole business was made worse by the fact that for a great deal of that time, I was hyper-sensitive to that kind of abuse and could not control my reactions to it.  Quite naturally, this only encouraged my assailants to pursue my goat all the more energetically and frequently with similar levels of success.  I was well into my adult years before I had even begun to get a handle on how to face such attacks and recognize them for the incoherent noise that they were.

More recently we’ve seen the advent of political correctness, the attempts to soften speech in consideration for those who don’t deal well with unfiltered reality, with harsh facts or people.  We hear terms like “safe spaces” and pejoratives such as “special snowflakes” with regard to couching solutions for those who find the latent or blatant hostility around them too much to bear.

Obviously, I know something about that.  At the risk of recycling an old trope: been there, done that, the t-shirt’s a rag.  Back when I had to plow through the slings and arrows proffered by my fellows, the PC concept was as non-existent as any organized program with the goal of countering bullying behavior.  The kids who heckled me didn’t give a damn about how I felt about their harassment, and any downside to their behavior never reached my awareness.  In fact, when confronted with my situation, most of the school’s teachers and administrators acknowledged that they were largely powerless to take any meaningful action which would put an end to their behavior.  Worth mentioning too is the shrink I saw twice a week for too many years.  Though he did his level best, I can’t say that his input especially aided me or improved things much if at all.  In the final analysis, I just slogged through it.  It was neither easy nor painless, and yeah, there were plenty of scars, but I survived.

Reflecting on all of this, I realize that I have been a long time learning the following two lessons:

  • The world is not safe.
  • The world cannot be made safe for everyone.

Twenty-first century Planet Earth is probably more civilized than it has been at any time in its 4.5 billion years.  Violence – aggression of human against human – is at its lowest point in the history of Homo sapiens.  It is entirely likely that the human race will do even better as time goes on.  But … will we ever fully purge the desire or the tendency of one to act out on another, whether verbally or physically?  Honestly, I am dubious.

As for what this means for those who want the world to recognize and respect their sensitivities, all I have to say is this.  Some of the world may be willing to change for them, but all of it?  Never.  Won’t happen.  Political correctness and safe spaces are short term Band-Aids at best.  At some point or other, they can either learn to value themselves sufficiently and develop the strength necessary to defend against their opposition or resign themselves to living with the pain the noisemakers wish to inflict.

It's not a pretty solution ... but then it's not a safe world.

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Comment by Michael Penn on March 8, 2017 at 6:41am

I go along with you on that, Loren. Adding to it a moment we find some people that whine "that made me feel uncomfortable." Then people cater to their feelings on this trying to say that you cannot make people feel this way, etc. Grow up! A lot of things in this world are going to make you feel uncomfortable. Trying to hide that fact doesn't make it better or make it go away. Only in dealing with these things outright do we ever make it better.

Comment by Loren Miller on March 8, 2017 at 5:05am

John, I have likely said it 100 times around A|N and YouTube:

No one ... no one, No One, NO ONE has the right not to be offended.

FSM knows we get offended enough by the religious idiot-children who peddle their bilge to the young, the unlearned and unsophisticated and they get away with it all too often.  Then there are the whiners who complain their feeling have been hurt by thus-and-so.  That used to be me for entirely too long.  Now, instead of complaining, I COUNTER-PUNCH.  My prescription for such people remains:

  • Knock off the whining
  • Grow a thicker skin
  • Recognize that the world doesn't owe you ANYTHING

And learn to stand on your own two fucking feet.

Comment by John Elder on March 8, 2017 at 4:23am

BenGee- I lost a good friend, an ex-biker, once because he was so religious (Jaysus had saved him- but I still don't know what for) and determined to preach upon me on and on. Nothing could cut through his righteous yammering. Right up until he told me I was the kind of person who eventually had to "come to Jesus" because he thought I was a "good man". That's when I suddenly had an attack of shouting "Fuck Jesus" repeatedly until he went away. He never spoke to me again. Sometimes being offensive has its uses. ;-)

Comment by BenGee on March 8, 2017 at 4:06am
Agreed. This is why I want the infamous cradle of filth t shirt that says "Jesus is a cunt" with a nun masterbating on the front. Because we have a constitutional right to express such things and yet that shirt lands people in jail even in parts of the us. In this instance is not being offensive to offend it's confronting free speech violations.

Generally though I wouldn't wear stuff like that, I wouldn't care if someone had it on but I usually don't go looking for trouble or to cause harm. When I heard blue laws allowed people to go to jail over it though I felt people should wear this to make a stand.
Comment by John Elder on March 8, 2017 at 4:00am

Thanks Loren.

I also think we need to question the origins of the PC notion that people have a "right to not be offended". While I personally do not go in for offending people if I can avoid it, and don't  condone those who do so for no real reaason, I simply cannot take those who are always "offended" or "insecure" as anything other than spoiled brat children. Speech, other peoples behaviors, politics, preferences, viewpoints etc....all offend some PC mindset or the other today and they constantly condemn and demand others change to suit them. Gotta wonder? Who ever taught them anyone else should care not to offend their precious feelings? As you suggest in your original post, who the hell do these PC viewpoints think they are that the world should cater to them over such trivial things? It seems to me that when it comes to free speech, constitutionally in the US at least, everyone else has the right to offend the PC or any other mindset.  

Comment by Loren Miller on March 7, 2017 at 3:15pm

I agree the world is not safe and should not be safe. The alternative smacks of thought control and moral policing in a milk toast world.
-- John Elder

Utterly on the nose, John.  Thank you for your comment and especially for THAT.

Comment by John Elder on March 7, 2017 at 3:11pm

We all are victims of abuse and mis-use along our respective roads in life. It doesn't matter what group we belong to as Daniel said. And we all have had so many experiences to prove to us that the world is not and will not ever be a safe place. The specifics don't much matter as the hate and aggression and torments all stem from the same human sources and cause the same emotional damage and fear in us all. To do evil is human, it is inherent to our histories, like it or not. Our need to torment anyone not of our group likely originated with the earliest proto-humans xenophobia of the "others" coming to take our resources and mates, to be our competitors. Our need to dominate others, to control by violence and bullying is old as time and crosses all human cultures. Domination of our conspecific competitors for status recognition, mates, spawn and resources has been a part of human behavior throughout all history. It's not likely to cease. It crosses all boundaries, sex, gender roles, social status, poverty differences, economic groupings, race, nationalities, ....... All groups do it, have done it and contributed to the formation of the societies in which the behaviors are embedded. In my opinion, and it is only my opinion, that is why PC thinking in all its forms is so heinous. It denies the responsibility of all groups for these all pervasive behaviors and further fragments humanity in to yet more conflicting groups. It simply redefines the groupings into new categories that are convenient guilt free targets for abuse based on political viewpoints. I agree the world is not safe and should not be safe. The alternative smacks of thought control and moral policing in a milk toast world. All so some few can feel safe and smug in a totally unrealistic fantasy the denies responsibility, guilt and the nature of most of the rest of human experience. PC,  safe world, speech policed viewpoints are truly a delusional syndrome only possible among the relatively sheltered people living in the luxury of the first world. It has been my experience that when one travels and lives among the less fortunate in our country and across the world, one rarely encounters such feel good thinking. It is a luxury of the rich. And it is counter productive. This will never be a safe world. We need to grow up and stop pointing fingers, demanding the impossible and get used to living with the reality of that. And we will never begin to truly address the evils of it unless we come to unify as human beings across the board and stop group think in ALL forms. If there is to be any change in the behaviors several have related here it will only come when individuals take on the responsibility of breaking histories grasp and just stop playing the game. Unrealistic? You bet, but no more so than PC whining about what we don't like and expecting that to make a difference. 

A quote from a book called "Totem Dream" I read so long ago that I don't even recall the author:

Spoken by an Amerindian shaman: "Any man worth knowing is always the first man". I would expand that to include both man and woman and suggest that it may be the only way to cope in an unsafe world. Political correctness seems to me to be little more than wishing for a safe one in  meaningless and cowardly fashions. It also adds to the conflicts that justify the behaviors that abuse and demean. And it most certainly does nothing to protect those who are the victims

Comment by Loren Miller on March 7, 2017 at 2:27pm

Daniel, certainly we should continue to work to make the world more safe, but that's only half the equation.  The other half is helping those who have the issues of sensitivity and a lack of defense to gain those skills so that they can survive in environments where the hostility is ongoing and less likely to be resolved.  This is where I part company with those who want PERFECT safety for such people, because I seriously doubt that the world will EVER be perfectly safe.  That, like so many other examples of absolute thinking, are pipe dreams which may never come to fruition.

We can help, but they also need to learn to help themselves.

Comment by Joan Denoo on March 7, 2017 at 1:35pm

I feel both enlightened and encouraged by each of your posts, Loren, Ruth, Michael, BenGee, and Daniel. Thanks for sharing. 

Comment by Daniel W on March 7, 2017 at 12:01pm

Loren more to the point of your essay, you are right that the world is not safe.  We should not expect for the world to be safe, but we should expect ourselves to work on making it more so.  We should counter bigotry with strength, counter hypocrisy with facts, counter bullying with ridicule, counter aggression with our own kind of power.

The world has had many "safe spaces" even if we dont call them that.  Churches.  Lions club, Rotary club, Elks, Woodsmen, Masons, VFW, Knights of Columbus.  Gay places.  Women's organizations.  We designate a place as "ours", maintain it as such, and defend those ports in storms.

Again, back to politically correct speech, no harm in defining "This is the name I choose for myself.  If you are with me, call me that" but also don't expect others to do so.  Sometimes it does feel Orwellian, and it cuts both ways.  If progressives re-define language to suit their wants and needs, expect that regressives will do the same.

It's a never ending battle.

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