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:
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.