Elayne Riggs' Journal (for Leah)

Monday, August 01, 2005

Way Too PC

Does anyone out there remember the original meaning of the term "politically correct" back when it was first coined by the left? It referred to people who, while well-meaning, were perceived as going just a little too overboard in their personal demands, or suggestions, or recommendations or what-have-you. Nowadays I tend to just refer to this as "an overblown sense of entitlement," which shows up among obsessives of all natures and all political stripes and which I promise someday to blog about in more depth once I have the time and energy.

One hallmark of "PC"-cum-"entitlement" is that it often misses the forest for the trees in the complainers' quest to have the world conform to their personal way of thinking, and in so doing shifts the blame from any sense of proportion or personal responsibility onto whatever it is that's bugging the complainers. Two examples, in my opinion, are the folks behind Buy Nothing Day and TV Turnoff Week. I can support the first to an extent (and not just because Cat used to work with Adbusters), as I do think it's a good consciousness-raising tool to try to get through an entire 24 hours without making a single purchase, thus perhaps realizibng how much of our modern lives are entwined with and cheapened by hyper-capitalism.

But the second, and its newest "spinoff" PC Turnoff Week (brought to my attention by Kath David), are just too much for me. First of all, these organizations ask people to completely change their chosen leisure activities for an entire week rather than a day, which is impractical at best and just plain stupid at worst. But you know, we have to do it - For The Children. "While the computer is a wonderful tool," says the PC people's website, "like many things in children's lives, limits must be set for their own safety and well being."

Well, sure. And setting those limits are part of what's called parenting. And part of parenting is understanding (and thereby teaching your children) the difference between moderation and deprivation. One way to moderate an activity is, for instance, to schedule other activities to supplement it. Another is not to let the tool become the parent or babysitter, to actually - gasp! - spend time with the little tykes, communicate with them, be a friggin' parent. If you normally do stuff with your kids anyway, chances are they're not spending excessive time on any one thing - and even if they are, it's not necessarily a sign that something's wrong as much as that they might have a particular interest that they wish to pursue above other interests! Hey, guess what? I wrote a lot when I was a kid! Did my having 150 penpals (in the days of 6-cent stamps) mean my parents should have declared a "No Penpal Week" or something? Intelligent people know enough to realize that deprivation is not only inconvenient for everyone all around but will likely make the kid want the deprived activity even more, and not to blame the tool for one's own inadequate parenting skills.

Of course, what a pseudo-meta-post like this says about the obsessiveness of people who complain about complainers has yet to be examined in full.