Political correctness is not new, but it has certainly put many under pressure to use the right words to describe a community or its members without demeaning them.
This has provided support to minorities – including women, LGBTQ groups, many races, the disabled, some religious groups – who have been struggling to assert their rights to an equal and dignified life.
But political correctness has also raised socio-political sensitivities, leading to abuse of the term, so much so that one cannot openly speak of differences between people without running the risk of being offensive.
Even if one were to be joking about it.
Philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek feels that “dirty jokes” about racism and sexism can actually do what political correctness cannot – reduce animosity and generate genuine interactions between communities. Provided we’re willing to laugh at ourselves.
The video above expands on Zizek’s argument that covering up racism with nice words doesn’t eradicate it. But laughing at one another’s differences – in the right way – can unite the worlds of “others”.
“Let’s say I’m an Indian and you’re an African American. We are telling all the time dirty jokes to each other, about each other, about ourselves, but in such a way that we just laugh and the more we are telling them the more we are friends. Why? Because in this way we really resolved the tension of racism.”
Žižek has consistently been critical of political correctness as it “tries to conceal racism and sexism, but does not address the underlying causes of the problems.” Žižek fears that it could be an effective form of totalitarianism (video below), forcing behaviour tinged with notes of “I know better than you what you really want”.
Earlier, American stand-up comedian George Carlin pulled out a list of words that he feels are not offensive in themselves, but have become that way thanks to the context or the user. Before his death in 2008, Carlin wrote a book titled When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? (video below) in which he mocked at the “politically correct police” for disguising intolerance as tolerance.