WINNIPEG, MB - The other day I told a friend, a former NDP cabinet minister, about a conversation I had with another friend who happens to be a First Nations person from the West Coast. This friend, we’ll call him Rob, had contacted me for help with a publication about First Nations business opportunities he was preparing to publish. He wanted some marketing advice which I was happy to provide, but in doing so, I remarked on the prototype cover he sent me. It showed the back of an indigenous man, naked from the waist up and in full traditional head dress. Why, I asked him, was he using that stereotypical image when the magazine was about business people such as himself.
“Wouldn’t you want to depict people like you, Rob – modern, successful, forward looking individuals who are setting examples of the kind of power self-realization represents?” Rob noted that the past was important to his people and I responded that I understood but that wallowing in it without looking and moving to the future was a dead end.
My retired politician friend was aghast. “Man, was that ever politically incorrect!” he said. That surprised me. I didn’t feel it was politically incorrect as all – just an older woman giving some advice to a younger man, who took it in the end and made some changes to his presentation. – keeping elements of the past while showing the dynamism of the future. We both benefitted from our conversation, learning from each other.
That is what honest communication is about. If we can’t talk about something, how can we ever learn from each other?
The same is true of this current discourse over sexual harassment. You are not allowed to take the man’s side of the story or to say that young women can contribute to what they consider to be offensive behaviour. We are to accept holus bolus that every female who takes exception to the way every man interacts with her is right and is grievously injured, no matter how much he may have been led to believe he is responding to her signals. (Sitting on a bed beside him in a hotel room as happened in an MP to MP encounter in Ottawa a coup0ole of years ago is a pretty hefty signal).
This is not to say that there are not men, who bully, harass and act like jerks or worse that need a good slap down – or more. It is to say that there are women who flaunt their wares, use their femininity as a tool and are then surprised when some guy gets the wrong idea. It is worth the discussion to see where the lines should be drawn so each side understands better and learns from the discussion.
Then there is the story of the senator, Lyn Beyak, who had the temerity to say that not every person who went through the residential school system had a negative experience. Calls for her resignation were rampant. She was kicked out of her Tory caucus January. All this in spite of people such as celebrated Cree writer Tomson Highway agreed that some folks did come through unscathed and accrued overall benefit. To read about his experience and comments go to http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/12/15/tomson-highway-residential-schools_n_8787638.html
That this was so in no way undermines or minimizes the horrors that others endured.
That moves us forward to the ultimate absurdity, the story that emerged last November of young Lindsay Shepherd of Wilfred Laurier University who showed a video of Jordan Peterson, a controversial Toronto professor who had been speaking on TVO about why he disagreed with using non-gender-specific pronouns. You can listen to it here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p93NCyV5Hws.
Lindsay was severely taken to task by her superiors at the University for daring to offend and make trans gender and other students “feel unsafe” because she introduced the subject to the classroom where she was giving a presentation. All Lindsay had wanted to do was to have an open conversation on the topic, which, in her mind, is exactly what university is supposed to be about. In the end, the university apologized to Lindsay, but this sort of clamping down on open speech is very common today.
The problem with this is that nobody learns anything and one half of the population ends up burning with anger because they aren’t allowed to say what they think – even when there is some truth in what they have to say that deserves to be heard. The result is the election of a populist, out-of-control president such as Donald Trump. Many American feel that he is speaking for them.
The other side of this discussion will bring out the hate speech argument, but there is huge gap between hate speech and difference of opinion. Just because we don’t agree doesn’t make me a Nazi and you a Communist or a Fascist. It just means that we have a different view of the world and if we talk, we may learn something from each other.
Political correctness is a form of intolerance that is every bit as ugly as racism or any of the other -isms that separate us and prevent us from coming together as human beings with all sorts of intriguing but valuable differences.
Dorothy Dobbbie, Manitoba Post