The enlightened call a person wise when all his undertakings are free from anxiety about results.

— Krishna in The Gita

The mind is everything. What you think you become.
— Buddha

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Are we too PC?

Yesterday I was waiting for a friend at a public parking in Dubai’s Karama area, when I spotted a man of exceedingly short stature. He couldn’t have been more than 3-and-a-half feet. He was obviously an Indian and in his 50s. From inside my car I watched him walk across the large parking area, accompanied by another man. His companion was talking and laughing. But the face of the short man was expressionless, as he scuttled along, trying to keep pace.
I was intrigued. It isn’t everyday that you see someone like him in Dubai, that too an expat. Later in the evening, when I was dropping off my friend, I spotted him again, this time in front of a hotel. There he was, in uniform, with a turban to boot, ushering diners into the hotel. He was employed as a doorman.
I had this strong urge to go and talk to him, and do a write-up on him. Where was he from? Since how long had he been working in Dubai? Did he have a family back home? How did he get along in a world where everybody towered over him? What were his fears and insecurities?

But I didn’t, of course. Who knows what he’d think about a nosy journalist trying to get a story out of his deformity. Even if I was able to convince him, I could still be seen by my esteemed readers as patronising. It could be just my imagination, but in these politically correct times we all walk on eggshells, don’t we?
The sardarji jokes are still doing fine (bless the stoic and heroic race!) but aren’t we becoming less open, far too cautious and even less fun because we won’t be caught dead doing or saying something deemed unacceptable?
Ask Obama. Poor guy called a female (oops! ‘woman’ ) a TV reporter "sweetie" by accident and had to apologise. After all the US has been on the forefront of political correctness, where people of his ethnicity are no longer ‘negroes’ or ‘blacks’ but ‘African-Americans’ or ‘people of colour’ (but not ‘coloured people’, mind you).
It was in America that ‘crippled’ was found degrading and changed to ‘handicapped’, which became ‘disabled’ overtime and was replaced by ‘differently abled’ or ‘physically challenged’.
The PC overdrive has spilled over to all areas of life. Check out the demise of male-centric usages and terminologies. ‘Chairman’ has been replaced by ‘chairperson’, ‘stewardess’ by ‘flight attendant’, ‘fireman’ by ‘firefighter’. Check out too, overwritten stuff like ‘when a man or a woman finds in a situation like this, he or she may…’ instead of ‘when somebody finds…he may’.
I’m told that in some overly politically correct circles it’s a no-no to ask someone, “Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?", as it implies they are exclusively heterosexual. So you should ask, "Are you dating anyone?"
I remember reading somewhere that had the moon landing happened three decades later, Neil Armstrong would have to rephrase his famous statement: “That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Armstrong would have to say, the writer quipped, ‘a man or a woman’ and ‘humankind’. How lame!
Political correctness was introduced in the ‘70s to make way for more tolerance and inclusiveness. But I guess the opposite is now true; we are becoming less tolerant and more touchy. Or may be I’m a bit old-fashioned. You know, Reality Impaired...
PS: In case I’ve hurt anyone’s feelings by using the word “short” above, I’d like to replace it with “Anatomically Compact”.


  1. absolutely true.. being politically correct becomes too annoying most of the time.. and totally makes us freedom-less

  2. At work, I struggle to be PC! But always PIC when with friends.

    In fact, most of the things you pointed out came as a surprise to me like chairperson, firefighter etc! Although I knew these terms, but I never saw the "PC" connection!

  3. Or how about vertically challenged? Yes we do tend to be politically correct lest we offend some one by accident. But sometimes little bit of gender sensitivity is needed, specially in male dominated societies like India.

  4. Hmmm.. Politically correct, isnt it to be strictly followed by people like you, ie people in media, or in limelight?
    The common man ( woman) can be spared right?
    err! wat do we use here?
    Ur topics are really interesting :)

  5. Few days back I was having a discussion with a fren. Journo Sgarika Ghose had twitted something and then a bunch of twitters had staretd poking fun of her & her stmt.

    I told my fren that we have started taking freedom of expression too lightly and with so many tools in our hands we jump on anyone & everyone! In the name of sense of humor and making fun we question anyone & everyone!!!

    Sad but true! Even a simple word or stmt is twisted!

  6. I entirely agree with you. We have become too finicky and touchy. We are not bothered about the intent. It is the words that we analyse with a microscope.

  7. I agree to an extent. The use of word is never the problem but the tone it carries. And nowadays we are becoming a bit too touch -me- not types. Have lost courage, humour and are always tense to be among the top rung.

  8. Very well written. You come up with a variety of topics! Great!! All your blogs have been very informative. In the present context, I feel we have all become paranoid. I wonder in future what will happen to words like: "mankind" "manhole" "manhandle" "manslaughter"

  9. Have we become intolerant or has the political corectness increased our awareness to how words can hurt people? It may be more natural for the next generation to use these new words and not feel they are not bale to express freely.

    Here in Norway, some people stubbornly insist on using the term "neger" which means negro. We all know how derogatory that word is nad what it stands for. Yet many argue taht Norway never has slavery and that the word originally in Latin means "dark" hence it is ok to use it.
    They feel that the new political correctness is robbing them off free expressions.

    My stand is that there is a simple rule which I teach my son: if someone doesn't like a word, just don't use it. Do we want to hurt others?
    We need to change with the times and so does our vocabuloury.

    Very nice post, Neena:)

  10. Quite a thought provoking post..yeah its true we are getting touchy about trivial things.....

  11. I am sure i commented , god knows whats happeend to my comment ...

    it is true we are beoming too much .. I mean i cant say in my work black person or white person we have to say COloured person

    or indian , pakistani etc it has to be a person of asian origin...

    I mean whats wrong in saying that a person is black.. as long as you dont say it in bad way ...

    Too many doo gooders out there ...

    a good post :)

  12. Very thought provoking and debatable too.
    Great post.

  13. too damn sensitive...iam short and i will hate it if someone calls it verticaly challenged. Theres nothing challenging abt being short..infact theres nothing much u need to do to get there..:)

    btw, i feel u shud have talked to him...maybe next time u shud..eventhough its his stature that got ur attention, perhaps, that was just an excuse to see the man within...who knows?