aNewDomain — Chris Rock won’t perform on college campuses because students are too stuffy. On-campus censorship is a very real part of the problem, though.
Along the same lines: Bill Maher recently noted on-air that he had to change the composition of his audience. They were too liberal, he said, so he started recruiting conservatives to be in the crowd. The liberals routinely booed some material or just threw shade when he said controversial things.
He likes his new audience better, he says.
Political correctness: Has it gone too far?
Usually when someone hates politically correct (PC) liberals, it seems to be because they have some very unpalatable ideas that are way past their sell-by date. Racist and sexist jokes, opinions about people of faiths they hate.
Being politically incorrect seems to mean being shitty to other people.
Now: Do you have a right to fly that Confederate flag? Or to not fly one just because doing so wouldn’t be politically correct?
Some people take pride in being “not PC.” I’m not PC. I say what I think. The ultimate in authenticity: failure to self-censor. Isn’t that also pretty selfish, though – to never take into account the setting or the people in it?
It wouldn’t be PC to shout “Heil Hitler!” at a Holocaust museum.
Is it PC to refrain from doing so, or is it merely just good manners?
And what’s the difference, anyway?
Are you PC? Or just polite?
When the issue is not censorship, then is this mostly an issue of changing manners?
Older folks tend to think the young are coddled. In this article, for example, Rock says he thinks the kids can’t handle edgy stuff. Why? Because they were raised in non-competitive environments. Like, where you can’t strike out in softball and you don’t keep score in soccer.
He might as well go on and say soccer is for sissies, too — why aren’t they earning their concussions the hard way, in full-on Gladiator-style football matches?
After all, that’s how we did it.
I remember school at St. John’s in Britain. I would have been 14, maybe 15. I was slow to get my growth and slower to have the most basic coordination. There were enough boys to field four rugby teams. At PE time, the bigger, stronger boys played on the upper pitch like South American god-priests; the rest of us played on the lower pitch, fifty feet below them.
But once a year the masters switched things up: The worst of us had to climb the stairs to the upper pitch and play against the best of them.
Think of it. The asthmatic, underdeveloped, scrawny kids, the slow ones, the bed-wetters and the bullied. The weakest kids in school, unpopular, friends only with one another. Climbing that step-pyramid to meet our fates. The big kids, the ones who started shaving at 9, the all-star athletes who were the leads in school plays and who girls would actually talk to.
I got hurt.
I got more than hurt, which was the point. I got humiliated. We all did. The final score of 9,471-0 said it all.
The happiest day of my life was when I read that the school was getting demolished and turned into a regional college.
So what is a joke, anyway?
In evolutionary terms, laughter is a signal that something is out of place or inappropriate. Chimps, when a stranger comes into their territory, get up in his face in a line. All the males square off with him and make this coughing noise that’s uncomfortably like laughter. The stranger doesn’t belong. They “laugh” at him until he goes away. That’s for sure not the only use for laughter in primates, but it’s a biggie.
In other words, the first uses of laughter might have been racist.
When people complain that they have to be PC, I think sometimes they’re just campaigning for their rights to be sexist, racist, heterosexist.
Wait – I can’t say the N word?
Well, you can, you have that right still, but you also have the right to be judged by the content of your speech. The deeper question is, why are you so fierce in defending the right to use that word of all words, to fly that flag of all flags – and not at all concerned that black churches are burning again throughout the South?
I mean, was Bree Newsome being PC when she defied the law to take down the flag, when she smiled when she was arrested?
Is even civil disobedience merely political correctness?
So you want the right to not conform to the gay agenda and not be called a bigot.
That’s fine, I guess. Name-calling isn’t going to bring us together. But your use of the words “gay agenda” just told me loud and clear what your views are and where they came from.
Modern jokes still have this component of what is inappropriate. It might be impossible to be funny without offending anyone at all, because jokes at their heart are about what is offensive.
The inappropriate core of things becomes more abstract as we advance, of course. I usually illustrate with this series of jokes for my wary Psy 101 students:
I had an uncle once who made really big money. He got 25 years: It was quarter-inch too large.”
I was driving down Academy yesterday, and I saw a sign that said ‘huge book sale,’ so I pulled over and went inside. But I was really disappointed because all the books were regular size.”
I was at the bank because I needed a couple hundred to pay my rent. So I asked the teller, ‘Could I get a couple hundred out of my account?’ And she says, ‘Would you like that in large bills?’ And I say, ‘No thanks, regular size is OK. See, I had this uncle … ‘ “
You’ve been led one way but have arrived someplace else completely. Jokes like this are funny (well, I think so … ) but are unlikely to change the world. Here the inappropriate element is just word usage.
And that’s what Chris Rock wants to do — tell jokes that are out there on the edge to move the edge. To get at something about life as a human being, about social justice even.
To tell it, you’ve got to make people uncomfortable.
Look, growing is about pain. Shut up, yes it is. You want to learn to really run? You can’t run until you’re tired and then stop – you’ve got to run until you’re tired and keep fucking running. You come back from the gym and your body doesn’t ache tomorrow? You didn’t do it right. Get in there and hurt, man. No pain, no gain. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Jane Fonda was right (Jane, call me, I love you).
We (by we, I mean old people not on college campuses) laugh at Rock because what he says is true, because it hurts, and because it’s not appropriate to say it anywhere but on the comedy stage.
You can’t bust out his Marion Barry bit in a board meeting.
His use of the dreaded N-word will get you fired basically anywhere. But on stage, dark language and black humor shed light on social phenomena we maybe can’t attend to in any other way.
So comedy is supposed to change us.
Are we so sensitive and PC because we’re pussified liberal sissies with no backbone?
Or is it working?
In other words, when Rock calls out racism in his routines, should he be surprised and horrified that we listen and become sensitized to the issue of race – or can he take some credit for the way young people just won’t tolerate that shit anymore?
When Bill Maher gets mad when people throw shade on him for his talk about Muslims, should he call them brainwashed liberals or should he take some credit for, over the last 40 years or so, helping us see into the bleaker corners of our national psyches and making some decisions?
Maybe it’s not that young people grow up in ivory towers after all.
What would be the point of taking all those risks, hanging out on the edge, risking being called a racist and risking censorship, if that stuff did not affect us at all in any way? Look, as a therapist and as a worker in the field of developmental disabilities, it is my job to work myself out of a job. My proudest moment was when the man who lived in my house was able to move out of my house into his own apartment with a job and basic self-sufficiency, because of the stuff I had taught him. My best moments in therapy were when the client stopped showing up.
I’d call and say, “You okay?”
And they’d say, “I don’t need you anymore, and I didn’t know how to tell you.”
And I’d weep for joy.
So yeah, it’s complicated. Maybe you guys are right, Rock and Maher and all the rest who don’t want to play college campuses. Maybe PC has gone too far.
Or maybe you aren’t losing at all, guys: maybe you’re winning. Take a bow. And do what you’ve always done: adapt, find the parts of our collective psyches we can’t look at alone, and beam that dark light right at them.
For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.
Image one: imgur.com, All Rights Reserved.
Image two: Gatherer.Wizards.Com, All Rights Reserved.
Image three: MyFireFighterNation.com, All Rights Reserved.
Cover image of Chris Rock: David Shankbone (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.