Sunday, October 24, 2010

More Reflection, Less Reaction

Not so long ago, I commented on some troubling tendencies I noticed regarding race and racism in America. The recent firestorm over yet another public figure's statements suggests that these tendencies hold true regardless of the particular "ism", or in this case "phobia" that such statements are alleged to reflect. I'll leave it to others to continue debating whether or not the comments in question were or were not bigoted and if the response to them was or was not justified. This most recent incident reminded me of commentary from Baha'u'llah:

"Whatsoever passeth beyond the limits of moderation will cease to exert a beneficial influence. Consider for instance such things as liberty, civilization and the like. However much men of understanding may favorably regard them, they will, if carried to excess, exercise a pernicious influence upon men...." (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 215)

It seems to me that whatever the intentions of the architects of political correctness we have to ask ourselves at what point it has passed beyond the limits of moderation and ceased to exert a beneficial influence. At what point do efforts to police speech (and by extension thought itself) actually have a negative impact on public discourse? At what point do efforts to protect people from discourse that may potentially harm them itself become a source of harm? At what point does punishing speech deemed offensive begin to in fact encourage such speech? I don't have answers to these questions, but I think America would benefit from more of us taking time to ponder them. The country could use a lot more reflection and a lot less reaction.