Too Much Political Correctness

Posted: July 15, 2008 in Compassion, Discrimination, Homelessness, Misconceptions, Morality

Yesterday evening I was chatting online with a friend of mine. She had been telling me about her weekend. Toward the end of the conversation she mentioned one thing in particular and I said something about this nation having become too politically correct.  

Now, don’t misunderstand me I think that being politically correct is fine – providing it doesn’t go too extremes. Extremes of any kind are not healthy. The reason I say this is because it causes us to get too carried away with finding euphemisms. And sometimes the euphemisms themselves fail to accurately portray reality.

And to be quite honest, I find most political correctness to be pretentious and superficial. It’s just going through the motions for show.

For example, there are couple of homeless persons I know who don’t want to be referred to as homeless. They want to be known as "houseless." A few others want to be known as "residentially challenged." Both phrases belie the reality of the homeless condition.

According to the dictionary, one definition for the word "home" is,

Housing that someone is living in

On the other hand, the definition for the word "house" is,

A building in which something is sheltered or located

I don’t know how many people own the building in which they live. But I do know that there are quite a number of folks who rent either, the building in which they live, or a part of the building in which they live. Renters therefore would be considered "houseless."

As for residentially challenged: there are numerous folks who are living in substandard housing but, who are not homeless.

All of that aside however, the whole purpose for being politically correct supposedly is to show or demonstrate a bit of kindness and respect toward others. It is meant to prevent making reference to person or group of persons in a manner that might otherwise be offensive.

What seems odd to me is that even persons who have been convicted of a crime – even those convicted of heinous crimes – are often times afforded some modicum of political correctness. Contrast that with the way so many of the homeless in this nation are treated.

I’ve known so many homeless who have been verbally abused by some of the "find upstanding" members of the community; spoken to as though they were less than human. I myself, during the time I was homeless, had been called names that were quite offensive and derogatory. What’s more is that these are not just isolated incidents. They happen with regular frequency.

And it’s not just the general population of the community which engages in such behavior. Elected leaders are just as guilty – as well as some of a community’s business leaders.

Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not saying that everyone is guilty of such behavior. There are those folks who will speak kindly to a person who just happens to be homeless; who will treat a homeless person with dignity and compassion; who recognize that a homeless person is indeed a person worthy of being shown humane treatment.

As I stated up top – one of the drawbacks of political correctness has to do with euphemisms. Euphemisms are technically "non-offensive" synonyms. However I wonder if by becoming a society driven by euphemisms and synonyms we haven’t created our own barriers to providing help to our nation’s homeless?

We use such words and phrases as: drunkards, drug addicts, lazy bums, derelicts and so on as synonyms for the word homeless – although those words do not apply to every person who is homeless. And because we’ve become so accustomed to those synonyms we’ve actually come to accept our own propaganda as being reality.

Perhaps it’s time we dusted off our dictionaries and begin re-educating ourselves on the true meanings of the words we use to describe the homeless. Perhaps then we’d recognize that there is too much political correctness being spoken but not enough humanity being shown.

Then perhaps we’d have enough of a change of mindset and we’d be able to make headway at helping reduce the numbers of homeless on our city streets.

  1. Matt Barnes says:

    Yet another excellent article.

    Whilst I have spent some time sleeping rough, I am currently living in temporary accommodation. I live in the UK where I have been legally classified as homeless under the Homeless Persons Act.

    I am not houseless, I am in fact staying in a house but I certainly do not have what I would regard as a home.

    I know it is not entirely the point of your post but homeless is a much more appropriate adjective and/or noun than any other in my opinion.

  2. AnAmerican says:

    No matter how politically correct we might think we are, having Americans without affordable housing, without food, without the care of those more fortunate is NEVER politically correct !

  3. michael says:

    AnAmerican –
    I agree that having any homeless in our nation is never politically correct, particularly since we have the wherewithal to provide adequate assistance – what we lack as a society, is the desire to do so.

    Matt –
    I am so glad that you have found housing – even if it is “temporary.”
    It is my sincerest hope that you will soon be able to find a “home” of your own. Best Wishes.

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