One of America’s greatest Sociologists, C. Wright Mills, said that it was a sociologist’s job to point out the absurdities within their societies. Currently, it seems like PETA’s equating “anti-animal language” with hate speech is a good example of absurdity in modern American society which needs to be pointed out. The animal rights activist group has recently taken to Twitter to propose a change in the way idioms are used in the Englush language. For instance, they propose that the saying “beat a dead horse” should be replaced by “feed a fed horse”, or that the saying “bring home the bacon” should be replaced by “bring home the bagels”. Normally, this kind of absurdity could be easily dismissed as far-left wing activism which has gone off the deep end; after all, one would think that the very absurdity of this would make it irrelevant.

 

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Image (Unfortunately) Courtesy Of: https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2018-12-05/peta-compares-anti-animal-language-to-hate-speech

 

Unfortunately, there is something far more insidious at work in this attack on language. As the literary theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak points out in her book “Nationalism and the Imagination”, language is intimately tied into conceptions of what the “nation” is. Spivak writes:

Language has a history; it is public before our births and will continue so after our deaths. (Spivak, 32).

The history of language is the history of the nation. It is something that roots the individual in the context of the nation and, at the same time, places the individual within a community beyond the “self”. As someone who is bilingual—as well as bi-cultural and a dual-national—I know better than many just how important language is. And it is idioms that are the most important; they say in only a few words things about cultures and nations that thousands of words cannot. And this is why any attack on words—in the name of resisting some sort of “cism” (racism, sexism, speciesism, and the like)—cannot be accepted.

 

Can any society truly accept this kind of censorship without contesting it? In the past, totalitarian regimes—like that of Nazi Germany—chose to burn books so as to destroy the old culture in hopes of creating a new one. Now, in the postmodern age—where, as Foucault and Elias point out, we have become repulsed by exhibitions of outright violence—we accept outright censorship in the form of political correctness in the name of “progressivism”. While books are not being physically burned, thoughts are still being silenced. And one cannot say certain terms lest they be slandered by the label of “racist”, “sexist”, or—even—“speciesist”.  Of course, this is absurd. Unfortunately, however, few are resisting this censorship of language.

 

In the workplace, this type of linguistic control has extended to the forceful use of “gender neutral pronouns” . Indeed, in the universities, “inclusive teaching” seeks to control educators’ language, and the University of Kansas has gone so far as to rationally—and technocratically—dictate what kind of pronouns educators should use. Any educator who is a true educator—that is one who stands for free speech and independent thought—should stand against this form of censorship and thought control. Unfortunately, I see few educators who are willing to take this risk. After all, in the postmodern era, the threat of symbolic violence—in the Bourdieuian sense—is all too real for many educators. Rather than risk tenure, educators are choosing to remain silent to the fundamental assault on free speech that political correctness is engaging in.

 

For those of us who still respect freedom of thought in the modern world, at least we have the football fans. Whether it is in the form of banners or choreographies, fans tend to make their voices heard. Even in the form of stickers—which some Besiktas fans affixed to a pole in Istanbul—fans are able to express their nationalism (in the form of an Ataturk sticker), their opposition to the E-Ticket scheme pushed by the state, as well as their own identity as “the peoples’ team”. Freedom of speech is something worth standing up for, and, in this regard, educators may have something to learn from football fans. After all, it is our language which plays a role in defining our cultures and—by extension—our lives. To ignore it would, in effect, mean ignoring our very lives.

 

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At least the Football Fans are Still Free. Image Courtesy of the Author.
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