If being a contrarian is conducive to success, you can learn something valuable from the Politically Correct Dark Ages that has all but swallowed the remnants of Western civilization. It used to be that everyone knew there were just a handful of subjects that you simply avoided and opinions that were best kept to yourself.
But today, as a society, we’ve come a long way from the good old days when, for the most part, people could say what was on their minds. It was a time when individuals could have a civilized discourse about subjects about on which they disagreed.
But we long ago became a nation where people cannot voice their honest opinions without igniting a hysterical backlash. We can no longer have serious, mature discussions about topics we have every right to discuss and that need to be discussed.
These words are so poetically stated, and so true, that it almost makes me want to forgive Spence for his irritating nightly defenses of O. J. Simpson back in 1995 on Larry King Live. His words motivated me to take a crack at writing down all of the issues, opinions, and people I could think of that are now off limits to discuss. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was looking at an all-day job if I kept going, so I cut the list short and went on to more productive matters. In just a few minutes, here are some of the items I came up with:
Any statement for or against God or any religion … reminding people that Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is not fact, but theory … being for or against abortion … being for or against gay marriage … the stereotyping of any religious or ethnic group … profiling as a weapon to fight terrorism … being for or against gun control … favoring the legalization of marijuana … or saying anything that even hints at negativity toward a sacred cow like Oprah.
Regardless of where you stand on any of the above issues, your opinion, of and by itself, does not pose a problem. The problem Western culture faces today is that honest opinions are not tolerated, let alone respected.
In the seventies, I said a lot of things in my books that were pretty bold by present standards, but it was a much different time than today. I was considerably younger and quite irreverent, and I don’t think I had even heard the term “political correctness.”
I believe that the power of the Internet has emboldened the political-correctness police. If you’re unhappy because someone makes what you perceive to be a racist or sexist remark, you need only get on the Internet, use your keyboard to vent to your heart’s content, and press the “Send” button.
It still amazes me — no typing up an envelope, no stamp, no going to a mailbox. All you need to do is press that magic Send button. It’s the high-tech equivalent of a bow and arrow with a poisoned tip. What a great tool for a person who enjoys venting as much as some people enjoy fishing or jogging.
Political correctness is a totally different animal from criticism. What I am referring to is the nasty, often hysterical, reaction of some people to a seemingly endless array of subjects that come under the protection of the political-correctness umbrella.
It seems to me that it takes a serious lack of intelligence and/or enlightenment — or perhaps just a great deal of arrogance — for a person to act as though he has a monopoly on truth. It’s a good idea for us to remember how many opinions we have outgrown that we once held firm in our minds. It has been said that our opinions become fixed at the point where we stop thinking.
The truth is that the more certain a person is about his opinions, the more willing he should be to allow others to express theirs. The more a person tries to pressure me into his way of thinking, the more I doubt the soundness of his beliefs.
As a society, I hope we haven’t strayed so far off the civilized path that there is no way back. The vitriol has truly gotten out of hand. We would all do well to heed the wisdom of these famous words (commonly, though perhaps incorrectly, attributed to Voltaire): “I do not agree with a word that you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Like most “evils” in the world, you can’t do much to help turn the tide and bring Western culture out of the Politically Correct Dark Ages in which it is now entrapped. But you certainly can do a lot to bring yourself into the sunshine of life by allowing others to voice their honest opinions about anything and everything — and by doing so without getting angry, demanding retractions, or, worse, becoming hysterical. It’s in your best interest to hear people out, because it doesn’t cost anything. You can pick and choose whatever sounds good to you, and simply leave the rest.
Being a member of the all-volunteer political-correctness police should be beneath you. Individualism and political correctness are mutually exclusive objectives, because a true individualist keeps an open mind when it comes to knowledge. And even if a person’s ideas are repugnant to you, always heed Ringer Success Rule No. 371: Learn from your enemies!
No matter what color, religion, or nationality you are, no matter what your sexual preference may be, if you want to get ahead in this world — and enjoy yourself in the process — a good first step is to opt out of the political-correctness game.