Every now and then society decides to define itself in some emotional abstract way. Sometimes it can be light and at other times there is a darker side that casts a shadow on our future for decades. Just when it is finally forgotten it raises its head again. First some examples of what I mean.
In the nineteen fifties the McCarthy Era swept the United States. A demagogue, and populist, Joseph McCarthy became a Senator and chairman of the Investigations Committee. He claimed 205 Communists infiltrated the US Government. This expanded to include actors, artists and singers. Anyone the committee wanted to silence became a target. It became a witch hunt known as the Red Scare. What most forget is, it didn’t stop there. In the nineteen fifties being gay in many areas of the USA was a criminal offense. McCarthy went on a parallel witch hunt known as the Lavender Scare. For two years the tyranny went on unabated until he fell out of favor.
The idea of an enemies list and the outlaw activities of the Nixon Administration have a strange connection. See Richard Milhous Nixon was Joseph McCarthy s right hand man on those committees.
In Canada we became attracted by flowers and doves and the society went ga ga over Pierre Trudeau. He held us spellbound for over a decade. I remember there was a song Pierre the Kissing PM and the famous Fuddle Duddle, which is not what he said. He even gave the finger to reporters called the Salmon Arm Salute. The populist era of Trudeau went on for more than a decade. It had a more positive ring without a witch hunt centered around an evil conspiracy. Instead it was a peace symbol movement. This too has had its return that has been recreated by Justin Trudeau, the jury is still out on it’s measure of success.
There were three other significant movements that produced disastrous results. Hitlers fascist movement, the Russian Revolution, and the cultural Revolution within China in the nineteen sixties.
Today we have a different cloud looming on the horizon. It is a cloud of instability and doubt, mixed with a full measure of confusion. Instead of a conversation and an exchange of ideas, we have become a society of labels for each other. We hurl insults and names like, fascist, racist, communist, deranged, and the list goes on.
On social media instead of debate, people push the report button and claim the other guys point of view is offensive. This is becoming an internet witch hunt. Electronic forum boards are full of fabrications, distortions and outright lies.
We have become so offended we don’t even recognize what is really offensive. We are actually at the point of reacting to a perception of what we regard as offensive. This in many cases is because people have lost the ability to listen or even care about an opinion that does not correspond with their own.
We as a society have actually come a long way to defining what is and is not hurtful to others. However, we have crossed the field to the point of sliding down the slippery slope on the other side.
At the end of the day we are still having trouble defining the line between critical opinion and hate speech. Defining criticism and being hateful or what is racist and what is not. The problem is we, as a single person happen to be the only one who knows what’s in our heart. If the individual takes a look inside themselves they know whether they are being, objective or offensive.
Sometimes I wonder if society is so disconnected we are trying to define ourselves. The problem is, what started out as an experiment, political correctness has become an obsession where we have actually primed ourselves for a witch hunt to find the negative aspects of each other for no other reason than to define those we disagree with and pin a one size fits all label on anything we personally disagree with.
So where are we in the history of humanity? Are we fumbling our way to a more progressive world without knowing it. The other possibility is we are so divided as a world society that we are repeating and reliving the last days of the Roman Empire. To avoid that we all have to quit being offended and listen to find out if we are offended or not.