Courtesy of @swyx on Twitter
Over the weekend, I stumbled upon a book titled, “Politically Correct Bedtime Stories” by James Finn Garner, which annoyed me as soon as I read it. However, when I saw that the book was published in 1994, my irritation slightly gave way to curiosity.
Typically, when I think of people talking about political correctness, I think about conservatives trying desperately to dunk on naïve progressives for being “soft”. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, I think about liberals whose only critical thinking skills are put towards whether or not something they read or watch could possibly be deemed as problematic.
The term political correctness goes back centuries, though it really has only gained a place in the public lexicon recently, and it is interesting to see how a word’s connotation can evolve over time, leaving the writer or orator of that word helpless against such shifts. As soon as we put our words into the public, we lose agency over them.
Even more interesting is how easy it is to allow the speaker behind the words, not the words themselves, to determine an initial reaction. I was looking at this book that was sitting on my dad’s bookshelf — expecting wholeheartedly to see another person trying to make a meta-commentary on how crazy the left is these days or how we cannot read classic children’s literature because of ignorant stereotypes — and I was completely oblivious to the fact that the book is really just a harmless joke.
I only read the first couple of stories, but you get the sense pretty quickly that any ideology behind the book is not meant to be taken too seriously — I don’t think the author even takes it seriously.
So often these days, we lack the time necessary to form strong opinions about what we see, and we are instead left with the choice of having nothing to say or basing our opinions on assumptions or the beliefs of those who we trust.
It is easy to judge a book by its cover, but the scary fact is that it is even easier to judge a book by its title.
At some point, it has to be okay to simply say, “I don’t know” or “I haven’t learned much about that yet.” There really is no such thing as common knowledge anymore — there is just way too much information out there, belonging to so many different communities, that one single person can never know as much as they would hope.
If you don’t believe me, just hang out with someone who talks all of the time for long enough and eventually they’ll dive into a topic you know nothing about.
It’s okay to pick up and read a book like “Politically Correct Bedtime Stories”, and it’s okay to leave it alone to collect dust, but it is problematic to take a glance at something and convince yourself that you have a perfunctory understanding of it without giving it the time or attention necessary.