Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho
Yes, my friends, this is what we’re up against: the infantilization of society. A game of semantics so ridiculous that people making an effort not to be racist are deemed racist. Not because they’ve committed an act of racism, but because someone is desperately seeking victimization. Don’t get me wrong, real victimization exists, it’s alive and well. Someone saying they’re colour blind is not it. The discussion that ensued was equally ridiculous.
That mindset should be called anti-activism. It serves no purpose but to other and alienate. An exercise in pointless finger pointing. Engaging in such puerile and futile endeavours diminishes the many real obstacles faced by minorities every day. And yet again I’m reminded of Umberto Eco:
“Political Correctness is a true and proper movement. It was born in American universities of liberal and radical inspiration, therefore a movement of the Left, with the aim of acknowledging multiculturalism and reducing some of the ingrained linguistic vices that established lines of discrimination confronting various minorities. The movement began by saying “blacks” and later “African Americans” instead of “ni—r”. Then, “gay” instead of the thousands of other notorious options reserved for disparaging homosexuals.
Naturally, this campaign for the purification of language has produced a genuine fundamentalism, which has led to the notable case in which some feminists have proposed to no longer say “history” since it begins with the pronoun “his”, as they thought this meant that history was “his”. Instead they propose we say “herstory” – her (hi)story – obviously ignoring the Greco-Latin etymology which has no gender implications.
However, the tendency has also assumed neo-conservative, or frankly, reactionary aspects. If you decide to no longer call people in wheelchairs handicapped or even disabled, but “differently-abled” and then you do not construct access ramps in public places, it is evident that you have hypocritically removed the word but not the problem. And the same is true if you substitute saying “indefinitely unoccupied” for fired or “in a program of transition to change careers” for unemployed. Who knows why a banker isn’t ashamed of his title and doesn’t insist on being called an operator in the field of savings. If it’s not working, changing the name won’t fix it.
On these and an infinity of other problems, Edoardo Crisafulli amuses his readers in his book “The Politically Correct and Linguistic Liberty”, which strips naked all of these contradictions. He takes on both sides, pro and con, and is always very entertaining. Reading it, however, I came to reflect on the curious case of our country (Italy). While Political Correctness exploded elsewhere, in our case it was diffused and instead we are always developing more and more Political Incorrectness. If, at one time, one would read a newspaper and a politician would say: “As a politics of convergence is emerging, one would prefer an asymptotic choice that eliminated single points of intersection”; today he prefers to say: “Dialogue? To Hell with that dirty son of a bitch!”
It is true that at one time in old Communist circles they used to label the adversary “horseflies” and in speaking during meetings, they might have chosen to use a lexicon more insulting than that of a sailor, but that was in a time when there were no limits to what one could say – it was accepted as an affectation – as was once the case in the gentlemen’s clubs of venerated memory – where the gentlemen were not verbally inhibited. Today, instead, the technique of an insult is televised, a sign of unconscious faith in the valor of democracy.
It probably began with Bossi(Umberto Bossi of the right-wing Northern League)), in which his manly hardness obviously alludes to the softness of other people, and the appellation of “Berluskaz (Berlusconi + Cazzo)” was unmistakable but the thing spread widely. Stefano Bartezzaghi, writing under the name Venerdi di Repubblica, cites the play of insults today in circulation, but in good fun, all things considered.
Therefore, I too must contribute to the sweetness of Politically Incorrect Italian, and as I have consulted a series of dictionaries and dialects, permit me to suggest some polite and good-natured expressions with which to insult your enemy, graceful words: pistola dell’ostrega, papaciugo, imbolsito, crapapelata, piffero, marocchino, pivellone, ciulandario, morlacco, badalucco, pischimpirola …”