I had a conversation this weekend about a movement to remove the word “Retard” from common conversation. There is a website devoted to this and indeed I linked to it in the first post I made yesterday (you can find it by googling retarded movement), but I’m usually bitter about writing the same thing twice so I will make this shorter than before.
There is a reason this movement is poor, I’m sure there are many reasons but I will name two quickly as they are the most obvious. The first is that it is not the word that is the problem, calling people retarded does not inherently carry a condescending connotation. It is a descriptive word that is at the mercy of the speaker and the listener. If you change the word, to something else, no matter how clinical, you merely switch the treatment you hate to new vocabulary. Just imagine the failure of political correctness and the half dozen words that now exist to describe black people, or the four separate words I can think of that describe white people. This is nonsense of the highest order and a sign of failure, it is small minded people totally missing the point.
The problem is the person, the website states that the word “Retarded” used to be a clinical word and was tainted by bullies. Their conclusion is that we must change to a new word so that the bullies will lose their power. Imagine this strategy in other places, having a group of bad people taking control of a resource and deciding the way to beat them is to relinquish that resource to them. What have you taught the bully? You’ve taught them they can have anything they want.
That leads me into the second problem. This is giving in to the victimizers. Any word can be made derogatory, this does not mean that once a word becomes derogatory it should be surrendered fully and a new word taking to heart. This is foolish, and a completely backwards way of handling a conflict.. The word gay is used by some Bigots as a synonym for bad things. Does this mean that gay people should run from the word and hide behind clinical terms like homosexual? Since that was a painfully rhetorical question I’ll answer with “No!” Gay people should stick by the word they championed,. If bigot comes along and tries to abuse the word and give it negative connotations they should not run from it, they should inspire the far larger population of non-bigots to treat those bigots like trash.
This policy is not hypocritical either. Bigotry is a destructive act, it is no more hypocritical to be a bigot towards bigots than it is to shoot a mass murderer. Does it resolve the underlying problem? No. But throwing water on a fire doesn’t end all fires either. To combat infernos you must simultaneously put out the wires that exist now and prevent future fires from happening.
Bad people should feel bad and they should feel bad often till being bad is cost prohibitive to their own comfort. They should be metaphorically dragged behind a truck like they (in some cases) have literally done to their victims.
The word retard should not cease use, and stating that it has a contextual variability which means it transfers its one meaning to the next is also a false equivalency. To clarify, this movement says that because people call stupid people (what I like to call electively retarded) retarded or stupid things retarded that must mean that they also consider actual retarded people stupid or somehow inferior.
Going back to gay, this would suggest that because one meaning of gay is happy that everyone is suggesting that all gay people are constantly happy or more likely to be happy.
This is nonsense, the issue is more complicated than that. The stigma of disabled people of all types through the history of the US has cycles of overprotection then exhaustion which leads into terrible stigmatization. That’s what this movement threatens to do because it does something that should never be done.
It demands that people be proud of personal traits they have no control over. A person should be proud of what they accomplish in their life, big or small, but they should never be proud of who they are on the non-elective level. Your gender, hair color, eye color, skin color, or organ layout should not be something to be proud of. It is sensible to be proud of life itself, because at least this would create a de facto statement that death is a deeply negative thing.
But to say that any trait you have is worthy of pride is to by necessity state that other traits are inferior. There is a deep and critical difference between respect and pride. The irony is their front banner shows Respect and yet the dialogue on the “About” suggests special treatment. There is nothing special about respect, this is not something you uniquely dole out to a particular group of people, this is something you either give to all people equally or you have failed as a human.
And people who fail as humans should be treated as such, which goes back to my previous point about bigots.
The movement should not be concerned over the word, and if they must take concern it should be to rend the word from the hands of bigotry. To surrender something to bullies is to fail, it’s not a matter of eye for an eye, it’s a matter of standing ones ground and defending what is positive and constructive.
The TL;DR is that when applicable stop being an asshole, this should not require a change of vocabulary but rather the application of that vocabulary. Also as my final bit of keyboard warriorism, to prey on innocence is to reveal an extreme level of mental weakness.
PS. As an aside, pledges like this are self fulfilling circle jerking. The people who pledge to be nice are nice people, getting nice people to say they’ll be nice does absolutely nothing to stop mean people from being mean. Mean people don’t care you are offended, in many cases they feed off the attention of you telling them they’ve offended you.