The frustration of pure abstract reasoning and the difficulty in philosophising is prevalent in progressive experimentation. Through our certainty that bigotry is evil and our crude intolerance towards it, we may solidify one aspect of its power, while our ostensible impatience functions as dogmatism to censor any alternative approach. If we are so sure that race is trivial, how have we not foreseen a future where teasing someone about their skin is like teasing someone about their red hair but without an unfortunate redhead. Why are we unable to consider the possibility that it may be good for a proud white man to call you a darkie?
Without empirical evidence antinomy is rife, and we can scrutinise an idea for our entire lives without concluding accurately. Take one of the few great developments in philosophy in the twentieth century, the expounding of the theory of speech acts. We discovered that when we say “I’m sorry” we are altering reality beyond the phonetics produced. We are committing an action more significant than moving our mouths. This obvious point was proposed in the 1960s, after two millennia of sophisticated philosophising, two centuries of work on the philosophy of language, and decades of serious development in this area. This is not peculiar. Michel Foucault explained that power exists in every relationship in society and is not a cosmic force rationed out by a monarch, revolutionising theories of power in academia. Richard Dawkins let us know that culture has an impact on evolution in his theory of memes, two centuries after natural selection was explicated. Hindsight’s simplicity is not a banal cliche.
Why could the same not be true for how we end bigotry? Politically correctness has developed a formal lexicon of hatred, where the words carry more than the power of their pre-censored meanings. If you malign someone with anything from this dynamic list of unacceptable terminology, we are not only directing at them the force of the semantics, but they are placed in a context where you have so little care or so much hatred for them that you are willing to exclaim the unutterable. This is particularly dangerous if someone believes that you shouldn’t be offended by impersonally slung epithets and wants to provoke you with your own misunderstanding. In the era of trolls, it is clear that we have found ourselves in an untenable situation. After all, why would you care what a stranger says on the internet?
This situation is inflamed by the fashion and triviality of political correctness. We must speak with absolute formality when discussing anything of significant sensitivity and what is offensive one year may not be the next. We should spend time wondering if informality is truly hateful. Instead, we live in a world where informality is so volatile that its use could see you bleeding from your skull in the street.
What’s more, this lexicon is controlled and maintained through self-evidence and arbitration. Recently, a radio host declared that the word “thug”, when analysed descriptively, has come to mean “nigger” and that when you call someone a “thug”, you are using a racial epithet.¹ All it would take for this to be true is a generation to prolifically use “thug” as a racial epithet. Once this word is censored, there is a context surrounding it where it is equivalent to the most vile racial slur in the English language. We would double the number of words with that degree of power, or somewhere near it. More significantly, “thug” would become irredeemable. If we could not say it, we could not disempower it. It would ossify as a term of bigoted hatred. Were this to happen repeatedly, the lexicon of hatred would grow indeterminably and indefinitely. With every appendage being subtracted from our discourse and every text containing it being vitiated.
From my perspective, we have three options. Either we allow the lexicon of hatred to grow perpetually, we attempt to arrest the growth and only censor words following heavy lobbying, or we appreciate the role of those who will accept those they share proximity with to say and be called these terms. Given the many rejections of good-natured friendship, I find the latter option both feasible and desirable.
To help facilitate such a transition, I would like to proffer to the culture the term “kooky gook”. With an accurate degree of irresponsibility, this term can help break down barriers, disempower hatred and move us towards a world where we can all be redheads without red hair. I can assure you that those who know how to can do this as long as we don’t forget basic morality and its application to strangers and acquaintances. However, I only have real confidence in the subtle and intelligent to begin this in their most intimate relationships and implore them to experiment and conversate here. It is possible to remove hatred from stupidity. A disempowerment of this nature and of this degree should be the goal until we know what would be beyond it. If we are all as confident in the social insignificance of race as we say we are and as I am, we can only assume amnesia. We at least need to stop being so confident in our conformity and consider the possibility.