Veneration and Worship

I’ve been at school for about a month now, and I’m finally changing my mind about something, all based on learning a alternate definition of one little word: “Veneration”. It’s so exciting.

I’ve always assumed that veneration was synonymous with worship (perhaps a little weaker, but still ultimately the same idea). This is borne out in many of the uses of the word (other synonyms include: deify, idolize), however there is another.

My new learning was that to properly venerate a symbol is to worship the signified by honouring the signifier1 and that that is good.

This resolves (or at least defines) my wrestling with honouring and enjoying beautiful architecture and music and ritual and (as the cause for this change of mind) the history of the use of icons in the Eastern Orthodox church.

The same pitfalls remain: we can so easily transmute good veneration into worship or deification of the symbol be it art/ists or song/writers or architect/ure or ritual. As it’s about the direction of the heart rather than any external difference of action, it’s invisible to anyone but yourself whether your own worship is to or through, so we can’t judge the legitimacy of others’ worship.

This is the same for an Eastern Orthodox church building filled to the brim with icons and gold, or a youth megachurch filled with moshing and lasers and bass solos, or even the person standing on the side of a mountain, alone at sunrise.

Jesus said, in the context of being asked by a Samaritan to judge between the worship methods of the Jews and the Samaritans:

But a time is coming—and now is here—when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be his worshipers. John 4:23 (NET)

The tool or place or style of worship is not what defines it as true worship or not (though much of the history of the Church would indicate otherwise), it’s absolutely about the direction of the heart. and using whatever tool or symbol or method you can to worship God.

  1. If you’ll allow me to throw semiotics terms in there, I don’t get to use them often enough.

Empathy

I read this description of the Progressive Christian Worldview from the perspective of a conservative with great interest and recognition. It’s actually pretty good and highlighted to me the central difference in our worlviews.

When confronted with something that is grey, the conservative response tends to be: “I’m not sure what the loving thing to do is so I’ll defend what I believe to be correct”. For progressives it is “I’m not sure what the correct thing to do is so I’ll defend what I believe to be loving.”

That’s same response is visible in any of the major church/political issues throughout history: gender-heirarchy, homosexuality, racism, slave-ownership, war/pacificsm, killing heretics and muslims, death penalty, etc.

That’s not to say that progressives don’t believe in there is one truth, however we’re less likely to be sure we own it, tempering our specific interpretation of scripture with humility, particularly when belief or the defense of that belief can be shown to be hurting people.

This is especially visible when we see staunch defenders of “biblical truth” throughout history have tended to be shown to be defending the unconscionable.

Wrong side of history

I don’t like the wrong-side-of-history retort. Everyone is already on team: social change or team: change is scary; the progression of history is already seen as either an enemy or a friend so describing change as impending is just unhelpful. And of course all social change is black-and-white always improvement.

Ultimately it’s just a self-righteous brag for team: social change.

Related links in Github Pages

Jekyll comes with a built in ‘Related Links’ feature, however - if you run your Jekyll blog on Github Pages then it’s just the latest N posts.

Related posts by common tags would take about 3 lines of ruby, but because Github Pages is so locked down1 I must do it in Liquid. This really isn’t what liquid is for, but it doesn’t have to be fast or pretty - it’s only run once per deploy.

Here is my Liquid-only related posts script. It reminds me of the dark horror-filled days of Smarty templates. *shudder*

{% assign limit = '4' %}
{% assign matched = '' %}
{% for matching_tag_count in (1..page.tags.size) reversed %}
  {% for tag in page.tags %}
    {% for tag_page in site.tags[tag] %}
      {% if limit == '0' %}
        {% break %}
      {% else %}
      {% unless tag_page.url == page.url %}
      {% capture url_compare %}$${{tag_page.url}}$${% endcapture %}
      {% unless matched contains url_compare %}
      {% assign appearances = '0' %}
      {% for tag_page_tag in tag_page.tags %}
        {% if page.tags contains tag_page_tag %}
          {% capture appearances %}{{ appearances | plus:1 }}{% endcapture %}
        {% endif %}
      {% endfor %}
      {% capture difference %}{{ appearances | minus:matching_tag_count }}{% endcapture %}
      {% if difference == '0' %}
        {% capture matched %}{{matched}}{{url_compare}}{% endcapture %}
        {% capture limit %}{{limit | minus:1}}{% endcapture %}

        {% assign archive_page = tag_page %}
        {% include archive_row.html %}
      {% endif %}
      {% endunless %}
      {% endunless %}
      {% endif %}
    {% endfor %}
  {% endfor %}
{% endfor %}

I was going to go through and explain every line but liquid leaves me cold. I don’t understand it enough to know its limitations properly - such as why arithmetic works better with strings than numbers - I just do what it wants and be sad about the verbosity and inefficiency.

Breaking the law?

My impending move overseas has me shrinking my physical possessions as much as possible.

One thing I certainly don’t need is all these scratchably shiny plastic discs. They’re safer and smaller and quicker as mere data on my various computery things.

Getting them there fantastically simple with The Little App Factory’s Ripit, however it is somewhat legally questionable.

All my CDs live on my computer and phone and iPad and backblaze and iTunes Match. Legally. I think.

All my DVDs now live on an external hard-drive. Apparently less legally - according to a googled forum post and Consumer. When I read through the copyright act it seems far less obvious than our dear friends at consumer would have us believe.

Even if my ripped DVDs are qualify technically as infringing copies (not clear to begin with), it still doesn’t appear to me they are criminally infringing copies (I’m not distributing them in any way, and the economic consequence of any such “infringement” is effectively zero1). If something isn’t criminally infringing is it infringing at all? I’m certainly not doing anything unreasonable, unfair, or unethical.

This is the first time I’ve read actual legislation so I’m probably entirely wrong and opening myself up to completely unreasonable fines and jail time.


I just realised wonderful unintentional ironies in the discs visible on the various piles. The Creative Commons licensed Ghosts I-IV by Nine Inch Nails, The Forbidden Kingdom - a tale of inspiration from dodgy copies of Kung Fu movies, and, of course, Pirates of the Carribean.

  1. The only consquence I can see is that Air New Zealand will miss out on the ~$200 I won’t need to pay for an additional bag.

“Hanging Punctuation”

‘in CoffeeScript’

You may or may not have noticed that all my quote marks are outdented if they fall at the beginning of a line.

You may or may not think I’m crazy for not only caring, but writing a 50 line script to do it.

The typography nerds call this hanging punctuation.


The heart of any such script is, of course, a regular expression. I’m sorry.

The expression gets any series of quote marks ([`'"“”‘’«»‹›]+) that either begin at the start of a word (^|\s), or at the end of a word ($|\s). This successfully grabs all the quote marks and ignores all the apostrophes.

quote = /(?:(^|\s)([`'"“”‘’«»‹›]+)|([`'"“”‘’«»‹›]+)($|\s))/g

The next most important part of the process is a way to grab all the text nodes in a document. You’d think jQuery would just give you this, but it’s only 5 lines of coffeescript to roll our own.

This recursively steps through nodes, building up a jQuery object of just the text (nodeType == 3), until we have all the contiguous strings in the document and none of the HTML. Booya.

$.fn.textNodes = ->
  textNodes = $(this).contents().filter -> (this? && this.nodeType == 3)
  if $(this).children()[0]?
    $(this).children().textNodes().add(textNodes)
  else
    textNodes

Next we wrap the quotes in something we can grab and manipulate. We don’t want to affect anything inside a code element, or a table, and we want this script to be safe to run repeatedly without wrapping the already-wrapped.

$.fn.wrapQuotes = (className = 'hq', exclude = 'code,table') ->
  replacement = "$1<span class=\"#{className}\">$2$3</span>$4"
  exclude = "#{exclude},.#{className}"
  $(this).textNodes().each ->
    unless $(this).closest(exclude)[0]?
      $(this).replaceWith( $(this).text().replace(quote, replacement) )
  $(this)

Now that all our quote marks are surrounded by <span class="hq"></span> we can find out if they’re at the edge of their margin, and then we can outdent them.

Before that we’ll need yet another utility function, this to determine which edge/margin we want. This returns 'left', or 'right' based on the text alignment, and/or the language direction1.

$.fn.leadingEdge = ->
  align = $(this).css('textAlign')
  dir = $(this).css('direction')
  if align == 'left'  ||
     align == 'start' && dir == 'ltr' ||
     align == 'end'   && dir == 'rtl'
    'left'
  else
    'right'

Because we’re going to outdent these quote marks by absolutely positioning them, we need a way of applying a positioning context to the parent without overriding whatever styling they had. We set position: only if something’s not already set.

$.fn.relativise = ->
  $(this).each ->
    if $(this).css('position') == 'static'
      $(this).css(position:'relative')

With all those pieces in play, we can position the various quotes marks as necessary. First we find the elements we want and remove any styling they currently have. We get all the value we need using the aforementioned utility functions.

$.fn.hangQuotes = (className = 'hq') ->
  $(this).find(".#{className}").css(position:'',left:'',right:'').each ->

    parent = $(this).parent().relativise()
    edge = $(this).leadingEdge()
    parentPadding = parseFloat(parent.css("padding-#{edge}"), 10) # assume px
    textWidth = $(this).width()
    # ...

Then finally do the actual positioning. If the quote is against the edge, we first take it out of the document flow, and then check it’s still against the edge in case the reflow that we just triggered wrapped it to the previous line. We outdent it by its width.

    # ...
    if textWidth && $(this).position()[edge] == parentPadding
      $(this).css(position:'absolute')
      if $(this).position()[edge] == parentPadding
        outdent = textWidth - parentPadding
        $(this).css(edge, "#{-outdent}px")
      else
        $(this).css(position:'')
  $(this)

All that remains is to assign some events, so these scripts run when they need to. We would also need to run hangQuotes() after fonts have loaded, and wrapQuotes() after ajax has ajaxed.

$ ->
  $('body').wrapQuotes().hangQuotes()
$(window).resize ->
  $('body').hangQuotes()

And we’re done! Lovely typography at the expense of a small handful of javascripts and brains.


hang_quotes.js.coffee

$.fn.textNodes = ->
  textNodes = $(this).contents().filter -> (this? && this.nodeType == 3)
  if $(this).children()[0]?
    $(this).children().textNodes().add(textNodes)
  else
    textNodes

quote = /(?:(^|\s)([`'"“”‘’«»‹›]+)|([`'"“”‘’«»‹›]+)($|\s))/g

$.fn.wrapQuotes = (className='hq', exclude='code,table') ->
  replacement = "$1<span class=\"#{className}\">$2$3</span>$4"
  exclude = "#{exclude},.#{className}"
  $(this).textNodes().each ->
    unless $(this).closest(exclude)[0]?
      $(this).replaceWith($(this).text().replace(quote, replacement))
  $(this)

$.fn.relativise = ->
  $(this).each ->
    if $(this).css('position') == 'static'
      $(this).css('position', 'relative')

$.fn.leadingEdge = ->
  align = $(this).css('textAlign')
  dir = $(this).css('direction')
  if align == 'left'  ||
     align == 'start' && dir == 'ltr' ||
     align == 'end'   && dir == 'rtl'
    'left'
  else
    'right'

$.fn.hangQuotes = (className='hq')->
  $(this).find(".#{className}").css(position:'',left:'',right:'').each ->

    parent = $(this).parent().relativise()
    edge = $(this).leadingEdge()
    parentPadding = parseFloat(parent.css("padding-#{edge}"), 10) # assume px
    textWidth = $(this).width()

    if textWidth > 0 && $(this).position()[edge] == parentPadding
      $(this).css(position:'absolute')
      if $(this).position()[edge] == parentPadding
        outdent = textWidth - parentPadding
        $(this).css(edge, "#{-outdent}px")
      else
        $(this).css(position:'')
  $(this)

$ ->
  $('body').wrapQuotes().hangQuotes()
$(window).resize ->
  $('body').hangQuotes()
  1. currently all the text in this blog is left-aligned, but that won’t necessarily always be the case, it’s a small robustness.

I don’t understand gender

This post is almost entirely from and about my own perspective. I hope it doesn’t mean I’m self absorbed, it’s meant to reflect I don’t feel I have the right or understanding to properly address anyone else’s perspective.

Recently, while listening to the very excellent GCN Radio, the episode Transparently transgender with Lisa Salazar gave me pause. Everything she was saying about how she felt about her gender identity as a trans woman made no sense to me. Not in a ‘how could you!’ way, more that she completely invalidated my entire concept of gender as being socially constructed, mostly negative, and ultimately transcendable.

I’ve previously assumed that people making bold statements about man vs woman or masculinity vs feminity or etc are completely missing the point; No we’re actually not all from either Mars or Venus, we’re from Earth and we’re pretty much the same, excepting (usually negative) societal expectations.

Lurking on /r/AskTransgender helped me to point my distrust and it’s-all-just-a-social-fiction in more of the right direction, though I still can’t truly understand the experience being transgender the same way colourblind person can’t experience redness as distinct from greenness.

You could say ‘gender is social and sex is intrinsic’ as I learned in my design theory class, but in this analogy that’s basically saying ‘the lighter colour is green and the darker colour is red’. It is a simplification that often works (based on my talking to colourblind people), but it’s nowhere close to being correct all the time.

I don’t and can’t know what it would be like to be able to experience the the green of a male-gender distinct from the red of a female-assigned-at-birth-body or vice versa, it’s all the same continuous grey mush to me.

Gender roles/norms

This is the part my that makes the justice-fairness-anger burn and caused me to throw any description or prescription of any gender in the ‘dangerous and unhelpful’ bin1. Which i’m beginning to understand is dangerous and unhelpful in itself. I don’t think gender roles or norms should be prescriptive or restrictive, or something one should measure themselves against. at all. ever.

I frequently feel like I’m being made to feel like I’m doing being-a-man wrong2. Almost everything that I hear about manhood, or masculinity, or Wild at Heart, or whatever guns-cars-booze-yay that gets posted to facebook just makes me angry. Because I’m know I’m a man, and can’t respond with ‘I am not a man’, all I can say is: I reject your definition of man and substitute nothing in patricular of my own because I have no idea and don’t think it’s important3.

Gender presentation/expression

This is the part that’s always thrown me about discussions of gender (and the tiniest bit of sexuality questioning) because the idea of wearing women’s clothing or clothing styles doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable. I don’t mean to say I cross-dress - for all my anti-authority anti-tradition ideologies I pretty much live colouring inside the lines. Dresses just seem like a cool thing to wear and women’s fashion is so much more interesting than men’s.

As for the physical body and gender: If you look for sex-distinctive facial characteristics of other races than your own then it’s easy to be misled. Sex-distinctive build charactersitics in very skinny, very fat, and very muscular people can also misleading or missing. That there is some archetypal male and female figure is an unhelpful fiction and can’t be good for those more distant from that fictional archetype.

I don’t think it’s that important to have hard distinctions in mens appearance vs. women’s appearance ether for myself or in the ways I find women attractive.

Gender identity

This is the part where I am reduced to tautology. I am a man because I am a man.

I don’t feel strongly aligned to men as a category. I don’t feel any more comfortable or welcome at men-only church than women-only church events4. Whenever there’s a cry for men to “stand up and be men” I shrink back because I don’t want to be part of standing up and being man because I don’t like what that looks like.

Being a man is not something I’m uncertain about; I know I’m not a transgender woman. However, I don’t think I’d be distraught or have my whole sense of who I am turned upside down if I woke up tomorrow and I was suddenly magically a woman5.

I don’t know how much of that is a strange kind of empathy, how much is genuinely having only a weak identification with my own gender, and whether my identification with my own gender is actually much stronger than I think it is because it’s invisible and indistinct to me.


In summary I don’t understand gender, and what I thought I understood I now understand even less. Rereading, I realise I concluded every section with some variant of ‘It’s not important’, however I want to stress that the distinctions are not important to me rather than unimportant universally.

  1. I approach anyone talking about manliness, masculinity, or whatever with a great deal of suspicion and prejudice. Possibly unwarranted in some cases, and that definitely hurts me trying to understand gender and transgender people and so I’m trying to keep that prejudice confined to the places where it’s useful.

  2. This sentence must remain as awkwardly constructed as it is.

  3. For an example see the second half of my post on masculinity

  4. I’ve been to a couple of women-only events when there were zero women who volunteered to run the sound desk.

  5. Excepting difficult conversations.

Who is it ok to hate?

Yesterday Brendan Eich, the new CEO of Mozilla was forced out, primarily because he’d made donations to opposing same sex marriage. This last week I saw so much vitriol about him in my twitter feed from generally-mild-mannered individuals. Would the causes he supports really have that much affect on his CEOing, or Mozilla’s work environment, over strong organisational support of the LGBT community?

A few weeks ago Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist god-hates-fags church died. This man is almost-singlehandedly responsible for my and many others’ inability to be neutral on these issues, and I’ve never even met him. I’ve always known that whatever it is I believe it is not that. And so I sought out books like Torn, and blogs like Registered Runaway.

Just last week World Vision US decided they would change their hiring practices to include gay Christians in same-sex marriages. World Vision US claimed they didn’t want to take a stance on an issue that isn’t clear in the wider church. They emphasised they weren’t being forced to.

The next day because of massive outcry and calls to boycott they reversed the decision. They were forced to give in to the ‘christian agenda’ instead. And they folded.

I cried when I read these posts.


Clearly in the secular world it is there is list of people and groups whom it’s allowed, deserved, or even completely invisible to hate.

Equally clearly, in a conservative Christian context there a similar but occasionally opposing list.

For those of us (Christians who affirm same-sex marriage) it all seems insane and can’t we all just get along?

Yet I’ve recently realised that I too have my own list1.

I don’t know what the correct response is. I don’t think there should be space for ‘Yeah, but it’s ok to hate this person/group because they’re _________’. I need to remember the people we’re disagreeing with are still human, still worth having grace for. Still redeemable.

I’ll leave you with this.

  1. With charities-that-give-in-to-financial-pressure, people-who-vote-with-their-wallets-with-charities-in-ways-that-have-nothing-to-do-with-the-work-of-the-charity, and the very sexist Mark Driscoll featuring prominently

Unnecessary barriers

Why am I going to study theology

This September I’ll be moving to England to study theology at the London School of Theology.

Why?

  1. My relationship with Jesus will be stronger and deeper with this time of focus.
  2. I always want to know how things work, or how they might work. It’s probably why I work with computers.
  3. I want to spend more time in and around Europe and the Middle East - London is a lot closer than Wellington.
  4. I want to learn more about Islam so that I can have coherent conversations with my Muslim friends.

My main reason for going is this:

  1. The ultimate goal of my life is removing unnecessary barriers.

In my political veiws1, in my economic and social views, in my attitudes towards UI design, and API design. It’s how I want to improve my writing - to learn to write clearly and efficently, but with enough fun to keep boredom from being a barrier2.

Unnecessary rules

I spend a lot of time thinking about ethics and morality and law, the rules we have and make and which are necessary and which are not.

This battle over which rules applied universally and which were just unnecessary barriers to a life following Christ is woven through most of the New Testament3.

I want to have a deeper understanding of ethics and morality and law.

Unnecessary intellectual challenges

There are so many questions and answers floating around Christianity, as well as so much misunderstanding and misinformation, either wilful or non.

These questions and their sometimes unsatisfactory answers can be unecessary barriers to being open to a life following Christ.

I know there are better answers, I don’t always know how to articulate them, or how to extricate the actual question being asked out of people’s general barrage of imprecision.

I want to be able to clearly and satisfactorially answer people’s tough (sincere) questions.

Unnecessary intellectual requirements

I’m not going to theology school to be a professional theologian, to talk about ivory-tower theologianny stuff with other theologians all day.

Programming has trained me to ensure my logic is sound and clear. Design school trained me to present things attractively and simply in new ways. I feel like combining this skills and learnings will enable me to do … something?

I want to be able to explain these complex ideas about God and life, and why they matter clearly and simply.

Unnecessary infighting

One of my friends recently posted this to facebook:

How can #Calvinists & #Arminians #Cessationists & #Continuationists and #egalitarians & #complementarians work together for the #Gospel ?

It prompted a bit of (positive) debate, but ultimately reminded us that these things don’t matter as much.4 Though so often this spills out as a kind of narcissism of minor differences/which local sports team do you support - this isn’t useful, helpful, productive, constructive, etc.

One of the reasons I was attracted to LST is that it is cross-denominational. Hopefully they will embody the universal Church well.

I want to have a deeper appreciation for those views I don’t hold, and to work and live with people who differ.

Unnecessary cultural baggage

It’s not just rules and laws that are sometimes un/necessary barriers, but rituals and practices and structures - do we need to do Church the same was as twenty-first-century pop-culture, or nineteenth-century rural America, or sixteenth-century Germany, or the first-century Roman empire?

I don’t want to throw babies out with their bathwater, and I have to fight against my own aggressive anti-traditional bias, but I think these are good questions to ask.

I want to have a deeper understanding of the essentials of Christianity, and how to wrap Christianity in various cultural contexts.

I’m so excited.

  1. My political views lean toward the socialist - removing barriers to access and to means, rather than the libertarian goal of removing regulatory barriers.

  2. Boredom with what I’m write is mostly a barrier for me.

  3. Especially Acts 15.

  4. That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for talking about various doctrines, and I will argue at length for an egalitarian view or that strict forms of calvinism are fundamentally either illogical (free will that isn’t free-will) or indistinguishable from strict materialism in effect (autonomy is an illusion).

You don’t have a boyfriend, you have a girlfriend

I saw a meme recently posted to facebook: a picture of a gear stick and the text, something along the lines of “If your boyfriend’s car doesn’t have one of these, you have a girlfriend.”

It bothered me. A lot. In part because I usually have a lot of respect for the person who posted it, but also because it’s not a completely alien idea, but something I’ve seen many times.

I want to explain and explore why this bothered me.

  1. It expects men to value something inconsequential to a culture that has some very confused values already.
  2. It implies that if a man is deficient in some manner then he is therefore not a man, he is a woman.

Number 2 is the one that I think is really dangerous, because people actually believe that. Maybe they won’t admit it, but it is definitely there in the language people use: you hit like a girl, stand and fight like a man.1

Regardless of whether 1. is valid or not, please, don’t fall into the trap of thinking along the lines of 2.

A deficient man is not a woman. A woman is not a deficient man.

Now I don’t think anyone reading this actually thinks that a man becomes a woman if he doesn’t live up to some standard of masculinity, but the idea that a man is acting like a woman by falling short of some definition of manliness: that I’ve heard said.

It should be clear this is nonsense. I’ll say it again, just so we’re clear:
A deficient man is not a woman. A woman is not a deficient man.

Ok. moving on.

Now, you might say that 1 is not going to confuse anyone because obviously it’s a joke, and no-one really thinks that their manliness is tied up in how they control a mere mode of transport.

You’d be wrong - car advertising has successfully indoctrinated our culture into believing that the kind of car they drive is core to their identity, and woe and shame to any man who drives a girly car, or a family van.

This should also be self-evidently ridiculous. It should be clear that any given man’s value is not tied up in the kind of car you drive. I hope.


I refuse to propogate the idea that by refusing this (or any particular) definition of manliness I must be a woman or gay. In fact, there have been times when I’ve thought ‘maybe I’m gay’ because I don’t fit the definition of manliness that is expected. Which is not helpful to me, or to my understanding of actually gay people.

I’m done with ridiculous definitions of manliness.

  • As a man, I don’t have to be addicted to sex and have only aggression and uncontrollable desire for all of my female friends.
  • As a man, I don’t have to love and worship aggression and violence and patriotism and military and power.
  • As a man, I don’t have to bend nature to my will and love the great outdoors and killing things that live there.
  • As a man, I don’t have to value myself based on my car or my job or whatever.

  • I refuse to feel like I’m a lesser man because I play sport with women who are better at it than me.2
  • I refuse to feel like I’m a lesser man because I work in an office rather than a manly trade.3
  • I refuse to feel like I’m a lesser man because I have some aesthetic appreciation.4

What then is a good definition of what makes a man a good man?
Love sacrificially. Care indiscriminately. Forgive quickly. Share whatever wisdom you have.

Obviously this isn’t just for men. This is a good goal for any human people. Men and woman and those that aren’t contained by the gender binary.

  1. Disregarding how problematic equating masculinity with agression and violence is.

  2. Ultimate frisbee and indoor netball in mixed teams. Awesome.

  3. The gender-inequality in the programming industry makes this especially odd, but I’ve noticed that I often feel embarrassed or apologise for my soft indoor job. Odd, because it’s not like I’m the only man with an job inside.

  4. Basically this means I like bright colours and though I try not to spend money on clothes I don’t need, I appreciate style.

Political Correctness

There are not many things that make me more angry than labelling some argument or position or challenge as mere ‘political correctness’.

As though the only reason you’re being inclusive/fair/whatever is because 1. it’s the correct move politically (interpersonal politics/politeness), 2. because some government is watching you and insists on it, or 3. (this is the really weird one), because it will make them liked by/voted for by/attractive to whomever they’re being inclusive of. That would mean inclusiveness is just a foundation for posturing and lies! ugh.1

It makes me even angrier when people decide they don’t need to be ‘politically correct’ because, say, there are no women presently present. No. False. It doesn’t suddenly make it ok. You still don’t talk that way about women, not just because it might offend, but because it’s wrong, and apart from offense or exclusion it also harms your own perspective: it distorts your view of the abilities, value, or (ugh) ‘purpose’ of women, collectively or individually.

I try to be very careful about the language I use because I’m sure it affects how I think about people and groups. The way I swear, even just the words I use to refer to other cultures, backgrounds, disabilities, etc. I try to use gender-neutral terms where I can, even when it’s maybe not historically correct (they, actor), I try to not use girl when I’m talking about a female person over 20, especially when I don’t know them socially. And so on. Even for things not as obvious as racial slurs or infantalizing terms: Using ‘myopic’ to refer to something unwise, for example.

I also try to avoid making jokes or straw-man-arguments about or another culture, or religion2, or language, or gender (even the minority ones), or economic class, or etc. And it’s not because I’m a humourless bore3, or because I don’t want to offend people4, but because I think that it is intrisicially important to be inclusive and understanding and valuing of people - especially those that are different than me, especially when my own privilege hides the little signals of unwelcomeness I unintentionally give out, let alone the intentional ones.

And when those people I’m trying to be inclusive of aren’t present? That’s still not wishy-washy political nonsense. It’s practice. The way you usually talk will affect your attitude and the way you think.

I’m still not excellent at this, there are many times I can’t believe I just said that, and many, many more times when I learn that something I say often can be hurtful or exclusive or belittling. I think it’s important to try, and I don’t think it should be dismissed as political correctness.

  1. I’m really not sure which one of those people mean when they’re talking about political correctness, but none are my motivation for trying to be inclusive.

  2. Please don’t misunderstand me: having the words ‘religion’, and ‘inclusive’ in the same paragraph does not mean I believe in universalism. I think there is a massive difference between making someone feel welcome, valued and understood, and believing their religion to be correct.

  3. Althought I’m becoming more and more aware of how much I’d be a terrible person to see comedy with. I do think there can be a place for jokes about the unjokeable, but context, people. Sermons, workplaces, schools, etc: not the place; a game of Cards Against Humanity4: possibly.

  4. I actually like Cards Against Humanity’s approach. Whether inadvertently or not, by showing an extreme and unabashed ‘political incorrectness’ it reveals how pervasive and insidious the less wild (and less funny) forms are. And everyone gets a card, even those who collect pyramids of human heads and David Bowie.