Saturday, May 2, 2009

RevTK stories and political correctness

This is quite a peeve of mine that stretches back to when I first began RTK in late August of last year.

I stumbled upon the rich resource of creative, helpful RTK mnemonic stories in RevTK rather quickly, which served incredibly beneficial over the next few months as I worked my way through. What I quickly noticed, however, were the amount of "reports" against stories with anything remotely related to race, gender, sex and sexuality and so forth. In my mind, I began to imagine that every single user of this site must be a prude of enormous magnitude to be offended by such trivial things - things which Mr. Heisig himself would probably give a polite nod to, as he originally recommended the use of extremely exaggerated, even shocking mnemonics, as an effective memory tool.

Of course, after becoming more involved with the community, I discovered that most users were mature and rational enough to either understand the usefulness of shocking, vulgar stories, or ignore them and move on. After all, the entire Heisig process is a very personal one, and one mnemonic story may be useless for one person, whereas it sticks immediately for another, so some amount of variety, even vulgar, is surely beneficial.
But as I poked through the threads, I'd come across calls to delete specific stories which were supposedly vile, disgusting or immoral. Almost always the same kind of thread, really - someone, somehow, gets their feelings hurt by a funky little two sentence story meant to aid in the recollection of a Chinese character, and demands that it's removed. Rarely are these stories removed (I can't recall a specific incident, anyway).

It boggles my mind that intelligent adults such as these can get so wound up on something so trivial and meaningless, when it's so easy to turn the other way. When one can instead use rational thought to understand the existance and usefulness of such things, of counter-points and opinions, rather than crying foul and demanding censorship which benefits no one. 

Political correctness is a disease I'd rather stay far, far away from; it's an impossibility to satisfy everyone, it's impossible not to offend or upset someone by means of simple words. So what do we do? We censor ourselves, the way we speak and our opinions. We make up new terms and phrases to mask the original, offending ones. Where does it end? Who's to say what's offensive and what's acceptable?

My ol' buddy George Carlin sums it up in his skit titled "Euphemisms" better than anyone:

We have no more deaf people in this country. Hearing impaired. No more blind people. Partially sighted or visually impaired. No more stupid people, everyone has a learning disorder. Or he's minimally exceptional. How would you like to told that about your child? 'He's minimally exceptional.' Psychologists have actually started calling ugly people those with severe appearance deficits. It's getting so bad that any day now I expect to hear a rape victim referred to as an unwilling sperm recipient!
And we have no more old people in this country. No more old people. We shipped them all away and we brought in these senior citizens. Isn't that a typically American twentieth century phrase? Bloodless. Lifeless. No pulse in one of them. A senior citizen. But I've accepted that one. I've come to terms with it. I know it's here to stay. We'll never get rid of it. But the one I do resist, the one I keep resisting, is when they look at an old guy and say, "Look at him Dan, he's ninety years young." Imagine the fear of aging that reveals. To not even be able to use the word old to describe someone. To have to use an antonym.
And fear of aging is natural. It's universal, isn't it? We all have that. No one wants to get old. No one wants to die. But we do. So we bullshit ourselves. I started bullshitting myself when I got in my forties. I'd look in the mirror and say, "Well...I guess I'm getting ...older." Older sounds a little better than old, doesn't it? Sounds like it might even last a little longer. Bullshit, I'm getting old. And it's okay. Because thanks to our fear of death in this country I won't have to die. I'll pass away. Or I'll expire, like a magazine subscription. If it happens in the hospital they'll call it a terminal episode. The insurance company will refer to it as negative patient care outcome. And if it's the result of malpractice they'll say it was a therapeutic misadventure.
I'm telling ya, some of this language makes me want to vomit. Well, maybe not vomit ...makes me want to engage in an involuntary personal protein spill."
My one and only concern with RevTK's story section would be exposing children, but there are manageable solutions that have been discussed in the past, and will likely be put into place in the future (considering the website is administrated by one busy guy, I can totally sympathize). In the meantime, though - exactly how many children actually use Heisig? Having poked through a few "age threads" out of curiosity, the youngest user I came across was 15, which isn't exactly the most innocent age anymore when it comes to racy, risque or borderline-offensive material. Heisig's method was developed with the adult brain in mind, after all, and while nothing explicitly states that a younger mind can't benefit from visual memory mnemonics, the system is clearly geared toward adults. Somehow, "think of the children" doesn't really seem very relevant.

And with that, I leave you with my first official rant on this blog. 
Ultimately, I don't think the matter is a major one on RevTK considering, as I mentioned above, that the community is largely mature, intelligent and rational enough to either understand the potential benefit of, or turn a blind eye to, potentially offending material. I feel that the ever looming threat of censorship (which includes political correctness, in my mind) is one that must be fought on any front if we, as a global community, are to protect the fundamental rights of expression we're entitled to as a social species.


igordesu said...

I agree to a certain extent with you, but people have different belief systems. It's not just a matter of, "Just grow up and live with 'cuz this is the way the world works, noob." The fact that sexually explicit stories, for example, are right there out in the open and can be seen by people (like myself) is kind of offensive.

You see, people who have an issue with it don't necessarily have an issue with the fact that those stories exist. I say from experience that people who report, like myself, are not out to change everybody's morals by reporting stories. We have an issue with the fact that those stories are out in the open for all (children *and* adults) to see. A majority of the debate about it would be gone if there was a way to separate the stories; people who desire to see the sexually explicit ones, etc. can choose to do so.

I know people think it's intolerant to be intolerant of sexually explicit stories, etc. But, in reality, not respecting those people's desire to not see those things is intolerant. yeah. sorry about the long comment. I hope this didn't seem like an angry response. :) it wasn't. Just throwing my opinion out there :)

Burritolingus said...

I do understand where you're coming from, and I appreciate your opinion.

Personally, I think RevTK really needs a system where, after a certain amounts of reports or some such, a story will become flagged as "explicit" and will be hidden by default, or something along those lines. A relatively simple, democratic system that would theoretically sort out the problem, I think. My experience with PHP is limited and rusty, but something like that shouldn't be all that difficult to implement, I don't think, and it'd solve a lot of the age old RevTK problems.

At any rate, would be better than deleting them completely, imo!

Tibul said...

I think I agree with Burritolingus the world is becoming way too censored fare enough people have there own beliefs and may have very good reasons why they dislike explicit material.

But these beliefs should never be thrown on somebody else as lets face it there are as many people who don't find things explicit/offensive as there are people who do.

As Burritolingus says they should just be hidden or an option in your user profile to enable or disable explicit content if they are totally deleted I would lose a lot of respect for RevTK as it would be only catering for one side.