miércoles, 17 de diciembre de 2014

On political correctness

'Are we allowed to call them pygmies these days?' asked Angus. 'Or are they something else? Forest people?'

Big Lou glared at him. 'If they're called forest people now' she said, 'it must be for a good reason.'

'Political correctness,' said Angus. 'That's the reason.'

Big Lou made a dismissive sound. Attacks on political correctness, in her view, were often made by those who had never suffered insult or know what it was like to be at the bottom o f the heap. Not that she approved of the wilder excesses of the movement -the Stalinist prohibitions on simple human expresion and feelings - but she appladauded the increased sensitivity that had grown around the vulnerabilities of others. She was pleased that people were no longer left out because they were different; or made think the less of themselves because of what they were. She fixed Angus with a stare.

'Maybe they had good reason not to want to be called pygmies,' she said. 'You've never had to worry about that sort of thing, have you? You don't know what it's like to be called something belittling'.

'But they are little,' said Angus, looking to Matthew for support. 'You don't belittle the little by calling them little. What should we call them? Big?'

Big Lou shot Matthew a discouraging glance. 'They're not little in their own eyes. Not as far as they're concerned.'

'Does it matter?' asked Matthew.  'Does it really matter whether you're short, like a pyg... like a forest person, or whether you're tall? Does it matter?'

'No' said Big Lou. 'It doesn't.' She passed Angus his cup of coffe and looked at him challengingly.

'Actually, Lou,' said Angus, taking the coffe over to Matthew's table. 'ACtually it matters quite a lot to some people. We had a very short man in the Scottish Arts Club once, and it made him very unhappy. If he ad been granted one wish - one wish - I know what it would have been. To be taller. Poor chap. He used to paint pictures of very tall people. All his figurative studies were of tall people.'

'How sad,' said Matthew.

'Yes, it was,' said Angus. 'It must be very sad to have to go through life wantint to be something that you can't be. To be gay when you want to be straight, for instance. That can't be easy.'

Matthew frowned. 'Except that most people who are gay are actually quite comfortable with their identitiy. These days, at least.' He paused. 'Do you think there are straight people who would prefer to be gay? Do you think it works that way round?'

Angus thought for a moment. 'I've not heard of it. There's no pressure to be gay, you see. The reason why gay people sometimes want to be straight is because they've been put under such strong pressure to be straight. It's oppression, really; it's very cruel. So they find themselves wishing that they were what society wants them to be. How many lives have been ruined by that.'

'It's like tall people not wanting to be short' said Matthew.

Big Lou looked at him. 'I'm quite tall,' she said. ' I wouldn't mind being a wee bit shorter sometimes.'

Matthew looked apologetic. 'I wasn't thinking of you, Lou,' he said. 'You're... the right size, I think.'

'This wee chap,' Angus cut in. 'The one in the Scottish Arts Club - he had a pair of elevator shoes. We could tell. They had very large heels.'

They were silent for a moment.

'People should be allowed to do what they want with themselves,' pronounced Big Lou. 'It's none of our business. If somebody wants to wear elevator shoes, it's up to him.'

Angus smiled. 'And cosmetic surgery, Lou? What about that? All that nipping and tucking and tightening of the skin round the eyes. Don't you think that's grotesque?'

Big Lou reached for her cloth and began to polish the counter top. There was a certain frenzy in her movements. 'If they want it,' she said, 'then it's up to them. You've never had to worry about your nose, or your chin, or whatever. But what if you had?' (...)

The importance of being seven // 19. The question of cosmetic surgery // Alexander McCall Smith

No hay comentarios: