Has political correctness gone too far?
The debate over whether or not there is a place for political correctness in modern society is not always black and white.
SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK: I know that there is a lot of sexual harassment, racism, and so on in our lives. And I don't doubt that the majority of people who promote political correctness mean it sincerely. I am not saying that. I am not saying in the way of right-wing paranoia that they are evil people who want to destroy the American way of life. I'm just saying that the way they approach the problem is that instead of resolving it, the predominant effect is just to keep it under check and allowing the true problem—racism, sexism—to survive in a more covered up version and so on and so on. Of course, racist jokes and so on can be extremely oppressive, humiliating, and so on. But the solution, I think, is to create an atmosphere or to practice these jokes in such a way that they really function as that little bit of obscene contact which establishes true proximity between us. And I'm talking from my own past political experience, ex-Yugoslavia. I remember when I was young, when I met with other people from ex-Yugoslav Republic—Serbs, Croat, Bosnians and so on—we were all the time telling dirty jokes about each other, but not so much against the other. We were, in a wonderful way, competing who will be able to tell a nastier joke about ourselves. These were obscene, racist jokes, but their effect was a wonderful sense of shared obscene solidarity. It works.
So you see this ambiguity, that's my problem with political correctness. You know. It's just a form of self-discipline which doesn't really allow you to overcome racism. It's just oppressed, controlled racism.
I am not an idiot. I am well aware this doesn't mean we should just walk around and humiliate each other. It's a great art how to do it. I'm just saying that's my hypothesis. Without such a tiny exchange of friendly obscenities, you don't have real contact with another. It remains this cold respect and so on, you know. We need this, we need this to establish real contact.
LEWIS BLACK: Political correctness has a tendency to jump the gun before you get to bigotry. Political correctness has no sense of humor so it doesn't know. I will mention guns in my act, and not that this is politically correct, it's the same sort of thing. I'll say guns and then you immediately feel the audience get uptight because I've said nothing but 'guns'. They don't know what I'm going to say, they have no idea, they've got no clue and they jump on it. So what happens in a politically incorrect joke is they hear the first part and they stop listening. So they don't know what the god damn joke is about. I have little or no time for it. And if you have trouble with that, what you do is you laugh. If you think a joke was mean or bad or something that was politically incorrect, you still laugh at the joke then you go 'Ha ha' and later on, you go 'That was bad. I was bad to laugh at that.' Do it on your own time.
I would go to a college campus. The last one I went to was Penn State. They had just gone through the year of Sandusky and Paterno, my opening act had even done Sandusky, jokes about him. And we thought, well, we can't do that because these kids have just been, you know, and when you got on stage you realize these kids are shell shocked because they're not even laughing at what they normally would laugh at. Afterward, when we avoided the topic completely, the kid who writes for the paper wrote that we were, you know, the way he put it, we were pussies for not talking about it. So it doesn't matter which way you go, you're going to lose some of the time. I always take the moment, because when I'm on a campus or I know I'm in an area where I know political correctness. When I go to those places and I tell a joke and I know that they're not going to laugh because they're going to think it's politically incorrect. I just go at the audience. It's a moment in which you can actually teach them. I think it's important to at least make the attempt to get across to them that they should enjoy themselves because otherwise if we continue to move in that direction there's just, you know, then we're going to be living between uptight and stupid and there'll be no in between.
JEFF GARLIN: I feel that everything's about good taste and self-restraint. My favorite comedian of all time is Richard Pryor. So I'm not a prude, but I think some things maybe you can say more eloquently. Some things you can say in a way that if you're intelligent, you'll pick up on it. And if you won't, you don't. Subtleties, nuance, that's what gets lost in the whole big battle of political correctness. I don't believe in any political correctness. I don't think even if I'm talking about, like you said to me, 'Who's your favorite comedian?' or 'Who do you think is up and coming?' And I named two male comedians—that does not mean that I think female comedians aren't funny or I don't have a favorite female. It just means, in that moment, I thought of those two people. Yet there are people who will have a strong opinion on that moment. You know, 'He's not talking about...' like they would write underneath in a comment, 'Why aren't you talking about the funny women?' Just 'cause I didn't! I didn't make a blanket statement. So political correctness is wrong, is super ignorant, super ignorant, and super partisan.
Partisanship, I gotta tell ya, I read everything on the internet, and just as many liberals are as annoying as right-wing people. They're all annoying. Everyone with this "be like me or you're wrong." People used to make a decision that they'd see something and they'd decide if it was true or not. Now they base truths on their own truth. I see what I believe as opposed to I'm trying to believe what I see.
MARTIN AMIS: I'm a fan of political correctness. No one ever says, "Oh I'm very politically correct." But in fact, it's good that we are. Not the outer fringe PC, but raising the standards about what can be said and an exclusion of things you could have said and got away with it 10 or 20 years ago and now seems discordant. And you know, who wants to go back to being opposed to gay marriage? I mean, the ease with which that became the orthodoxy was I thought tremendously encouraging. I mean, when I look back at my very early fiction of 40 odd years ago, I'm shocked and made uneasy by some of the liberties I took that I certainly wouldn't take now. It doesn't interfere with the freedom of writers, political correctness. It gives you challenges every now and then, you have to sort of work around it a bit, but I never resent that. And I think it's self-improvement on a general scale.
PAUL F. TOMPKINS: Tastes change over the years. And so topics that were routinely joked about years ago that might affect certain people, maybe it's something that happened to someone and we throw a word around because it's a shocking punchline and it's good for a laugh, but is it worth it? And over time, people who are tired of being ashamed because a thing happened to them, they vote with their silence or they say, that's not funny. And I think that comedians have to recognize that humor evolves and times change and you can't stay stuck in the same place for too long because then you're irrelevant. And so it's very easy to say, "Oh, people are too uptight now, they're too uptight." But the fact of the matter is these people are the people of today and you might be a person of yesterday if you can't adjust and you can't be in tune with what people think is funny anymore.
JIM GAFFIGAN: Whatever we call political correctness or whatever the term might be, you know saying things that aren't sexist or could be construed as racist, it's not that hard of a sacrifice. As a comedian, I believe that there's nothing that's off-limits, but I also think that human beings, we're constantly censoring ourselves. I'm censoring myself right now for this. I'm trying to appear smart and I'm not doing that good of a job. But I do think that the PC culture, in my opinion, is of great value. The idea of political correctness, I don't think that has to do with censorship, I think that has to do with a certain sensitivity. So, you know words that are very toxic it's unnecessary. You know, if you also identify yourself as a clean person, it's not necessary to say shocking words. That being said, there are great comedians that deal in shock, that deal in irreverence, but similar to liberty, what's irreverent today is stale tomorrow. So if you chase irreverence, that's a pretty slippery slope.
CORY BOOKER: I just know in my life, having been both the minority dealing with folks and their commentary, and having been a guy trying to learn about other cultures, that I just wanna always lead with love. And I just want to always be as generous as possible. And whatever side of this you're on, come back to that idea, "Am I leading with love? Is my question reflective of love, of empathy, of compassion?" "Am I being gentle in how I deal with this?" And that doesn't mean for us activists it doesn't mean be less strident in seeking justice, it doesn't mean be less hard in defending rights. But the people I revere from our history who were so successful at moving the needle on advancing rights and equality, many of them led with love and I think that that was their most powerful weapon for transforming hearts and minds.
- Political correctness is often seen as a debate between two extremes, but there are nuances in the middle of the spectrum. Is there such a thing as being too PC, and if so, where is that line?
- While philosopher Slavoj Žižek, comedian Lewis Black, and actor Jeff Garlin acknowledge that some topics can be hurtful or even oppressive and should thus be approached with "good taste and self-restraint," they also argue that PC culture has tipped the scales far beyond being balanced. "If we continue to move in that direction," says Black, "then we're going to be living between uptight and stupid and there'll be no in between."
- Simultaneously, others—including Paul F. Tompkins, Jim Gaffigan, and Martin Amis—argue that political correctness aims to change things for the better, especially for groups who have been marginalized and discriminated against, and that not being sexist and racist, for example, is not actually a heavy lift. "The fact of the matter is these people are the people of today and you might be a person of yesterday if you can't adjust and you can't be in tune with what people think is funny anymore," says Tompkins.
- Steven Pinker at Davos: excessive political correctness feeds radical ... ›
- We Can't Have Comedy and Be Politically Correct at the Same Time ... ›
- Why Slavoj Zizek thinks political correctness is dumb - Big Think ›
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Scientists are using bioelectronic medicine to treat inflammatory diseases, an approach that capitalizes on the ancient "hardwiring" of the nervous system.
- Bioelectronic medicine is an emerging field that focuses on manipulating the nervous system to treat diseases.
- Clinical studies show that using electronic devices to stimulate the vagus nerve is effective at treating inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
- Although it's not yet approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, vagus nerve stimulation may also prove effective at treating other diseases like cancer, diabetes and depression.
The nervous system’s ancient reflexes<p>You accidentally place your hand on a hot stove. Almost instantaneously, your hand withdraws.</p><p>What triggered your hand to move? The answer is <em>not</em> that you consciously decided the stove was hot and you should move your hand. Rather, it was a reflex: Skin receptors on your hand sent nerve impulses to the spinal cord, which ultimately sent back motor neurons that caused your hand to move away. This all occurred before your "conscious brain" realized what happened.</p><p>Similarly, the nervous system has reflexes that protect individual cells in the body.</p><p>"The nervous system evolved because we need to respond to stimuli in the environment," said Dr. Tracey. "Neural signals don't come from the brain down first. Instead, when something happens in the environment, our peripheral nervous system senses it and sends a signal to the central nervous system, which comprises the brain and spinal cord. And then the nervous system responds to correct the problem."</p><p>So, what if scientists could "hack" into the nervous system, manipulating the electrical activity in the nervous system to control molecular processes and produce desirable outcomes? That's the chief goal of bioelectronic medicine.</p><p>"There are billions of neurons in the body that interact with almost every cell in the body, and at each of those nerve endings, molecular signals control molecular mechanisms that can be defined and mapped, and potentially put under control," Dr. Tracey said in a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJH9KsMKi5M" target="_blank">TED Talk</a>.</p><p>"Many of these mechanisms are also involved in important diseases, like cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, hypertension and shock. It's very plausible that finding neural signals to control those mechanisms will hold promises for devices replacing some of today's medication for those diseases."</p><p>How can scientists hack the nervous system? For years, researchers in the field of bioelectronic medicine have zeroed in on the longest cranial nerve in the body: the vagus nerve.</p>
The vagus nerve<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTYyOTM5OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NTIwNzk0NX0.UCy-3UNpomb3DQZMhyOw_SQG4ThwACXW_rMnc9mLAe8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="09add" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f38dbfbbfe470ad85a3b023dd5083557" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
Electrical signals, seen here in a synapse, travel along the vagus nerve to trigger an inflammatory response.
Credit: Adobe Stock via solvod<p>The vagus nerve ("vagus" meaning "wandering" in Latin) comprises two nerve branches that stretch from the brainstem down to the chest and abdomen, where nerve fibers connect to organs. Electrical signals constantly travel up and down the vagus nerve, facilitating communication between the brain and other parts of the body.</p><p>One aspect of this back-and-forth communication is inflammation. When the immune system detects injury or attack, it automatically triggers an inflammatory response, which helps heal injuries and fend off invaders. But when not deployed properly, inflammation can become excessive, exacerbating the original problem and potentially contributing to diseases.</p><p>In 2002, Dr. Tracey and his colleagues discovered that the nervous system plays a key role in monitoring and modifying inflammation. This occurs through a process called the <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature01321" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">inflammatory reflex</a>. In simple terms, it works like this: When the nervous system detects inflammatory stimuli, it reflexively (and subconsciously) deploys electrical signals through the vagus nerve that trigger anti-inflammatory molecular processes.</p><p>In rodent experiments, Dr. Tracey and his colleagues observed that electrical signals traveling through the vagus nerve control TNF, a protein that, in excess, causes inflammation. These electrical signals travel through the vagus nerve to the spleen. There, electrical signals are converted to chemical signals, triggering a molecular process that ultimately makes TNF, which exacerbates conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.</p><p>The incredible chain reaction of the inflammatory reflex was observed by Dr. Tracey and his colleagues in greater detail through rodent experiments. When inflammatory stimuli are detected, the nervous system sends electrical signals that travel through the vagus nerve to the spleen. There, the electrical signals are converted to chemical signals, which trigger the spleen to create a white blood cell called a T cell, which then creates a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. The acetylcholine interacts with macrophages, which are a specific type of white blood cell that creates TNF, a protein that, in excess, causes inflammation. At that point, the acetylcholine triggers the macrophages to stop overproducing TNF – or inflammation.</p><p>Experiments showed that when a specific part of the body is inflamed, specific fibers within the vagus nerve start firing. Dr. Tracey and his colleagues were able to map these relationships. More importantly, they were able to stimulate specific parts of the vagus nerve to "shut off" inflammation.</p><p>What's more, clinical trials show that vagus nerve stimulation not only "shuts off" inflammation, but also triggers the production of cells that promote healing.</p><p>"In animal experiments, we understand how this works," Dr. Tracey said. "And now we have clinical trials showing that the human response is what's predicted by the lab experiments. Many scientific thresholds have been crossed in the clinic and the lab. We're literally at the point of regulatory steps and stages, and then marketing and distribution before this idea takes off."<br></p>
The future of bioelectronic medicine<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTYxMDYxMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjQwOTExNH0.uBY1TnEs_kv9Dal7zmA_i9L7T0wnIuf9gGtdRXcNNxo/img.jpg?width=980" id="8b5b2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c005e615e5f23c2817483862354d2cc4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="2000" data-height="1125" />
Vagus nerve stimulation can already treat Crohn's disease and other inflammatory diseases. In the future, it may also be used to treat cancer, diabetes, and depression.
Credit: Adobe Stock via Maridav<p>Vagus nerve stimulation is currently awaiting approval by the US Food and Drug Administration, but so far, it's proven safe and effective in clinical trials on humans. Dr. Tracey said vagus nerve stimulation could become a common treatment for a wide range of diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, hypertension, shock, depression and diabetes.</p><p>"To the extent that inflammation is the problem in the disease, then stopping inflammation or suppressing the inflammation with vagus nerve stimulation or bioelectronic approaches will be beneficial and therapeutic," he said.</p><p>Receiving vagus nerve stimulation would require having an electronic device, about the size of lima bean, surgically implanted in your neck during a 30-minute procedure. A couple of weeks later, you'd visit, say, your rheumatologist, who would activate the device and determine the right dosage. The stimulation would take a few minutes each day, and it'd likely be unnoticeable.</p><p>But the most revolutionary aspect of bioelectronic medicine, according to Dr. Tracey, is that approaches like vagus nerve stimulation wouldn't come with harmful and potentially deadly side effects, as many pharmaceutical drugs currently do.</p><p>"A device on a nerve is not going to have systemic side effects on the body like taking a steroid does," Dr. Tracey said. "It's a powerful concept that, frankly, scientists are quite accepting of—it's actually quite amazing. But the idea of adopting this into practice is going to take another 10 or 20 years, because it's hard for physicians, who've spent their lives writing prescriptions for pills or injections, that a computer chip can replace the drug."</p><p>But patients could also play a role in advancing bioelectronic medicine.</p><p>"There's a huge demand in this patient cohort for something better than they're taking now," Dr. Tracey said. "Patients don't want to take a drug with a black-box warning, costs $100,000 a year and works half the time."</p><p>Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health, elaborated:</p><p>"Why would patients pursue a drug regimen when they could opt for a few electronic pulses? Is it possible that treatments like this, pulses through electronic devices, could replace some drugs in the coming years as preferred treatments? Tracey believes it is, and that is perhaps why the pharmaceutical industry closely follows his work."</p><p>Over the long term, bioelectronic approaches are unlikely to completely replace pharmaceutical drugs, but they could replace many, or at least be used as supplemental treatments.</p><p>Dr. Tracey is optimistic about the future of the field.</p><p>"It's going to spawn a huge new industry that will rival the pharmaceutical industry in the next 50 years," he said. "This is no longer just a startup industry. [...] It's going to be very interesting to see the explosive growth that's going to occur."</p>
"The Expanse" is the best vision I've ever seen of a space-faring future that may be just a few generations away.
- Want three reasons why that headline is justified? Characters and acting, universe building, and science.
- For those who don't know, "The Expanse" is a series that's run on SyFy and Amazon Prime set about 200 years in the future in a mostly settled solar system with three waring factions: Earth, Mars, and Belters.
- No other show I know of manages to use real science so adeptly in the service of its story and its grand universe building.
Credit: "The Expanse" / Syfy<p>Now, I get it if you don't agree with me. I love "Star Trek" and I thought "Battlestar Galactica" (the new one) was amazing and I do adore "The Mandalorian". They are all fun and important and worth watching and thinking about. And maybe you love them more than anything else. But when you sum up the acting, the universe building, and the use of real science where it matters, I think nothing can beat "The Expanse". And with a <a href="https://www.rottentomatoes.com/tv/the_expanse" target="_blank">Rotten Tomato</a> average rating of 93%, I'm clearly not the only one who feels this way.</p><p>Best.</p><p>Show.</p><p>Ever. </p>
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