Who Sits at the Round Table?
The 1950’s were a time of great nationalism in the United States. As a child growing up in Chicago during that decade, I listened to radio shows and started to understand the concept of “nations”. Everybody was waving the flag, and propaganda was thick over the airwaves. From this propaganda, one thing made a great impression on me, and that was the freedom of speech.
We were taught that in places, such as the Soviet Union, one could not say what was in their heart if not approved by a political party, or you would be imprisoned. As I grew older, most of the kids I knew were immigrants: Mexicans, Chinese (as I lived close to Chinatown), Italians and Polish. I would hear their parents speak, and it appeared to me that no matter the reason they chose to immigrate to the U.S.A., one of the primary factors was always that one could speak their mind - a right protected by law. It is one of the principle foundations of this nation.
I have always been proud of that: freedom of expression.
Some 35 years ago, I was having a debate with a gentleman in Las Vegas’ Rainbow Café. It was an old-style café, with a small stage, coveted by artists, poets and intellectuals. To me, this was the United States of America. This is where ideas were born, where we debated and expressed ourselves. All ideas were welcome, and everything was up for debate; I always felt rich by the time I left. I probably spent as much time there, or more, as I did in my own home.
One particular debate was about poverty. The gentleman I was debating believed that poor people were lazy. I grew up very poor in dilapidated neighborhoods, and witnessed a great deal of inequities. Our conversation soon became quite heated. This was common at the Rainbow Café; in fact, it was the norm.
Soon, a group of people approached us and appeared to be quite angry and disgusted. A woman in the group rudely interjected that if we wished to speak in such an inappropriate manner, we should do it in the confines of our homes, as it was disruptive and cruel.
The owner of the café came over to smooth things over. He told the group they were welcome in his café, but they were not welcome to condemn or interfere in debates which were taking place on the floor, as that was the primary reason he had opened the café. One of the gentlemen said if that was so, they would not be coming back, and would spread the word what a horrible place it was. But a week later, they returned with more friends. As the weeks passed, more people started hanging around the café with the sole purpose of condemning open debate and wanting to put rules on the words used and how they were expressed. The café also started to attract more people from the New-Age movement, who complained even more.
As time went by, the artisans and the poets began to fade away. What once was a rich place of debate and expression rapidly transformed into a hive of the “Word Police”. The conversations had gone from rich and passionate expressions of self and observations of our society, to saying whatever happened to be popular at the moment, and devoid of passion or meaning.
This was the resurgence of “political correctness”.
As I expressed in last week’s blog, the passion we put into words are important. It seems to me that as time passes, too many of my brothers and sisters are no longer listening to the intent of what is being said. We are not feeling the words of others, but instead listening for key words that have been placed on the “list of offenses”. If a four-letter word is weaved into one’s articulation, one does not see the wisdom of what is being said or feel the pain that person is expressing.
But they will, within themselves, hit a panic button and proclaim offense.
The offending person will then be judged as being inappropriate, while their intelligence and expression are also degraded. They will be notified there are other ways to say the same thing without using the offending word, and because sentiment was not expressed in the proper way, one cannot accept the wisdom of the offender.
It is not the use of a four-letter word injected into the articulation of an expression that offends another individual; in most cases, the offended are searching for reasons to justify their own pain. More so each day, we are looking for reasons of why we are already angry inside of ourselves.
As a world in pain, it is difficult to keep our friendly masks on. The pressure of our own internal pain becomes overwhelming, and we no longer hear and feel what a person is saying, but instead search amongst the many words of their expression so we may find reason for our discomfort. Only then do we allow ourselves to express our pain (even if we condemn someone who is speaking with wisdom), as long as we can mask our own insecurities by accusing the actions or words of another. Now we are justified to scream our disgust, for a crime has been committed against humanity; we also pat ourselves on the back for having stood up and attacked the speaker, thereby defending the righteous.
An example: a few months back, a young man came in the store and purchased a small item; he had already indicated it was a gift. Our sales clerk inquired whether the recipient was male or female, because at that time we had a variety of gift pouches in different colors, with some more suitable for males than females. Like a light switch being flipped, the individual went from being happy and outgoing to becoming very rigid. He stuck his chest out, and shouted with disgust, “We no longer make those distinctions!”
A pleasant experience immediately became hostile. The item was simply put into a plastic bag and handed to him. He left looking at both of us as though we were disgusting and backward people. No doubt by his body language, he had expressed his superior consciousness, and now had a story to tell on his Facebook page on the ignorance of people over the age of 30!
As retailers, it is impossible to always know the do’s and don’ts of another, nor do we attempt to speculate on what may or may not offend an individual. What offends one, another will find beauty within. So, we simply work toward treating all with respect and dignity. It works 95% of the time; with the other 5%, it all depends on the weather that is in their hearts and minds at the time. In the attempt to be helpful, the young man I spoke of earlier became blind to good intent. He could only see the darkness within himself. This unfortunately, more often than not, is the self-created blindness that is encouraged from those who convene at the “Round Table”.
What is the “Round Table”?
The “Round Table” are groups of people who are nameless, and who think they can dictate what is or is not offensive. They are people who proclaim they believe in the freedom of expression, as long as it is the expression they see fit. Daily they are making the rules to shape the expression of our hearts, and as they do, they create greater and greater divisions.
If the true intent of political correctness is that we will not offend our brothers and sisters, it has failed. Instead, it seems to cause great inhibitions, as it limits the expression of minds in fear that they will be perceived to be ignorant or less intelligent than another. It also gives power to the angry people who are looking to condemn anything. Instead of becoming gentler in articulating their expression, it seems as though many are going out of their way to be more vicious and offensive, purposely looking to offend another, while others are exceptionally good in using pleasant words as they degrade another, simultaneously proclaiming that they said nothing offensive.
I meditate often, and there is a simple chant which I often use. I call it the "Meditation of the Heart". Like most meditations, I begin by feeling my breath. The chant itself is simple: I repeat over and over, “My heart, my heart, I am my heart”. I often do this for hours. Through this meditation, I practice feeling my existence, and it also inspires me to speak the truth from my heart.
We need to ask on a daily basis, who are these people who sit at the “Round Table”, and who attempt to restrict the expression of your heart? Who are these people who imprison the words of our brothers and sisters? I don’t think anyone can give a name, for they are nameless.
So, from my heart, I will ask: “Why do we allow it?”
Be at Peace.