Are we going a bit overboard on this political correctness thing? This thought occurred to me after reading two minor items in the newspapers this week.
The first one was about a company in America warning its male employees not to send Valentine day cards to female co-workers at the office. The company was afraid that some of its female employees may regard this as a form of sexual harassment in the workplace; and the company would, consequently, lay itself open to litigation.
The second news item concerned an Easyjet (a low budget airline in Britain) air passenger being offloaded from her flight because she had two small children with her. She accommodated one on her lap, but the booster seat she had brought along would not fit on her airline seat. The 35 year-old mother, Ann Jordan, was relieved when the lady sitting next to her offered to take the other child on her lap for the duration of the flight. That is when her farcical troubles began. The airline crew forced her and her small kids to deplane; not because of safety concerns, but because of child protection fears. The captain of the aircraft gave the rationale that, because the helpful co-passenger was a stranger, it was possible that she – and the airline – could be sued for abusing the infant.
The above two examples seem ludicrous but, apparently, such incidents happen more often than one would be led to believe. Why do they happen? Probably because – in a society where everyone can sue everyone else over almost anything – people and organizations are not willing to take any risks; even if their actions are patently ridiculous.
Getting a Valentine card is sexual harassment? Come on. If a woman does not relish getting one, she can just tear it up. Standing up for individual liberties is fine, but let’s not take it to absurd extremes. At this rate, using pick up line up on a member of the opposite sex, in a bar – or just plain flirting – may soon become a felony. Or, just to be on the safe side, a man will get written permission from the parents before asking a woman out on a date. It sounds absurd, but at a time when frivolous litigation seems to be the norm, very few will want to take chances. Old-fashioned chivalry is already dead: now even other delights, like spontaneity, may have to be put in cold storage. And by the way, you can knock your wife around. As long as you don’t cause permanent injury, the police, or the lawyers are not going to come calling.
The incident involving the young mother is just as ludicrous. Is it now a crime to be helpful? Have we become so suspicious of our fellow man, that even a simple act of kindness is viewed with suspicion? Where is it all going to end? Where does common sense take a back seat to paranoia?
Maybe modern society – particularly in the West – is being hyper-legalized. There are too many statutes; even for trifles. Almost anything you can think of constitutes grounds for litigation. We are becoming scared of our own shadows. I’m not advocating that we go back to the days of the Wild West, where most arguments were settled with guns, but what’s wrong with the aggrieved parties just sitting down and talking – maybe having a chat across the garden fence? Do we need a lawyer for everything? Let us not fall into the trap of becoming so civilized that we end up shooting ourselves in the foot. Let’s get real, folks.