PEOPLE & PERFORMANCE: December 1994 issue            back to articles menu


TOPIC: Political Correctness - An appeal for balance.

Zampolit. It’s not a word you will be familiar with unless you are from a Communist country or have studied Communist politics and military command structures. On a Russian warship, running alongside the usual officer Command structure common to Western nations, was another Officer decidedly uncommon - the Zampolit, the Party’s eyes and ears, as well as the propaganda mouthpiece. The Zampolit’s job was to ensure the political purity of thought, word & deed of all personnel on board the ship. I have spoken to people who have experienced it, and they report the Zampolit’s real power as quite frightening. Say the wrong word or make the wrong kind of joke, and you might suddenly receive a transfer notice, or be recalled from active duty to an education centre for ‘retraining’.

Tolerance, recognition of human frailty, teamwork, commonsense, flexibility - these words do not fit the Zampolit ‘person profile’. Unswerving devotion to the cause, fanatical thought processes, unbending adherence to the Party line - these are the desired attributes. What has happened to the Zampolit in recent times can only be guessed at. Restriction suddenly released often involves a back-lash........

Well, maybe they’ve escaped over here. They seem to be popping up all over the place, cunningly disguised as fanatical activists for every possible cause. And there’s really no hope for me. I should be taken out into the middle of a remote paddock, and shot. Not only do I seem to be the wrong sex, colour, socio-economic group, age and ethnic origin, but I’m finding it hard dealing with all this terminology business. To explain further, I’m male, pink, middle class (I think), not poor to the point where I need Government Assistance, over 40 (just), of British stock, and forget to say "she/he" and "a person might" at every possible moment. Not only that, but part of my humour routine, among others, involves placing one hand on my hip and lisping ‘Well, what’s a girl to do?’ in a particularly feminine way, just as a couple of Gay friends taught me to do (they both possessed a keen sense of humour, and a wish that some of their supporters could have one too....). In one of my workshops, I use an exercise I designed - without going into detail, each of the characters in this scenario has a short biography - and in one of those I so far forgot myself as to refer to someone being an ‘expert on the Maori Wars’. Now, before you rush to your telephones, or write blistering letters to mine Editor, I have already been advised of this terrible faux pas - they were, of course, the Land Wars. Since one group of Maori were fighting another group of Maori you can see how I got confused. And I truly believe that there are things that one gender naturally does better than the other - Men can’t give birth, and Women can’t have prostate problems.

Why have I chosen to write about this? Because it’s time someone did, and everyone else seems to be too scared....

I’m going to create a new secret society - so exclusive that any person of any race colour creed or gender can join. You can be old, too, and disabled if you want. The only qualifications for entry to this exclusive little club is that you must have been guilty of all the terrible faults I’ve mentioned above (or worse), you absolutely have to have a sense of humour and the ability to laugh at yourself, have an espoused aversion to extremist views, and you must firmly believe that ‘they’re taking it too far’. That’s why I’m calling it the "Taking It Too Far Club".

Those of you who know me, also know that I’m pretty harmless and would never in a million years knowingly or deliberately cause offence or hurt anyone, and you will be thinking "Crumbs", - or some other culturally insensitive word to that effect - "someone’s got up Steve’s nasal passage". And you’d be right.

I am heartily sick and tired of having my workshops hi-jacked by attention-seeking fanatical zealots who will stop at nothing and miss no opportunity to show the world how important they are. Everyone is important, but perhaps in reality these zealots feel they are introverted little nobodies, and in desperation have found a sure-fire way to grab the limelight and transform confident, intelligent, opinion-owning and fluent-speaking workshop participants into hesitant, stammering, disjointed mine-field walkers, having to censor each and every word prior to releasing it past the lips, and/or lapsing into silence rather than risk being labelled sexist, racist, age-ist or whatever the current flavour of the month the Zampolit present (there always is one) has chosen to support. Hence the nobody becomes somebody.

I would rather respect you for your balanced views intelligently & calmly expressed, than have a fearful respect from being hit around the head by a lump of four-by-two when I or one of my participants make the odd unintentional slip. If one of us makes a mistake - for goodness sake address it quietly, during a break. Please don’t use my workshops to grandstand your brand of dour fanaticism. In the end, the Russian people rebelled against it. So am I......

In pursuit of tolerance, humanity, humour, balance & freedom,

Carpe Diem

Steve Punter ANZIM, Dip Bus (PMER), FHRINZ
Staff Training Associates Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand. email:
Steve Punter 1994 All rights reserved by the author                                                                                                                            back to articles menu