Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The other "n" word...

Another issue came up during the discussion about people who "ghost" others after unsuccessful dates and get billed.  This issue is kind of related in an oblique way, and I have a feeling that the person who is prompting this post might be annoyed that I'm writing about it.  I'm going to do it anyway, because it's on my mind.

During the early part of the discussion about the woman who was billed after she ghosted her date, a man I'll call "PC" commented that the guy who billed the woman for ghosting him was acting like a "Neanderthal".  I thought that was an interesting remark, mainly because PC has said on more than one occasion that he thinks it's important to be "PC" (politically correct).  In that situation, PC was writing about a guy who had unfriended and blocked him on Facebook because their political views didn't align.  Apparently, the un-PC guy was using language that was objectionable to the PC guy.

PC and I had a Facebook discussion about political correctness.  I wrote that I don't believe being "PC" is always the best thing.  I still feel that way.  While I think it's good to be mindful of language and not use it to hurt other people, I also think sometimes you can go too far when you try to be too politically correct.  It can be very stifling to the freedom of expression and the exchange of ideas.  I think it can also dumb down society.  However, I also don't like hypocrisy or double standards.  So, when PC referred to the guy who billed his bad date as a "Neanderthalic idiot", I decided to speak up.

You see, according to 23andme, I have a LOT of Neanderthal ancestry.  In fact, they say I have more than 89% of their current customers.

You see?  I discovered this about myself in September 2017, four years after I wrote a post referring to certain types of men as "Neanderthals"...

Although I am myself guilty of referring to certain types of people as "Neanderthals", I have since come to learn that the term is actually based in ignorance.  Back in the 19th century, when the skulls of Neanderthals were first found, the thinking was that the shape of a person's skull gave clues as to his or her intellect and morality.  That idea was even pushed by the physicians of that time.  Since Neanderthals had oddly shaped skulls, people thought they were primitive and simple.  More modern research has indicated that Neanderthals were not "stupid", "backwards", or "uncivilized".  From the link in this paragraph:

“To use the word [Neanderthal] to mean ‘brutish and stupid’ is really kind of baseless.” As we learn more about Neanderthals, the opposite picture emerges—recent studies indicate they likely used materials from their environment to start fires faster, hunted large animals, and cave-painted with the best of them, all signs of cognitive complexity. Besides, we mated with them for tens of thousands of years. Neanderthal contributions to the human genome have been “really useful,” especially immunologically..." 

Evelyn Jagoda, who at the time the article was written in 2016, was a Ph.D. student at Harvard University's Human Evolutionary Biology Department.     

Since I am myself full of Neanderthal heritage, it would be stupid for me to continue to use that term as a pejorative.  I'd basically be cutting myself down.  And since I don't like double standards and hypocrisy, it would be against my policy to not speak up when someone else uses it, particularly when he or she has been very vocal about other folks using certain racist pejoratives.  

To be honest, my initial comments to PC about Neanderthals were intended to be funny.  I wasn't seriously busting his chops about using the term because I knew what he meant, and I was sure he wasn't actually being hateful.  Lots of people-- and I mean otherwise very intelligent folks like journalists and bloggers-- use that term.  It will probably continue to mean "caveman-like" for as long as I'm living.  And, hey, at least there aren't any true Neanderthals still walking the Earth that will be offended by the reckless use of that term.  I'm not on a mission to squelch the word or even to shame people who use it.  I was really just having a little fun.

However, PC did get upset that I called him out... or, at least that's how it seemed.  His tone turned pissy and sarcastic and, frankly, it annoyed me.  It was especially annoying when he accused me of wanting to "jump" on him about his comments on being PC.  I promise, that is the last thing I want to do.  I really don't enjoy drama or confrontation that much.  But I also don't enjoy hypocrisy or people assuming they know what's on my mind.  Chances are, if you stick around long enough, you'll find out exactly what's on my mind, whether you want to or not.  And if you're really lucky, I'll write a blog post about you.  :-)

Anyway, he later came back to resume the discussion.  It was after nine and I'd had dinner and a couple of beers.  I'd pretty much forgotten about the discussion and was looking forward to going to bed, so when he left another comment, I responded, "Fine.  I don't care."  Because at that point, I really didn't.  In fact, I had actually posted earlier that I don't care if he uses the term, "Neanderthal".  I was simply making a point about the careless use of pejoratives.  He regularly preaches about not using hateful terms like the "n-word" for black people or the "k-word" for Jewish people.  In the same vein, lots of folks have Neanderthal roots and aren't "loutish, primitive, or backwards."  When you call someone a Neanderthal or refer to Neanderthal behavior, you may be insulting someone who is completely innocent.  

For the record-- no, I don't think the term "Neanderthal" is as hateful as the "n-bomb", the "k-word". the "r-word", or even the "c-word", but if you think about it, it's just as ignorant and wrong to use that term as it is the better known pejoratives.  And now that more people are learning about their actual origins, the term "Neanderthal" as an insult might even become taboo someday.  

It really hadn't been my intention for this discussion to blow up as it had.  Originally, I was pretty much joking.  It annoyed me to see it turn into something ugly and I was relieved when it died, as PC evidently had to go to work.  So then later, when PC wanted to know why I posted my comments, I responded in an admittedly bitchy way... because to me, it was kind of obvious, and I was done with the topic.  It had been seven hours since the last comment, I was about to go to bed, and frankly, it wasn't really that important-- certainly not important enough for me to continue discussing it and messing up my peace before bedtime.  

To add insult to injury, about an hour later, I was lying in bed reading and another guy wanted to get me into a discussion about the woman who had "ghosted" the guy.  I feel pretty sure that he didn't see that I had just told PC that it was bedtime, so I responded thusly.

Hey. It’s 10:00pm and I’m trying to read. I do not want to argue about this right now, okay? And I am not obligated to. Leave me alone.

I don't know why, but I've run out of patience with a lot of people recently, especially on social media.  It could be that I need a vacation or maybe my hormones are out of whack.  But, for some reason, I'm caring less about whether or not I offend people.  I might find myself with fewer "friends" soon, which might not be a bad thing.  I'd rather have a couple of good friends than a lot of friends with whom I can't be honest.

At the same time, I think people in America forget that I'm at least six hours ahead of them.  When they're just getting off work, I'm about to go to sleep.  Since I read on my iPad, I get Facebook notifications.  I should probably turn them off or, better yet, go back to reading actual books.  Or even better than that, get off of Facebook...  but that probably won't happen.


  1. It would seem to be inconsistent with one's ideology to pride oneself on political correctness but then to be insistent upon using a racial term -- ANY racial term -- pejoratively after the political incorrectness of doing so has been called to the person's attention.

    1. Right. To his credit, he did say that he'd thought about it and could learn from our discussion. But, to be honest, I was still a little butthurt about how pissy and sarcastic he'd been earlier. Sue me. I'm human.


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