In a current column in U.S. News & World Report, John Leo points the finger at something he calls “nannyism.” As the name implies, it has to do with the notion that people aren’t able to take care of themselves properly, as is the case with small children, and, never mind their age, must be cared for by some higher power, temporal not spiritual, that will bring them safely through each day, intact and un-traumatized by even a slight threat to their well-being, mental or physical. Nannyism could probably also be called “big brotherism” or “big mother/fatherism” or any number of sobriquets defined as terms connoting the need for the (fill in the blank)-impaired poor soul needing to become a lamb in some shepherd’s herd. Generally, the shepherd is some governmental or other institutional agency designed often by fiat of some citizen-group, whether governmental or private, that feels compelled to make life s-o-o-o much easier than it would be absent their good offices.
Leo mentions the latest goofy enterprise by the National Collegiate Athletic Association to force colleges and universities to name their teams in such a way as to offend no individual or group, its latest brouhaha-causing efforts being to force Florida State University to change its teams’ name from “Seminoles” to something else…maybe “Clods,” since surely no gathering of garden globs under the resident tomatoes have enough sensitivity to be offended. The NCAA didn’t bother to ask any Seminoles in the country whether or not they were offended by FSU and so didn’t know Voila! that the consensus among Seminole-Americans is that they like for FSU to honor their tribe in such a way – tough winners. One wonders…shouldn’t the NCAA insist under its name-changing policy that Notre Dame change its team-name from the “Fighting Irish” to something a bit more civilized? How about the “Compassionate Diversityites,” since even the term “Irish” might be considered discriminatory and therefore offensive by the nation’s Italian- , German- , Japanese- , Polish-Americans, etc.?
Terminologies change through the years, of course. The term “problem” seems to have become a problem – and therefore offensive – for many, perhaps because in a multiculturally, warmly, marvelously, grandly, truly politically correct society, also known as Eden/Camelot/Utopia, there simply can’t be any problems. So…now, instead of problems, there are “issues.” He and his wife had an issue, causing him to slam her against the wall, or he had an issue with his car, since it wouldn’t start or the coach and the university had an issue, so he was fired and paid only $3 million instead of the $4 million he claimed he was owed. Ah, problems can cause…well…problems, since they may not go away; issues, on the other hand, are inevitably susceptible to negotiation, the magic word currently, never mind that negotiations are possible only when ALL the negotiators are on the same, level field of integrity. Issues, indeed…what balderdash!
Until around 45 years ago, Americans of African descent were ethnically known, by their own consensus, as “Negroes,” a term eliciting pride and remarking, besides a point of origin, a specific race. Apparently, that term had too much of the sound of “nigger,” so there came a succession of replacement terms – people of color, Afro-Americans, blacks, African-Americans. There was a time when the term “Indian” remarked a special race, but the political-correctness policemen/women/whatever decided that the designation was somehow degrading, notwithstanding the high regard in which these people have been held, as exemplified at FSU, so the term was outlawed in favor of “Native-Americans,” notwithstanding the fact that the forbears of these people, according to the historians, were not native to the country, but came from somewhere else, just as have the ancestors of all Americans.
There once was something called a “used car.” Used? How dreadful, even for a simple car, must it be to be accounted as used? The word-police – okay with a little help from the commercial gang – found a better term…the “pre-owned vehicle.” Presumably, the pre-owners never drove the machines…they just owned the things, which actually were not cars, but the much more respected “vehicles.” There were once people with physical/mental handicaps, but now the only things handicapped are sporting events. Folks with constraints are now “challenged” or “impaired,” but never handicapped, even if they’re on life support…they’re just breathing-challenged. If by chance they stop breathing, they’re not dead; rather, they’re merely living-challenged or existence-impaired. A high-school senior who can’t read is not ignorant. He’s just mentally challenged or perhaps print-impaired. If he rarely shows up for class and therefore flunks and consequently is forced to perform bank holdups for a living and (gasp) looked down upon as a result and thrown in jail, he is automatically grade-challenged and esteem-impaired, obviously through no fault of his own, since he apparently is also system-challenged…just can’t get along, thank you. Obviously, he should be made a ward of the state with a view toward turning him into a Rhodes scholar.
Any day now, look for a replacement term for baseball’s pinch-hitter, a tag for someone not good enough to be playing all the time. Maybe he’ll be called a ball-striker or a batting expert…anything to keep from his being referred to as a substitute, a term that connotes a second-teamer, a term guaranteed to incur the wrath of the word-gang and the esteem-nannies. The same goes for the pinch-runner and the relief pitcher, who probably will be called something like the game-preserver, surely the most important man on the field. The steroid-users in the sport will probably soon be referred to as muscle-challenged or biceps-impaired and therefore entitled to special treatment, not that they’re handicapped, of course, but just…well, handicapped.
Nannyism is easily spotted in city ordinances now. In the location of this corner, smoking is banned in all public buildings, whether the owners or even the customers/workers like it or not. People who enjoy a smoke while waiting for their food are welcome in sub-zero weather to go outside and puff, even if all the people in the restaurant are smokers or not bothered by smoke. The no-smoking signs are in the building and are disobeyed at the risk of being arrested or fined. Any day now, it is expected that there will be signs at the exits of all public buildings mandating that smoking is not allowed outside all public buildings, which means that it will be allowed mostly in homes, unless a family member perhaps signs a government document disallowing it. Perhaps smoking will be allowed in autos, but only if the windows are up and the car is decontaminated before they’re lowered. All this sounds rather silly, of course, but why shouldn’t it in a location where people can drink themselves under the table, then pour themselves into their cars and set out to kill some naughty cigar-smoking driver who happens to be on the wrong street at the wrong time? The city fathers/mothers worry about secondhand smoke, but never seem to understand the results of secondhand drinking.
People are becoming more and more accustomed to the ever present nanny. Finally, at least in some places, motorcyclists have been freed from wearing those bothersome helmets, but the day will come when they will be required to have seat belts (or is that saddle-belts?) on their machines. There are already laws requiring that people in cars wear seat belts/shoulder harnesses, and soon they may have to wear helmets, the better to withstand banging against the top of an overturning car. Sheesh! People just can’t take any chances like they once could. Big Nanny is watching!