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  • Writer's pictureBy Mar-Vic Cagurangan

Murder of the mind

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

(Following is an old column originally published May 22, 2014 in Marianas Variety News and Views. )

WARNING: This column can be offensive sometimes. I may hurt your feelings. Oh, you already know? Call me insensitive but I like to speak — err, write — my mind because I am a relic from the bygone age when people didn’t face persecution for calling things by their right names. That’s beside the fact that I am an arrogant “know-it-all”—to quote one of the only five readers of this column.

Political correctness has since caught on, sometimes allowing to ignorance to rule. Nowadays, no one would dare use the word “niggard” after a 1999 controversy involving David Howard, an aide to former Washington D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams. Howard took the heat for using the word “niggardly” in reference to a budget. His detractors, without bothering to look it up, misinterpreted it as a racial slur and lodged a complaint.

Political correctness is an infectious social virus that causes a disease of the brains. It mutes free speech and censors free thought. This virus has mutated into a new form, called “trigger warning,” threatening to cause an outbreak in American colleges.

“Trigger warning” is a national student movement that seeks to treat literature the same way the governments mandate that cigarette ads must come with a surgeon general’s warning.

Trigger warnings are advisories designed to warn people about the possibly offensive or trauma-triggering content of reading material or a video, thus giving them a chance to log off or turn the pages.

Trigger warnings have been ubiquitous mostly in feminist websites to caution victims of sexual violence to possibly upsetting related discussions. American college students, in their version of youthful rebellion, are seeking to expand the warning label to include a longer row of human suffering.

According to a recent Associated Press report, the college movement spawned from a seemingly modest proposal from Bailey Loverin, a literature major at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “What if professors were prodded to give students a written or oral heads-up before covering graphic material that could cause flashbacks in those who had been sexually assaulted, survived war or suffered other traumas?”

The idea, AP reported, proved popular with Loverin's classmates with the student government leaders at UCSB endorsing it. Hence the "Resolution to Mandate Warnings for Triggering Content in Academic Settings."

“This year, the University of Michigan, Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, Oberlin in Ohio, Rutgers in New Jersey, Scripps in California and Wellesley in Massachusetts all have fielded requests from students seeking more thoughtful treatment of potentially troubling readings, films, lectures and works of art,” AP reported.

The growing list of classic literature requested in various colleges for “trigger warning” application include “The Great Gatsby” (for misogyny), “Huck Finn” (for racism), “Things Fall Apart” (for colonialism and religious persecution) and “Mrs. Dalloway” (for suicide).

Thankfully, no college has so far approved such angst-ridden and capricious requests. If the trigger warning label applies, no book—none—will be read ever again. It will put a tombstone on literature — the repository of human secrets and stories of suffering.

This movement should be nipped in the bud. These misguided Holden Caulfields ought to find another excuse to skip their literature class instead of asking college administrators to set up an academic policy to treat students as if they are all on meds. It would be a bad idea to succumb to these students’ desires to shelter themselves from the shocking realities of the world and forfeit the chance to become full-grown human beings with substance. They must not take a shortcut to life like SparkNotes of a long novel.

So here’s a warning: When you get out of college, life does not come with warnings. Life can suck. Deal with it. Grow up.

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