The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has come out with a Language Guide for covid 19, prescribing language that it would like us all to use during the Covid crisis. Presumably health care workers should use this language, but it is being distributed to the media to influence how people are referred to there.
The most troubling aspect of this guide is the abandonment of ethics as the foundation for how we refer to and interact with others. Lead author, Harlan Pruden, educator with the Chee Mamuk program at the BC Centre for Disease Control, wants to ditch the Golden Rule ( treat others as you wish to be treated yourself) for what he calls the Platinum Rule (treat others as they wish to be treated). What he means is to replace ethics with mindless politeness.
The Golden Rule, as a code of ethics, has been around for at least 2500 years. Societies around the world have discovered and rediscovered it both in its positive and negative form (don’t treat others as you don’t want to be treated). My quick Google search identified ten religions, from Buddhism to Christianity, that include the proposition.
There’s a simple reason for this. To treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves is the best that we can offer each other. At its root, it means we treat other humans with respect, regardless of what we think of their actions, words or beliefs. It allows us to separate the sin from the sinner, the crime from the criminal so to speak. It’s because of the Golden Rule that we don’t throw the corpses of pedophiles and mass murderers in dumpsters or landfills. Or that we attempt to have humane prisons, rather than penning up a few thousand hardened criminals without any supervision and letting them go at each other.
To treat others as we would like to be treated requires thought. It does not always give us an easy answer. What feels like respect to me may not feel like respect to you. And so there may need to be some negotiation, and we may need to work hard to tease out respect from behind bias or prejudice.
The BCCDC would like us to retire it. It offers a new rule, formulated neither by a philosopher, theologian nor ethicist, but by LGBTIQ+ political activist Harlan Pruden: “Treat others as they wish to be treated.”
This sort of rule would have us starve anorexics – it is, afterall, what they want. If we truly are to treat others as they wish to be treated, we’d have to leave murderers and rapists free to wander our cities. Ask a thief how he would like to be treated, and I’m sure he would like to be given keys to all the locks in the city.
You think this is absurd? Yes, it is and it’s hard to see how this got by any medical ethicists at the BCCDC. Do they not employ any?
But the “Platinum Rule” is not just absurd. By juxtaposing it with the Golden Rule, the BCCDC is positioning it as an ethical rule. It is not. It has nothing to do with ethics. It is amoral. Whether we do good or do harm by treating others as they wish to be treated depends on the context. Buying drugs or alcohol for a minor because they ask you to outside the shop door – beneficial or harmful?
It may be that by treating others as they wish to be treated, we enable them to continue in a course of destructive behaviour. Anyone who’s ever lived with an alcoholic, anyone who’s ever attended al anon meetings will recognize the potential for the “Platinum Rule” to prevent people from having to confront their problems, face the consequences of their actions, or mature and grow.
At its worse, enabling behaviour robs us of our own integrity. The enabler lies to “protect” the person being enabled.
So who would seriously propose we all act according to this rule? That we stop thinking about whether we are helping or harming the person we are treating, society at large, or ourselves?
It should be obvious that there are people who want to be enabled and pandered to. People, like the alcoholic, who want to be surrounded by those willing to lie for them, cheat for them, even steal for them to enable them to continue in their addiction or other harmful behaviour.
One can well imagine addicts of all kinds shouting “treat me as I want to be treated”, excuse my absences from work because I’m hungover, excuse my non-payment of rent or the mortgage because I spend all my money on the drug, excuse my unreliability because my fix is more important to me than your needs.
It’s interesting that most of the language guide obeys, not the “Platinum Rule”, but the Golden Rule.
Asking people to use “people-first” language goes a long way to ensuring that. Usually referring to people as people with some attribute (a person with disabilities), rather than as the attribute (the disabled) feels more respectful. And it allows our humanity to be the dominant feature.
So why did the CDC feel a need to promote this new rule?
Is there any part of the guide for which the Golden Rule would be insufficient, where a group of people might want to be enabled rather than simply respected?
It would seem there is — the community that Harlan Pruden advocates on behalf of — the LGBTIQ+ community.
Here the authors of the guide find it necessary to teach readers “concepts” before teaching the language. These concepts, together, form a view of humanity that reduces sex categories to meaninglessness, replacing them with “gender identity”. These concepts are presented as if they are established facts rather than controversial opinions, omitting the fact that they have no scientific support, and that leading scientists around the world deny their validity.
In this section of the guide we are asked to suspend our critical faculties, to believe things many find unbelievable – for example, that we are not born male and female, but assigned a sex category at birth by doctors or midwives. We are supposed to accept that everyone has an internal gender identity at birth, that may or may not match our “assigned” sex.
In accordance with this ideological package, the guide wants us to refer to people as “he” or “she” depending on a non-material, invisible criteria rather than what stares us in the face. All of us are asked to announce “our pronouns” in our greetings to each other, and to ask others before referring to them by any pronouns. And then, we are told not to think of ourselves as male or female, but as “cisgender”. The guide teaches us this label means we have accepted societal stereotypes and roles that match our sex.
Reading this section makes clear with brilliant clarity the agenda of the new LGBTIG+ community – the community that began to evolve after T was added to LGB. This community bears little relationship to the old LGB associations that struggled to help gay men and lesbians who often suffered severe discrimination. The LGBTIG+ associations are increasingly looking like Men’s Rights associations and would more appropriately be called “Trans groups”. There’s no room for lesbians, because there’s no room for women. And much of the language the trans movement wants eliminates women – as adult human females – from view.
We are now supposed to refer to breastfeeding as chestfeeding and the women who do it as people, rather than women. We are supposed to stop naming vaginas, vulvas, clitorises and penises and refer instead to internal genitalia and external genitalia. Women have spent decades learning to use specific sexual vocabulary without embarrassment. How else can we have open discussions with our doctors? How can children, teens and adult women report sexual abuse if they’re not comfortable using the language?
This guide is preparing us to reject sex altogether as a way of categorizing people and replace it, as the trans community wishes, with gender id, which has no physical manifestations at all.
Women object. We exist, as distinct from men, no matter how the men identify, and we are oppressed by men because of our sex. We can’t identify out of that oppression. Accurate language that reflects scientifically verifiable facts is important. The CDC Language Guide, with its “Platinum Rule” wants us to accept lies, and to lie ourselves for the sake of being nice.