EMINA MELONIC: American Ornithological Society flies off the handle over 'racist' birds named for white people

Nothing is safe from the scourge of political correctness. Not even birds of North America can escape it. The American Ornithological Society has decided to change the English names of around 80 species of birds that are named after people and/or whose names are deemed offensive and hurtful in any way.

The NPR reporting about this change reads more like an article published in the Babylon Bee but unfortunately, it is not satire. The president of the American Ornithological Society, Colleen Handel, said that “names have power and power can be used for the good or it can be used for the bad…we want these names to be powerful in a really good way.”

Disregarding for a moment the sheer banality and dullness of Handel’s statement, what do such transparently ideological considerations have to do with ornithology, an actual science?

“We’ve come to understand,” said Handel, “that there are certain names that have offensive or derogatory connotations that cause pain to people that it is important to change those, to remove those barriers to their participation in the world of birds.”

Once again, this statement is both banal and evidence-free. Who out there is having nervous breakdowns over a North American bird’s name, and why are they getting an audience with the American Ornithological Society instead of a therapist? In what sense is the name of a bird whose origin most people will likely never bother to Google so exclusionary as to compromise the diversity of birdwatchers, or the pastime’s inclusivity?

The change didn’t go well for people like Kenn Kaufmann, who has written many field guides to birds. “I’ve been seeing some of these birds and using these names every year for the last 60 years,” said Kaufmann. But somehow, he saw the light beaming through the godless cloisters of the church of political correctness, and became one of the enlightened beings. He now sees the value of such a task, and it’s even “an exciting opportunity to give these birds names that celebrate them–rather than some person in the past.” One supposes he even considers the change doubleplusgood now.

A biologist at Trent University in Canada, Erica Nol, fully supports the movement to change the names because “names are important for humans…they’re important for the people who watch birds and the communities who may or may not feel very welcome, if all the birds are named after these old European ornithologists.” It’s those pesky “dead white European males” that continue to be a problem for our society, despite the fact that it is indeed the same men who were explorers of nature, and ultimately, its preservationists.

The proponents of political correctness, which is at bottom an anti-human ideology, have always focused on the peripheral issues, or more frequently, made up social and political issues within the context of both the humanities and sciences. The idea of justice and injustice figures prominently in projects such as these, where victimhood reigns supreme. The more grievances there are, the more saturated with social changes the academic or scientific field will be. This is one of the reasons why, for example, universities are not producing any kind of visible results but are mostly propagating ideology. (Of course, who gets to complain and be a victim is entirely determined by the ministry of political correctness.)

The case of the American Ornithological Society follows a pretty familiar and set pattern of ideological expression. But they seem to be oblivious to one aspect: the purpose and mission of the society itself. If we are to be actual stewards of nature who preserve the animal and plant world (in this case, the bird species), how can we focus on such trivial matters such as names of the birds?

Who is the endangered species here? The people who are complaining about the birds’ names or birds themselves? No matter how hard they try, the radical ideologues will always get themselves tied in a knot of pleasing the self-appointed “victims.” There is no end to the so-called social justice, and every bird name will become a problem. Why not just get rid of the entire linguistic system and simply number the birds? Then again, I suppose that will cause problems because math is hard and also racist, or something.

As funny as the proposed change by the American Ornithological Society is, it points to a larger problem: the pervasive joylessness among the ideological elites. Birds sure as hell don’t care about the names, nor do people who genuinely enjoy bird watching. For some, it is an activity that connects them to a deeper side of the natural world, and the regard for any ideological system is irrelevant. Unjustified guilt should not be part of such a connection. The only thing that matters is a sense of wonder and awe for nature. If one is too busy spotting so-called “offensiveness” even in the names of birds -- in other words, if one is primed to see ugliness everywhere, and to hallucinate it when reality won’t cooperate -- then how can one ever be expected to appreciate beauty?

Image: Title: birds renaming