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Column: Roger's Soapbox

The Thought Police

By: | August 4, 2014 • 3 min read
Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

I wish to make a statement about political correctness. What does that have to do with insurance, you ask? To my mind, everything has something to do with insurance, because anything that affects people affects insurance people, who are often, when all is said and done, people.

“Political correctness gone mad.” How often have you heard that phrase? The best definition of PC I’ve ever come across was written by journalist and author Paul Johnson:

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“[It] is invented and enforced … by members of the lower-middle classes with official positions and leftist leanings — municipal librarians, state school teachers, minor employees in central and local government. It is primarily a system of verbal and written censorship, banning all words and expressions likely to ‘cause offence.’

“It is,” Johnson added, “the most comprehensive system of censorship since the days of Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia.”

Some examples of PC in action: A driver in England was arrested for “revving his car engine in a racist manner.” He had stopped at a traffic light. He was white, some nearby pedestrians, black.

Elsewhere, a man was arrested and held for saying to a mounted police officer: “Your horse is a bit gay.”

A college professor was fired for using the word “niggardly.” The word, the root of which is Scandinavian, means “stingy.” No matter, someone got offended so he’s out.

An angry crowd beat senseless a pediatrician because they thought the word synonymous with pedophile. Sheer ignorance at work there more than political correctness, but it speaks to the moment.

Last month, a church poster stating that unrepentant sinners go to hell was forcibly removed by police. Unable to find any illegality in the poster, they recorded the act of putting it up as a “hate crime.”

Cohabiting in infamy next door to the n-word is now the g-word. The British Broadcasting Corp. last month banned the use of the word “girl” lest it caused offense. Bowdlerizing words merely draws attention to them. We all know what the n-word is; some of us understand that, in its use, context is king. To ban something is to add to its allure.

Rules intended to achieve diversity among the community have resulted in its direct opposite: uniformity of expression.

In the inspirational sentence (wrongly attributed to Voltaire), “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” the second half of the sentence has been replaced by “and the expression of your thoughts, since they disagree with mine, will result in your imprisonment.”

Most of the foregoing examples happened in the UK, all within the past three or four years. We are, dear reader, on the highway to, er, a place where it’s intolerably hot and everyone is extremely miserable. No, not Bermuda.

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As I said, these matters may not directly affect insurers yet, other than in their capacity as human beings, but sooner or later, someone will accuse the industry of discrimination and the walls will fall.

Oh, wait. It’s already happened. European motor insurers may no longer discriminate between male and female drivers. Their inability to use valuable data on the differences in driving habits between the two groups raised premiums across the board. Ignominy was subsequently piled on the industry.

The road to the h-word is paved with good intentions. It is to that very place that political correctness will assign us.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

The Profession

Curt Gross

This director of risk management sees cyber, IP and reputation risks as evolving threats, but more formal education may make emerging risk professionals better prepared.
By: | June 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first non-professional job was working at Burger King in high school. I learned some valuable life lessons there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

After taking some accounting classes in high school, I originally thought I wanted to be an accountant. After working on a few Widgets Inc. projects in college, I figured out that wasn’t what I really wanted to do. Risk management found me. The rest is history. Looking back, I am pleased with how things worked out.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?

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I think we do a nice job on post graduate education. I think the ARM and CPCU designations give credibility to the profession. Plus, formal college risk management degrees are becoming more popular these days. I know The University of Akron just launched a new risk management bachelor’s program in the fall of 2017 within the business school.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

I think we could do a better job with streamlining certificates of insurance or, better yet, evaluating if they are even necessary. It just seems to me that there is a significant amount of time and expense around generating certificates. There has to be a more efficient way.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

Selfishly, I prefer a destination with a direct flight when possible. RIMS does a nice job of selecting various locations throughout the country. It is a big job to successfully pull off a conference of that size.

Curt Gross, Director of Risk Management, Parker Hannifin Corp.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

Definitely the change in nontraditional property & casualty exposures such as intellectual property and reputational risk. Those exposures existed way back when but in different ways. As computer networks become more and more connected and news travels at a more rapid pace, it just amplifies these types of exposures. Sometimes we have to think like the perpetrator, which can be difficult to do.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

I hate to sound cliché — it’s quite the buzz these days — but I would have to say cyber. It’s such a complex risk involving nontraditional players and motives. Definitely a challenging exposure to get your arms around. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll really know the true exposure until there is more claim development.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?

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Our captive insurance company. I’ve been fortunate to work for several companies with a captive, each one with a different operating objective. I view a captive as an essential tool for a successful risk management program.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I can’t point to just one. I have and continue to be lucky to work for really good managers throughout my career. Each one has taken the time and interest to develop me as a professional. I certainly haven’t arrived yet and welcome feedback to continue to try to be the best I can be every day.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

I would like to think I have and continue to bring meaningful value to my company. However, I would have to say my family is my proudest accomplishment.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

Favorite movie is definitely “Good Will Hunting.”

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

Tough question to narrow down. If my wife ran a restaurant, it would be hers. We try to have dinner as a family as much as possible. If I had to pick one restaurant though, I would say Fire Food & Drink in Cleveland, Ohio. Chef Katz is a culinary genius.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

The Grand Canyon. It is just so vast. A close second is Stonehenge.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

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A few, actually. Up until a few years ago, I owned a sport bike (motorcycle). Of course, I wore the proper gear, took a safety course and read a motorcycle safety book. Also, I have taken a few laps in a NASCAR [race car] around Daytona International Speedway at 180 mph. Most recently, trying to ride my daughter’s skateboard.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

The Dalai Lama. A world full of compassion, tolerance and patience and free of discrimination, racism and violence, while perhaps idealistic, sounds like a wonderful place to me.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

I really enjoy the company I work for and my role, because I get the opportunity to work with various functions. For example, while mostly finance, I get to interact with legal, human resources, employee health and safety, to name a few.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

I asked my son. He said, “Risk management and insurance.” (He’s had the benefit of bring-your-kid-to-work day.)

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]