Today, Classically Educated’s Editor-In-Chief answers exactly why he’s been so outspoken – sometimes controversially so – against organized expressions of political correctness. These are his views, and clearly might not reflect that of all our contributors (see here if you happen to doubt that – or read any of Scarlett’s posts).
I am often asked why I react negatively whenever a practicer of the dogma of political correctness pops up. Those who know who I am and how I think are puzzled by the strength of my feelings towards this. “After all,” they say, “the PC brigade is merely fighting for things you believe in strongly: freedom and equality regardless of race, gender sexual orientation, etc. You should be on the bandwagon with a megaphone.” Even this very blog has a number of female guest bloggers (many more than the men), Bloggers who are notable members of the LBGT community and even people who enjoy Tango! That clearly shows an open mind.
Well, they’re partially correct. The stated intentions behind the PC onslaught are good – but jumping on the bandwagon implies looking past certain extremely difficult issues. I will ignore the obvious agenda-driven stuff (we’ve covered that elsewhere), but will look at the root problem I have with it.
But first, I’d like to see if you can guess which system gave rise to the following phrases:
A) …man is man only by virtue of the spiritual process to which he contributes as a member of the family, the social group, the nation, and in function of history to which all nations bring their contribution
B) Do not give opinions or advice unless you are asked. Do not tell your troubles to others unless you are sure they want to hear them.
C) It is always more difficult to fight against faith than against knowledge.
D) Experiment shows that drinking but one small bottle of beer or one glass of wine may impair a man’s driving capacity… Practically all the hit-run fatal accidents are caused by drunken drivers, says Frank A. Goodwin, Massachusetts Registrar of Motor Vehicles.
Let’s see how well you did:
A) Fascism (from an article by Benito Mussolini)
B) Satanism (from the commandments of the Church of Satan)
C) Nazism (Hitler quote)
D) Prohibition (Temperance Movement propaganda pamphlet)
What do all four of these movements (plus communism, populism, Christian Fundamentalism and almost all the other isms you’ll encounter) have in common? They all believe that the world would be a much better place for all mankind if only people would think the way they do.
They essentially come up with a set of rules to try to tell adults how to think and act that go beyond what the social contract has evolved to look like. Now, it is understood that society works on the tenet that, if we all agree on something, we make it a law in some way – but that should not extend to thought.
In particular, I am concerned by the tendency of the PC crowd to attack innocent bystanders for not doing enough to promote their agenda. I’ve been told that being truly colorblind isn’t possible (with which I vehemently disagree), but that even if it was, it isn’t enough. One must actively work to address all inequality inherent in the patriarchy (their silly concept, not mine). Patently ridiculous – people who peacefully live within the accepted social norms should not be bombarded with internet hatred by weirdos because they aren’t perceived to be doing enough. That is a violation of individual rights and freedoms which I feel is unacceptable.
The second thing that all these movements have in common is that humor is off-limits. What I personally enjoyed most about Seth McFarlane’s Oscar show in 2013 was watching the backlash on social media the following day. The PC crowd went nuts. But then, fledgeling totalitarianisms where aberrant thought is illegal tend to be composed of humorless apparatichiks. I happen to believe that adults should be allowed to laugh at whatever they want, and that it can still be funny, even if it’s lacking in sensitivity.
Another thing I am completely against is quotas. Otherwise intelligent people in the PC community swear that they don’t favor quotas, and that quotas are a myth, especially in corporate society. Perhaps things have changed since I was last employed a World 500 company, but as of 2007, I can say the quota system was running beautifully, and that finding a competent female minority among your candidates was celebrated like a sudden-death touchdown. They might not always have been the best candidates, mind you, but they were good enough and ticked two boxes at once, allowing you to optimize for talent in the rest of your structure. Some equal opportunities are more equal than others.
The same thing, of course, has been happening in the literary world, especially in some genres. There are sad, bored people out there who dedicate their lives to reading tables of contents with a fine-tooth comb to try to see whether women and minorities are acceptably represented (don’t believe me? Look here). So editors tend to skew towards the safe call, and tokenism results, often at the cost of quality*, which is unacceptable to me.
On a slightly more technical note, the current PC movement is philosophically based on postmodernism and, even worse, on the utterly ludicrous (and inexplicable even by its own creator) concept of deconstruction. Now, while I understand that it’s easier to create an army of PC parrots** if you only look at things from a single point of view, exhaustively analyzed, it doesn’t change the fact that things do not exist in a vacuum like ideal gases. Most objects of criticism need to be understood in many phases, which is why things like critical race theory or feminist criticism can usually be picked apart with little training. They simply omit too many important factors to be relevant.
Please see original comic on XKCD (plus mouse-over), here
I won’t get into the “postmodernism is dead discussion” other than to say that postmodernism should have been aborted at conception. Preferably violently. Of course, modernism had its issues, too, so it’s a thorny question.
Finally, like all totalitarian regimes, PC-Parrotism is trying to tell people what the right way of thinking is. There is a tendency towards revising history to show more “balance” (I would love to ask a 10th century serf if he felt a balanced view was accurate), a tendency towards progressive education which attempts to level the playing field between the talented and untalented, and any number of other tools attempting to create a “right” way of thinking.
I believe that the only way of of creating people who think correctly is to give them the facts, to teach them all the points of view and the thinking behind them, and to let them go out and figure it out for themselves. Starting from the conclusion is a stupid way to try to teach stuff – which is probably why it only occurs in the social “sciences”.
Of course, this is all open to discussion. Context is important. The last time I called Prohibition the dumbest thing ever invented until the PC movement, I was told that, in the context of post Civil War and WWI America, many men were suffering from Post Traumatic Stress, and drinking was a real problem.
Perhaps, but removing a pleasurable experience for every other adult in the country on those grounds seems unacceptable. Individual freedom is too valuable to sacrifice on the altar even of something so important.
If I’d been alive back then, I would have invited them to discuss the issue over a nice drink.
Hmm. I probably would have gotten in trouble even without the internet…
* In my particular case, this works in my favor, as no one would confuse my name with that of a random white guy. But I still HATE it.
**Called that way because most of its proponents are simply repeating empty phrases that sound good to people without critical faculties.