Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Political Correctness is Not a Sect or a Minority

A comment somebody left under another post set me thinking about political correctness today. Particularly, the commenter wondered if people with a "snowflake" mentality might never have been treated as precious snowflakes in their childhood, and thus seek to be so treated in adulthood.

Now, this comment was a very reasonable suggestion in the context, and pertained particularly to 'snowflakes' and not PC in general. But it got me thinking.

I've often encountered the theory that political correctness is rooted in somebody's personality, circumstances, or life experience. Usually the theory is put forward in an unflattering way, and the implication is that the PC brigade are a minority, even a tiny minority.

I don't believe this. I believe most people are politically correct. And if it's not an outright majority (as the very narrow victory of Brexit, as well as the comment box reaction to many internet articles, makes me hope), it's a very large and powerful minority. I think it's in the very air we breathe.

I don't think PC is a response to some kind of personal failure or neurosis. I think 'the PC brigade' are happy and sad, successful and less successful, balanced and unbalanced, gregarious and misanthropic, religious and secular, and most every other mix you could think of.

I think the PC virus is a virus that infects healthy hosts just as easily as unhealthy hosts. Maybe more easily.

Bruce Charlton, in his book Thought Prison, puts it very starkly. He might be exaggerating, but only slightly:

Political correctness obviously dominates its core territory of politics, public administration (the civil service), law, education and (especially!) the mass media. But PC also substantially shapes everything else: foreign policy, the military, policing, the economy, health services, and personal life: the mating game, friendships and even family life.

Therefore political correctness is objectively totalitarian.

Just as with the cruder totalitarianism of the mid-twentieth century, PC has created a population that lives in fear: fear of being denounced and losing everything – fear of committing (or indeed merely being accused-of) a thought crime or uttering a hate fact for which there is no defence; fear of the sanctions which range from social ostracism, through loss of job, financial penalties, up to directed mob violence and imprisonment.

Consequently the mass of people, especially those of status - with power and influence – have learned and internalized the constraints of political correctness, so that it is now something inside us, as well as pressing upon us. The lies, shabbiness and wickedness of PC now permeate our very thought processes.

Charlton didn't explicitly mention religion in that excerpt, but it's certainly no exception. In fact, I think the Catholic Church is now engulfed in something like a civil war because political correctness has penetrated it so deeply. That's how seriously I think PC needs to be taken.

The entire book can be read for free online, and is worth reading.

I realise that many of my readers, possibly most of my readers, will think I am exaggerating, perhaps even smile indulgently: "There goes Mal again, what a character! I wonder what got him so riled up." I honestly believe I'm not exaggerating.

This talk from the Irish journalist John Waters (which I attended) treats the situation with the gravity I think it deserves. Of course, it's from an Irish perspective. When he says: "In Ireland, we don't have a media. We have something else", I think he's quite right.

(Coincidentally, I've just checked Bruce Charlton's blog and, this very day, he's announced he's suspending blogging after seven years of blogging daily, and may stop permanently. Padraig Ó Fiannachta, the incredibly prolific and energetic Irish priest, who pushed through the full translation of an Irish language Bible which had languished for decades, died at the age of 89 last year-- just as I was reading his biography. Rick Parfitt of Status Quo died mere weeks ago, one day after I'd watched the movie Bula Quo. I'm beginning to think I'm a curse.) 

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