Saturday, July 15, 2017

Some Final (For Now) Thoughts on Political Correctness

I'm aware that I'm at risk of exasperating my readership if I talk about political correctness too much. I realize that most people, even most Catholics or most conservatives, don't view it with the same perturbation as me. So a few quick and final-for-now remarks.

One of the standard defences of political correctness is: "It's just trying to include everyone. If you want to say Merry Christmas to your friends and family, nobody is stopping you from doing that. But why should government departments and businesses discriminate in favour of Christians, and against people who don't observe Christmas? Why do you have to impose your wishes on other people?"

The underlying assumption of this argument is that there should be a radical cleavage between private life and public life. Indeed, it's hard not to resort to this idea ourselves-- how often do Christians and conservatives (myself included) assert that this piece of gay propaganda or that piece of blasphemy should be taken from the airwaves, or from a public space, because it discriminates against us? At this stage, we are scared to say it should be removed because it's obscene or blasphemous.

Political correctness doesn't only affect me when it constrains what I can say, in private. (And where is "private" these days, outside your own home, if you have one?) It affects me when it constrains what other people can say, even what other people want to say. I'm not a libertarian. I'm a traditionalist conservative. I don't see society as some kind of huge hotel or apartment block. I see it more as an extended family.

Political correctness depresses me because I don't want public discourse (including that used in working life) to be drained of all that is colourful, controversial, traditional, chivalrous, poetic, mischievous, informal, etc. etc. We should not have to sterilize our language like a surgeon sterilizing his instruments before open heart surgery. It diminishes all our lives.

I think I've pretty consistently denounced political correctness, all my life, even when it was my own "side" pushing it. For instance, I find it tiresome when Irish people complain about the term "British isles". I find it over-precious when Catholics complain about Guy Fawkes Night because of the anti-Catholic sentiments that were attached to it, historically. And so forth.

Another common defence of PC (although it's not one likely to go down well with anyone reading this blog) is: "Get over it. You used to be able to say anything you wanted about blacks, gays, and other minorities. Now you can't. The world is better for it."

Even if I accepted this argument (which I don't), it has such an absurdly truncated view of political correctness-- as though it only applied to terminology or jokes. But political correctness pervades our entire lives. It especially affects the opinions we express. I believe a society is oppressive if someone is forced to affirm a view of the world which they don't, in fact, hold. If I'm forced to call a man in a dress "she", I'm oppressed.

Besides, the question of what is actually offensive is obviously an open one. The Irish tabloids today had front-page headlines about Conor McGregor (the mixed martial arts champion) calling an opponent a "boy", and petitions calling him to aplogize. Presumably the opponent is black. This is obviously ludicrous. But the ever-increasing stranglehold of PC means it's increasingly hard to distinguish between that which is genuinely offensive and that which is not. Everybody is afraid to speak up.

These matters are complicated for me because I'm not an absolutist when it comes to free speech. I think society has a right to frown on certain manners of expression, and indeed to suppress them. I would like to go back to a Victorian standard of prudishness in public discourse. I think the Hays Code of film self-censorship was a great thing. So, yes, it is the sort of suppression I'm complaining about.


  1. I'm probably exasperating you at this stage...but when you mentioned the Merry Christmas bit I had to comment, BECAUSE there was actually a court case about this very thing in Perth this week, Adam Peters vs. Hulya Kandemir. Now out wasn't really about him saying Merry Christmas to her or her refusing to say anything except Happy Holiday back to him,rather because it ended in a scuffle and he was last Thursday fined au$2400 for hitting her with a beer bottle. Not very nice. But they were, after all, both just playing the parts people are taking because of the cultural engineering that you speak of. And it will make more and more people become anti-immigrant, even if things like dropping the word CHRISTMAS actually comes mostly from secularists.
    By accident yesterday I found out that SONY/US are releasing an animated film of the Nativity this Nov(Dec in Australia) and going by the website for St MartindePorres centre and crib a lot of Dublin school kids got brought there last year- so good stuff happens too.

    1. Goodness, we are all afraid of exasperating each other. You know, I think this blog has attracted readers with my own personality type. Not INFJ, necessarily, but mannerly to the point of excess, deferential, uber-polite, etc. etc.

      If I populated a village with people who read this blog it would probably be the best place in the entire world. Well, it would be multicultural, which would suck, but apart from that. It would be full of conservative Catholics. And there would be no loudmouths, braggarts, rude people, queue-jumpers, etc. etc. Paradise!

      I always appreciate comments!

      Doesn't Australia have a bit of a tradition of such brawling? I have to head out to Mass soon, and I can't seem to find it on YouTube, but I remember being very amused by a TV studio fisticuffs between a monarchist and anti-monarchist politicians, which happened back in the eighties of nineties.

      I agree that good things happen, too, but which way is the tide going? That's the question!

    2. I take back my comment that it would be full of conservative Catholics. I know a few non-Catholics read it!

  2. I WAS a bit surprised this week about Malta, but I don't follow things closely there and a lot of the Maltese priests we used to have here have passed on now.

    I suppose the village would have to have a giant snow globe in the centre square? The Dubliners would name it O'KELLY'S TELLY

    1. I hadn't heard Malta had legalized gay marriage. Thank you for depressing me. (Only kidding.)

      I LOVE the idea of a giant snow globe in the town centre! I'd also have it on a mechanical pedestal which would juggle it every few minutes. As for what would be inside it, I'll have to think about that...

      I'm a Kelly rather than an O'Kelly, though!