Friday, 16 December 2016

Political Correctness

The only problem with Political Correctness is that no one knows what it is. 

I’m not naïve enough to believe facts have any place in this “debate”, so I will be ignoring them in favour of rhetoric and invective.  That’s democracy, kids.
Let me also assure you, right from the start, that all your fears are groundless and self-defeating – and your complaints moronic and bigoted.  #politicalcorrectness
It’s become politically correct to hate Political Correctness.
This follows the standard pattern of new ideas: introduction, amusement, acceptance, disillusion, backlash.
One of the things that right-wing commentators like to do is portray their ideas as unpopular, or marginal, though they almost never are, even when they sound contentious to the opposite end of the political spectrum.  The idea that “common sense is rare these days” is, literally, common sense.  (at another time and place in human history, it was Common Sense that the earth was flat, that the US military was a force for moral good, or that, umm…(you always need a third thing, don’t you?)…)
People like Jon Gaunt and Richard Littlejohn have done this while writing in the biggest-selling print newspapers left.  In the USA, pundits on Fox, one of the terrestrial TV networks, regularly refer to “mainstream news”, as if they’re outside it, a kind of maverick, operating at the fringes of the zeitgeist, playing by their own rules.  Like a sort of Lethal Weapon TV channel.  What they actually are, of course, is a pub bore TV channel, espousing the kind of ill-informed, bigoted opinions and standard prejudice you could presumably hear in any small-town bar in the Midwest on any night. 
The main problem with Political Correctness is that no one knows what it is, whether they like it or not.  In this vacuum, it’s just become a vague, nebulous idea that anyone can be against, even though they may be totally ignorant of it. 
Right-wingers can hate PC because it represents things they traditionally find distasteful: sensitivity, inclusivity, equality, respect for the rights of others, an awareness of cultural bias and the historic role of discrimination and marginalisation…
The term itself is obviously politically loaded; it sounds like it comes straight from a Politburo edict.  “The traitor Trotsky was a counter-revolutionary, and must be re-educated to be politically correct.”  Something like that – a term so offensive to those on the left who are strongly opposed to any form of coercive government or attacks on free speech, that those people would surely never use it to describe themselves or their own views.  Unless, of course, it became Politically “correct” to do so.
To some people, including some inexplicably prominent journalists and commentators, political correctness is confused with Health & Safety legislation.  With which it has no connection.  All this is discussed here.  (Click on the link, if you like that sort of thing.)
“Political Correctness” is vague enough to be a label for anything a person doesn’t like; human rights (as if humans should have rights – ridiculous), progressive politics (as if politics should be progressive – barmy!), anti-war demonstrations (as if anyone could be against war – madness!), television programmes with ethnic minorities featured (as if ethnic minorities should be allowed on telly – it’s political correctness gone mad), anti-child abuse legislation (as if children should be protected – it’s poli – wait, what?) or anything else.  It’s the President Trump effect: a blank canvas on which to project all hatreds, no matter how irrational or self-defeating.  (The opposite of the President Obama effect – a blank canvas on which to project all hopes, no matter how delusional.)
Who could possibly have a use for a cultural practice of trying to avoid unnecessary/unintended offence to marginalised people through ignorant use of dominant, demeaning language?  Who could possibly have an interest in refining language to reflect changing attitudes to cultural difference and an inclusive political climate?  Who would ever want to stop casually dismissing people?  That’s right, Guardian-reading Left-wing Student Anti-war Black Lesbian Disabled Muslim Transgender Asylum-seekers.  And Nazis.  That’s who.  And who cares about them?
Anyway, everyone knows it’s awful – and anti-democratic – to watch what we say to others, or how we describe them.  And it’s exactly that kind of Politically Correct rubbish that cost me my job as an Undertaker.
As I say, everyone knows it’s awful – and anti-democratic – to watch what we say to others, or think about how we describe them.  And it’s exactly that kind of Politically Correct rubbish that cost me my job as a Community Liaison Officer for the Metropolitan Police. 
But everyone knows it’s awful – and anti-democratic – to watch what we say to others, or think about how we describe them.  And it’s exactly that kind of Politically Correct rubbish that cost me my job as a tour guide at Auschwitz.  (You always need a third one, don’t you?  Or, “one” always needs a third one – I don’t know, language doesn’t change over time, does it?  As a response to a changing world?  Sounds like PC bullshit to me.)
It has been understandably hard for some to adjust to a diverse world, given that some people still live in homogenous communities that have only relatively recently been exposed to diversity in nationality, racial background, sexuality, religious practice and gender identity.  A homogenous community, in this country and the US, built on the unspoken racial and gender superiority of the dominant group.  Which formed the cultural basis for a homogenous identity, inextricably linked to economic stability and strength – you know, jobs and stuff – which has been discarded by elites who actually manage the economy, as readily as the associated dominant (white, male) culture.
Or, to put it another way: “I’m not prejudiced or anything, but anyone uncomfortable with the pace of change in an increasingly diverse, globalised world (which has seen the death of industry and the culture associated with it) is a fucking idiot and an embarrassment to the metropolitan elite that runs the economy and the media.” 
It’s almost like political correctness had a useful function all along.
One response to rapid social change in a dominant, homogenous culture, which involves hierarchies and established social structures is to simply act like it isn’t happening.  Or, to put it another way, to be wonderfully “polticially incorrect!” like someone who writes for a newspaper.  But we can’t talk about immigration, can we?  Not anymore.  Not since the politically correct brigade stuck their noses in.  That’s why the brave newspaper columnists (who hate the liberal elite they work for) tell us the truth: that we can’t talk about immigration.  While talking about immigration as if it is inherently undesirable in every sense.  Every day.  For forty years.  But you can’t talk about it, can you?
The previously acceptable – no, what’s the word?  You know, the old way of saying – the good way; no, not good, necessarily, but sort of um, well….I’m looking for a way to describe language collectively palatable to people across a broad political spectrum….Correct!  That’s it.  The old so-called “correct” way of making a racist comment while claiming not to be racist was to qualify the questionable statement by prefacing it with “I’m not racist or anything, but….”.  (It’s the “or anything” in that sentence that I find intriguing.  To what does it refer?  Is the “anything” literal?)
That way, anyone hearing the statement could be satisfied that the speaker was not racist (“or anything”), but held a view, which, without that necessary qualification, could be understood as bigoted, prejudiced, or at least insensitive. 
It’s been quite a year for Political Correctness, as it’s taken on even more cultural baggage – in the US and the UK, “I hate political correctness” has been cemented as a convenient way of saying something bigoted while appearing to appease those who might disagree, or be offended or feel threatened by those views.  A way of softening one’s language, or using a shorthand to both appeal to those who agree and warn those who do not.  For the sake of dialogue.

Almost like political correctness.

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