Political correctness gone mad.
How many times have you heard this phrase? Me, I’ve lost count, but I could almost guarantee that the person speaking it has it in mind to say something outrageous about how wrong it is to try to be a decent human being. (It’s the same as when somebody declares, “I’m not racist, but …” — though, regretfully, that’s a topic for another time.)
Here are two definitions I’ve culled from the ether of political correctness which to me reflect the original concept of the phrase:
[T]he avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.
The second definition is couched in similar terms:
[L]anguage, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offence or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society.
Words are tricksy things, aren’t they? Concepts like prejudice and discrimination can be positive or negative depending on the context and, in particular, who’s using it about whom. So political correctness — which originally suggested the most morally appropriate way to deal with social difference — is now more commonly used as a stick to beat those who support the disadvantaged in any particular social situation. It’s become a pejorative term. And as with “I’m not a racist, but…” you just know that the person out of whose mouth drops the phrase is going to offer an intolerant rant.
Just try this: type political correctness into any search engine and trawl through the images. Nine out of ten of the images, nearly all emanating from US sites, will be anti-PC. They’ll quote rightwing critics of PC — Charleston Heston (“tyranny with manners”) or Donald Trump (“killing our country”) — or they’ll imply that it interferes with free speech (“cultural Marxism”). You’ll note that they’ll suggest that the people who are unhappy about gratuitous insults being thrown around are somehow the aggressors and the opinionated abusers are most definitely the victims. Ironic, isn’t it?
Some stand-up comedians are unhappy about political correctness too. Much humour is built on aggression of one sort or another, laughing at the disadvantaged (slapstick is almost exclusively so) and at those who are different from the perceived norm. The gentlest humour is that which is self-deprecating, poking fun at us so that we take ourselves a little less seriously; but aggressive humour picks on whoever is seen as the outsider, usually for the sin of being of a different sexual orientation, skin pigment or hair colour, or religion (or none), or having a physical or mental disability. Yet there are those satirists who, while superficially poking fun and launching barbs at PC-ness, are more subtly getting us to examine our own ill-thought out preconceptions and confront our hidden prejudices.
Still, we’ve seen this kind of bullying before and we know where, unchecked, it inevitably leads, so I don’t need to spell it out. But all those who gleefully proclaim that they’re proud to be politically incorrect, who dub anyone sensitive to insults as a snowflake: beware! Those who jump on the anti-PC bandwagon and implicitly or explicitly declare their support for the latest bullyboy by persecuting these PC snowflake types should know their history. Give too much power to an clique or individual and they pretty soon turn on you if you show the slightest hint that you are not “one of us”. And even being a dyed-in-the-wool henchman is no guarantee that you won’t be stabbed in the back if you pose any kind of threat to that political power. If you’re in any doubt, see Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia or Kim Jong-un’s North Korea for confirmation.
To praise political correctness is to celebrate diversity, not limit it; we all share a common humanity, but if we seek to define what is normal with arbitrary benchmarks (and, believe me, bullies are entirely arbitrary in their criteria for what constitutes normality) then many common human traits will be redefined as abnormal, subnormal, subhuman and even devilish.
And then heaven help us all.
I’ve used stills from the 1956 film version of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four as the most immediately memorable piece of literature dealing with totalitarianism, but it’s not the only apposite one that springs to mind at present