The Failure of Political Correctness
The seeds of this post were sown in a conversation I had with a close friend of mine in which we discussed the use of the word gay in a negative connotation. Though I understand that my friend spoke from a genuine place of empathy and sympathy I did find myself wrestling with two distinct feelings inside me, one of empathy and the other of freedom. In the growing wave of inclusion often we find ourselves considering topics taboo for discussion for an entirely new reason, that those we are including in the discussion would be offended.
It is therefore in my opinion important to distinguish between political correctness and kindness, for often the two are erroneously considered similar or in some cases, the same. Kindness in an argument or discussion is to be respectful of human dignity and in my opinion is essential for us to maintain a level of civility when we talk of issues that are controversial and polarising yet for this same reason deserve our attention. Political correctness however is the intentional censoring of dialogue to avoid offending. This can be as simple as using a word in a negative context or as complex as a racial slur which has seen shifting definitions over the centuries.
After all, one must remember that often times, art, literature, music and film have used shock tactics and utterly ignored what was politically correct at the time to force issues into the light, to bring into the fray agendas and topics that have often been swept under the rug. If not for the provocative imagery of Marquis De Sade’s violent and sexually charged literature Europe and by extension the West would never have embraced the liberal values they today associate to love and sensuality. If not for Jane Austen’s razor-sharp wit and critique of societal norms and gender roles of the time we would never have seen the advent of egalitarian and feminist thought. Without the politically incorrect behaviour of Julie D'Aubigny the world would lose out on a bisexual icon who challenged every facet of what was at the time politically correct.
At this juncture I must also clarify that political correctness is not exclusive to liberals or the left, in fact for most of history political correctness has been exercised by conservative elements of society, using it as shield against criticism of their beliefs and traditions, however as liberal values have in my opinion exploded and then imploded we see that the same liberal viewpoint that at one time in history was the greatest bane of political correctness is now regrettably using it to defend itself.
The mechanical and functional issue of political correctness however is present regardless of whether it is being exercised by traditionalists or liberals. This functional flaw is that it strangles discussion. One of the key advantages that we as a species have is our ability to communicate to one another increasingly complex concepts, including imaginative, creative and mythologised ideas. Political correctness stops this natural flow of discussion and in attempting to defend some belief, ideology or identity ends up causing more harm than good for it leaves the naysayers and the politically incorrect with no mode of communication. This leads to an increase in violence, militancy and makes reaching a resolution or compromise harder due to the gulf that has been created between two lines of thought due to the misdirected and misinformed attempts of power brokers in society.
Though I think lowly of racism, homophobia and other such ideologies to which I find no attraction whatsoever, I understand that there are legitimate concerns of people who are often, in a world where they are left isolated and without the ability to voice these concerns without a barrage of moronic, binary insults thrown at them and find themselves attracted to more belligerent, militant forms of disapproval which leads them down the rabbit hole of what we today call the echo chambers of information. To me, the solution is not to ostracise and shame those who do not agree with us and as long as violence is neither perpetrated nor encouraged, civility must be exercised.
If we do not, we run into the second functional issue of political correctness, that it does nothing to convince. Political correctness is not a rehabilitative process, it isn’t an instructive process and it most certainly is not a logic-based process in fact one can easily find traces of fascist tendencies in the mindset of political correctness as the main goal is to stop all anti status quo talk. There is no rationale presented, no attempts at reunification are made and in the end the exercise leaves us drained and angry.
If we want to stop the world from slipping back into a period of reactionary, militant left-right conflict we have to start by initiating dialogue, simply shunning those who we might find unsavoury, deplorable or even downright inhumane in their thinking is not solving the issue but rather leaving these individuals with dangerous and volatile thoughts go unquestioned and thereby foment and grow, taking root deep within the psyche and world view of this individual.
If you want the world to accept your view you must allow it to be questioned, if you cannot afford this then perhaps your view is simply flawed.