Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Some thoughts on the kindness of PC . . .

Ironically, the day before the Orlando massacre, I had an unpleasant Twitter exchange with someone I had previously enjoyed.  This East Coast university professor shared an interest with me, in medieval literature and history.  It isn't always easy to find kindred souls in that area (yeah, we're geeks), so I always appreciate fellow medieval fanatics.

But on this day, he tweeted a tweet that I found so disturbing, I couldn't stay silent. It was a statement to the effect that people who didn't share his world view (liberal) and weren't PC, were somehow less intelligent (conservatives).  I replied something to the effect that his comment seemed elitist, and that it wasn't my experience that those who embraced PC ideology were always more intelligent than others. He shot back that they had a "kinder and more humane vision".

Oh. Not elitist at all.

I'm sure this man sees himself as intellectually superior to me and to most people around him. He is amused that I am not enlightened enough to appreciate his view. It will never occur to him that I have thoroughly considered his view - indeed years ago I may have even embraced it. At the time of the exchange, I dismissed him as rather limited in his viewpoint; I had to laugh to myself, considering the environment - liberal academia, increasingly intolerant of diversity in viewpoints. No wonder he's as blind as he is to common sense.  I still question his ability to think through layers, despite his Ph.D. level education. But all week I've been haunted by the exchange for another reason: this man is a prime example of one of the biggest myths about the PC culture and the biggest points of misunderstanding of the Left:  that a PC-driven set of values is "kinder".

Maybe it's because of what happened in Orlando. Maybe it's something that has nagged at the back of my brain for quite some time. But I've been chewing on this question all week: is it really kinder? Every cell in me screams, "No way!"  and I have been driven to define for myself specifically how it is unkind.

I agree with this misguided professor that the PC movement was born of the intention to make interactions between people kinder. Back in the 1980s, the term "politically correct" didn't make me cringe; it was an invitation to simply stop and think something through, consider if prejudice was present, if discrimination was present. It began as a nice idea.

But today, in 2016, it has mutated into a tool for intimidation, thought-shaming, censorship, and ultimately, an attempt to control. Read that list again: it has a lot in common with "socialist" (read: progessive) movements in history that ended up oppressing and eventually murdering their own people.

Besides its blatant ignorance of history - or its willful desire to selectively forget history - there are several things that frighten me about the PC culture in 2016. I mean, really frighten me.

  • It seeks to censor the world of journalism. It seeks to control the free flow of ideas in the mainstream press. Those within that structure who disagree with any element of the PC world view are isolated, ridiculed, even bullied out of their jobs. At this point, we have journalists selectively editing anything from interview footage to statistics, in order to deceptively present them in such a way that the PC narrative is protected. The accompanying willingness to ignore simple - simple! - fact is astounding. Worse, the intellectual arrogance of a journalist who would manipulate factual information to fool his or her audience into adopting a particular view is ... well, immoral. 
  • It seeks to censor the world of science. Working with the press, the PC culture has demonized and ostracized formerly-respected scientists by creating a mythology around "climate change". While fact is that many of these scientists tell us that although the climate is changing, a tiny fraction of the change is due to human influence, the PC culture continues the narrative that any scientist disagreeing with their view that climate change is an imminent disaster is a nutjob. This they perpetuate through the press. 
  • It seeks to control the world of education. A serious study of the industry of textbook publishing in recent decades will make it obvious to a thinking person that some of our history is being rewritten and taught in such a way as to align with the current PC thought. Now it may be argued that as any society evolves, its textbook material also evolves. But the problem here is that it has evolved in a very specific direction, favoring very particular ideologies that may or may not be based upon the humane values of our traditional past. These would include such things as liberty, freedom of thought, freedom from an intrusive government, freedom of speech, responsibility toward one's fellow man, integrity of one's right to protect home and family. The PC culture seeks to alter actual history in such a way that it will align with the rest of the narrative. The facts be damned; so many are inconvenient. 
  • It seeks to control the world of art. In an area of society where all viewpoints should be explored at the deepest and most creative level, we have thought control. In my view, this cheapens all of art. Consider the loudest and most arrogant of Hollywood voices - they seem to project an absolute zero tolerance for a conservative viewpoint. If you have read up on that issue, you know that many actors, writers, technicians, have reported being persecuted - from being harassed verbally, to being ostracized from social events, to being outright fired because of their views. Hollywood has sought to create an environment where one point of view rules. Consider the music industry. It's even worse. What do you think would happen to a conservative who, upon accepting some award at the Grammys, got up and expressed a view the room didn't share?  This used to happen, and be accepted. No more. Recently I watched episodes of Seinfeld and realized they wouldn't fly today. Not because they are not thought-provoking, but because the PC crowd running television media would be overly sensitive to them. It even seeks to squelch humor - except humor at the expense of the opposing view. 
  • It seeks to define morality for all society. I don't deny that we, as the collective humanity, must define a common morality. Most of western society, at least, can agree that enslavement, punishment without trial, rape, child abuse causing injury, political imprisonment, racial bias, gender bias, are all wrong. But PC culture seeks to define minutia, for all of us. Although the United States was founded by a group of people seeking the freedom to practice Christianity as they chose without governmental interference, the PC culture has used the laws growing out of that centuries-old history to silence all non-secular expressions of religious faith. Or at least, two religious faiths that they don't like. Thus we have courts dealing with situations where a creche is removed from view, but another symbol is welcomed. Or where school children are taught the tenets of some religions, as part of a "cultural sensitivity experience", while other religions are ignored or even demonized.  Again, some views are oppressed in favor of those
    that fit the narrative. 
  • It seeks to control the free flow of information, aside from media. Consider the environment that has grown in the state-funded universities of this country, where by definition all views should be welcome. We now have young people who insist they should be considered adults who need "safe places", and "time-outs" when they hear speech they don't agree with. We have students who see no moral problem with their behavior when they interrupt and stop a presentation by a conservative speaker. In their arrogance, they truly believe that they have a monopoly on intelligence, on Truth, and this justifies silencing opposing opinion.  Consider the behavior of the mobs of "protestors" - some there for hire and some too young to know better - who have recently perpetuated real violence at rallies for Donald Trump. These people have one aim: to prevent the free flow of ideas, by preventing others from hearing ideas that they don't agree with. Historically, they have this in common with rising fascist movements. But they are too young, uneducated, naive... and maybe too arrogant, to know history and understand the patterns.
I could go on. But my point is, when people are silenced, intimidated, bullied out of jobs... is it kind? When people are terrorized, pummeled with rocks, eggs, and even fists, at a rally, is it kind? When people are lied to about the value of their own heritage in favor of another group's, is it kind?  When people are shamed in 2016 for actions of their ancestors in 1800, or 1700, or 1600, is it kind?  When people's work and struggles are erased because of their skin color, and their right to reap benefits of their labor denied, is it kind

The current PC culture has come with a sense of entitlement and superiority that is alarming. Like the most dangerous and ultimately oppressive socio-political movements of the past, it justifies unethical behavior by virtue of a sense of moral/ethical/intellectual superiority; the immoral has become relative to how the behavior serves the goal. PC culture justifies shaming someone for their views as "stupid". It justifies ignoring factual information in order to convey what one considers a bigger message. It justifies robbing people of livelihoods, personal safety, the right to an idea. It justifies, even, taking a "protest" as far as violence. Because, you know, the Greater Good.  
Problem is, that greater good is coming at a higher and higher price to the integrity of this nation, as the PC culture grows more and more certain of its own superiority. And sadly, it comes at a higher and higher price to the individual.

So I'm just going to say it. I think this pattern of PC thought is the worst of the worst kind of just plain mean. It devalues Truth in favor of New Narrative. It devalues the right -the right! - of a human being to acquire real, factual information before making up his own mind. It distorts our world when it distorts science, education, journalism, arts, political discourse. It robs us and cheats us and binds us in ways we never agreed to. It presents a false picture to us, which is ultimately misleading. And it is deliberate in its deceit. Because it believes it knows what is best.

Call me old-fashioned, but I come from an era where lying and deceit no matter the reason were
immoral. I come from a time where people understood the meaning of the word "humility" (wonder how many 20-somethings can even define that?). I come from a time when, to assume one's own intellectual superiority was not only immoral, but to assume the right to rob others of their autonomy and liberty and rights by virtue of one's own intellectual superiority, would be unthinkable. 

It doesn't take much courage to stomp one's foot and shout over an opponent until they are silenced or slink away in defeat. It doesn't take any courage to shame someone into non-opposition, conveniently ignoring your own shortcomings. It takes no courage to join a group of like-minded bullies to shout another, minority, view into silence.  It takes zero courage and less character, to assume your own ideas and opinions are so perfect that they can never change or alter in keeping with new information. It takes nothing to assume you're superior to another human being because they don't share your narrow view of the world. 

It takes real work and time to seek out and research factual information. It takes real patience to listen to someone whose life experience has led them to have views different from yours. It takes intellectual courage to examine the ways in which information that makes you uncomfortable may have merit (that would go to allowing opposing speakers and opposing theories a platform at universities, wouldn't it?).

We are becoming a society of cowards due to a rising PC culture. It demands persecution of any voice it doesn't like. If it can't legally silence, it does it by intimidation and harassment. Again, this is the beginning of fascism - that word so many of our youth, with their PC-saturated minds and view of the world, throw around so easily to describe the opposing view, all the while never really understanding its history or meaning. This is the beginning of one loud societal group silencing another. 

The real irony of PC culture is that it becomes the very thing it seeks to stop. In striving to emphasize certain races, histories, art forms, groups, that it has deemed persecuted, it begins the same persecution of other groups. Thus, Christians are bad, conservatives are bad. Police, whites, are bad. Some people deserve persecution more than other people - and we have come full circle. We've simply swapped victims.

My hope is that the part of the American spirit that has defeated fascism again and again in this world, will rise in a common voice that will say, "Enough."  That, although the ideas that gave birth to political correctness may have been noble, it's gone too far. When it stepped into oppression territory it went too far. 

The PC culture doesn't value character. It doesn't value integrity. It doesn't value truth - not the real,
unpleasant, inconvenient truth that often accompanies fact. It doesn't value humility. It doesn't value real equality - you know, that old ideal where people would have the same rights regardless of their background or skin color or what their blinking ancestors did four hundred years ago. It doesn't value diversity of ideas, or ideology. It doesn't value diversity of heritage - not really, because it overvalues and re-invents the heritage of some and ignores and re-tells the heritage of others. The PC culture wars within itself because it never stops shrieking long enough to really hear and examine all points of view, and come to real compromise. Compromise does not fit the narrative. The patience required to accept that most social change requires time to happen humanely, is not part of the PC mindset. 

Sorry, Professor, but there is nothing kind about it.


UPDATE:  The Benghazi hearing concluded on June 28, and the following came to light: Obama's administration, after the Sec. of Defense ordered that our military needed to go in to Libya and rescue Americans who were under attack, fretted over what impression our military uniforms would make upon the Libyan terrorists. Because we didn't want to offend their sensibilities, our citizens suffered over 13 hours under severe attack, and our ambassador and three others met horrible deaths (which we now know for a fact Obama and Hillary lied about, Hillary even lying to the families of the victims - to save the election which for Obama's second term which was 59 days away).  One serviceman reported that he and comrades changed clothes four times (!) - in vain, as it turned out, because by the time the administration came to any conclusion about attire, it was too late to help, and none was ever sent.  This is a prime example of how political correctness is not kind, it is not sensible, it is not reasonable. It is selfish; it seeks to value one point of view over another, and it seeks to silence any opposition.  Political correctness out of control, in this case, killed four brave Americans.