WHAT IS POLITICAL CORRECTNESS?
Political Correctness is a rather elusive concept. You know it when you see it, but where did it come from and how long has it been around?
Well, for sure it didn't exist in the 1950's so maybe it started with the campus riots, the 1970s radical left and the whole Counter-Cultural thing?
Different commentators have different opinions but something that they generally agree on is that Political Correctness spokespersons dont generally engage in factual debate, they make STATEMENTS that require acceptance, with a well rehearsed collection of negative code words to label dissenters.
They also note other quasi-religious aspects of Political Correctness so what Im doing here is exploring the Religion metaphor, specifically the similarities to the hard line Christianity experienced in Europe during the late Middle Ages.
But first of all, its necessary to admit that Political Correctness (PC) and Christianity have some worthwhile founding ideas. In early 20th century America, Socialism (early PC) grew out of concern for justice, rejection of racism and the need for a fairer society giving opportunities for all, particularly Black Americans (genuine victims of oppression) and working women. For its part, early Christianity grew amongst the sleaze and corruption of the late Roman Empire providing a beacon of respectability, honesty, trust with a strong moral code based around the family and the Christian community.
The problems came later with the institutionalization of the early Socialist and Christian movements with new sources of power attracting the usual crowd of opportunists:
Original Sin This is a foundational idea of Medieval Christianity. Early Christians may have felt uplifted by their unity and moral actions but by the Late Middle Ages they all knew that they were sinners (born that way), and the only way to Grace was through exemplary ritualized behaviour checked and examined by the Catholic hierarchy.
Equally, early Socialists may have felt that they were building a better and fairer society but they now know that they are collectively guilty for slavery, racism, the extermination of American Indians, oppression of women, minorities and the Holocaust, so the Original Sin is being born white and the only way to find redemption is to exhibit exemplary PC behavior at all times, as verified by PC institutions.
Church and State Not an issue for early Christians. They didn't have any power and the state did what it wanted with them. However, the powerful Medieval Church had tithes, monasteries, cathedrals and a monopoly of education through written Latin, making an uneasy balance with temporal power (monarchs and landowning aristocrats). The usual solution was an alliance between the two. The Church didn't question temporal power if the Crown accepted religious dogma with kings allowed to rule by Divine Right and as Defenders of the Faith.
As with the Popes, Cardinals and monastic orders down to village priests, P.C. activists don't run government but they are in close alliance with it. They have a firm grip on high school and university education (building future PC activists), the media, Congress, and they have a large source of independent income (primarily generated by corporate America and ethnic lobbies). Large corporations like the profitability enhancing neo-liberal PC agenda of NAFTA, porous borders and unlimited outsourcing, and ethnic lobbies (such as US Jewish associations) enjoy PC awarded Victim Status along with Black Americans (special categories where criticism = racism).
Birth Death and Marriage These are major turning points in family life and the Medieval Church took power over all of them. Baptism was regarded as vitally important for the soul of the newly born, marking entry into the Christian faith. The body sanctified by baptism was also respected in death with a funeral mass led by prayers and the previously haphazard concept of marriage was codified with an obligatory church ceremony by the 15th and 16th centuries.
Political Correctness also deals with these turning points with an almost anti-Christian caricature, supporting sex outside marriage, abortion, rejection of traditional womens roles, state supported homosexual marriage and the removal of Christian symbols from public spaces with Christian sins in a perverse way becoming PC freedoms.
Life on a Higher Plan The Medieval Church offered you a route to redemption, with the religious life encompassing a new higher form of existence, with community, friends, trust and a framework for living and involvement in a Better World Project. The condition was that the authority of the church would not be questioned but why would any normal person want to do this anyway?
Similarly Political Correctness provides a well rounded package of social acceptability with the newspapers/magazines that enlightened people read, residential areas where good thinking, tolerant people live and the rejection of the whole unenlightened package of, guns, flag waving, religion, unhealthy food, patriotism and racism. The unwritten condition for entry into the magic circle is the non-questionability of the tenets of Political Correctness, but why would any normal person want to do this anyway?
The Problem with Democracy - The Middle Ages were not very strong on Democracy which was fine with the autocratic holders of absolute power, the Crown and the Church. They dictated civil and spiritual life with revolutionaries and heretics being either imprisoned or executed. The difficulty came with new non-traditional power sources in trade and industry and the proto-middle class with its ideas of Democracy and rationality (no divine right to rule or daringly even questioning divinity itself ).
Political Correctness faces a similar problem since it's not open to Democratic debate. It deals with guilt, original sin and repentance with a private bible (version of history) dogmatically used to indoctrinate students (novices) in high schools and universities. So its a totalitarian system that has to handle Democracy very carefully by 1) placing the Founders in the Demon category (dead white males, slaveholders etc) with their dead Constitution, 2) making major efforts to fund (buy) and promote PC candidates in both parties to get PC government.
Heretics - A person who holds controversial opinions, especially one who publicly dissents from the officially accepted dogma of the Roman Catholic Church. Heretical behavior would have included expressing doubts about the Resurrection (how can a person rise from the dead?), or the Loaves and Fishes (how can a crowd of thousands be fed with 5 loaves and 2 fishes?) or Miracles in general (can the Saints repeat them with independent witnesses?). Heretics weren't engaged in argument, they were ex-communicated (removed from society) or sometimes executed.
Equally, Political Correctness doesn't engage in discussion of its Core Dogmas. All roads leading to PC Bible issues e.g. the Holocaust (6 million) or 9/11 Attacks on Our Freedoms (fire destroys structural steel buildings) are taboo and invite professional and social excommunication (career termination) or in some countries a prison sentence.
The Religious Hierarchy Medieval Christianity was international (covering most of Europe) and it had a dominant grip on the written word (Latin), education, and it could raise its own taxes and run its own communities. It influenced foreign policy (e.g. the Crusades) with the whole package administered by the Papal Curia with its Cardinals, Bishops, priests and lay people in every town and village, each with its religious centers.
Political Correctness has a rather different geography, covering as it does, the Anglo influenced world (Great Britain, United States, Canada, Australia) and most of Europe (stronger in the North and weaker in the South) with media, publishers and academic activists propagandizing the PC line from government down to local school and activities.
Religious Leaders Religious leaders held real power, with the ability to give orders activated through the hierarchy to the lowest level, with the Papal Curia at the top, historically being mostly Italian but showing multi-ethnicity in adopting talent where it was found. A key principle was/is Papal Infallibility with obedience to church doctrine required for community acceptance.
Political Correctness also requires acceptance its Core Dogmas with enforcement through employment and promotion sanctions, blackballing, public calling out and legal actions against non-conformists. Its hierarchy runs from media ownership, academic leadership to P.C. lawmaking on to low level social ostracism and self-censoring speech.
Threats to Religious Totalitarianism Its interesting that after many centuries the Medieval Church lost its power through a combination of scientific enquiry (astronomy, evolution etc.), a growing middle class, corruption (lavish Church lifestyles, selling indulgences etc) and the Renaissance (revival of pre-Christian Classical ideas). It was a gradual process but it happened.
Challenges to Political Correctness come from some of the same sources. Media ownership doesnt give the power that it once did and a digital open information society poses many information control problems. If PC dogmas are not respected (i.e. they are questioned and investigated) they lose their coercive power, with open information also revealing evidence of a corrupt democratic system invaded by special interests.
What is Political Correctness? One could say that its a system of Penance (repentance of sins) with the sinners being white Europeans and the victims/martyrs being Africans, Jews, American Indians, gender victims, GLBT, ex-colonial native populations etc.
In reality the position of Africans, Jews, Native Indians, women and GLBT people in the West has improved greatly over the last century and they are surely in a position to receive equal opportunity without the need for psychological games. However, this does requires a reorientation of loyalties and the abandonment of minority victim status/leverage, especially of the fabricated political kind. Blacks for example, could then become Americans rather that Black-Americans similarly with rest of the minority players.
Mark Baraniecki 17th November 2015