Anthony Browne argues in The Retreat of Reason that political correctness, which classifies certain groups of people as victims in need of protection from criticism and allows no dissent to be expressed, is poisoning the wells of debate in modern Britain.This seems like as good a time as any to write the post I've been meaning to write on this for quite some time. A fair few posts at the Devil's Kitchen, where political correctness is often given a good beating, have also spurred this one on.
As I've mentioned on DK's blog before now, I think British society does have a problem with this whole issue of "victim status" although I believe the scale of the problem can often be exaggerated. While I may disagree with many of DK and Anthony Browne's political views (and I strongly disagree with some of Browne's examples) there's a fundamental point here on which we agree. Furthermore, it seems to me to be a problem which genuinely does come mostly from a section of "the left".* Before we go any further, I should again clarify that I believe that differences between races are actually almost exclusively differences between cultures. Oh, and for some reason, I feel the need to swear quite a bit in this post which I don't often do.
The simplest way to illustrate what I mean is probably with a couple of examples.
1 A white working class male is a racist. He hates black people. He takes part in a random racist attack on a black teenager injuring him badly. He is a fucking arsehole who should be locked up for as long as the law allows.
2 A black working class male is a racist. He hates white people. He takes part in a random racist attack on a white teenager injuring him badly. He is a victim of white oppression and should be offered counselling to help him cope with his persecution complex.
No. He's also a fucking arsehole.** There is no excuse for attacking another person because of the colour of their skin. None. Why should there be a difference? Is that not racism too? All people are responsible for their own actions, whatever their race or culture.
The reality is that all cultures have their fair share of racist bigots. To believe otherwise is to be a racist yourself. Can I, a white man, say that some black people are racist arseholes in today's politically correct climate? Well I just did because its true. Ignoring the fact won't make it go away.
Let's try some more.
Many Jamaicans are notoriously homophobic. These homophobes are intolerant, violent, bigotted shits. Whether they are black or not is entirely irrelevant.
Honour killings? Some people seem to have difficulty in accepting that they happen at all but they clearly do. You want me to respect that cultural tradition? You can piss right off.
White Europeans are not the root of all evil in the world as some people seem to believe and people from other cultures were not childish innocents before white Europeans imported our evil ways into their lives. We're all human and we all have the same capacity for good and evil.
What about religion and political correctness? I don't like religion. At all. Have a conversation with me about your religious beliefs and I'm likely to politely tell you that I think it's all made up rubbish and that you'd be better off dealing with reality. Islam? Nonsense. Christianity? Stupid. Flying spaghetti monsterism? Quite amusing and equally valid in my opinion. Religions are, in my view, outmoded superstitions and I've no respect for them. That's not to say that, for example, love thy neighbour" isn't a worthy principle; I just don't see the need to attach a hocus pocus element to it. Love thy neighbour because we're all humans trying to get along as best we can in this strange mad world. And I do respect some religious people. Not their beliefs though. Faith schools funded by the state? Fuck off. I hate that, detest it with a vengance. Teach your children your nonsense at home if you must but don't have them indoctrinated when they're supposed to be getting an education.
And then there's the infamous example of Salman Rushdie and the Satanic Verses. I've never read the book to be honest but I don't need to read the book to know that many Muslims behaved repugnantly with regard to Rushdie. I don't care what he wrote. It's a book for fucks sake. You're offended? Don't read it. You want to kill the author? You're a fucking nutter. If your beliefs can't take criticism then they're clearly not very robust. At the time there was much talk of the need to respect Muslim beliefs but it was a woefully misguided application of tolerance.
Something similar, although considerably less extreme, is happening with Jerry Springer the Opera today. Secularists don't protest outside churches and demand an end to the offensive drivel spouted there (it's an idea though now that I think about it, he joked) so why do certain Christian groups feel they have the right to stop others, grown adults mind, from hearing what they want to hear at a theatre? They don't and if they think they do they're intolerant pricks.
Can I call people intolerant pricks for objecting to JStO? Does it make a difference that they are protesting because of their deeply held religious beliefs? I'd say not but its almost certainly not a politically correct attitude. (Of course I have no objection to any individual believing whatever the hell they like just as long as it doesn't intrude on any other individuals right to do the same.)
So, I believe political correctness really does "poison the well of debate in modern Britain" to some extent. Certain truths have become untouchable. Certain groups have achieved victim status and their actions have, therefore, become beyond reproach. Fuck that. If someone is behaving like an arse then they're behaving like an arse, no matter their religion or the colour of their skin. Political correctness does at times hinder our ability to recognise and confront that, in my opinion, and that isn't healthy.
One final thing about white Europeans. On this, I suspect, DK and I would disagree. I said earlier that they were not the root of all evil in the world and I firmly believe that. What is true is that white Europeans, due to culture, geography, climate, resources and various other factors, did become the dominant race in the world politically and militarily a few hundred years ago. All humans, as I said, have the same capacity for good and evil. White Europeans, for better or for worse, have had a far greater impact on the rest of the world's population than the other way round. Our capacity for good and evil was shared with the rest of the world, most often through the bloody application of force, in a way that means that many of the problems of today's world genuinely do have white European activity as the root cause. We made the biggest mistakes because we made the biggest everything. That doesn't negate the moral agency of someone from another culture behaving like an arse but it does mean we've done a lot of pretty unsavoury things to many other peoples and that the effects of these actions are still with us today. That fact shouldn't be untouchable either.
* I don't particularly enjoy alienating any readers who take the time to read my ravings, far from it, so apologies to anyone who thinks I'm being needlessly controversial here. I'm afraid I just have this annoying habit of writing exactly what I believe to the best of my limited abilities.
** Sort of, for all races. The equivocation is due to concerns I have about the limits of human free will. I blame Ian Rankin (lame joke which you won't get unless you saw his TV series on evil). That's a huge long post on its own so let's just assume that all people are independently free willed for the purposes of this. There's also the concept of diminished responsibility which, in extreme situations, does have some influence on this issue. A slave who kills his master after being repeatedly and violently abused, for example, is something else entirely and the above argument doesn't really apply in that case.
Tags: News, Politics, Political Correctness