Political Correctness

Political correctness: a very curious tool indeed. Conservatives use it as a bogey to justify their worst prejudices, and liberals use it to stifle dissent by threatening the scarlet letter of “racist” or “sexist” to anyone who deviates from the current liberal norm. It is a political touchstone uniquely capable of bringing out the worst from both sides. In that sense, it may be just the ticket to the next phase, where people sidestep all that post-secondary training in political bitterness, left and right, and re-learn how to treat each other based on only the human heart and imagination. Drop out, turn on, tune in! The Age of Aquarius will be post-political in our sense of the word, “political”!

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36 thoughts on “Political Correctness

  1. I don’t see this collapsing on its own weight and falling to Gary’s idealized age of Aquarius, because I do not see the current opposition to it in the same terms Gary does (if I am reading him correctly). Or if it collapses it may do so to fascism or something more sinister. Political correctness (and much of the current opposition to it from the right), it seems to me, is just one strand of our long standing anti-intellectual heritage. It has not narrowed, but gotten broader and deeper as people become less and less literate. I say that because many of the attacks on it from the right are not substantive, but rather is a mere desire to change the current “political correctness” with their preferred version (think “if you oppose my war you are unpatriotic”). It is an excuse to stop thinking in a world that does not wish to think deeply, that prefers its ‘cultivated ignorance.’ It allows for an easy negative other, for those who need such a straw man to make them feel better about themselves. To get to Gary’s ideal you must re-envision the mass of men as enlightened and that ain’t happening.

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    • I agree with much of what you say, Mike, and agree that your voice is an important counterpoint to my admittedly naïve idealism. However, when I look at the “microaggressions” discourse or HuffPo blogs written by young liberal arts graduates peddling lockstep liberal norms on race and gender theory, I see a groundswell of pushback — and this is pushback not from conservatives but from dissenting liberals (as, e.g., HuffPo readership would suggest). So there’s my hope … although, I admit, the replacement that comes when the levee breaks may be of your dystopic variety rather than my utopic.

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      • Rapid collapse of political systems results only from the confluence of profound wretchedness and profound anger about it. We are not anywhere close to that in the U.S.; too many people sit mesmerized in front of screens with no desire to hit the streets, much less the barricades. Gary’s Age of Aquarius may indeed come, but it will not be anytime soon. The Boomers and Gen X-ers are, for the most part, too dumb, racist and lazy to effect any real improvements. The Millennials seem to me quite a bit less racist and a good bit more active in causes which resonate with them… though they don’t seem much smarter than the Boomers in my experience. Perhaps, with the fading of Boomer racism and laziness, the MIllennials might be able to raise a smarter, inclusive and more politically active brood than their parents and grandparents were. A Big Maybe.

        And if red states keep cutting the funding for public education, we are likely headed for Fascism Redux, as Mike posits as a possible outcome.

        What’s that old Chinese curse? May you live in interesting times. Hippie springs eternal! Namaste, brothers and sisters!

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        • For a second, I thought you were about to piss on my parade! I agree conditions are not ripe for political revolution of the traditional sort. But a revolution in sensibility can happen quickly. Such a thing happened, or fitfully started to happen, in the 1960s. Were it to fitfully start again, social media might facilitate the speed and traction of such a shift in sensibility. And if people get fed up equally with the pc restrictions from the left and the tired old prejudices from the right, as it seems may be happening … then all we need is a few good-natured anarchists to stir the pot a la Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters and…

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  2. As always, and in so many areas, I hope you are right. The world would be a better place. But, for example, when Trump or Cruz dismiss political correctness I have no sense that they want to do anything except simply substitute their conservative version of political correctness. The liberal embrace of political correctness is more puzzling to me. Not that it does not occur, but rather that it seems completely antithetical to liberalism (general term) as I know it.

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    • Yes, conservatives use the political correctness bogey to justify their own biases. We need to transcend the left-right dyad on political correctness. I believe the liberal embrace of political correctness is puzzling to those of us raised in the 1960s and 70s, but following the trajectory of history it comes to make sense. Post-1980s, with the rise of identity politics, with a new infrastructure of race/ethnic/gender studies departments fighting for funding and theorizing a raison d’etre that will keep them fixed in perpetuity, some threads of liberalism became antithetical to 1960s/70s liberalism. This historical context makes it less puzzling, but it’s still a counterproductive turn in our quest for a society that’s equal and open, rich in human contact, where we help each other out across racial and gender lines without being boxed in by demographics.

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  3. Boomers and Gen X: “I’m going to be a happy idiot and struggle for the legal tender. Where the ads take aim and lay their claim to the heart and the sole of the spender.” I would agree with Chris (now I sound old) that the younger folks I meet are less racist, less homophobic—-but generally less engaged in the political process. (Had lunch with two 20 somethings recently who thought Trump was “awesome”—by the way what does that word mean anymore?) Not sure they are brighter/smarter. Many are mesmerized by technology and lack social skills (as a result?). Many think there is no use being engaged with society (the game is rigged). But isn’t part of the problem; the materialism, consumerism, TV mesmerizing etc— capitalism? I’m not exonerating what a National Review editor pejoratively called the “Simple Majority” (as opposed to Nixon’s “Silent Majority”). Perhaps, if these distractions did not exist they would be burning witches, studying alchemy and holding inquisitions. And therein lies the problem with Gary’s revolution: the mass of men.
    Let me know when the revolution starts. I’ll be your Bakunin.

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    • You’ll know when my revolution starts, because you will be THROWN IN PRISON for these comments 🙂 I know, the younger generation has its problems, one of which it the vast commercialization/marketing side of technology, where everyone is in the marketing web by default. But when I talk to young people, say Rachael’s 20-something friends, I find that they’re no less idealistic and no more ignorant than hippie days 20-somethings … although they don’t have the Vietnam war/draft and the Civil Rights Movement to keep them focused, so social/political engagement is maybe less urgent, but I don’t see them collapsing into old-school conventional thinking either. Also I don’t buy the equation between social media savvy and lack of real-world social skills (judging from my contact with young people, this happens but isn’t the norm).

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  4. One of the overriding complaints of my corporate clients of their younger employees is that they lack social skills. Cause? Good luck holding me in that prison!!

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    • Your corporate clients are curmudgeons. After the revolution, you won’t have corporate clients. “Work” and “workplace” will be redefined. Tulip farms and guitar shops. And maybe Ben and Jerry’s.

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      • A potential problem with tulip farms: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_mania

        The only question left is whether or not our species has the wherewithal to transform its culture of invention and expansion in order to survive the inevitability of retraction and preservation. Sharing and openness (Gary’s revolution) will get us there; selfishness and insularity will take us back to the Four Horsemen for another round of collective penance.

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  5. Gary,
    I sense that in most things you are Marx and I am Bakunin. You are a disgruntled intellectual with pseudo psychological illusions. You have no prison which can hold me or those who oppose you! Who is the real revolutionary here? You speak of tulips and guitar shops (flowers in your hair), but your 60s heroes were throwing bombs, threatening to kill people, etc. There was no velvet revolution here. And those who tried it with civil rights (King) were constantly at battle with those more radical (panthers etc). What you really want is an internal revolution—“the kingdom of god is within” (forgive me fellow atheists). When in history has that ever happened? You want everyone to “resist not evil.” But when has that ever happened across the board (and those who did try to adhere to it usually ended up dead)? When such a spark ignited it was simply co-opted by the establishment. You don’t want a political revolution or a social revolution, you want a personal revolution that may then, maybe, might, lead to these idealized worlds you inhabit where people are fashion anarchists and no-one contradicts another’s lifestyle. What Kool-Aid are you imagining to get this internal transformation across the world (can we get a patent on the formula?)? Hey, I’m with you old friend (almost 40 years now), but first we must kill those who disagree with us!!

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    • For all I know, you might be right. Although I think you slight the impact of MLK and Gandhi. As per the comic relief in Henry VI, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Except for you. I want you in that prison where I can videotape your repentance.

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  6. You ask where political correctness leads next. I think you know the answer already, which is why you keep returning to the topic with a heavy heart and dread. Political incorrectness may have been born out of hope for a more tolerant society, but forcing others to do anything (even to be more tolerant) betrays a fundamental intolerance.

    First, certain words and phrases were outlawed. Now the freedom to hold ideas and to exercise free speech are at risk in some groups – especially in university student bodies. In the UK there is a growing rise of threats and even violence from left-wing political activists:
    http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/media/2015/10/protesters-outside-tory-party-conference-have-been-spitting-journalists
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34993447
    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/dec/03/corbyn-urged-to-disband-momentum-after-labour-mps-report-bullying-and-abuse

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