Tuesday, 6 August 2013

What is Political Correctness?

Political correctness is a compound term that gets thrown around a lot nowadays, usually by those opposed to a discourse which avoids addressing socio-political issues deemed to be of a pressing nature. To call someone "politically correct" is to accuse him or her of timidity in regard to problems that must be faced head-on.

The accusation of political correctness is a disease that all democratic societies must come to terms with. The substratum of most societies is a mass of individuals whose manners are uncouth, who have little or no education, whose analytical skills are inadequate, and who often carry grievances. Sadly, the principle of universal suffrage grants these animal-like creatures the right to vote and their grievances give rise to populist politicians. These populist politicians speak the crude language of the embittered masses and a symbiotic relationship between a populist agitator and the crowd comes into being, threatening the very foundations of democracy.

The accusations of political correctness will always emanate from those who identify themselves with the majority of a society. They will decry what they view as special privileges granted to minorities, and they will want an open debate on this politics of appeasement.

We must ask ourselves why special privileges are granted to minorities in the first place. As we reflect on this matter, we must keep in mind that the political vision of the ignorant masses extends to the coming weekend, whereas the political vision of a true statesman - men such as Bismarck, Atatürk, and Putin - is solicitous of the centuries that are to follow.

Uneducated Europeans tend to pout about the privileges afforded to the immigrants, but these privileges are but trifles in comparison with the privileges granted by China to her minorities. The Chinese one child policy does not apply to the Uyghur Muslims, who are allowed to have two children. Time is allotted to the Uyghurs for the observance of their prayers while they are at work. The Uyghurs are paid higher wages than the Han Chinese in Xinjiang owing to the fact that mutton is more expensive than pork. The Chinese Communist Party does not grant these privileges to the Uyghurs because they are philo-Islamic; these measures serve the purpose of bringing about the cohesion of the state.

Russia, likewise, grants many privileges to its minorities. In the case of country as vast as Russia, the granting of privileges to the minorities is an absolute necessity. Russia does not have the infrastructure - nor is it economically feasible - to rigorously police every corner of the country. The loyalty of the minorities living on the Russian periphery must be won by showing them that the state cares for their well-being.

If China and Russia allowed these policies to become subject to public debate, there would surely be many a fool, whose political vision does not extend any farther than to the coming weekend, who would object to this preferential treatment of the minorities. Precisely for this reason China and Russia should never allow these policies to become subject to open debate.

Also in the West, there are preferential policies aimed at the minorities. It is legitimate to point out the flaws to these policies, but one should be wary of conflating the reasoned critique of these policies with the criticism of those at whom these policies are aimed.

The rejection of political correctness is rooted in the desire to give vent to one's primal rage; we are dealing with hooliganism plain and simple. Political correctness is the adherence to a civilised discourse, whereas its opponents reject it in the name of free speech. But free speech, it must be remembered, is not an end in itself; free speech is a means to an end, and like any means it must be utilised in a responsible fashion. The uncultured advocates of free speech assume the role of victims when they are rebuked for making irresponsible utterances. They claim that their democratic rights have been trampled on, but the fact of the matter is that the exercise of prudence in regard to one's speech is part and parcel of the human condition. Indeed, this art of discernment in speech is what distinguishes man from the beast. And those who master this art have found ways of getting around the censors in societies exercising the severest kind of thought-control.

There was a famous Russian saint who would always keep a tiny rock in his mouth with a view to restraining his speech. People would do well to follow this saint's example. Far more important than the freedom of speech is the ability to keep one's mouth shut.