Has Political Correctness become an inflexible dogma?
Political correctness (PC) used to mean that there is a certain way of saying things which will convey the message without offending anybody. It usually involved avoiding certain usages of language that were considered improper and impolite. PC made sense as it helped to keep the conversations going without raising anybody’s hackles.
When certain forms of behaviour and expressions endure and become habitual, they run the risk of being dogmatized. In recent years, PC has been transformed almost into a cult — like phenomenon with rules and protocols that need to be observed by all whether they like it or not. Who enforces the rules of the cult? Mostly, it is the liberal elites and their media patrons.
One thought that in a democratic country where people are free to express their opinions, there can be no limits on free speech, especially on the compulsion to sanitize the expressions to make them appear as mild and palatable.
The cult leaders seem to be saying that we are free to speak, but only if we follow their unwritten rules of speech that demand avoidance of certain words, phrases and epithets. What is the price to be paid for defying the diktats of the liberal commentariat? Well, one runs the risk of being severely bullied, offline and online, and pilloried as racists, fascists, sexists, hate- mongers, and so on.
PC is a flaw that afflicts so the called liberals, and leftists in democracies like the US and India. In India, public universities have been taken over by the leftists who profess tolerance but practise intolerance in trying to suppress opposing worldviews. The PC code of the leftists bans all references to religion (There is no bar in ridiculing Hinduism of course) and the nation. The youth are indoctrinated and brainwashed to such an extent that they stop thinking for themselves. The leftists do not believe in the nation state. They do all they can to devalue nationhood even to the extent of encouraging secessionist forces to raise anti-India slogans inside the campuses. But Chinese nationhood is their darling. They pay obeisance to China and its dictators at every given opportunity.
In the US, private campuses are under the thrall of PC. Academicians and students are afraid to speak lest they should be misunderstood for being politically incorrect. Effectively, self-censorship is at work.
Liberals hate Donald Trump mainly because he defied every canon of PC. He might have said insensitive things, but he should have been countered by rational arguments rather than being demonized as a dangerous politician. When hatred and fury blind common sense, the easiest thing to do is to portray the target as evil and avoid debates.
It is true that people should avoid spreading hate and ill- will against any section of the society. But that doesn’t mean, people should stop speaking truths, whether historical or topical, however unpalatable they may appear. Nobody has any monopoly over truth which is a multifaceted phenomenon. Facts alone do not constitute the truth. Facts need to be examined in context. Certain backgrounds create certain facts. There should not be any ban on discussing why the background came to be as it is and why it cannot be changed for changing the facts. Chasing absolute truths is a messianic delusion and does not always facilitate free and fair conversation. The world functions within a prism of relativity.
It is true that blatant lies can be easily spread in digital channels of communication. Blatant lies and palpable misrepresentations need to be countered. At the same time, all apparent lies are not intentional. A falsehood can be espoused unintentionally. Falsehoods are not deliberate lies. It can even be spread by default due to gaps in information. The liberal media itself does this by its selective reporting that creates a particular impression about something in the minds of the viewers and readers.
For instance, during the Second World War, the Nazi atrocities did not receive wide coverage in the American media including the New York Times. This gave the impression that no genocide of Jews happened in Germany. The atrocities of Stalin were also not widely reported in the English media. Most cruel was not adequately reporting the famine triggered by Stalin that killed millions. Is the liberal media guilty of telling lies by omission? So the so called post- truth is not a new phenomenon at all.
In a way, we are politically correct when occasions demand it. We do not abuse the dead in funeral speeches or epitaphs. At the same time, PC should never become an end in itself, but should only be a means to keep conversations within the bounds of civility.
Part of the problem is a fetish for values, moral absolutes and notions of good and bad. This leads to judgmentalism and intolerance. If all of us can take conscious efforts to overcome our myriad cognitive biases, the world will become a better place to live in.