As a proponent of progressive politics and a devout socialist, some are surprised–or worse, actually disappointed–to hear that I routinely decry the concept of political correctness (or, for all of us lazy typists and acronym-lovers–“PC,” not to be confused with the abbreviation for “personal computer,” a.k.a., any computer not manufactured by Apple, which is most of them, but let’s get back to the subject at hand before I end up going on one of my infamous off-topic tangents). Many seem to believe that the PC attitude is endemic to the progressive or liberal mindset. Many people on the Left, unfortunately, do indeed display PC attitudes and reactions about certain issues that are particularly “close” to them on a personal or experiential level. But is PC truly an inherent aspect of progressive or liberal sentiments? No, it isn’t, and moreover, it shouldn’t be, IMHO. Why do I famously (or infamously, take your pick, I don’ t care) loathe this concept? Read on, if you have the time and can stomach food for thought.
I. What Is Political Correctness?
For the record, the PC attitude is defined as fealty or appeal to sentiment over objective fact or almost any possibility of nuance. In other words, it entails thinking with your emotions rather than using reason, empiricism, or logical and rational thought regarding a given topic… or group of individuals, specific individuals, etc. Such attitudes and reactions are most often attributed to the Left, but the mindset of the Right is quite capable of adopting PC attitudes and reactions to certain topics despite constantly deriding “PC” whenever they perceive it as being spouted by left-leaning folks. For example, the Right’s tendency towards uncritical and heavily emotionally biased reaction when assessing any conceivable action taken by the U.S. government against other nations has been dubbed patriotic correctness, and this is clearly a sub-category of PC. In other words, anybody can be prone to this tendency if they feel strongly enough about anything in particular.
In fact, the attitude of patriotic correctness represents the dark side of patriotism and national pride (which is why it’s frequently called nationalism), much as PC as used in a general sense represents the dark side of liberal and progressive politics and thinking. Yes, liberalism can be taken too far, and you just read me saying this–and too many have actually had to endure hearing me say this–with not the slightest bit of shame, and a hefty degree of commitment. This is because, for all my manifold faults and foibles (sorry, that’s the price I pay for being human), one thing I can say for myself is that I strongly believe in the principles of justice, equality, and reason on all fronts–political, social, and economic–that are supposed to be cherished parts of the liberal and progressive platforms, and frankly the PC attitude betrays these principles to an unacceptable degree. It confers the doctrine of exceptionalism to any individual or organization representing individuals who happen to belong to a group that are considered minorities, and have been heavily oppressed and/or victimized in the past.
In other words, in contrast to many on the Right, many on the Left can be prone to bequeathing exceptionalism to those who are not perceived as being in power or in a privileged socio-political-economic position, as opposed to those who are considered to be (justifiably or not) in such a position of advantage. And this doctrine always applies to those belonging to said groups without first considering individual circumstances, or judging by individual merits rather than on the basis of what group they happen to belong to. The Left and the Right are simply prone to bestow this exceptionalist bias to individuals or orgs at opposite ends of the perceived privilege hierarchy, while deriding each other for venerating the “wrong” side. Moreover, both sides believe there can be justifiable reasons–or more accurately, justifications or rationalizations–for conferring the bias of exceptionalism upon people in their preferred direction. With me so far?
II. What Happens to Justice and Equality When the PC Principle is Put Into Common Practice?
One of the strongest principles inherent to progressive politics that I ascribe to are those which posit that all human beings should have equal rights. This doctrine, to me, should apply regardless of race, gender, age (the latter sadly not yet ascribed to by liberal or progressive politics at large), ethnic background, sexual orientation/preferences, religious beliefs (or lack thereof), or political position on any given issue.
Of course, not all human beings are born literally equal in a biologically intrinsic sense: Some are stronger than others; some are faster than others; some have great talent in one area or discipline, while others are naturally skilled in distinct areas; some have high ambition, whereas others have more modest dreams and goals; some regularly enjoy good health, while others, unfortunately, do not; the majority of men may be physically stronger than the majority of women, whereas the majority of women may be physically faster and enjoy generally greater longevity and hardiness against disease than the majority of men, etc., et al. I think you get the gist.
What I’m talking about here is equality of opportunity, and the right to have full material compensation for whatever service you provide to society, be it of a physical or intellectual nature. These rights include (but are far from limited to) freedom of speech; freedom of lifestyle choice; freedom of movement & association; and the right to be judged according to facts and actual individual merit. The PC attitude, alas, does not favor this notion, no matter how much some of its adherents may claim that it does. This is because it essentially commits the same form of injustice against all people belonging to a certain a group that has traditionally been advantaged in society–even if often not on an individual level–which people on the Right have commonly inflicted upon those in a traditionally disadvantaged or victimized status.
Further, it attempts to justify or rationalize such actions and reactions by doing another thing the Right has been infamous for doing, albeit in the opposite direction: Claiming that not all human beings are inherently equal in a moral sense, i.e., that some groups of people are inherently more noble, innocent of ill intentions, less capable of committing unscrupulous acts, or deserving of adulation than those from another group… again, irregardless of individual merit or any observable evidence and (sometimes) proven facts.
This is because, as noted, the PC attitude is based upon people’s emotional connection to a group or what that group may represent to them, and not any type of actual principle or anything related to facts or evidence. This is rationalized with the belief that such an attitude somehow “balances out” previous injustices inflicted upon the oppressed individual or group. In other words, if some group has shown prejudice or hatred against your group, it’s perfectly justifiable to turn around and be prejudiced and hateful back at them. This, as opposed to rising above prejudice and hate itself, and fighting any system, policy, or mindset that promotes the types of inequality that fosters prejudice and hatred in the first place.
Like, yanno, maybe an entire economic system based upon unequal distribution of material goods and opportunities, competition that pits individuals against each other for these material goods and opportunities, and in which power disparities and hierarchies are an established part of its framework (yes, this was a dig against capitalism, in case anyone actually had even the slightest doubt). Or, failing that, at least opposition to any policy or program within such a framework that exacerbates or extenuates prejudices and hatred.
The PC attitude pushes this “eye for an eye” doctrine while claiming that what it’s actually all about is achieving equality and a fight for justice. But in the immortal words of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “you can’t fight evil by doing evil.” Or another way of saying this: You cannot fight inequality with inequality, or combat injustice by promoting a different form of injustice. You cannot solve the inequality and injustices that stem from the prevailing hierarchy, or lessen instances of victimization, by simply flipping the power hierarchy upside down, with claims that the oppressed or victimized people would somehow be expected to create a kinder, gentler hierarchical system. This goes back to the PC notion that some races, or one particular gender, or one particular sexual orientation, etc., are inherently less inclined to abuse power and enact unscrupulous behavior when in the same type of privileged position–either as individuals or as a group–than those who were hypothetically replaced in that position.
As one PC-minded individual once told me in adamant disagreement: “No, it’s not the system that holds women down; men hold women down!” Mmm-hmm, as if men are just naturally oppressive beasts, and the framework of the system in which we live has no impact upon the way our lives are structured, or the nature of the opportunities available to different groups within. Such an attitude works well for those who need to mindlessly vent against certain people, but when emotion is replaced with common sense and reason, does this work well for assessing the reality of the situation? The problem is, the PC attitude insists that generalization-heavy attacks on one group do not bear the same moral weight as the same type of attack on another group. This is the crux of the PC attitude, and the very essence of the dreaded doctrine of exceptionalism, no matter what group of people it’s awarded to. Too many people from all groups do not take a pause and consider the implications of such double standard biases.
III. Why is Political Correctness a Form of Injustice Rather Than a Justifiable Reaction To It?
The answer to the question headlining this section should be a no-brainer, but since we humans are heavily emotional creatures… it’s not. This isn’t saying that emotions are an inherently bad thing, but rather that we need to have them under control, and to never lose reasoned perspective or succumb to the temptation to embrace bias. We, as progressives, must never abandon our principles, nor put sentiment over reason under any circumstances.
This is not always easy to do, and we all get tempted to “give in” at one time or another. But we must keep in mind that, as is often stated, most often the right thing to do is the hardest available option to actually choose. This is why people so often do the self-serving and expedient thing instead of the right thing, even when the right thing may be obvious (though sometimes the right thing may not be so obvious, of course; introspection is important). Adopting the PC attitude as a means of combating or rectifying injustice is going to be as effective as the notion of achieving peace by fighting endless wars, or curing an allergic reaction to penicillin by injecting the patient with an antibiotic of the same pharmaceutical family as penicillin.
By not addressing the intrinsic causes of prejudice, hatred, ignorance, and inequality, and instead taking the side of Group/Person X against Group/Person Y based upon which group you personally belong to or which person (or group) you happen to feel sorry for, respectively, you end up eschewing the moral high ground and simply declare war for control over who most “deserves” to enjoy the privileged position. This counter-productive attitude and tactic is favored by the PC-minded over that of going to the root of the problem and opposing the concepts of hatred, inequality, and bigotry themselves… or any policy or system that by its very nature creates and nurtures them.
IV. Does Political Correctness Actually Benefit the Group It’s Directed in Favor Of?
No, it doesn’t. Not when you put the emotion aside (I know, not easy to do) and actually think about it, and then follow that up with taking a good unbiased look at the actual results. The PC route ultimately benefits no one, and actually corrupts any cause it may be intended to “benefit.” Please bear with me and allow me to provide some real-life, personally experienced examples that illustrate my point.
About a year ago I came across two individuals having one of the usual heated arguments you see in the comments section of online articles. The article dealt with issues faced by homosexuals in their civil rights battles to get their attraction base accepted in many venues, which is a good cause that I fully support. As we all know, the LGBT community in general is a group that is often the target of nasty bigotry from the Right, and just as often incessant coddling from the Left. Hence, the article, group of people, and comment section exchange in question combined to form a perfect example of PC at work, illustrating how it’s actually the flip side of commonly understood bigotry, not its antitheses (sort of like how hate is actually the flip side of love, not its true opposite, but you know what I mean). And this exchange was made all the more interesting and relevant since it was between someone harboring the common biases of the Right and someone harboring the common biases of the Left.
The first commenter, coming from the Right, made a statement that went something like this: “I’m sick of how gays are always pushing their attractions on everyone else!” The second commenter, coming from the Left, made the following rebuttal: “No, gays do not push their attractions on everyone else!” So, being the opinionated egalitarian that I am, I felt the need to intervene and make the following statement-cum-lecture, which went something like this:
“Both of you are actually incorrect, because both of you are spewing generalizations. Both of you made a declaration implying gay people as a whole either always get ‘pushy’ with their attraction base, or as a whole they never do. I think anyone who takes a truly unbiased view of the matter will observe the following:
“Many in the gay community are very cool and decent people who display pride in who and what they are without shoving it up anyone else’s nose, and fully respect the fact that others can accept their attractions and support their civil rights without sharing any attraction to members of the same gender. Other people in the gay community, however, are indeed pushy nuisances who are annoyingly ‘in your face’ with heterosexuals about their attraction base, mistaking that for genuine pride, and have the belief that anyone who says they are not attracted to members of the same gender, or at least willing to give it a ‘try,’ are ‘immoral’ bigots who cannot possibly truly accept gay people and support their rights.
“Any person, from any particular group, who refuse to see beyond their own perspective – be they heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or even asexual (this group really exists, btw) – are the true bigots. Those people from any particular group who have open-minded values that accept any natural attraction base as equally valid despite not having it or even necessarily understanding it themselves are the true egalitarians.
“Anyway, both generalizations basically deny gay people their essential humanity, but in opposite directions. The first speaks of gays as if they universally have more faults than heterosexuals, whereas the second speaks of gays as if they universally have less faults than heterosexuals. The real truth is that gay people are, first and foremost, well… people. That means human beings, and all the potential attributes–good, bad, and in-between–that invariably come with being human. They have the same inherent capacity for being good people, and achieving true greatness, as any heterosexual; and they likewise have the same inherent capacity for being bad people, and actually committing truly atrocious acts, as any heterosexual. The same goes for bisexuals, asexuals, etc. Demonizing them collectively like the first person did is bigoted, ignorant nonsense; and canonizing them collectively like the second person did is pandering, bleeding heart nonsense.”
No doubt that diatribe of mine was long-winded and on the pretentious side, as my diatribes and anecdotes tend to be, but I think many get my point here. The PC attitude isn’t supporting minorities and victims, but engaging in brown-nosing and ass-kissing. It’s putting them on a virtually angelic podium that does a great injustice not only to everyone who isn’t considered a minority or a victim, but also against the minorities and victims themselves.
I’ve known many members of different minority groups–including blacks, gays, and women–who are some of the greatest and inspirational people I have ever known. The list of my personal real-life heroes includes Martin Luther King Jr., Harry Hay, and Rosa Parks. I’ve noticed that every cool and awesome member of a minority group whom I have had the honor of knowing all have something interesting and, I think, wonderful, in common: None of them appreciate the PC attitude, and none of them typically eat it up when it’s directed at them, or to others of their group in front of them.
My best friend in the world is a woman, someone who is very strong and independent, and runs her own successful business without ever having received help or financial support from a man. She has told me many times how she finds the PC concept of chivalry, or the White Knight attitude extended to her by many men, to be degrading rather than coming off as considerate or gentlemanly. It offends her sense of pride and accomplishment as a strong-minded and confident woman, because it implies that she is inherently vulnerable and in need of special treatment. This in turn carries the implication that she actually requires special treatment in order to get anywhere in this world, because she is unable to earn it on her own merits. She is quite adamant about never having needed anything of the sort, and she takes great offense at this type of brown-nosing, feel-good attitude from men.
In all honesty, how many people with true pride in what and who they are actually respect anyone who kisses their ass? When have such individuals ever wanted or expected special treatment for some arbitrary reason rather than simply equality of opportunity, and the same civil rights as anyone else in society? How many of them need or want respect handed to them solely on the basis of what they are as opposed to who they are as a person?
Affirmative action may have had its merits to balance out the lack of economic opportunities afforded to minorities in the job market for so long (the job market being a characteristic of capitalism, I will shamelessly add), but extending the basic concept into personal relations or a court of law to “balance” things achieves nothing of the sort. Instead, it simply replaces one form of injustice for another. Examples of these things include taking the side of a black person over a white person during a social dispute when you either knew the black person was in the wrong, or had no evidence either way; or, taking the side of a woman over a man in a court of law without even considering the available evidence first.
The rationalization that such biased and disingenuous behavior somehow balances the scale for past injustices against these minority groups misses the point about fighting injustice and inequality by a long shot. It also espouses a really peculiar definition of the terms “equality” and “balance.” Perhaps worst of all, it crosses the line between justice and revenge. For those who may not see much of a difference between the two terms, the former is enacting retribution in accordance with strong principles; the latter is an attempt at enacting retribution at any cost while giving the finger to any code of principles. It’s the difference between a desire to improve conditions for everyone and create a better world for all to live in, and a desire to simply lash out and hurt others as a vent for your own pain and anger.
I’ve personally known individuals of every conceivable race, gender, sexual preference, etc., who were very good people,and others who were very bad people. I’ve known gay people who have made great and totally selfless sacrifices for others with no expectation of anything in return; and I’ve known gay people that were shameless users and thieves with every friend they had. I’ve known black people who were awful criminals, and black people who were so noble and self-sacrificing that they went out of their way to bail me out of a difficult situation despite the fact that I was a stranger, asking for or expecting nothing in return. I’ve known women who were some of the greatest and most inspiring human beings I’ve ever known (*waves to my best friend*), and I’ve known others who were among the worst liars and most selfish and cruel people I’ve ever had the misfortune of knowing. And of course, I’ve known fellow white, male, heterosexuals who ran the gamut of some of the best people I’ve ever known, with others being among the worst sociopaths I’ve ever crossed paths with.
Moreover, I’ve known many people from all of the above groups who fell somewhere in between the visible spectrum of good and bad. All of these people had but one thing in common: typical human flaws. The differences among them where how they handled these flaws. Some of them dealt with their flaws admirably to become very good, selfless, and caring people,; while others gave into the temptation to act selfishly or expediently, to hate others, and to embrace any form of ignorant thinking that may have been to their social advantage.
I think this evidence is readily observable to anyone who has routinely spent a lot of time around a diverse, cosmopolitan crowd of people, and not developed a chip on their shoulder against any group in particular due to negative personal experiences. In other words, people who have not lost their proper perspective, or considered an egalitarian view as a burden that gets in the way of an out-of-control emotional desire to vent and spew noxious resentment towards a particular group.
V. What Happens When Political Correctness Runs Rampant
This leads to the next section of this post. Thank you for sticking with me up to this point, those of you who stuck with me (*waves to those who stuck with me*).
Anyway, here is the most important reason to oppose rather than embrace PC attitudes: Plain and simply, due to some of those human flaws I mentioned, pandering and ass-kissing that are part and parcel of the PC attitude encourages many individuals to become selfish, inconsiderate assholes. Why? Think about it for a minute. Then, take a look at and consider my second real-life example.
Some time ago, I worked in a warehouse with several other guys, among them a genuinely nice guy named Jim. In fact, he was one of the coolest guys I had the privilege of working with there. At least at first he was. That changed thanks to our esteemed manager, a guy named Paul. I personally liked Paul, but he had a strong bias against me because of my personality traits; specifically, those traits that tend to annoy certain people, like my quickness with an opinion, the fact many of those opinions aren’t popular ones (remember, I’m a socialist! Paul hated that!), my admitted enjoyment of instigating those who are sensitive (sensitive people are another pet peeve of mine, but that’s a subject for another post), etc. Anyone who knows me well fully understands, I’m sure.
On the other hand, Paul was highly enamored of Jim’s personality, who was undoubtedly much easier to deal with than me on a personal level, and this led to Paul’s tendency to give special treatment to him. So it got to the point where, because of Paul’s bias extended in different directions, he would do things like being quick to notice if I wasn’t doing my job for a minute at a time, and neglect to notice if Jim wasn’t doing his job for lengthy periods of time. Or, if Jim and I had a dispute over something, regardless of who was at fault, or if both of us were equally at fault, Paul’s typical reaction would be to say (directly to me): “Leave Jim alone, he’s a good guy.”
And Jim was a good guy. But after a while of being on the favored side of Paul’s biased behavior, his own behavior started to change, taking on patterns that betrayed the upright person that he was (and I’m not talking about his posture here!). It pretty much came to a head when he and I were goofing around one day to relieve the boredom of a slow shift, and both of us ended up falling on top of a table, our combined weight smashing it to the ground. Both of us were at fault. I knew that. Jim knew it. And the only other guy present, another worker named Chris, saw the destructive incident and knew it. So I suggested the obvious: That Jim and I both apologize to Paul for goofing around, basically throwing ourselves on his good graces by owning up to the fact that we were goofing off and it got out of hand. Except, Jim didn’t feel that was required. He told me that he felt he was in no way at fault for the lambasted table, and would make this clear to Paul. Why would Jim lie like that, being the nice guy that he was (or used to be, at least)?
Simple: Because by that point in time, he knew that Paul would never take my word over his that we were both to blame (which we were), even if the only “evidence” was his word against mine. The only reason that didn’t happen is because the other Chris intervened and reminded Jim that denying his complicity was ethically wrong, as he clearly saw what took place and that it was both our faults. So Jim thought about it a bit, and then grudgingly agreed to own up along with me. Deep down, he was still a good guy, but the bad side that everyone potentially has was being encouraged by the emotionally-based privileges that Paul was extending to him, which granted him the social and job equivalent of diplomatic immunity for any possible wrongdoing.
As you might imagine, I got extremely angry when Jim made that declaration of non-guilt by default of Paul’s bias, but as I made clear to Jim, I was not angry at him so much as pissed off at Paul. Why? Because Paul’s biased attitude and coddling of Jim was effectively turning this nice guy into an asshole. Yes, it was Jim’s fault for taking advantage, but it’s a well-known human flaw that people in general–no matter what group they belong to –will take advantage of being granted a privileged status by others for what amounts to emotional reasons. It’s a form of power given to these individuals. It’s nothing less than a despotic form of privilege, and by its very nature it taints and negatively influences the behavior of people in the same manner as it does to those who are given positions of official power. Power based on emotional deference that effectively grants diplomatic social immunity is still a form of power, and it corrupts personal behavior accordingly. Power and privilege, in any of its myriad forms–whether financial, political, or social–corrupts. And no group of human beings are immune to this corrupting influence.
Perhaps most importantly, this highlights the difference between power and empowerment. Some people are too quick to cross the line from one to the other, or to confuse the two, much as revenge can be confused for justice.
VI. Let’s Get to Some Controversial Political Examples That, Like It Or Not, Are Very Apt
As a good political example of the PC doctrine in action, one of the emotionally-charged aspects of our society which can aptly serve as a macrocosm of the above personal example is discussions over how accusations of rape should be dealt with. Specifically, accusations by women against men. Please bear with me again, and let’s dive into some fiery territory whose heat surpasses solar levels, because I think it’s necessary to do so to gain a full and comprehensive understand of the price we pay for championing PC attitudes, let alone laws based on it.
The accusation of rape is a very serious one, because it’s a terrible crime that does indeed happen all too often, and it needs to be dealt with effectively when it does. Further, we need protective measures in place to decrease the chances of it happening as much as reasonably possible, and proper education and awareness about this subject need to be made readily available to everyone. I believe some of these measures should include proper training for girls in self-defense techniques being encouraged and made affordably available everywhere, along with raising kids with values that do not instill typical macho attitudes in boys, and which do not subject girls and women who openly express their natural sexual desires to the shame game. But this can be part of a whole other topic, and I certainly do plan to take on our society’s horrid and hypocritical practice of “slut-shaming” women in a future blog. My point here is to show what happens when this very serious and legitimate concern is met with emotional bias rather than reasoned thought.
When the bias is in place, you will see rape support websites that purport to provide good information, advice, and support give the following instruction on what to do if a woman tells you she is raped: Always believe her. Seriously? With only that little tidbit of information given to the readers? What, you may ask, should be the fair and reasoned response, then? It should, IMO, be this: Consider the individual source.
Meaning, we need to ask these important questions: Is this accusation being made by a girl/woman who has a reputation of being a generally honest and scrupulous individual? Is she known for being clinically sane? Does she have a known history of frequently going to unreasonable extremes to get attention or sympathy? Could she have any obvious ulterior motives to make such a serious accusation against this man in particular? If the answer to these questions are yes-yes-no-no, then you sincerely should believe her, because she is very likely telling the truth, and the ensuing investigation and possible subsequent trial should take all of this into account.
But conversely, what if the answer to any or all of the following questions turns out to be “yes”: Does she have a history of mental illness that has manifested as issues with men and multiple verified instances of making untrue accusations? Is she simply known to be a sociopath in general, or to be a generally unscrupulous person who is known for nasty attitudes or abusive behavior towards men? Does she have a known and verifiable reputation as a chronic liar and “drama queen”? Is she simply a person who has an extensive reputation for making stupid comments for frivolous reasons without putting much thought into what she says? Has she been known to have a major grudge against the man she accused which many who know her could agree was not due to justifiable reasons? Is she known to take rejection extremely badly, and be inclined towards vengeful behavior with those who have slighted her due to past experiences?
If any or all of the above is true, then she could conceivably be lying, and judgement on both her and the accused needs to be reserved until a full investigation can be made. Of course, just because she has a history of these negative behavior patterns doesn’t mean she is lying. Any woman can be a rape victim, and this certainly needs to be taken into consideration. That being said, everyone should be told the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” and the simple but important lesson it teaches, as soon as they become cognizant enough to listen to and comprehend stories.
Conversely, not all men are equally capable of raping a woman, so what is known about the history of the accused’s behavior and character should also be considered. For instance, does he have a history of aberrant behavior towards women, or unusually aggressive sexual conduct? Is he known to be abusive? Does he have a criminal record along these lines? Is he known to act very out of line, with poor self-control, when he’s inebriated? Is he on any type of medication that may affect his behavior in extreme ways? Has he enjoyed a very privileged upbringing and/or adulation for a series of accomplishments–such as being a renowned and popular athlete–that have rendered him known for not being able to handle being told “no” in response to any request or demand? Is he known for simply being a selfish jerk who could care less about the boundaries of others, or has he displayed obvious sociopathic tendencies? Does he have a reputation for being a chronic liar? All of these are important questions to ask about the man who is accused, and all are relevant to an investigation.
Now, ask yourself these questions with serious consideration: Is there anything inherently unreasonable, let alone sexist or outright misogynistic, about the above suggestions? Is there anything to suggest that women are inherently more likely to tell lies than men? I certainly think not. But many who have gotten emotionally swept up into the PC attitude would deep throat me with their fist while accusing me of of the above things. Which is similar to how individuals with other types of biases and PC-oriented positions of emotionally derived privilege would accuse me (or anyone else) of being “anti-Semitic” for criticizing the Israeli government’s savage policies against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
But due to the seriousness of this issue, and the powerful emotions that come with it, many PC-leaning folks on the Left will verbally eviscerate anyone who implies that women are anywhere near as morally capable of telling lies or of exhibiting unethical behavior as men. This is not due to any inherent moral inferiority in men, but rather the fact that those who are PC-inclined about these issues feel that due to having been in a privileged societal position for so long, men have not earned the moral capital that women have, and as a result an injustice against a man is a lesser evil than an injustice against a woman. It’s also based on the misguided belief by way of PC rationalization that even if innocent men are thrown into prison on false rape charges, it’s an unfortunate but “necessary evil” if that’s what it takes to bring more awareness and sympathy to the legitimate danger of rape.
The above belief, however, ignores the fact that the reason men have acted so abusive and domineering to women on such a scale is because they grew up in a system that established their privileged position, and even the majority of women complied with it in the past, sometimes because they were raised to believe that was the natural way of things, and other times because their particular husbands were as pampering as they were domineering and not blatantly abusive. In short, it was this power and privilege afforded to men that corrupted the behavior of so many of them, not some form of moral failing that is inherent to the male gender.
To go with the Israel analogy again, this belief in the accumulation of moral capital being used to rationalize members of a group that was previously oppressed and victimized committing similar actions against another group of people at a later time is an emotionally manipulative tactic commonly used by the right-wing and Zionist supporters of the Israeli government no matter what it does to the Palestinians. The rationalizations often used are that because of what they have been through in the past, Jews who support such policies, or who attempt to instigate war with Iran or other Middle Eastern nations, are simply “defending” themselves so that they will never be thrown into those gas chambers again. Any non-Jewish people who criticize these horrid policies are denounced as “anti-Semitic,” and the many reasonable and morally upright Jews who criticize these policies are derided as “self-hating Jews.”
This right-wing attitude insists that the Israeli government be exempt from moral judgement no matter what it does, including establish an overt ethnocracy and a system of apartheid against Palestinians that Israel supporters (yanno, like Bill Maher) wouldn’t hesitate criticizing South Africa for doing. This is because the past status of Jews as victims is used as an emotional rationale to justify any conceivable action taken by the right-wing Israeli government as long as it purports to “represent” all Jewish people and their interests anywhere in the world. Since Jews have been unjustly hated by many in the past (and they certainly have), this variant of the PC doctrine insists they have thus earned the “right” to act the same way towards other groups that happen to inconvenience the right-wing pundits who rule Israel on their “behalf” with their presence or mere existence. The Israeli government, their AIPAC lobbyists in America, and the American politicians who are terrified of going against this powerful lobby out of fear of being called all the usual names (which is just about all of them, btw) for breaching this impermeable PC membrane justify any atrocity committed against other ethnic groups by this government–including by blowing numerous innocent Palestinians and what passes for their homes to bits on the Gaza Strip during their periodic bombing assaults–with the usual claim that they’re simply “defending” themselves against ever becoming “victims” again. Sound familiar?
The implication is often made that the German people had moral failings that Jewish people do not have, despite how many Jewish people act no different when in similar positions of power, and in regards to adopting similar policies and ideologies based on conceptions of ethnic-based apartheid. Or it’s argued that it’s “different” when Jewish people behave that way, because Germans and other ethnic groups “never went through what they did.” Never mind the fact that many other ethnic and racial groups, including blacks, Native Americans, Vietnamese, and various Caucasian immigrant groups (other than Jews) have likewise been subject to extreme oppression that could, in their own way, easily be classified as “holocaust events” (as opposed to the Holocaust, or perhaps more accurately, the Jewish Holocaust). In fact, other Caucasian ethnic groups were likewise targeted by Hitler’s despotic regime, including Czechs, Poles, and Gypsies. Hitler and his cronies cast their net of hatred far and wide, and as horrible as what happened to the Jews under his regime certainly was–a horrific atrocity I am in no way intending to make light of, as innumerable innocent people of Jewish descent were murdered and incarcerated simply for being Jewish–what happened to them was hardly uniquely horrific in the annals of horrors perpetrated by various groups of people against others when it was convenient for ruling classes–whatever ethnicity they may have been at any given time and place–to stir that particular pot so as to sustain or increase their privileged positions in the class hierarchy.
People from any one of those above groups, regardless of race or ethnic background, would be apt to behave in such ways if in positions of privilege… including positions perceived on the accumulation of moral capital as opposed to the financial sort. As noted earlier, this is a form of exceptionalism that simply encourages bad and even inhuman behavior in people from these groups. Fortunately, many individuals from each of these groups do not succumb to this temptation, because their strong sense of pride and ethical values do not allow it. But many others would, because this is a flaw common to all human beings. Those who serve as defenders of these PC attitudes, whether coming from the Right or the Left political direction, are acting as enablers for these individuals.
The same thing applies to the example of how to handle the serious problem of rape. Before any reader (of either gender) gives into the temptation to let their emotions get the best of them and start shouting invectives at me such as, “I’m so offended by what you said! Women very rarely lie about this sort of thing! It’s you fucking men who refuse to believe it! You hate women! You’re probably a rapist yourself, you pin-dicked creep!” or “So you’re saying that women are more likely to be lying than men? You dickhead misogynist!”, yadda, yadda, yadda, please take a step back, take a few deep breathes, kindly go back and read what I actually wrote in a calmer (and hopefully more reasonable) frame of mind, and ask yourself the following questions.
Regardless of whatever your gender, race, sexual preferences, age, or ethnic affiliation happens to be, if you were well aware that you could get away with negative actions towards someone you dislike because you knew that you could count on many others around you to always protect you, shield you from any conceivable consequences of almost any conceivable action, and take your side with no questions asked, how might that affect your behavior? Have you seriously never seen this type of bias played out amongst individuals in your personal or professional life? And when you did, how did this affect or influence the behavior of those individuals who were on the favorable side of this bias? Has any group of people you have ever associated with, either on an individual or collective level, ever been universally “above” taking advantage of this type of coddling and enabling?
It should again be noted here that many people from previously oppressed groups are highly scrupulous individuals, with a high standard of ethics that would never expect, accept, or justify privileged treatment. For example, you will see the renowned Jewish political activist Noam Chomsky routinely give harsh criticism to Zionists, the right-wing Israeli government, and the American Israeli lobbyist group AIPAC. You will likewise see this done very courageously and ethically by Jewish author and peace activist Uri Avnery, with some examples of his articles being here and here. You will also see this done by other highly principled and conscientious progressive activists of Jewish descent like Norman Pollack, as evidenced by examples of his articles here and here. Are these men “self-hating Jews” as the Zionists and right-wing Israelis would claim, or simply individuals who are fed up with the Israeli ruling class committing atrocities against others while claiming to “represent” all Jewish people? I think that’s clearly a rhetorical question, by the way.
Also, one of the strongest and most independent woman writers whose material I have read, Christina H, is my favorite columnist on the hilariously subversive Cracked.com. Like all strong, independent-minded women I have known, she resents the PC attitude directed at women as special deference to their gender by misandrists of either gender. Note this article from her column on Cracked, and scroll down to her point #2 (“Women who get mad for no reason”), and you will see her harshly (and hilariously) critique the tendency for screenwriters to portray strong and independent woman in film as displaying blatant misandrist attitudes towards men, or to react with hostility or rudeness to relatively harmless approaches by men that are no way being overly licentious or disrespectful. You know, as if it’s “cool” or a sign of strength for women to be rude to every man who displays an interest in her if she doesn’t happen to reciprocate his attraction, irregardless of his manner of approach; or sometimes, even if she does find him attractive, so as to “put him in his place” from the get-go. Christina makes it quite clear that these distorted film depictions of female strength and independence sends very distorted impressions to many girls and women about how genuine strong and assertive woman act, and just encourages and enables this type of negative behavior in many of them. It also encourages men of the “White Knight” mindset to be accepting and complicit with this type of behavior from the less enlightened females out there, thus acting as further enablers and defenders of abusive behavior directed by certain women towards men, interpreting and judging it very differently from the way they would (rightfully) react to abusive and misogynist behavior directed by certain men towards women.
This should pre-emptively put paid to any ridiculous notion that I’m a misogynist… or anti-Semitic, or anti-Arab, or anti-Ecuadorian, or anti-Atlantean, blah blah blah… for pointing the above examples out, or for railing against PC attitudes in general. In order to do that, one would have to willfully overlook the large number of principled, ethically upright people from any given minority group who likewise oppose the PC attitude as a tendency that in no way benefits minorities or serves as an antidote to injustice, nor as a form of reparation for past oppression. Rather, it simply perpetuates injustice–albeit in the opposite direction–and encourages further antagonism between the genders and different ethnic or racial groups rather than establishing tolerance, understanding, cooperation, and equality.
So, my point is this: By coddling any group of people, or any individual therein, you are running a serious risk of bringing out the worst type of behavior in them. You are increasing the chance of some of them feeling comfortable with resorting to lies, manipulation, hatred, bullying, finger-pointing, and even extreme atrocities. You encourage them to look the other way when they see an injustice committed by someone from their group against someone of another group, and rationalize doing this as a form of just retribution or “self-defense” (the latter being the most common rationalization for the U.S. government supporting every abominable action taken by the Israeli government against anyone of Arab descent). When you do this, you encourage people to think with their emotions instead of their reasoning faculties. You teach them that important notions of justice and fairness only apply to some people, and that an atrocity committed by Person/Group Y against Person/Group X carries less moral weight or inherent wrongness than if the reverse was to occur.
I ask you to please think about this the next time you are tempted to defend the actions of someone whom you know to be wrong, or do not have good evidence or proof of their rightness, simply because they belong to a specific race, gender, ethnic group, or religious/ideological doctrine.
VII. So, What Are You And What Do You Stand Against, Anyway?
I consider myself an egalitarian, a word you noted me using a few times throughout this post. Hence, I support the empowerment and equality of all human beings, regardless of what group they belong to, while not supporting the special veneration of any of them. I believe the potential for good and even greatness is something all people, of any group, are potentially capable of. Likewise, I believe that members of any group of people are equally capable of terrible acts of selfishness, hatred, ignorance, and outright atrocity if they are given positions of disproportionate privilege and power, or forced to live in an environment that breeds mass material deprivation, with the insecurity, desperation, and extreme anxiety that comes with such a system.
I believe this kind of behavior is bred and encouraged by systems and policies that are based on hierarchy and unequal opportunity & distribution of material wealth. Hence, I oppose such systems, as well as the concepts of hatred, ignorance, and bigotry themselves rather than putting the blame or focusing my ire on any particular group of people. I believe that hatred and inequality are never justified, regardless of what you, or a group you are associated with, has experienced, either in the present or in the past. By the same token, I believe that privilege and exceptionalism are never justified for any person or group of people for any reason.
That’s what I believe and stand behind in the proverbial nutshell, dudes and dudettes.