Further thoughts on PC for the well intentioned as opposed to “hard” left.
PC could stand for many things in addition to Political Correctness. It could stand for policy confusion, political censorship, psychological conditioning, or it could stand for proceed cautiously or it could stand for all four.
As economic determinists we believe we understand the urge for political correctness-after all we are more equal and deserving of respect. So it somehow feels right for the “PC brigade” to stand up for minorities. However whilst the historical process of tearing us away from tribe or feudal overlord is in the western world almost over, the process of achieving this was a legacy of capitalism. Capitalism’s need to establish bourgeois values like freedom based on contract, choice and consent meant that speech or thought, or expression should not be subject to illegitimate control as they had been in the centuries preceding the late 17th century. No wonder the hard left hate these values, they are after all bourgeois.
But bourgeois values are not the same as bourgeois institutions which (with the exception of the constitutional monarchy) the hard left want to maintain. They misunderstand the fundamental difference between bourgeois values and bourgeois institutions and they thus misunderstand how corrosive PC is to our bourgeois values and in particular freedom of speech and freedom of thought.
The bourgeois origins of our freedoms should not be used to dismiss their importance to us now. When we try to protect the more vulnerable members of our communities with PC values that strike before even the law can intervene, we are behaving in a pre bourgeois, and thus also a pre socialist and pre freedom way (socialism is capitalism’s first born!). The problem with PC is that it is essentially about protection from being “offended”. To the shiny new Oxbridge undergraduate who is excited about protecting the trans community or the disabled, PC isn’t seen as a justification for control. But it is just that. It is a means by which bourgeois values of freedom, including freedom of speech can be brought under someone’s control. With Political Correctness we are back in the pre capitalist world of illegitimate authority and control over thoughts and expression, control over ideas and behaviour. Control over who can think what and why.
To put this into some kind of perspective imagine if, after we had accepted that the bourgeois notion of “freedom of speech” could be compromised to avoid causing offence we were faced with a growing demand from people who felt “offended” about shaking a woman’s hand and demanded more segregation. Or people “offended” about unmarried parents and demanded controls on behaviour to prevent “illegitimate” children. We would be back in the 16th century.
Once you protect from “offence” where do you stop. In such situations as above the progressive legacy of our 18th century bourgeois revolution would have been squandered and progressive thinking reversed on the altar of trying to be nice and not offend.
To avoid a calamitous waste of three hundred years of bloodshed and social evolution we should all grow up, grow a thicker skin and continue to evolve as a species rather than return to an earlier simpler world where we are told what to think based on factors such as our gender, social position, race or sexuality. We no longer want people to know their place unless we are a hard left neandertal in which case we actually do. So with PC we say proceed with caution or simply abandon the project altogether.
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