How long before we scrap the “Star-Spangled Banner” for “Feelings”? The latter track surely captures modern American, well, feelings better than that bellicose, jingo jingle.
The dean of American University this week deemed the anonymous placement of an “All Lives Matter” flyer on a faculty member’s door a form of “harassing, intimidating or threatening behavior.” When Toronto Blue Jays manager Jay Gibbons reacted to a new safety rule costing his team Tuesday’s game by remarking, “Maybe we’ll come out and wear dresses tomorrow,” sports writers denounced his words as “misogyny” and “insensitive language.” Last week, in a matter less frivolous than baseball and campus politics, the White House bowdlerized the audio of French President François Hollande’s reference to “Islamist terrorism.”
Feelings, nothing more than feelings…
Like PCP, PC creates delusions. This week students at Indiana University went into a collective hallucination when an alert went out about a sighting of a Klansman on campus. The Kleagle turned out to be a Dominican monk. Culturally insensitive, if altogether ignorant, about the garb of clergy, the mob associated the white robe and cross as a telltale sign of a modern-day night rider walking in plain daylight.
Like other addictions, PC sanctimony reveals itself in its greatest desperation in the junkie’s strident denials of the disease. “Political correctness is a right-wing myth,” reads a PC headline at the Huffington Post.
Projection strikes as a familiar defense mechanism among addicts. “Right-wing talk radio hosts use it as a smear term against liberals and anyone who disagrees with them,” Ward Anderson writes at the Huffington Post. “That’s exactly why it’s a myth. It’s nothing more than a scapegoat term used to smear the other side of a discussion.” A piece at the Nation contends, “If political correctness has ‘gone amok,’ it is because Republicans like Trump and Cruz have relentlessly invoked it as a straw man to justify bigoted comments about immigrants, Muslims, women, and others.”
Peer pressure plays a bigger role in political correctness. No one believes it. But they believe others believe it. So, they go out of their way to make others believe that they believe it, too.
Differences, of course, exist. Whereas PCP imbues superhuman strength in its enthusiasts, PC fosters amoeba-like weaklings. PC bros rarely disrobe from the heat the way PCP bros periodically do. The belief that humans can fly seems confined to users of angel dust, too. And though after-school specials warned of the perils of becoming a PCP user, they never outlined the dangers of becoming Chris Hayes.
PC anesthetizes thought, creates enablers who cower and apologize, and reorients any unpleasant situation into one in which its dependents narcissistically become the victims. The way in which the parallel with narcotics appears most glaring involves dishonesty. Anyone with firsthand experience with the chemically dependent knows of the lies they unleash that even entangle innocent bystanders eventually made to feel guilty by their complicity. PC similarly forces us to call Bruce Jenner a woman, proclaim a white slate of Oscar nominees as proof of racism, and label the victims of abortion “unborn persons” at great risk to our reputations (especially when running for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination).
The First Amendment impedes PC from becoming national policy. But it’s precisely because it works most effectively as social pressure, turning intellectual arguments into emotional grievances, that it does not require state support. Nevertheless, those who encountered PC as government policy offer the best advice in dealing with it. A 50-year-old speech by Vaclav Havel, “On Evasive Thinking,” provides guidance sadly not past its sell-by date:
We live in a time when reality is in conflict with platitude, when a fact is in conflict with an a priori interpretation of it, when common sense is in conflict with a distorted rationality. It is a time of conflict between theory that plays fast and loose with practice, and theory that learns from practice; a conflict between two gnoseologies: the one that, from an a priori interpretation of the world, deduces how that reality should be seen, and one that, from how reality is seen, deduces how that reality must be interpreted. In my opinion, how quickly our society evolves will depend on how quickly we can replace the first gnoseology — the metaphysical one — with the second, the dialectical one.
The advice works as well for Americans in the 21st century as it did for Czechs in the 20th century.