Political correctness. It was a term that I hardly heard before I came across it in the funny, and long drawn out political circuses around elections in the US.
It was remarkable that in the four years I attended college here, the term became more in usage in just a short time: things would be criticised and put down because, HEY! THEY WERE NOT POLITICALLY CORRECT! And hence was the implication that everything in the society had to strive towards being the perfect utopia and that would be achieved by enforcing a certain version of “political correctness”.
To an Indian this looked strange – I was used to a loud raucous culture where everyone and everything barked at each other, threw tantrums in the air and shouted abuse. And yet somehow all of the 1.3 billion people from all walks of life, all religions in the world and belonging to all the cults imaginable get along fine. How come if we Indians have done it for a few thousands of years, could not the Americans do it, who incidentally are far more homogenous than us?
Life begins with diversity. India, a country that I deeply adore and love, for it is the land that lends me the identity I use to look and understand the world, is the epitome of diversity. It always has been. But so is America. You find people from all the walks of life, all the colours which humans exist in, and all the genders people consider themselves to belong to. There are religious farmers toiling hard believing in a concept of a God distinct from others, as there are painters atheistic in their beliefs using the brushes to paint a unique interpretation of life. In a diverse land such as America’s we tend to consider quite naturally that political correctness enforces a vision that is representative to every single strand of life that manifests itself. But I have come to realise that this is a false view and in facts leads to the destruction of diversity itself.
The basic problem lying in the core of the PC movement is on whose terms are the guidelines of PC enforced? Because each community, state, district and county are diverse and different and unique from each other. Is it really sensible that someone living in a very well off neighbourhood in the suburbs of Boston has an acute understanding of the culture, and historical nuances of a rural farming community in the lush brown wheat fields of Iowa? No it does not make any sense. PC feeds into this asymmetry by imposing forcefully a vision of how society ought to be on every single person, whether or not he or she shares that vision. It is incredibly unfair to lump a very narrow vision of not a descriptive worldview but a normative one, on people. It shreds the diversity it seeks to protect by hijacking it and conforming it in a cage. How can this be termed as “protecting” diversity?
Another glaring issue about political correctness as practiced by people today in the West, is its relationship with the dreaded five letter religion – Islam. Yes, Islam is the favourite protectorate of the PC crowds which rush towards its defence from far right wing groups. Islam has become the second side to the PC coin, the other side being discrimination of women and black people.
I admire these people for standing up for the defence of a religion that is needlessly belittled and chipped away of its decency bit by bit. But here I unfortunately find the PC movement to have caused a far greater harm than heal. Due to the conformity inherent in the PC structure, any case it deems as Islamophobic it hijacks completely, thereby reducing the political discourse to such a volatile level, that many urgently needed discourses are discouraged from ever being put into practice.
The real damage to Muslims is not being done by the people who spew hateful comments against it in the US, UK, Canada or anywhere else. It is being done in the unjust, immoral slaughter-fests of wars that have been going on in the Middle East, with the elite political class egging them on, and participating in them. This happened in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Libya and now it is underway in Syria. I am sorry to say it, but where were these crusaders when entire nations with their carefully built institutions were being burned down to the ground in a magnitude that would even shock the great Genghis Khan?
The problem is that because the people on whose hands lies the blame for this came up with their justifications hidden behind arcane and very long papers, they were not violating the false comfort of the PC movement. Basically you could get away with murder and duplicity if you were able to hide your goals and aims in exponentially long pieces of text that lent your argument some false air of “legitimacy”. I find the idea that if you say the right things, and don’t offend anyone with words, and yet get away with waging immoral, unneeded and horrific wars that don’t serve anyone, unacceptable. There are well deserving occasions when the time calls for robbing peoples of their reputation and attacking their prestige by mocking them, when they have done everything to deserve that bit of karma. My ancestors came up with the concept of karma as a way of saying that nothing in the world without repercussions. And I would very much like to see the veneer of legitimacy afforded to people who have done so much to wrong the millions of Iraqis, Libyans, Syrians and yes, Americans, destroyed.
Political correctness comes in between and enforces a limited version of an idealised view whereby everyone speaks without offending others and impose checks on what they say and how they say it. Far from respecting diversity, PC looks like a manifestation of an Orwellian worldview, where our idiocy, resilience, differences, religious attitudes, lifestyles, manners of speaking, drinking cultures, and eating habits are all subjected to a sanitised version of an overlord interpretation of the idealised society, ready to burn down the political and social capital of anyone daring to deviate from this.
Political correctness itself is not correct. And it is ripping apart people by protecting those who need to be heckled and ridiculed, those who need to atone and punished for their horrific crimes. Life is diverse. Let us not destroy it by being politically correct.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.