|Victims of political correctness are fleeing fundamentalism. A new fundamentalism is political correctness gone mad. Here: non politically correct explorations. Critical thinking.|
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Political Correctness, Anti Political Correctness,
Victims of political correctness are fleeing fundamentalism.
It isn't easy, finding one's way through all the accusations and counter-accusations - and all the admonitions not to be judgmental, both from Westerners advocating tolerance, and from religious fundamentalists, Muslim and Christian, declaring I have no right to judge but they have every right to judge.
EXAMPLES - FROM SERIOUS TO FRIVOLOUS
Rigid political correctness. Many people are adamantly against making any judgment of any culture or religion. Most of all, one must do nothing to offend the religious sensibilities of anyone, they murmur in quiet tones. Genital mutilation. Who are they to say? All opinions are equal. Most of all, one must not judge. It's, horror of horrors, judgmental - as if the worst thing in the world were to make judgments - say about the intense destructive Muslim rage at a Danish cartoon, a cartoon that shows how the Muslim religion is being used by Muslims who do violence in the name of their religion.
Then there's internalized political correctness. Over and over I've seen people afraid to hold anyone in a non-dominant group accountable for nasty behavior. At my college, some black male students group together and sexually harass white female students. The white students usually don't dare speak up. They don't want to be thought racist. And their harassers use this situation: if white males did anything similar to black females, they would be shredded by black students and most likely suspended by the college.
The most outrageous example of rigid political correctness I've come across (January 2008) has to do with a non-Muslim Canadian who quoted a Muslim imam - and was charged with Islamophobia. The absurdity goes further. Though the man, Mark Steyn, has not yet been found guilty, the agency where the complaint was filed has so far found every single person charged guilty.
Details. A Muslim imam, the same Danish imam who stirred up the fuss about the Danish cartoon, applauded Muslim women for multiplying like mosquitoes, unlike European non-Muslim women, who have a much lower reproductive rate. Mark Steyn, in Maclean's, the leading Canadian weekly, quoted the cleric - and this quote (no longer attributed to a Muslim cleric, but seeming to come from Steyn) loomed large in the charge of his being Islamophobic.
Note: the politically correct are not the people who charged Steyn with Islamophobia - but those ready to take any such charge seriously without looking seriously at the merits of the charge. Victims of political intolerance: Steyn seems to fit well into that category.
A more mundane example. I've known people silenced by the politically correct. I think, for example, of a conference on women's issues. In the question and answer period after a keynote speech, a young man made a quiet comment. A woman took him aside, informed him he had no right to speak.
What came before is far worse. That woman, Anne Cameron, a white woman, had written a book on the legends of the Women's Society of the Nootka, an aboriginal tribe - with the permission of women in the society. Later she'd been attacked by younger aboriginal women: as a white woman, she had absolutely no right to write down those stories. Her response? She'd utterly agreed. And it wasn't only her. Some bookstores had removed her book from their shelves. And that's just the tip of the iceberg of stories I know of political correctness gone mad.
On the other hand, I've also known lots of people, against all this political correctness, ridiculing the idiots favoring inclusive language, politically correct language. What stupidity to say "men and women" rather than "men", "humankind" instead of "mankind". They were not going to be part of this utter desecration of the English language! Politically correct words! Politically correct terminology! Bah! Humbug! Next they would be asked to follow a politically correct dictionary! Snorts of indignation.
Some of the examples are absurd. Many people anti political correctness moan and groan about saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.
Far worse, I'm in a world with rampant fundamentalism - absurd to a thinking person, perhaps, but definitely not frivolous. Some fundamentalist Islamic movements applaud jihad. Suicide bombers self-detonate, killing as many people as possible in the process, sure their deity will welcome then with open arms - and that virgins await them. Various fundamentalist Christian movements meanwhile are rigidly against birth control, gay rights, sex outside marriage, inter-faith marriages, etc.
And then there's what I could call political fundamentalism or secular fundamentalism - rigid beliefs against one group or another, rigid political views with no backing except political doctrine. I think of the slaughter happening in Darfur, of the almost million slaughtered in Rwanda. I think of politicians holding views - for instance on the supposed existence of massive supplies of weapons of mass destruction in places where there was a total lack of evidence of their existence. On and on and on.
I don't want to go through all this,
What I see is how, so often, those against political correctness and those totally upholding it, are doing exactly the same thing. Not thinking. Not using their heads. Not exploring reality, but stuck within a mental wall, within blinkers shutting out much of the world.
The pro-tolerance politically correct: "No judging allowed." Anything backed by a religion - and often any opinion - is usually sacrosanct. The inequality of women. Who are we to judge? Genital mutilation. Who are we to judge? I've had black students say that, like me, they're against slavery, but it's just a matter of opinion - and who are they to judge? Likewise, I've had female students - many of them - hold that they're glad to be living in a country where women have equal status, but who are they to judge anything else?
As for those mounting a watch against political correctness: "All this political correctness is stupid. It would mean (once again)" horror of horrors, "that I say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas." Good grief, how could anyone be expected to make a change as radical as that?
And as for Muslim fundamentalists: "You may do nothing which offends our religious sensibilities. And if you do something, we have every right to take any action sanctioned by our religion." In England, Muslim protestors held up slogans including, "Europe is the cancer. Islam is the answer." Also, "Wait for the real Holocaust." Muslim moderates did not take to the streets to protest this.
I'm supposed to be horrified that a Dane dared draw and then a Danish magazine dared publish a cartoon that some Muslims don't approve of - but I'm not supposed to be utterly horrified at the murder of thousands of Muslims, as well as non-Muslims, by Muslims in the name of the Muslim religion.
Galileo, a long ago Christian
"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God
If you believe in some other religion, his words still make sense - why should some deity give us the ability to think, and at the same time make it a religious obligation not to think?
If you're an atheist or agnostic, Galileo's sentiments likewise make sense. We've evolved the ability to think. It's been a long long road from amoeba and paramecia. So why stop thinking now?
WHERE WOULD THINKING LEAD US?
One place thinking leads us is to the realization that unthinking political correctness, unthinking anti political correctness, religious fundamentalism and secular fundamentalism are just different sides of the same coin. "These are the right beliefs, the right rules." "No thinking allowed." "Thinking is dangerous."
MINDS CLOSED TO PERCEIVING AND THINKING
I watch an interview with a woman instrumental in the suicide bombing of a family restaurant that left nine children dead, plus many more injured, plus many adults killed and wounded. She is serenely, blissfully grateful to have had the opportunity to help someone - the suicide bomber - fulfil his divine mission (killing lots of people)!!! Why have millions of Muslims not protested this, when they claim the Muslim religion is a religion of peace? Why is this woman, and all those like her, not faced with a huge outcry from Muslims?
I hear my students rigidly adamantly against my view that it is not an opinion that women are equal, that this is based on fact. They shudder, recoil, insist I am being judgmental against other people's opinions - while totally oblivious to the fact that they are being judgmental against my opinion!
Sure, I counter, imagine a jury. People have been murdered. And the jury members, no matter what the evidence, shake their heads and sigh, "No, no. Don't want to be judgmental."
Then there are those people convinced their religion - despite a total lack of evidence - is the right one. All non-believers will go to hell, or not get a chance to enjoy heaven on earth, or whatever their belief is.
Others hold that their political views are right, no matter what the evidence. They believe in patriotism, in going to war for their country, right or wrong. They enlist en masse when their country goes to war, not stopping to evaluate the situation. World War I comes to mind. Millions of young men lined up in trenches, slaughtering and being slaughtered.
I see no difference between the mindset of all these people - the rigid religious fundamentalist of whatever religious faith, the rigidly patriotic, and the rigidly politically correct. Their opinions and beliefs may differ. But the underlying mindset is very much the same.
AN EASY MOVEMENT - BUT NOT ENOUGH
It's easy to go from one rigidity to another. In the province where I live, Quebec, the Catholic religion held sway over the majority for a long time, from several centuries ago until the 1960's. It was a harsh variant of the religion where, for example, at least some of the priests taught that married women who had fewer than twelve babies would not go to heaven. So the wife of a friend of my father, who developed a tumor in her uterus after only ten babies, was forbidden by her priest to have the hysterectomy that might have saved her life until she had had two more babies. She died of cancer without having had those children, so she must have landed in hell, according to that priest.
What happened next was astounding to me. The religion, after a multi-century reign, crumbled away in perhaps a decade. The many children of my father's friend practiced birth control, had no children, one child, at the very most two children. The birth rate in Quebec is now among the lowest in Canada, considerably below replacement rate.
I watched as the religion all but vanished. The buildings remained. Now most are schools - colleges and universities have flourished over the same time as the Catholic religion has crumbed from within.
Except that there has been a legacy. The religious intolerance was replaced by political intolerance, anger at the English speaking portion of the population, by the widespread belief that the only true Quebeckers were the "pure laine" (pure wool) French Canadians - though they had no more right to be in Quebec than any of us. They displaced the aboriginal population. We came because the government opened the door to our immigration. But though I am fluent in French (with an accent), I have often felt French Canadian hostility coming at me. No longer did they believe I would go to hell. But very often I was not experienced as an equal.
A MUCH GREATER CHANGE NEEDED
Rigid politically correct insistence on total tolerance and acceptance. Rigid traditional religious beliefs against other religions. Rigid political beliefs, left and right wing.
Very much the same when it comes to thinking.
NOT PERCEIVING THE SIMILARITY
I have not had the experience that people believing in these different things experience themselves as similar. Instead my sense is that they generally believe they are radically different.
And of course in some ways they are. In their opinions.
But when one wants to explore the foundation of the opinions, the reality-base of the opinions, the validity of the opinions, then another truth tends to emerge.
I AM RIGHT. I KNOW I AM RIGHT. HOW DARE YOU QUESTION? HOW DARE YOU ASK FOR FACTS?
It's time for a new tipping point. From not thinking to thinking. Quite a step. A little brain training is required. Lots of mental workouts. Lots of recognition of what we don't know, what info or reasoning is missing. Yukk! It's so much easier to be against political correctness, for political correctness, a Muslim fundamentalist, a Christian fundamentalist, someone with rigid political opinions blocking out evidence.
Mental flexibility? You mean mental bending and stretching?
Yes, that's exactly what I do mean.
Few fundamentalists and rigidly politically correct people seem to be aware of this connection. But moving from one rigidity to another is much easier than moving from rigidity to flexibility. To move from one rigidity to another: somehow or other it gets through that previous judgments were not right - all other religions are not necessarily wrong, that men and women are not unequal.
So, throwing out the baby (thinking) with the bathwater (poor thinking), one leaps to the conclusion that all thinking about opinions is bad; all judging is, well, judgmental; and being judgmental is awful (with no justification required for this belief.)
As for those horrified about political correctness, some of the people are thoughtful, seeing the worst places where political correctness can lead us.
Some use the weaknesses of being rigidly politically correct to back not thinking - like those horrified at the thought of replacing Merry Christmas with Happy Holidays.
I'm someone who went to a school in a largely Christian country (Canada) but in a very Jewish area. I learned to say, like all the students, Merry Christmas. However, more than nine out of ten of my fellow students were Jewish. They never said Happy Hanukah to me, and I never said Happy Hanukah to them. It would have made much more sense for all of us to say Happy Holidays.
Montreal has become much more multi-cultural since my childhood. Now the same school would have Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and who knows what else students. Presumably, when the Christmas/Winter holidays come, everyone can say Happy Holidays - because almost every student is delighted at the thought of having time off school, whatever their religion or lack of religion.
I want to suggest a new greeting, something along the line of
Good Thinking to You
Improvements of the greeting are welcome.
I also think we need a new holiday - maybe even a monthly one:
Brain Workout Day
A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS
Tolerance vs acceptance. I tolerate much that I do not accept. I tolerate means I put up with. Things I accept are things I have usually thought through, thought about, gotten information about - then I accept them.
Political correctness that I accept. Many politically correct terms, politically correct words make sense to me. I like my language to be inclusive, and use inclusive terminology. As for politically correct anti-racism, feminism, pro gay rights - all of these are things I have thought about, gotten research about, and so on. I accept them very fully. I do not merely tolerate them. I tolerate some religions that are not ethically acceptable to me - that do not give women, gays, people of certain castes, etc, equal rights.
I think about terms. Indian and Eskimo - I accepted easily (though it took me longer to remember the new terms) that North American aboriginals did not want to keep the terms whites had given them. What about the new terms? First Nations. Okay, though I personally prefer aboriginal. Inuit and Inu. Sure.
I could not accept, not in Canada anyway, African American for blacks. In the first place, this is Canada, not the United States of America. Then, most Canadian blacks identify as Haitian Canadian, Jamaican Canadian, etc. Also most, racially, have European as well as African ancestry. So I've continued to use two incorrect terms: white (though no one is actually white colored) and black (though no one is actually black colored). Better than the alternatives, as far as I could make out.
Non political correctness that I accept. I accept thinking, looking at evidence, and that means I will often not be politically correct.
For example, even a little thinking brings me to the conclusion that, before Muslims protest against a Danish cartoon they should protest against horrifically hateful anti-West and anti-Jewish (Jews as rats) Muslim cartoons. Before they protest against a comment by the pope, they should protest against the Muslim murder of a nun done as part of the retaliation against the pope's comment. Before they protest against the naming of a teddy bear, they should protest against the murder of thousands of Muslims by Muslims in the name of the Muslim religion.
LAST BIG THOUGHT: DO ONTO YOURSELF AS YOU DO ONTO OTHERS
I believe it was Confucius who said something along the lines of, remove the dirt piled up outside your doorstep before pointing out the speck of dust on your neighbor's window ledge. Whoever said it - good thinking!
Likewise blacks need to be at least as vigorous in hunting out black intolerance of whites than ferreting out white racism.
And whites need to start holding intolerant people of color accountable. I think of a white student's childhood memory. When his mother, after a hockey practice, offered a lift to a black fellow player, the reply was something along the lines of: No way, I'm not going to get into a car with a white bitch.
Her quick retort saved the day: If I'm smelly, if I've done anything to you, fine. But otherwise, I'm not taking that. So do you have anything against me personally?
Soon after, the kid got into the car - and he and her son became good friends.
However, the kid's prejudice did not arouse anger - but if someone white had said anything similar, there would have been outrage.
Blacks and Muslims - these are among the top groups which, at present, seem most self-righteous in their anger and least aware of their own failings. Why these groups? Large parts of the cultures uphold the anger, more than condone it, fuel it.
That brings me to off in another direction, to thinking about the sources of anger, and the ways of best defusing anger. Enough.
For now, I'd say this has been thinking enough.
Until next time,
copyright © Elsa Schieder 2008, 2011
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Victims of political correctness are fleeing fundamentalism.