AND THE END OF THE AGE OF REASON
by PAUL LEFAVOR // WINTER 2020
There is hardly an aspect of life that is not impacted by political correctness. Political correctness (PC) began as an effort to extend equality and respect to everyone. Being "PC" involves avoiding words, expressions or actions that might be perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult particular groups of people who are disadvantaged or discriminated against. Often political correctness begins with good intentions. Ideas such as treating others the way we would like to be treated, and avoiding insulting others. For example, when I was growing up in the 70s, as a general rule, one avoided discussions pertaining to race, religion or politics. There were things you simply didn't talk about in polite company. It's what you did. When such topics came up, as they often did, you were allowed to disagree. A common expression that acknowledged such a toleration in the exchange of ideas was "it's a free country." You could vote your conscience, speak your mind and hold to your own cherished notions and worldviews without the threat of being shamed, ostracized or even attacked. But, as it so often happens, the pendulum swung too far; and keeps on swinging.
Don't get me wrong here. The social justice pendulum swung in a healthy direction regarding many important issues. However, what began as an effort to extend equality and respect to everyone has now become a line that must be "toed," a slogan that must be chanted, and a mental acquiescence that must be adhered to, that is, at least if you value your job. Moreover, political correctness is highly adaptive. Things change rapidly. You have to keep up. You have to stay up on all the latest banned words, expressions or actions for fear you'll be deemed "chauvinistic," "bigoted," "patristic," or even "racist." For instance, some words that were considered PC even ten years ago are no longer tolerated. To disagree with someone, at least some people, is now considered intolerable. People get offended and triggered over words they don't like. So much so, if you trigger them, they will become physically violent and may attack you or your family and property.
What was the source of all this extreme PC business? For starters, universities have been the breeding grounds; at least in large measure. Political correctness prevents people like Ben Shapiro from speaking at certain colleges.
Universities are supposed to champion the free exchange of ideas. Extreme political correctness leads to the rewriting of history so that it's in accordance with modern sensibilities. Simply put, the modern version of political correctness prevents the rational exchange of ideas and even makes us more stupid. It may even be said, I know this is a stretch (or is it?), that the movie Idiocracy was mockumentary that has become a documentary. It may be genuinely said therefore that political correctness has corrupted our institutions of higher learning to the point that they are beyond recovery.
Another source of this extreme PC business is undoubtedly the fact that Americans have become far too sensitive. In a 2016 Pew Research survey, 59% of Americans believed this to be true. Further, as the survey demonstrates, being PC is also bipartisan, not just a phenomenon on the left. And this was four years ago. To put it philosophically, Descartes once said, "I think therefore I am." It seems the expression today would be, "I feel therefore I am." This is demonstrated in virtually every YouTube video where a snowflake is triggered, the facts and logic are ignored and feelings are what carry the day. In so many of these "conversations," reason is simply not part of the exchange of ideas. Normally, the verbal interchange comes to an abrupt end when the snowflake becomes emotionally charged and begins yelling obscenities and labelling the one they disagreed with as "fascist" or "racist." Such instances remind one of George Orwell's "Thought Police" in his prescient novel 1984.
As goes the ancient axiom, "He who pays the piper calls the tune" ...which means the one who pays decides how things go. As such, political correctness has become weaponized. It's used as a tool by various social groups and especially the media who leverages it to gain moral capital and control over people's minds. Like the ferocious propaganda apparatus in Orwell's novel, Big Brother is always watching. These sycophantic suck-up talking heads genuflect to the latest Big Brother talking points. Thought crime is punished with shame. Guilt is a powerful weapon in the media's arsenal. Offenders are vilified and even called racists without any evidence. Invariably, we give ground to those who are offended about everything. Likewise, if
you were to follow Big Brother's little minions long enough, one can readily note their moral flexibility. And in the end, political correctness leads to an Orwellian nightmare. What guides any such discussion as this is values. It has been rightly said that values are like the rudder of a ship. It's small, it's below the surface but it guides the ship. Likewise, as politics are downstream from culture, the media is likened to a ship that floats along in the stream of the people, carried along with even the wildest of waves. What's the trajectory of this extreme political correctness if it's not guided by reason? The end of the PC rainbow can only be totalitarianism - prohibiting opposition on all levels of society, and restricting individual freedoms. As 2020-21 continues to surprise us, it seems that people don't want equality, they want revenge. This is illogical as it is immoral. To cite just one rational objection: No one is alive today who was a slave and no one is alive today who owned slaves. All of this concludes one to ask: Is this the end of the age of reason?
No discussion of this type can rightly conclude without reminding ourselves of one of the great freedoms enshrined in our Constitution - freedom of speech. "If liberty means anything at all," said George Orwell, "it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear." It's therefore distinctively American to be okay with someone who disagrees with you. Besides, as Shakespeare once wrote, "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." Thus, you can become offended at anything when you're constantly looking for an offense. And so, political correctness has become the opposite of how it began. Political correctness is good to the extent where it's reasonable and logical. The problem is, today's extreme political correctness is no longer about being equal, it's about being in or being out. In the series House of Cards, there's a scene that under-scores this very point. Kevin Spacey says, "Welcome to the death of the age of reason. There is no right or wrong. Not anymore. There's only being in and then being out."
END OF STORY