Monday, August 07, 2006

Political Incorrectness

Pinky, have you been pondering what I've been pondering?

I've been pondering about the modern context of political correctness, in case you were curious. The term "political correctness" has almost always been used disparagingly; opponents of the human and civil rights movements of the 1960s and '70s would and still argue that PC is of itself oppressive and restrictive of free speech. You "can't" espouse sexist, racist and/or homophobic views because they'll offend the minority du jour, etc.

There's been much theorising (I couldn't be arsed linking stuff today as I'm writing this in about 20 mins prior to my first Monday morning meeting - just trust me) that Howard won the 1996 election as a counter-offensive to the politically-correct Keating government; middle Australians (whoever the hell they are) felt left behind by the PC thugs who'd hijacked Labor for their own elitest and ultimately irrelevant causes, such as reconciliation, becoming a republic, multiculturalism and so on.

But am I the only one who reckons the PC pendulum has swung massively in the other direction? That these days the modern mainstream discourse is strongly grounded in the Right's court? Between the ruling federal government (and, dare I say, several state ones too), highest profile media commentators and, increasingly, bloggers, there seem to be a whole new set of rules for dictating thought and opinion - what are the "right" things to think and feel and what are "wrong".

So where 10 years ago anti-PCers were complaining that, for examples, you "can't" say Indigenous people are responsible for their own poverty and tragic lives, or you "can't" say that Australia's multiculturalism policy is far too generous and allowing in particular too many Asian immigrants, or you "can't" say that feminism has led to the emasculation of men and general breakdown of the family unit, it seems to me that these days, such beliefs are not only mainstream and promoted, but to think otherwise is the "wrong" way to think - you "can't" think or say otherwise lest you suffer the wrath of indignant, indeed offended, right-wing thought police.

Sound a bit melodramatic? Stay with me. What about these:

1. You can't say that gays and lesbians should be allowed to get married.

2. You can't say that the US shouldn't have an inalienable, unregulated right to take whichever steps it feels necessary to "spread democracy" across the planet.

3. You can't say that Biblical evangelicalism - sorry, "Christian values" - should not be allowed to influence law-making.

4. You can't say that it's not too many women who are having terminations.

5. You can't say that Israel appears at times to act in a markedly similar manner to a Palestinean terrorist organisation.

6. You can't say that an ideal family unit should be determined by the quality of the family's love and not its components - ie that families don't always have to consist of a mother AND a father.

7. You can't say that, even though it's probably quite likely he is guilty of some fairly appalling crimes, David Hicks, like all other Australians, deserves the right of a fair and speedy trial at which his guilt can actually be ascertained by a court of law and not just Gerard Henderson.

8. You can't say sorry - full stop.

9. You can't say that the ABC is not a biased, left-wing conspiracy, merely a public broadcaster keeping governments accountable.

10. You can't say that people should exercise some degree of fiduciary self-restraint, not live beyond their means and not get themselves into thousands of dollars of unrepayable credit debt, just so they can have a McMansion, 10-metre plasma and gas-guzzling SUV, like their neighbours.

11. You can't say that promotion of environmental issues is less to do with a "Green industry" and more to do with long-term sustainability of the planet. Furthermore, you can't criticise fossil fuel or nuclear power development and you can't suggest alternative power sources, especially in a country in which they're in abundance, such as solar and wind.

12. You can't say that Australia becoming a republic is an issue that a lot of Australians still care about and should be put back on the political map sooner rather than later.

13. You can't say that drug addiction should generally be treated as a medical and not criminal issue. You definitely can't say that there should be more legalised injection rooms or that, subject to strong government regulation, certain drugs should be decriminalised.

Maybe it's just the nature of these sorts of things to swing back and forward over the life of a government. But the next time I hear about "political correctness gone mad", I dare say I'll have a very different idea of what this constitutes to the person using that term.


At 7/8/06 3:37 pm, Blogger JahTeh said...

You should have capitilized every word of that post. I'm proud to say I was tossed from a blogroll in America because of my "faggot loving" posts. It may not be PC to call JHo a twunt but I do it lovingly, a lot.

At 7/8/06 3:44 pm, Anonymous Zakalwe said...

I too have noticed that being "Politically Incorrect" is the new Political Correctness. Every era has had its own form of PC. Though the term Politically Correct has been ingrained with such a left wing looney connotation that we'll have to invent some new catchphrase/soundbite to describe its latest iteration.

At 7/8/06 9:55 pm, Blogger Jeremy said...

I don't think we ever came up with "political correctness" in the first place. I think that was a bit of right-wing spin. A bit of blatant irony - you know, telling someone whose views are clearly out of political favour that they are trying to be "politically correct".

It's like calling unemployed people "elites".

At 8/8/06 12:15 pm, Anonymous Ninglun said...

Spot on, Sam! Rampant incorrectness is the order of the day under JH, and has been ever since that sad Mardi Gras day in 1996 when he first got elected.

At 8/8/06 1:25 pm, Blogger Gay Erasmus said...

Agree with every word (especially the bit about 'sorry').

I've never been a fan of PC. I prefer sincere conversation to PC conversation. We live in a society that values conformity in favour of sincerity...which is kind of problematic for a democracy, don't you think?

At 8/8/06 3:54 pm, Anonymous Jayden said...

I have to say I find this post mildly baffling.

In what context can we not appropraitely say these things? I say these sorts of things all the time! Lots of people do.

Admittedly, I don't inhabit the sort of hyper politically-aware world I imagine you do, where I'm regularly exposed to right-wing viewpoints, and I can see that perhaps certain views have become the norm in the media, without some sort of alternative aired...

But its not as if you SIMPLY can't say these things, and if you do you'll be branded some sort of throwback small-minded bigot.

So yeah, I'm lost..

At 8/8/06 4:18 pm, Blogger Sam said...

I guess that's my point Jayden - people are allowed to say anything they want in Australia (I wasn't being literal), but there's always, dare I use a wanky term from my uni days, a "dominant discourse" shaped and influenced by government and mainstream media.

In this case, I'm talking about the current harmonious discourse between the two as I perceive it.

And the reaction to speaking against this discourse won't be "small-minded bigot"; it's more likely to be something like "elitist", "Leftist", "out of touch with mainstream Australia" or any of the other cliches peddled as a means of marginalising opponents of the discourse.

That's what I reckons anyway.

At 8/8/06 4:37 pm, Blogger Arthur_Vandelay said...

Via Larvatus Prodeo, a Right-wing Political Correctness Convention was held in Parliament House a few days ago.

At 8/8/06 7:57 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whats the old saying about feminism: "Feminism succeeded for 5 minutes and theres been 30 years of backlash since" ...something like that.

I think the same goes for political correctness if it ever really existed. We had 5 minutes of PC sunshine and the conservatives have been clubbing us over the head with it ever since.

I have to say the one that really gets up my goat is people who say that the homophobes are "entitled to their opinion". Even supportive left-wing commentators will say that the Christian righties are "entitled" to their opinions about homosexuality. Get F*CKED!

No one says racists are "entitled" to their opinion. They are pretty much roundly condemned (take a bow Mel Gibson) so why should homophobes be any different (take another bow Mel)? Grrr....

Rant over! CW

At 8/8/06 11:16 pm, Blogger Wamut said...

I dunno... I think these examples are everywhere and come from all sides.

For example, in the small racist NT town I live in, using the term 'anti-social behaviour' is a very PC way for racist white people to talk about whatever it is they dislike about Aboriginal people. When used neutrally, 'anti-social behaviour' basically refers to public drunkeness and general associated nuisances. Just so happens this refers almost exclusively to Aboriginal people and racist people use terms like 'doing something about anti-social behaviour' as a PC way of saying 'get rid of the blackfellas'.

But contrast that with the sydney-based social worker I met the other day. One of the local NT social workers was telling her how he can quite be straight up with Aboriginal men whose kids are being put in protection and tell them 'yeah but you're a wife beater, you're kids aren't safe'. The woman from Sydney nearly fell off her chair. She said where she works in Sydney you can't even use the term 'black' to refer to people, let alone call someone a 'wife-beater'!

The term 'indigenous' as another good-en. Working with people in remote communities, it just doesn't cut it. The people here are Aboriginal (that's as well their more specific identities relating to language group etc.). And they're black too. I get the feeling that most white urban folk are uncomfortable with both those terms.

At 9/8/06 8:50 am, Anonymous Tom said...

I always thought that PC was a form of doublespeak. People have had enough and someone calling a spade a spade is refreshing (even if you don't like their point of view).

What you really can't say, in any forum in Australia it seems, is that you're Gay, Christian, and support Johnnie Howard... The lazy assumption that all gays are lefties annoys me. Not that there's anything wrong with being a gay leftie... :P

At 9/8/06 8:56 am, Blogger Splatterbottom said...

The fact is that you can say most of those things.

There are some things you can't say, or you may be jailed under Victoria's blasphemy laws.

PC notions also cost Dean Jones his job, but it is hard to feel sorry for that idiot.

And Mr Lefty, the leftist elite are those rich morons who look down on the rest of us from a great height and inflict their patrician views on us, like when David Williamson criticised his fellow cruise passangers for not being well read and having aspirations (most likely because they chose to aspire to be different to David).

At 9/8/06 9:25 am, Blogger Sam said...

I personally have no problems with gay Christians Tom - some of them are people I greatly respect. I also have no problems with gay Liberals - again, some of my best friends.

But even my gay Liberal friends draw the line at supporting Howard - not just because he's so anti-gay - and he is, his record speaks far louder than what he may otherwise claim - but because of his desecration of true liberalism. He really does give true liberals a very bad name, as Georgiou, Moylan, Baird, Payne, Broadbent et al are finally starting to illustrate.

Gay and christian Howard supporters are of course entitled to their opinions, even to articulate them out loud on this site if they wish - it's just likely I won't respect them or take them very seriously.

At 9/8/06 10:29 pm, Anonymous Tom said...

Yeah, sorry for the rant. You're right - Howard has an abysmal record on gay stuff. So I'm not best buddies with the guy, I just think he's the best of a bad lot on offer so at an election tomorrow I'd go for him. There is no one political leader who shares my views exactly on everything.

As for the demise of PC... is it that people have had enough of PC languague which has led to PC ideas being discredited too?

At 10/8/06 9:48 am, Blogger Sam said...

Ranting's always welcome here Tom - lord knows it's what I do most of the time :-)

I agree with you that on the whole it's a pretty poor gene pool of federal pollies, but can't agree that Howard's the best of them. In fact I think he's played a huge part in helping to lower the bar so far down.

Language is always a powerful weapon in any ideological battle. I'm not sure PC language has been discredited entirely - it's been greatly denigrated and ridiculed, certainly, but I believe its spirit still remains.

That's what I'd like to see happen - us move from considering political correctness in an accusatory way and embrace its fundamental spirit of respect and tolerance of other people, cultures, gender/sexual identities, etc. without necessarily having to put a label on that.

At 20/8/06 6:48 pm, Anonymous Dave Hill said...

I can't even write the term "political correctness" except in quotes and then only to deride it. "PC" is the invention of the Right to ridicule and undermine the efforts of liberals and the left to see fair play for people who get crapped on to often and too easily. There is, I think, a related issue about whether some forms of identity politics have now achieved all they are likely to but that's not the same thing. I sympathise with this post completely. Best Wishes.

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