Political correctness/Politically correct (PC). Ever heard of this expression? An expression when pursued in democracies leads to their slow and painful death. PC, has resulted in a public discourse of dishonesty ranging from the world’s greatest to the world’s biggest democracy. In the name of being PC, one needs to mince words and is expected to express themselves in a manner such that a specific community or a bunch of people do not feel hurt and their sentiments/ideologies/atrocities/crimes remain beyond any criticism and scrutiny whatsoever. A language that only pleases the cardinal sense of hearing needs to be employed, things that are visually pleasing are to be showcased and only aspects that are pleasant and palatable to the reader/viewer need to be expressed. In short the path to tread is the one that is laden with euphemisms.
However, PC does not end there, the collective behavior of a community and individuals constituting it cannot be discussed or debated on a public platform. Notwithstanding facts and figures is an asset. Statistics do not matter anymore. Anyone who tries to criticize is a bigot, which precedes, denial of any wrongs on the part of a community or individuals belonging to it. This is the crux of the issue, where people have forgotten to respect honest criticism and live a cocooned existence lying to themselves and others constantly, fearful and apprehensive of facing the truth.
What PC has resulted is in a vast majority of millennial’s as well as a significant fraction of the populace appreciate nothing beyond their comfort zone and bubble. It has resulted in creating the “victim-hood is an asset” narrative and “snowflake” culture. People take offence and are offended by even the silliest of things or expressions. In addition to this, the public discourse has been so distorted and twisted that acceptable things of the past are being frowned upon by the mainstream narratives of today. And the worst perhaps is the unwanted attention of seemingly silly things that are being bombarded by mainstream media on a daily basis which lack any substance, but are enough to entertain and make a few people happy.
This reduction of of intellectual discourse to the lowest echelons is perilous to any democracy as its very ethos are under threat. Debate, argument, deliberation and a platform to express every opinion etc. in short freedom of expression (FoE) a fundamental pillar over which democracy rests is being systematically demolished right in front of our eyes. Modern day democracies consist of two types of people, and the culture of PC is to be blamed for the same i) regressive left surviving on identity politics and ii) overzealous extreme right. Both these fringes consist of people who do not understand the intricacies of a democratic system of governance. Such polarization is inevitable, if democracies do not soon find a solution for PC.
It is amply clear today that PC has resulted in the consolidation and the strengthening of the right as their voices have been suppressed for far too long. What is perhaps the most unfortunate outcome of PC is the lack of an honest dialogue within a community that desperately needs to reform itself. Without any external criticism such a dialogue never gets prioritized and PC is an impediment to the natural evolution and social progress of a community that is in the earlier stages of its evolution. Ironically, PC is seen as a barometer to measure how progressive, multicultural and cosmopolitan a democracy is when in reality it silently encourages barbaric behavior, gags criticism and stifles FoE.
Another outcome of PC is the perpetual feeling of people being vulnerable who belong to certain communities leading in a culture that encourages the demand for “safe spaces” on university campuses. Seriously? Safe spaces? Universities are the centers of learning and they have to provide an unbiased platform where every opinion can be expressed without censorship. In that regard, PC and the resultant victimization narrative has done a lot of harm and disservice to students and society at large who will eventually learn lessons the hard way and realize that the world is not a safe space. To reconcile with such a reality is a challenge and hence the recent increase in psychological disorders. PC as a tool of empowerment is betraying its own cause! True empowerment happens when one faces reality and not when one succumbs to the victimization narrative. True education imparts people with skills to navigate even tempestuous situations and is not about avoiding the high seas.
The conflict between PC and FoE will define the future of democracies. The more skewed the discourse PC creates, the greater will be the damage as even decent people are labelled racist and bigoted, who, will eventually fall into the hands of the far right ideologies. The normalization of social discourse and a level playing field needs to be established as soon as possible. Otherwise it will not be long before the breakdown of democracies is inevitable paving way for dictators or even worse anarchists. Mainstream media too needs to mend its ways and make people understand the nuances and subtleties of social dialogue,debate and engagement. However, as of today it seems far fetched as mainstream media itself peddles the narratives of PC.
However the larger questions today are “Is this the natural progression of mature democracies? Are they ought to be like this? Or, is it just an evolutionary phase in the life of a democracy?” These are pertinent questions that democratic societies and intellectuals from all strata of society need to find solutions to.
I would like to end on a rather poignant note with a quote from Isaac Asimov:
“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
Does this apply to the world in general? The culmination of PC would be in the destruction and death of democracy itself. Do we want that?