Recently, they’ve been talking at the Pagan Temple about political correctness and whether or not the term has become something of a canard- a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. There is something to this; to me, political correctness seems terribly retro, something from the late 80s or early 90s, along with Nirvana and the Ben Stiller Show. People still seem to talk about it a lot, but I can’t remember the last time I had a run-in with a genuine PC lefty. In 1992, it was a weekly occurrence for me.
I’ve heard it said that the term “political correctness” is unfair because it evokes the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the PC college kids weren’t looking to go that far. But, people forget that “political correctness” was initially the term that those kids used to describe themselves- it was their ideal, and as hard as this is to imagine today, they were looking to evoke the Cultural Revolution as a sign of how radical they were.
The 70s and 80s were strange that way. When you read old lefty magazines from the era, it’s astounding how radical some people were. You can sense this frustration and anger at the end of the Age of Aquarius turning in on itself and curdling. This is the time when you get the real “up against the wall motherfuckers!” madness and intensity without the peace and love element. A lot of it is depressing. I’ve said before that when you survey the art from punk rock to the Night Porter, you get the feeling that the 70s were as nihilistic as we ever got.
Political movements spend most of their energy and time justifying their own existence. Actually, so do governments. What this means is that they all tend to be good at recognizing problems- some real and many not, and then suggesting solutions to those problems that only they can put into effect. As a general rule, they are right about the problems perhaps 20% of the time, and never right about the solutions.
Racism is a real problem in America. Being a cracker, I tend to forget this. And then, suddenly, one of my casual relations will say something scaldingly racist to me, because after all, we're both crackers, so I must get it, and then usually follow this with: "I mean, I just hate that PC shit!" and I'll think to myself: "Racism? You're still around?" And so it is. Like my relative who won't eat food if she thinks a black person prepared it. It's just so bizarre and surreal. Racism is like the 'flat-earth movement'; it's just so stupid and insane that you can't believe anyone buys into it. But, alas, it's the visitor who never leaves.
The political correctness movement was a product of the 80s, and was an even more bizarre solution to a really bizarre problem. I’ve never understood the idea of “empowering” people by treating them like fragile little children who can’t hear a disparaging word. In a country as vulgar and alive as America, it’s hard to imagine that political correctness could have a long shelf life. We don’t like being told what we can and can’t say. The idea of liberation through speech codes is pretty anathema to us.
And lo and behold, you don’t run into PC kids anymore, outside of Berkeley. At our university, being called PC is the kiss of death. So, the kids try to be as politically incorrect as they can. But, since they’re all trying to be crude, they have to go pretty far to shock anyone. When you have Axe Deodorant ads plastered all over your school that bash on single girls to sell their product, totally unquestioned by the student body, it’s hard to actually stand out as sexist. I’ll see kids make rape jokes and think ‘Just give up!’
The lefties at all four of the universities I’ve attended pretty much tried to be as crude as possible. This is actually appropriate in a way; the sixties lefties pretty much pioneered cultural crudeness. But, it’s also boring after a while. When you’re all watching South Park, what envelopes are left to push? And hasn't affectless disinterest been trendy for long enough?
At our university, the real crybabies aren’t the leftists anyway. When one of our World Civ. professors mentioned last year in class that the ancient Greeks were pretty accepting of homosexuality, half of the students left the auditorium, deeply offended at the mention of an ‘immoral lifestyle’. When the professor I taught for would discuss women’s history in class, several students would complain to me about it in recitations and call her a 'bitch'. When one of our professors talked about the Holocaust two years back, a political organization that monitors our campus for anti-Israel content decided that she hadn’t spent enough time on the subject and slandered her as ‘anti-Semitic” in the city paper. This in spite of the fact that she supports Israel’s right to statehood, and is, in fact, both Jewish and Israeli. Turned out the group was unaware of that. And let’s not get started on the campaign to get people here to say “Merry Christmas!” every year so as not to offend the Christians.
So, we’re through the looking glass. Now the lefties have shut up and the conservatives are the crybabies who need special protection. Wowee! What an improvement! For a while, I thought that we should call these people “Religiously Correct” or “RC”, but then I realized that they’re not particularly religious. And like the PC Nazis of old, they pretty much aren’t political either- they’re just hung up on trying to make other people do what they want. So, why not just call them what they are: PC zealots.