Monday, March 14, 2005

best article on PC I ever read

Political correctness. It's a dreadful word to me and I've touched upon this subject here and there. However, I couldn't find time nor inspiration to put summarize my thoughts about this phenomenon. The following article, written by a Polish intellectual, Agnieszka Kolakowska excited and disappointed me at the same time. Although I read a Russian translation of it (yes, I could only find it in Russian) and fired me up and was a great pleasure to read. Alas, having read it I don't think I could add anything more. So I decided
to translate some parts of it into English and here's what I've got
(my translation might as well be clumsy, I did it really fast but
I do hope I've been able to preserve the spirit of her work):

…political correctness originated from the same utopia and on the same ground: the American youth movement of protest in the 60s, the flower-children. It has a lot in common with other movements, trends, and ideologies that have the same roots, in particular feminism, antiglobalism, ecologism, and the so called “New Age” philosophy. It is equally abstract and mindless and grows out of the same pure, infantile idealism without a speck of irony. It doesn’t concern itself whether it is feasible to fulfill its ideals nor what they bring with them as well as practical consequences of its actions. All utterances, deeds, prohibitions, prescriptions, condemnations and intellectual trends, which we perceive as political correct ones, are inspired by this ideology.

Next, there is the illiterate. There are no stupid people only differently smart. Everybody has his own truth that is as important as anyone else’s (however, there are ones that are more important). What is called ‘objective truth’ doesn’t exist. It is an authoritarian notion, invented and imposed by the western civilization in order to oppress the ‘weak ones’….
Exams are an elitist way of oppression. Facts are irrelevant.

Everybody has the right to realize his dreams or more correctly, the right to demand from the state to fulfill them. Everybody has the right for self-expression (but for the freedom of speech). Every person is determined by his/her belonging to this or that group – sexual, social, religious, ethnic. Each such group, if it is a minority, has the right to demand special treatment from the state. The only solution of all problems – of schools, universities, poverty, hospitals, hunger in the Third World – is to relentlessly invest money, however only taxpayer money, and there is no need to investigate how it is being spent, especially in the Third World, and especially when it ends up in the hands of dictators who care so much for their people, of course never ever possessed any nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

Some of the thoughts and opinions I have cited are extreme and supported only by the fanatical adherents of political correctness. However, even they wouldn’t exist in isolation from everything else. Other are more common and even mandatory among leftist elites and can exist separately.

Here's another article by her worth reading:
Political Correctness and the Totalitarian Mentality. Note her poignantly bitter treatment of the European constitution at the end of it.


At 10:50 AM, Blogger A. Shah said...

Interesting post. Based on what I read in the English article, I really can't see how you're so enamored with this woman's writings. To me her articles read like unoriginal rants. Like almost all neocons, the central point of this woman's writing is to express contempt for western 'liberals' and melodramatic alarm about how they are the most insidious threat to 'western civilization'. As if all the other ills in the world pale in comparison to the 'degeneration' of the west at the hands of barely conscious liberal elites and the masses- who of course are mindless sheep. She of course clumps all 'liberals' together, under the banner of 'political correctness' and somehow comes to the conclusion that this 'ideology' amounts to a new totalitarianism. She doesn't defend her arguments in any real detail , but instead makes the usual references to Rousseau and Communist theory as the source of the problem. At one point she does also mention in some rambling passages that the free market naturally producing inequality, so focusing on eradicating inequality by nature is totalitarian.
Her arguments are not particularly coherent, definitely not original and most importantly are filled with sweeping, often incorrect or misleading, generalizations. If you're going to attempt some sort of sociological critique, you better have a pretty good idea of what the actual social trends are.
She seems to present anything left of center as being 'PC' and cutting off all debate, which is an incredible exaggeration and of course ignores the stiffling of free thought that comes from the right (i.e. don't offend religious sensibilities, don't criticize or you'll be unpatriotic, seeing things in purely black and white terms).

Even worse than any exaggeration or imbalance in her argument is that she is guilty of exactly the sort of totalitarianism she's so adamantly against. She how western intellectuals are prone to totalitarian though in part because they are addicited to dealing with abstractions not the real world. But her writing is an excellent example of exactly that. All her arguments are vague and appeal to abstract notions, with little attempt at factual justification or any attempt to empirically validate her points in any way. She writes with an almost cynical disregard for detail and precision- this of course makes it difficult to argue against (or for) her points with specific examples. Underlying all this she ultimately appeals to the inequatible nature of the free market, which of course under no circumstances should be restrained since it represents freedom, the truth that all western lefties completely miss. And she points to the other side as being ideological?? This is perhaps the most strongly held ideological belief in our times, that the unrestrained free market represents the best social/economic system. The only other ideology as powerful at present is our commitment to human rights (both in the positive and negative), which lies at the heart of most of these 'PC' groups arguments.
Of course there is always a tension between freedom and equality, and this is nothing new of course. The answer lies not in a whole hearted rejection of one or the other, which is of course leads to an untenable social structure, but in some sort of balance. There is no indication of balance in her argument, there is in fact very little in the way of a rational argument. Her writing is mostly emotional rant, and she is definitely directing her arguments towards those who already agree (i.e. she is not seriously attempting to engage in a constructive discussion, but rather seeks to have her already existing ideas confirmed by the like minded). Anyway, I think I've already said enough about Kolakowska's writing. Let me know what you think.

At 11:00 AM, Blogger A. Shah said...

Ugh, I really should edit what I write before posting... :)

At 3:50 PM, Blogger Oleksa said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3:51 PM, Blogger Oleksa said...

what's the matter? I thought everything was all right with your post.


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