Can we learn to think for ourselves again? The surprising history of political correctness, and why it's an idea whose time has come to go
Can we learn to think for ourselves again? The surprising history of political correctnessâ€¦and why itâ€™s an idea whose time has come to go
By Douglas Kruger â€“ Author of: Political Correctness Does More Harm Than Good
Stop the proverbial man on the street. Ask him: â€˜What does it mean to be â€˜politically correctâ€™â€™? Your likely responses will include variants of: â€œItâ€™s about being kind and inclusive; a way of ensuring everybody gets a fair chance.â€
What you are unlikely to hear is the correct description:
It is a form of self-policing introduced into Soviet Russia by the Communist party, designed to ensure that members of their totalitarian political system would police themselves, single out dissidents, and render the masses easier to control, with the first appearance of the term traced by scholars to Marxist literature in a 1921 government propaganda publication.
Indeed, though that year in Russia did see the first use of the term â€“ a fact that should already discredit political correctness wholesale â€“ the genesis of this social phenomenon goes back even further: to a French philosopher named Rousseau.
Hailed as the â€˜father of modern liberalism,â€™ Jean Jacque Rousseau (1712 â€“ 1788) is rarely held accountable for the body count that would stack up over ensuing centuries due to his ideas; one in particular.
The Genevan philosopher believed that Judaeo-Christian notions of right and wrong were oppressive. He wanted to live as a pre-modern â€˜natural manâ€™ and dedicated much of his writing to this cause.
Practicing what he preached, Rousseau fathered several children with several women. These children, he felt, also oppressed him. A vain man, who bore no inclination to take responsibility for his young, Rousseau then faced a dilemma: how to convince Parisian intellectual society that he remained a singular icon of secular moral goodness, whilst also wriggling out of his duties as a Dad.
And so, Rousseau invented â€˜collectivismâ€™ from whole cloth. Children ought to be raised communally, by â€˜society.â€™ And the mechanism of a collectivist society should be the state. (Rousseau also memorably recommended that when any rogue individual failed to obey the general will of the collective, as embodied in the state, the state should eliminate that individual, for the greater good).
Rousseau passed two things along. First: his children, who were all dished out to state orphanages. All then died young. In the case of each childâ€™s ailment and death, the father was absent. This should have been sufficient to kill the proto-liberalâ€™s great philosophy in its own infancy, and indeed, many detractors of the day did see Rousseau for the fraud he was.
Second was the notion of collectivist â€˜state-over-individualâ€™ politics, his great invention, which a young German philosopher named Carl Marx would adopt with enamoured glee, and transform into an â€˜economicâ€™ system. The part about states killing non-compliant individuals could stay. Onward to the revolution.
Rousseau and Marx both indulged in extreme versions of what we, today, might call â€˜virtue-signaling.â€™ Rousseau waxed lyrical about what a great father he might have been, had he opted to go that route. And his recommendations of bowing to the general will applied to all mankind, but not to him. Likewise, Marx, the great advocate of the working man, and of socialized taxes, never worked a day in his life, and never paid taxes. More than any two other figures, these men are responsible for what we dub â€˜political correctnessâ€™ today; in essence, the idea of policing our own proclivities toward individuality, merit, and right and wrong, in favour of a more inclusive and equitable â€˜greater good.â€™
In Rousseauâ€™s own nation, and in no small part spurred on by his writings, the West saw the beginning of â€˜revolutionaryâ€™ politics. This is the competing system to conservative politics, which holds the contrasting notion that change should be a gradual process of peaceful negotiation. The English slowly developed Common Law from the ground up. The French imposed radical new structures from the top down. Rousseau, Marx and their intellectual inheritors have preferred revolution and the imposition of prescribed values ever since.
Following the French Revolution (and long before the Russians had the chance to invent a name for it), political correctness was the defining notion of the French Reign of Terror. The formula was: â€˜Think incorrectly according to the progressive politics of the day, and it itâ€™s off to the guillotine with you â€“ for the greater good.â€™ If you have faced off against a thought-policing mob as it upholds PC virtues today, you may recognize the dynamic.
By the 1950s, political correctness had nearly disappeared from Western society. We very nearly escaped it. The lurching collapses of collectivist, Marxist economies, and their all-too-gradually revealed and perceived gluts of slaughter and genocide meant that onlookers could see the deadliness of egalitarian politics for themselves. There was a brief return to moral right and wrong, meritocracy, universal standards, and the sanctity of the inviolable individual â€“ all pillars underpinning Western civilization and its global ascendancy.
But good people were not the only onlookers.
In Germany, a group of radical Marxists called The Frankfurt School also perceived that their system was imploding, and pulled a surprising move. Relocating to the US, they re-established their Marxist ideology not as an economic system, but as a social one. Replace, â€˜All history is the history of class struggles,â€™ with â€˜all history is the history of demographic struggles,â€™ and repeat. Onward to revolution!
The Frankfurt School held the stated aim of destroying Western society, and replacing it with a Marxist utopia. To that end, their charter encouraged the creation of â€˜warring tribes.â€™
The formula was simple: Take the Apostle Paulâ€™s idea that â€˜there is neither Jew nor Gentileâ€¦â€™, latterly restated by Martin Luther King Jr in the phrase, â€˜â€¦judged not by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character,â€™ and reverse it.
This was the invention of identity politics and the ensuing social justice wars: Only skin-colour matters. If you are black, you are oppressed. Rage against the system. If you are white, you are the oppressor. Flagellate yourself in shame, and contribute to the denigration of your own. If you are female, if you are gay, if you are poor, if you areâ€¦ Indeed, it didnâ€™t matter what you were, so long as you could be culled away from Western society, weaponized, then turned and aimed against it. And inter-group contradictions were irrelevant. Gay advocacy teaming up with Islam â€“ otherwise its single most hostile opposition â€“ proceeded as if logically coherent, given the more important goal of overthrowing the old order.
Using the tool of political correctness, grievance stoking turned out to be easy. Witness the global eruption of â€˜Black Lives Matterâ€™ and its attendant destructiveness in 2020.
CNN provided us with one version of the narrative: that white policemen perpetually hunt down and kill unarmed black men, as if for sport, but would not provide us with the result of FBI or federal investigations into the phenomenon, which concluded that a US police officer â€“ black, white, or otherwise â€“ is eighteen times more likely to be shot by a black man, than to shoot a black man. Or that those fatally shot by police-officers are overwhelmingly white.
Here is where it becomes even more curious: How did Black Lives Matter go from â€˜George Floydâ€™s killing was unacceptable,â€™ (an allegation with which society overwhelmingly agreed), to: â€˜Our aim is to dissolve the nuclear family and overthrow capitalism,â€™ as BLMâ€™s mandate now suggests?
The answer is clear, once you know what political correctness is and does. George Floyd was incidental. His death was merely useful. Indeed, the interests of black people were merely incidental and useful. Everyone is a pawn, to be embittered and used in the attack, when the real game is being played on a larger scale.
Political correctness harms people in varied and surprising ways too, beyond using them as foot-soldiers. For instance, a think-tank called The Brookings Institution has found that the top two behavioural determinants of upward mobility out of poverty are:
- Work ethic, and
- Monogamous marriage and family (as opposed to having children out of wedlock).
No other actions have greater bearing on whether or not poor people remain poor.
Yet when representatives from this institution try to share such insights, they are told the information is â€˜unkind,â€™ and â€˜politically incorrect.â€™ Is it not unkinder to withhold solutions from those who need them?
Thus, today, political correctness does damage in two ways: The first, by its aim to fundamentally replace democratic, free-market, Westernised societies, in which the individual is held to be inviolable, with collectivist Marxist ones, in which Rousseauâ€™s â€˜general willâ€™ may inconvenience, displace, or even â€˜removeâ€™ a problematic person, so long as it is for the greater good.
The second by replacing truthful insights about morals, merit, and how to practically prosper, with kindness-based euphemisms of victimhood, oppression and the notion that no individual is to be held personally accountable for their situation, nor may they have access to information about why their beliefs and behaviours impede them.
Political correctness began with a failed father. To virtue-signal to the world, he invented collectivism and fobbed off his children. The next luminary in line picked up this philosophy, turned it into a disastrous economic system, and initiated the deaths via government genocide and starvation of over 100-million people. The Frankfurt School mutated the sickness once again, and taught us to adopt the self-policing language of collectivism directly into our culture, in order to destroy our culture. Today, when we engage in politically correct thought and speech, we think ourselves enlightened.
Once you know the history of political correctness, you need no longer fall for it. It is not kindness. It is murderous; dishonestly founded toward evil ends, and perpetuated by dishonest players, with the overt goal of undermining civilization. It is time we talk about this ideological interloper in our midst.
And what is the alternative? Actually, that answer is very simple. We should choose to speak the truth.
Speaking the truth requires courage in a politically correct world. It begins with independence of thought, which must be cultivated against social pressure. It is, you may have seen, even harder when the mob make no concealment of their guillotine. Yet it is the path to freedom; perhaps the only path to freedom.
As for kindness and civility to all? These behavioural choices remain eminently available to those who do not concede truth to political correctness. Indeed, is it kinder to lie to people about their world, in the service of breaking that world? Or is it kinder to tell the truth, even when truth is challenging?
We should choose the truth. And it is perfectly possible to temper the truth with kindness.
Truth has superior origins. It has superior outcomes. It makes of us honest actors in a challenging world where honesty pays dividends for all.
Political correctness begins from a place of selfishness, then proceeds to damage outcomes for all by hiding the necessary knowledge, rendering us liars with smiling masks. It has malicious intent, but masquerades behind a veil of virtue.
In the end, you will have to choose. You can have political correctness, or you can have the truth, but you cannot have both.
Douglas Kruger is a â€˜Hall of Fameâ€™ speaker, and the author of the global new book, â€˜Political Correctness Does More Harm Than Good.â€™ He is a member of Mensa â€“ the High-IQ society â€“ and holds a degree in Philosophy. Meet him, and watch his videos on this topic, at www.breakingwoke.com.