Sunday, 21 November 2010

Political correctness is not fundamentally egalitarian

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The relationship of political correctness to the egalitarian impulse, the desire for equality, is interesting. So much of PC rhetoric concerns equality that it superficially seems as if equality of distribution of goods is the goal of political correctness.

Yet this cannot be correct, since in practice PC is indifferent to group preferences and to reverse inequality.

So that in many high status educational institutions and professions (such as medicine), the majority of personnel used to be men, but are now women; and yet formal and aspirational preferences for women remain in place.

In other words, even when what were stated to be the primary goals of policy have been achieved and indeed overshot, the egalitarian rhetoric continues - and any continuing inequalities of outcome of a secondary nature (proportions of women in specific high status sub-specialities - such as surgery) are used as rationalizations for further or continued group preferences.

And in terms of ethnic minority 'representation' in the media, this has reached a level way beyond 'proportionality' and even beyond equality - approaching monopoly - without causing any apparent distress or discomfort among supposed egalitarians. Quite the opposite, indeed.

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It seems that even a situation of monopoly representation, or monopoly allocation of 'goods' of any kind, by favoured groups (sexual, ethnic or whatever they might be) is perfectly compatible with a system of PC.

All the doctors might be women, all the leading politicians might be (or identify with) ethnic minorities, yet this is still perfectly compatible with a system of continued PC allocations.

Equality is not, therefore, the deepest impulse. What is deepest in political correctness is moral opposition to - and the desire therefore to subvert and invert - the existing state of affairs brought about by individual agency: by human desires, choices, beliefs.

Whatever state of affairs existed in the past or currently exists in the absence of an abstract system of allocation is intrinsically unjust, intrinsically wrong - on principle, and without need for evidence of wrongness (although it is easy to generate such evidence). 

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My impression is that actual, real world equality of outcome is a matter of near indifference to political correctness.

Inequalities of one kind operate to stoke-up indignation and as rhetorical devices to persuade acceptance of policies which are favoured anyway; but inequalities of an opposite kind are uninteresting - or perhaps used as a test of PC-sincerity among the elite.

What, then, is the principle behind this?

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I believe that PC uses egalitarianism instrumentally as a way of generating policies.

But egalitarianism is not really necessary - because policies are primarily oppositional, or inversional, rather than egalitarian.

In other words, PC looks at the human social world as it is and has been, that is to say a world of multiple causal processes, and regards it as intrinsically - necessarily - unjust.

The natural world is unjust because of intrinsic human selfishness.

Egalitarianism is just one device used to demonstrate the injustice. And inequality has the advantage of being amenable to definitions, measurement, monitoring - and being made the basis of bureaucratic procedure.

But indeed any argument is suitable for PC to attack any existing state of affairs which relies on individual choice, individual freedom.

The dissatisfaction (actual, inferred or imputed) of just a single symbolic person is enough to trigger wholesale change - so long as this dissatisfaction can be linked to the introduction of a system of abstract altruistic allocation.

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PC is - at root, at its deepest impulse - based on a conviction of the intrinsic sinfulness of humans.

Political correctness therefore embodies the impulse to replace individual choice with abstract principle - but with what goal?

Often the stated goal of PC is utilitarian: happiness - the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Or the alleviation of misery and suffering. But, again, this cannot be taken at face value, because PC displays a near-total indifference as to whether its interventions actually do have the effect of increasing happiness or reducing misery.

Indeed, there are many situations when it seems that PC policies reduce happiness and increase misery - but PC is indifferent to whether of not this is so. There is a clear tendency to implement certain kinds of policies regardless of the consequences to human happiness.

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For political correctness, happiness is not an achieved real world consequence of PC policies. Rather happiness is the moral duty of individuals living under PC; happiness is the state of humans when PC allocative policies are operating.

At an individual level, in particular, the goal is not just to try to be happy about a PC situation, but actually to be happy.

The pure elite PC intellectual ruler really is happy under PC. Whatever happens to him.

This is what I mean by the idea that PC requires submission of the individual to the abstract principles of allocation.

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In sum, many of the contradictions of PC derive from the attempt to impose abstract systems of altruistic allocation on existing states of affairs which involve human agency.

Political correctness is, in ideal form, therefore completely opposed to human agency in all its forms.

The tendency of PC is therefore to identify and overcome all possible human freedoms and choices in relation to the allocation of 'goods'. 

That is, to replace the intrinsically selfish choices of individual autonomous humans with abstract systems of altruism.

This may sound an extreme formulation, but it is literally true.

Political correctness instrumentally uses human impulses (such as aspirations for justice, or equality, or happiness) to attack any and every social situation which currently lacks a system of abstract altruistic allocation.

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The big problem for PC - in a system where human agency is intrinsically wicked - is what distribution counts as altruistic? 

Clearly this question has no ultimate answer, since PC denies the possibility of divine revelation; instead there are a series of pragmatic answers to what counts as altruistic - but all of these answers bear the mark of human choice so none of these answers are truly eternal abstractions.

The principle of subversion and inversion of whatever is individual, spontaneous and natural therefore serves as a rule-of-thumb to identify problems and to generate aims for the solutions. However these aims are inexplicit.

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If men naturally tend to become leaders, then in a system of allocating goods according to sexual identity women should replace men; if humans are naturally heterosexual, then anything except heterosexuality should be favoured by altruistic principles.

The positive policies of political correctness are therefore somewhat arbitrary, changeable over time.

The evaluation of PC policies in terms of human happiness, suffering, income or any other principle is again variable - and often PC policies will seem to make things worse from any practical and measurable perspective.

But the politically correct solution is always intrinsically superior at an abstract level in so far as it removes the scope or possibility of individual selfishness.

Always PC aims at the removal of individual freedom and choice, since individual selfishness is intrinsic and will shape all free choices - selfishness is the ultimate evil.

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Selfish human individuals must be subjected to impersonal principles of altruism - they must submit to these rules, and the virtuous humans are those which submit willingly, happily and regardless of the consequences

But the actual specific nature of these altruistic principles to which humans must submit is much less certain than that they should submit, since to be purely virtuous the rules ought not to come from human individuals.

Much of modern bureaucracy - voting, committees, the use of social statistics - can be seen as steps in the direction of developing algorithmic, machine-like mechanisms for generating altruistic principles without the participation of (corrupt) human agency.

(Because whatever individuals do will be, or tend to become, selfish and cruel).

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The perfect, ultra-pure and idealistic politically correct intellectual aspires (as his highest goal in life) to create a perfect and autonomous mechanism for devising altruistic principles and 'implementing' them on humans.

Having created this mechanism for the imposition of abstract altruism, his own fate is a matter of indifference - he might step-back and watch, be rewarded, or be destroyed - but the machine, once built, will just keep running: just keep-on compelling wicked individual humans to do that which is abstractly just.

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This nightmare of living-death - in which human wickedness is impossible because every single human decision related to the allocation of the goods of life has been subordinated to a system of abstract altruism - is the covert Utopian dream of the politically correct.

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