Thursday, 13 January 2011

Cynicism and kynicism in political correctness

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The politically correct are people who do not believe in absolute truth.

Yet they insist that everyone should believe what they are telling them today.

Or else if you do not believe whatever they tell you today, you are evil.

Yet the politically correct do not believe in evil.

What they do believe in is culture - culture is the bottom line 'reality'.

And culture is consensus.

Yet the politically correct believe in the liberation of individual desire: that is, they believe in the overthrow of consensus.

So the bottom line reality for political correctness is... a continually changing, compulsory consensus.

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Is this to be what Richard Rorty described as a 'liberal ironist' - to live passionately by understandings one knows to be temporary and contingent?

Not really - political correctness is better characterized by Peter Sloterdijk's 'enlightened false consciousness' of the modern cynic.

Enlightened = realistic; false consciousness = self-serving illusion.

The combination is a clear eyed awareness of one's own self-manipulating fantasies; fantasies which one also believes absolutely.

To make reality and then to forget one has just made it, and then to remember, critique and re-make reality; and again to forget it - and so on and so forth...

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Neither ironical nor detached; enlightened false consciousness is a severe, rational, anger-fuelled stance which aims to impose meaning and purpose onto life via the continual bureaucratic and authoritarian process of creating and moulding culture - undoing and reversing the inequalities and miseries of the past, and chasing always after the flickering fashions in upper class status.

Culture is arbitrary, yet it is reality; culture is managed, yet it is contingent; culture us everything and irresistible, yet it is nothing and as insignificant as the life of a mayfly.

This enlightened false consciousness collapses into careerism, which collapses into parasitism (life as a permanent holiday, travel, good living), which collapses into the secret-guilty cult of the openly instinctual and unashamed psychopath: the invincible gangster, the irresistible and expert sexual predator, the envied permanently-stoned junkie.

This opposite to the disaffected cynic is what Sloterdijk (in his Critique of Cynical Reason) terms the kynic.

The kynic has (merely) discarded consciousness; has solved the problem of being a modern human in a modern society by becoming an animal and preying upon society.

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But in the cynic and the kynic, Sloterdijk has exhaustively described the possibilities for modern secular life - the bureaucrat who lives inside of culture OR the junkie who lives outside (and upon) culture.

Make your choice.

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Except that the normal, mainstream, generally accepted thing is to alternate between these states.

Hence PC is remarkably tolerant of the kynic; because (to parody Solzhenitsyn):

...the line separating cynic and kynic passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts.

This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years.

Even within hearts overwhelmed by kynicism, one small bridgehead of cynicism is retained; and even in the most cynical of all hearts, there remains a small corner of kynicism.



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