Wednesday 19 January 2011

The most unselfish people


I have said that the core ethic of political correctness is unselfishness - which is a reaction against the natural selfishness of humans; and which is (in its ideal expression) operationalized in abstract (usually bureaucratic) systems of altruistically-motivated redistribution of 'worldly goods' (material and social) to people and groups defined as 'deserving'.


However, the most unselfish people that I know of are Evangelical Christians and Mormons.

The behaviour of these groups is based on divine revelation as encoded in holy books: i.e. The Bible - plus the Book of Mormon and other scriptures and revelations for Mormons).

Both these groups are patriarchal and favour traditional sexual behavior.

And, of course both groups are loathed by the politically correct.


Why is it that the two groups which best embody in practice the underpinning PC doctrine of unselfishness are such hate figures for PC?


The answer is that the unselfish behaviour of Evangelicals and Mormons is indeed valued by political correctness, but the fact that the groups are nonetheless disapproved indicates that political correctness is not about behaviour.

The clue is the distinction between in practice and in theory.

Both Evangelicals and Mormons are very practically-oriented groups, in which adherence to relatively strict laws of behaviour is seen as crucial.

(This is not to say that these groups lack spirituality, but that practical adherence to rules is very carefully monitored, compared with prescriptions, and subject to group rewards and sanctions.)


Political correctness is, of course, a discourse - not a set of behavioural rules.

PC is communicative, not practical (or practical only insofar as practice concerns communications.)

Insofar as there are PC rules of behaviour, these relate to what you say or write or in some fashion depict; and somewhat to manners and lifestyle choices - but not to what you do in a practical ethical sense.


For PC it is much more (infinitely more) important how you justify your behaviour than how you actually behave.

This is because political correctness is relativistic, nihilistic, denies the reality of the real - so the world of communications is the bottom-line.

For PC there is no essence to humanity, all is socially-constructed and contingent.

If not actually real, then for PC discourse is the real-est thing; because discourse is understood to construct our perception of reality.


So PC polices discourse, not behaviour.

PC values unselfish discourse (infinitely) more highly than unselfish behaviour: almost any amount or degree of selfish behavior can be excused so long as a person or group sticks by the laws governing discourse; and no degree of unselfish behaviour can compensate and any way for a breach of the laws of PC discourse.

Groups with non-PC discourse are utterly beyond the pale: they are evil, and their actual behaviour is completely irrelevant to this judgment.

Common sense says we should take notice of what people do, not what they say; but in the morally inverted and anti-commonsensical world of political correctness this is reversed: notice is taken only of what people say and not at all of what they do.


Hence those people (Evangelicals and Mormons) who in their actual lives most fully embody the highest moral ideal of political correctness, are also precisely those people that PC most despises.



dearieme said...

The point of PC is to swank around, drawing attention to the heart on your sleeve, and chunterring about your highest of motives. Attending to actual behaviour would be so bourgeois, dahling.

Bruce Charlton said...

Indeed. It can be observed that PC sainthood is compatible with personal greed, arrogance, aggression and violence, systematic promiscuity, habitual intoxication, and even paedophilia.

The media elite never had it so good!

Steve Nicoloso said...

An interesting irony no doubt. No doubt the irony is largely lost upon PC-adherents, most of whom know no Evangelicals and Mormons personally and only read about them in the Funny Papers. I cannot help but think however, that it is their mutual nearness in the religious taxonomic landscape that engenders much of the hate.

Low church Protestantism (aka. Evangelicalism) and Political Correctness both descend from the Puritan strain of Protestantism, largely responsible for early American settlement. They actually remained well within the same identifiable branches of American Christianity through the 19th century, and arguably well into the 20th. In fact, almost every extant Evangelical sect (and certainly all of the largest) can trace its roots to a internecine squabble in Mainline protestant denominations between 1850 and 1950, the vast majority of which were reactionary against what was then known as variously as "Modernism" or "Liberalism", in either case largely synonymous with PC.

It is this very nearness, not dissimilar from what Fr. Neuhaus termed "Narrow Escape Syndrome", that I think breeds much of the mutual contempt.

As a relatively late escapee from Evangelicalism, I can attest from personal experience to the fact that PC continues to make significant inroads into that seemingly stalwart expression of the Christian faith. Political Correctness (or whatever you call it) promises in the end to make of Evanglicalism what it made of the Mainline protestant sects.

Bruce Charlton said...

"Political Correctness (or whatever you call it) promises in the end to make of Evanglicalism what it made of the Mainline protestant sects."

I agree that this is happening and could well continue to completion at the institutional level (assuming that society does not collapse before this can happen) - and for the reason that Evangelicals have (historically) already traveled part way along that path; have already conceded key points.

On the other hand, a really Christian person would never wholly embrace PC at a personal level: there would remains a profound dissonance, the infinite gulf between nihilism and the Christian world view.

Steve Nicoloso said...

On the other hand, a really Christian person would never wholly embrace PC at a personal level: there would remains a profound dissonance, the infinite gulf between nihilism and the Christian world view.

I suppose the really Christian person couldn't wholly embrace it; but there are few really Christian people, and PC does the almost all of its damage while being only partially, often unwittingly, embraced. PC is, uniquely, a Christian heresy. There was, I think, no other way for it to have entered the world. I see PC as basically a radical 17th century American Puritanism with the "City on a Hill" dial turned up to 11 (and therefore with all the other distinctives proportionally attentuated).

Its cognitive dissonance is precisely what makes it so attractive socially; like some sort of intellectual peacock tailfeathers. Only the most powerful, insulated, well-adjusted, and beautiful people could believe such stupid stuff. Ergo, everyone wants to be like them.

But back to the point: it is very hard for a typical Evangelical (having been one myself) to be mean (un-nice) enough to be intentionally non-PC, that is to intentionally stand for blood and soil vis-a-vis the universal brotherhood of man. They really believe Christ died for all men (which he did), and offers salvation for all (which he does), and so we are, Jew and Greek, male and female, all really equal before God, right? (At least a qualified yes.) So, therefore: [Name PC public policy presription].

Except for abortion, in which the natural rights of a child are violated, there is no argument of institutional strength against much else of the PC agenda. They don't like Gay marriage, but mostly only because it is icky. They don't much go for Natural Law (too Catholic!), if not least for the reason that it would put their general acceptance of the rest of the modern project in doubt. There is little thought given to long-term, generational public good. Most Evangelicals may see various pieces of the PC agenda as imprudent, or silly, or a denial of liberty, but they don't see the project as a whole, and as they do with doctrine, feel free to pick and choose the parts they like and the parts they don't. And it's really hard to tell the fish that he's wet.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SN - Thanks for that bit of psychology! Very clear and useful.

I think that strictly you have described how (and why) Evangelicals go-along-with PC - but I would attribute the *origin* of PC further back - probably with the split of Roman and Orthodox Catholics a thousand-plus years ago - when the West began to develop philosophy as an intellectual specialty breaking away from theology.

PC never got far when the ruling elite was Christian but gathered strength with secularization of *public* discourse.

In a nutshell, I regard Christianity as anti-PC, and it has been the process of schizm, the privatization of faith, the growth of nihilism and the secularization of pubic discourse which has led to the moral inversions of PC - where all traditional values have been and are being reversed.

So I would regard puritanism as a step in the weakening of Christianity and its power to resist PC, rather than the cause of PC.

Laban said...

Peter Hitchens - "Our religion, such as it is, has abandoned the only territory where it could not be challenged — the saving of souls, and given up troubling our individual consciences. Instead, it has joined in the nationalization of the human conscience, so that a man's moral worth is now measured by the level of taxation he is willing to support, rather than by his faith or even his good works. Other tests — opposition to apartheid or General Pinochet — are valued more highly than personal adherence to the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount. An adulterer, with the correct view on Nelson Mandela, is preferable to a Mother Teresa who fails to criticize the currently unfashionable regimes of the world."