Thursday 24 February 2011

The Psychology of Political Correctness


['The Book' so far...]


Political correctness, or PC, is now pervasive and dominant in the West.

PC is not a joke, it is extremely powerful and extremely widespread – indeed hardly anybody among the intellectual elite, the ruling class, is immune – most are deeply complicit, even those who laugh at what they regard as the absurdities and excesses of PC.

(In ten years time these same individuals will be zealously defending these absurdities and regarding the excesses as middle of the road mainstream).


We need to take PC very seriously indeed; before it is too late.

(It may already be too late to save society, but it is not too late to save our souls, and those of others – which is more important.)

The purpose of this book is to help recognize and understand the phenomenon of political correctness as a wholesale human disaster. Indeed, once grasped for what it is, it is difficult to exaggerate the harm done by PC and the harm it will do if not destroyed.


Because political correctness is not merely weak in defence of The Good (roughly speaking of Truth, Beauty and Virtue); it is actively subversive of The Good.

PC not only damages societal functionality, it turns functionality against itself - to create paralysis.

It can be convincingly and correctly argued that political correctness will destroy all Western Nations and Western Civilization - I regard that as obvious and uncontroversial – but even if it did not, and whatever happens to the socio-political scene, PC is the greatest of disasters for the human soul.

It is indeed the most pervasive mental pathology to have gripped humanity; its sufferers are trapped in a fly bottle of their own devising, and cannot find a way out.


Political correctness has emerged over historical time, indeed over at least the past millennium, and has grown exponentially – but, like all exponential processes (the growth of cancer, the growth of populations) the early stages were all but invisible – and it is only in the past 50-60 years that the full blown phenomenon of PC has become so big and so strong that it cannot be ignored; indeed it can barely be resisted, so pervasive and powerful it now is among the leadership of all major Western institutions (including all the mainstream churches).


The pathology of PC has many names: nihilism is perhaps the best.

Nihilism being the denial of the reality of reality; otherwise known as relativism.

So for the nihilist there is no reality, but only an infinite number of possible situations, none intrinsically realer than the others, none being correct.


Nihilism is contrasted with the traditional human viewpoint that there is a reality, a transcendental reality – which is really real, although human knowledge of this reality is imperfect.

Transcendental reality is also called The Good – it is a unified single thing, but is often split into three sub-domains: Truth, Beauty, and Virtue.

Nihilism (including PC) denies the reality of The Good, and denies the reality of The True, The Beautiful and The (morally) Virtuous.


Nihilism is a consequence of atheism, of the denial of a transcendental God (or possibly Gods in the plural) that underwrites reality, which is reality.

Political correctness is the fully-developed following-through of nihilism to its narrowly-rational (but un-reasonable) consequences.

Political correctness is therefore a disease of the mind, a pathology of thought that renders its compliant sufferers incapable of salvation.


That is the problem of PC – that it is a soul-denying, hence soul-destroying, ideology.

And once a person has accepted and internalized the assumptions of PC, he cannot get out of it: he is trapped in the fly bottle, merely buzzing round in circles.

And the bottle glass is opaque – he cannot even see outside it.


The pathology of PC is made possible by and supports the replacement of reason by rationality, and the fragmentation of rationality into many small and detached segments.

PC rationality will therefore get you only a step or two, before some different and incommensurable mode of reasoning will kick-in.

So there is no reasoning in political correctness, only the application of arbitrary algorithms and procedures and fail safes (in particular the ad hominem attack default, which is underpinned by nothing more than a conditioned revulsion to the non-PC).


So, a mere thirty or so years since PC became identifiable, and just a couple of decades since it became powerful enough to be troublesome, the entire intellectual elite has been absorbed into it. Clearly, they were pre-adapted, and PC is merely an outcome of long-standing trends.


Quite suddenly, we notice that the Western elites are detached from the mass of humanity throughout history and throughout most of the current world.

(They have been increasingly detached for a thousand years - but the numbers were initially very small. Only when the detachment became official policy was it so obvious that anyone can see - if they use their eyes, which of course most do not, and most of these now cannot.)

They are detached because PC is a reaction-against, a reversal of, an inversion of all spontaneous, traditional (and also specifically Christian) human thought processes.


Political Correctness is subversive of The Good.

It is not ignorant of The Good – it knows what The Good is, PC indeed must know The Good, in order to subvert it.

This is why PC is the preserve of intellectuals – because those too ignorant to know The Good cannot subvert it; they may of course go against The Good – they may be wicked, create ugliness and tell lies – but only for their own selfish and short term purposes, only from ignorance or impulsivity.

The point of PC is that it systematically subverts Virtue, Beauty and Truth and pursues wickedness, ugliness and lies – not by accident, not merely by ignorance nor by selfish short-termism – but as a matter of the highest principle.


In morality, PC pursues the-opposite-of-Virtue. It learns about spontaneous human morality – Natural Law – and it does... something else. It subverts the natural and spontaneous. It reacts-against it. In practice it does the opposite, or what it conceives to be the opposite.

Where humans are motivated by love or duty, PC demand they be motivated by adherence to formal principles and procedures. Where humans spontaneously nurture and protect the family, PC attacks the family relentlessly and promotes any and all forms of social organization except the family. Because humans, like all animals, are heterosexual, PC promotes all other forms of sexuality. Because some humans are brave and heroic and those who are not tend to admire these traits in others; PC promotes cowardice and expediency.


Because humans naturally love Beauty, and value those who create Beauty; PC subverts Beauty. Politically correct art is anti-Beauty – it regards The Beautiful as Kitsch at best and tyrannically fascist at worst; it is about creating expectations then thwarting them, it is about replacing harmony with dissonance, edification with shock, delight with horror, pleasing sounds with noise, elevating subjects with disgusting subjects, aesthetic elevation with visceral degradation.


And PC reacts against The Truth. Truth is to be subordinated to the goal of subversion. Unwanted Truths are Hate Facts. Universally known Truths are replaced with narrow scraps of bureaucratically defined principles; spontaneous and obvious knowledge is contested, undermined, broken-up and contradicted one fragment at a time and replaced with Professional Consensus (Peer Review).


What does PC put in the place of The Good, and its component transcendentals of Virtue, Beauty and Truth?

Nothing definite – because for PC there is no reality.

Instead there are an infinite number of relative ‘realities’.

PC subverts The Good, but offers no substitute for The Good - except The Better.


PC does not know what it aims-for; it knows only that it must destroy The Good, that it may be replaced by something Better - only it has no criteria for evaluating what is better.

Since evaluations are themselves relative, The Better is not really better than the Good, but it might be!

The evaluations are themselves part of the project of subversion and experiment - PC subverts the Good and seeks the Better; subverts past current evaluations in pursuit of Better evaluations, and the Better will itself emerge as a consequence of the evolving process.

If PC has any faith, which is doubtful, it is that this evolutionary process of subversion and experiment is intrinsically virtuous.  


Why then does PC subverts the Good?

Because current and past realities have flaws (when compared with an ideal) and since there are an infinite number of alternative realities there must be many realities among them which are better than the current or past reality.


The job of PC is them to destroy current reality, detach itself from all past realities, and seek among the infinity of alternative for something better (which must be there, by sheer mathematical probability, somewhere).

PC will search through, sort-through, experiment-with these alternative realities to find something better – maybe something perfect?

And anyone who is against this search and experiment, is simply an apologist for the evils of the present and the past.

Political correctness is hostile to The Good in pursuit of The Better.


PC subverts current and past ideas of Virtue, Truth and Beauty in pursuit of greater Virtues, Truths and Beauties which currently cannot be imagined.

The PC promotion of Vice, Lies and Ugliness are therefore merely experiments in pursuit of The Better.

And the process is unconstrained by reality, because there is no real reality, (the reality of the real being illusory, delusional) there is only an infinitude of ‘realities’, some of which must (surely?) be better than this reality, the reality from which we suffer now, or the past realities from which humanity has suffered during history.



Jonathan said...

I've mentioned before that I really enjoy your writing, and it has changed my thinking much more than anything else lately, but it would be even stronger with concrete examples of the phenomena you write about.

If you are going to write a book--and I hope you do--then concrete examples will be necessary both to illustrate your ideas and to convince your readers that these phenomena are real.

I also believe concrete examples will help you pursue your ideas to the next deeper level, where you said you want to go a few posts ago.

Bruce Charlton said...

Jonathan - While I agree that examples would be helpful, I notice that you use a pseudonym and block your profile - you will understand, perhaps, why I cannot use examples. The same reason you do not use your name. Very few people write on the subjects covered by this blog and use their real names - those of us who do so must write in a kind of implied way. As for the 'deeper level' - I'm afraid that this is just about it (with a bit more on similar lines over the next days, perhaps)! It is not the lack of examples (I know what I mean) but the limits of my ability. I'm going as deep as I can - for greater depth you'll need to find someone with more insight than me - Fr Seraphim Rose, for example, is light years beyond me.

Das Beagle said...

Bravo, Mr Charlton. You have outdone yourself.

SonofMoses said...

Dear Bruce,

I wondered how you were going to begin.

In the event I think you’ve done brilliantly. You have given birth to something inspired, having the breathtaking, refreshing, even slightly abrasive and challenging, tang of undisguised truth.


So, fare forward with courage. I look forward to the time when this potent corrective is ready to be released upon the thirsty world.

Alex said...

Bruce writes: "Political correctness has emerged over historical time, indeed over at least the past millennium....."

Have you read Frank Ellis' book Political Correctness and the Theoretical Struggle? He identifies the origin of modern political correctness with the widening of political control to education and personal behaviour in Soviet Russia.

Mr Ellis lectured in the department of Russian and Slavonic Studies at Leeds University. A few years ago, he was more or less compelled to resign because of his "abhorrent views" - i.e. his politically incorrect opinions.

Dennis Mangan said...

Bruce, perhaps I missed it, but while you have given many examples of how PC functions and whence it came, nowhere do you define it. How is it different from left/liberal ideology?

Bruce Charlton said...

Dennis - when I was at an impressionable age I read Karl Popper rubbishing philosophers obsession with precise definitions - pointing out that physicists seem to do fine without an exact definition of the electron or the atom (or biologists of the gene, as another example).

But in a nutshell I regard political correctness as mainstream leftist politics post-1965.

This marked the tipping point between the left seeking equality of opportunity (meritocracy) and switching to equality of outcomes (egalitarianism), there was a switch from the left being based on economic policy (especially the belief that the planned command economy was actually more efficient than the market) and a move towards cultural engineering via propaganda and 'consciousness-raising', the beginning of the left's systematic dishonesty - especially suppression and demonizing of IQ research (IQ had been a leftist baby when the left was were concerned with equality of opportunity and meritocracy), the beginning of the left's obsession with the Nazis and eugenics, the beginning of a shift away from the working class/ unions to a rainbow coalition of 'victims' of 'prejudice' and so on...

Of course PC was continuous with socialism (or liberalism as you call it in the US) - but PC was when socialism became cut-off from the real world and from feedback, became focused on process rather than outcomes.

Another word for PC would be the New Left.

I have known a few Old Left intellectuals who live and work locally - and they were (and are) extremely anti-PC: e.g.