Saturday 7 May 2011

Political correctness and fear


An aspect of political correctness which I have not really considered was pointed out in an e-mail from Henry Harpending: the extent to which PC is motivated by fear and a spirit of appeasement.


Clearly, there is a strong element of fear in the choices of groups upon which political correctness bestows special privileges.

Broadly speaking, the most feared groups are given the highest status by PC.


(One apparent anomaly is women; who, following after slaves and organized labour, were early beneficiaries of the appeasing spirit of PC. An argument could be made that there is indeed a very strong element of fear of women behind political correctness: women being the mutually cooperating arbiters of social status and inclusion, and the sex which (nearly always) controls the sexual arena in which/ for which men are competing. If correct, this would emphasize that for men fear as a motivator is not restricted to fear of violence, although that is often an element, but includes fear of status loss.)


However, feared groups are not treated by political correctness according to the methods of traditional common sense, but instead by appeasement.

Traditionally (historically and still throughout most of the world), feared groups were controlled, subordinated, repressed, excluded and (ultimately) exterminated.

These methods were usually effective - if applied early enough.

However, a deep aspect of political correctness is pacifism: in the sense of a personal reluctance to be involved in physical coercion and even to be complicit in physical coercion.

PC strongly dislikes negative sanctions.


Consequently, lacking access to negative sanctions and especially physical coercion; political correctness gravitates to appeasement of feared groups.

The aim of PC is positive encouragement (of peaceful behaviour), which it does by conferral of privileges, subsidies, bestowal of higher status and so on.

But to do this entails a rationale: the rationale is one of desert: the feared group is seen as deserving of special, positive treatment.

This represents an inversion of common sense government; and culminates in a privileging of the feared group, increased power of the feared group, and ultimately a hand-over of government to the feared group.


Thus appeasement of the feared group becomes transformed into submission to the feared group.


(According to Demonic Males - available on Google Books and a classic account of primate aggression by Robert Wrangham and Dale Peterson - submission is characteristic of some ape females. They explain this in terms of 'warfare' - inter-group aggression. In sum: the difference is that defeated primate males suffer 'murder' and reproductive death; defeated females suffer 'rape' and continue reproduction. When a primate band is defeated, the losing males are exterminated by the winners - 'hence' males must fight and win, or die; but losing females are abducted rather than killed, 'hence' female primates tend to submit to superior force rather than fight. A stark example occurs when gorilla females live in the harem of a dominant male, and a rogue male breaks through the dominant male's defences and kills an infant. The mother of the slain infant will leave the dominant male's harem to join the rogue male who killed her infant. Presumably, because the event establishes which male really is dominant.)


For the PC elite, appeasement at least buys time since the feared groups will be likely to behave well for at least as long as the ruling elite are needed to manage the handover of power.

Furthermore, the PC elite hope (in the teeth of common sense) that the process of appeasement, empowerment and submission will (before the handover is complete) transform the nature of the feared group - such that there will no longer be a need to fear or appease them.


(This analysis leaves open the question of why the PC elite should be reluctant to use traditional common sense methods of dealing with feared groups, what is the cause of this change? This leads back to the deep roots of PC in secular nihilism - and its hopes of an intrinsically altruistic/ unselfish society of optimal gratification and minimum suffering; a society of impartial and abstractly virtuous procedures. In terms of mechanism, the PC elite has its roots in the takeover of society by the intellectual class; who must distinguish themselves from, marginalize and disempower the traditional military rulers, and devalue the analysis and methods of the military class. It is only the military class who are able to apply the approach of control, subordination, repression, exclusion and (ultimately) extermination. For intellectuals to replace, to dispense with, the loathed military class entails intellectuals using non-military methods (even when the alternative methods are ineffective). Alternatively, the process might be conceptualized as consequential to an altered balance of power between the sexes - i.e. progressive feminization: increasing female societal dominance - leading to a reaction to external threat that is ever-less aggressive, ever-more submissive. The two explanations could be combined if the class of intellectual men formed an alliance with women against the class of military men: the intellectual gaining cooperation by appeasement. It all sounds highly Nietzschian!)



The Crow said...

If it is this complex, I may as well just give up. Mathematics gives me the same feeling of hopelessness, once it progresses past a certain complexity threshold.
I prefer to believe the issue is not at all complex, and that, rather, complexity is what caused it in the first place. Insanity resulted.
One can always try to rationalize insanity, and manufacture complex theories to explain it, but really, insanity is exactly that: insanity.

Alex said...

In the PC world, there are feared groups and there are privileged groups, and these theoretically distinct sets overlap in lots of respects.

For instance, recruiting information for employment in the public sector is stuffed with propitiations towards ethnic minorities, disability, sexual orientation, and women.

It's weird that women (more than 50% of the population) get lumped with minority and special interest groups. Few women seem to object to this anomaly.

Anonymous said...

If you change your perspective to the left using such violent groups as tools to destroy a given foe their actions might make more sense. They liberated women in Order to destroy the family and to gain a major tool in pushing their ideas.

Bruce Charlton said...

I have *often* found (in conversation) that when there a serious - potentially fatal - problem from PC which can be reliably foreseen BUT solving that problem requires tough action (coercive action), then that is an end to discussion.

This is surely something new about PC. It was ,indeed, what got me interested in it. That we will be the first major civilization that could *easily* have solved the problems that will kill us, but we cannot contemplate the actions necessary, and simply take refuge in denial, distraction or wild hopes that somehow, for some reason - this time it will be different.

This goes beyond stupidity, shortsightedness, even insanity.

Lemniscate said...

It appears that high IQ (>130) men have, on average, lower levels of testosterone than normal IQ (>70 & <130) men. I wonder whether this has an influence on the intellectual class's psychology. Perhaps many male intellectuals' lack of testosterone combined with lack of experience prevents them from intuitively grasping the logic of force that is an essential part of male dominance competition.

PJ said...

Building on your previous posts, it's possible that projection about motives plays a role.

PC people value status above all, and assume (wrongly) that others value it as well; this is why they can't understand so many others. But from their view, bestowing status is the most valuable gift in their possession, and therefore their greatest bargaining chip. They may feel they are trading their way to civil peace. And if status is the thing that is valued, then if the fearsome are granted it freely, perhaps they'll have no motive to fight.

Since, as you say, a primary goal is to avoid a fight, they have difficulty seeing a fight (even a victorious one) as a solution.

Kevin J Jones said...

I think your fear/appeasement interpretation misidentifies the major actors in the PC mind.

PC fears of a racist society are sincerely held, as is the belief in remedying perceived or real oppression of minority groups.

These fears of racism are popularly supported by memories of (and especially movies about) our forefathers' experiences with Nazism and, in the U.S., racial segregation.

Minority groups, in the improvident democratic mindset, are by definition powerless and unthreatening. Therefore they can't really be "appeased."

PC is also an expression of fear of lawsuits. What looks like "appeasement" is in fact a form of lawsuit-proofing one's business or bureaucracy.

The lawsuit is a fearful, unpredictable thing that can drag on for years. It can rally thousands of protesters and crusading reporters against you. It gives the most lawsuit-prone people veto power over one's organization.

The anti-discrimination lawsuit is certainly a "negative sanction," yes?

Bruce Charlton said...

@KJJ - I feel that sincerity is a red herring, as is the supposed reaction to Nazism (which is actually not true: PC is either a phenomenon of the mid-1960s and those with no experience of Nazism; or else can be seen as a much older phenomenon with roots going back hundreds of years. At any rate, the discovery of the Nazi death camps in 1945 had essentially zero effect on the left at the time).

Surely the main point is that political correctness has 1. introduced racist monitorying, regulation, laws and rules on a massive scale and 2. is engaged in putting-into-power various groups whose have explicitly racist agendas.

So PC is not anti-racist in any meaningful sense.

a Finn said...

First, epiphenomena, like anti-racism, can't explain the system. Epiphenomena are deliberate obfuscations, although they have spesific meaning as a methods of control and manipulation of the masses and to some extent the elites also. Methods of power are more efficient when their origins, historical alternatives, historical developmental processes, other alternatives (e.g. theoretical and what has existed among other civilizations) etc. are not known. In addition ritual (or ritual in metaphorical sense) and informational mystifications are added. E.g. if A bestows power and it's responsibilities and privileges on B as just a simple process and naked claim, it is weak power. But if the process is complex and opaque, it is strong or stronger. E.g. A bestows on B and B bestows on C, which involves hearings and elections, and C bestows on D which is complex procedural committee, which bestows on E and so on. Also, these processes are hoped to gather acceptance and thus legitimation along the way. Now when I say this, it is usual that these kinds of things are neglected, because "I don't want to know about tricks, I want to know about real power" But real power is largely and inseparably tricks, and it's function and effects can't be understood without them. These tricks are needed to surround the simple functional core, which can't exist without the complex tricks and manipulations.

Second,it is important for the longevity of the system that intellectuals can uphold the specific functions of the system, but lack the ability to understand the whole of it and to change it. Specialization maintains even dismal systems long time.

Third, the core of the system. The law demarcates system's borders. The system's borders doesn't exist in space and time, but in people's actions and way of relating to other people. The rights are freedom (in general, and defined and restricted by the system; freedom of movement, freedom of transactions, freedom of individual's [personal and solipsistic] thoughts, etc.), property in all it's forms, security and freedon from oppression (i.e. freedom from non-liberal oppression, but not from liberal oppression). These are rights, which have separated people from groups and from relatively permanent or permanent status in groups, and separated them to act as atomized individuals. Such individuals relate to each other via contracts, i.e. via exchange. People exchange their rights in the market with contracts. E.g. freedom, i.e. freedom of time, energy and use of skills and knowledge are exchanged to job's restrictions and salaries in labor market. Property is exchanged to other property, wares to money, securities to apartments, etc. The government secures exchanges (read: maximizes the number and the kinds of exchanges by certain restrictions) from anything that tries to prevent or restrict some of them. Security is to some extent guaranteed, but the system makes security, like everything else, more and more the object of exchange, e.g. immigration decreases security and so people have to buy their security by moving to other areas or by buying security system, wares and services.

Continued ...

a Finn said...

Part 2.

Status in the system is decided almost exclusively by the quantity of property.*) This maximizes the competition to acquire property and this in turn maximizes exchanges and these together maximize the pressure to constantly colonize new areas for the exchanges/ market. What exchanges can't be pressed out from people by coercive "freedom" of the system, is pressed out from them by compulsionary exchanges of the state and international governmental structures. Together these symbiotic coercive "free" and compulsionary systems squeeze the maximum number and kind of exchanges from people. These two systems of exchange create a symbiotic and changing balance which enables the system as a whole to maximize it's ability to colonize and create all kinds of new areas to it's use; lifestyles, geographical areas (indirect colonization), different groups of people (from ethnic groups to transgender feminists), new financial instruments, new fashions, etc. Because humans are loci of all exchanges, they and indirectly through them everything connected to them are the system's main targets. When the system colonizes intelligent east Asian immigrants, it relies more on the "free" exchange market part of the system. When it colonizes third world problem immigrants, it relies more on the compulsory exchange part of the state. Ad hoc balance follows from this. The system doesn't care when the system functions increasingly worse by incorporating problems. It cares about two things; the maximum number of exchanges it can in any way squeeze out of maximum number of people, and that despite that the system still remains functional, no matter how weakly or poorly.

Despite the glut of information, and in matter of fact in part because of it, the system can't predict the future. For the system the quality of functioning of the system does not exist on a sliding scale, it is either 0 or 1. The system uses problems as a guide to what to do. When problems arise, it throws again and again new or old manipulations, lies, methods, appeasements, coercions etc. to them. The system is largely reactive, and it has grown accustomed to that it's methods are enough; they have kept the system running and expanding so far. The system can't stop on it's own, all it's internal principles and large complex organizations are tied to it's relentless expansions. It can only be stopped by some internal or external factors that are at least partly independent from the system's functioning or control.

*) Compare in your mind the quality ganster rapper who owns hundreds millions of dollars of property with a good but considerably less wealthy surgeon.

Bruce Charlton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bruce Charlton said...

@a Finn. I found this point syggestive: "Despite the glut of information, and in matter of fact in part because of it, the system can't predict the future. For the system the quality of functioning of the system does not exist on a sliding scale, it is either 0 or 1.

Something of the sort certainly happens - I have experienced it in the mass media and also in individual interactions with the PC elite. This may underlie the bizarre catastrophism of predictions - e.g. some body someplace makes an 'insensitive' remark, i.e. breaks a taboo - and that person's status must be destroyed permanently; because otherwise... well the world will come to an end (in effect).

An example would be James Watson.

YR said...

I think the reason they don't use the traditional methods is because this way they get to use the feared groups against their enemies.

The real question is why did we get an elite that decided its own citizenry was its enemy?

Brett Stevens said...

Political correctness represents a false kind of morality: the morality of how one is considered by one's peer group.

The goal is to "all get along" (kumbaya-singing optional; however, surely products and services will be purchased at a higher rate during this time of harmony).

In my view, the problem is that true morality is consequentialist, not about appearance. Did you create effects that made life better (yes or no)?

Political correctness and other methodological studies bypass true morality for a kind of social token, and as a result, they are used to admit/deny people into an in-group of the "enlightened."

It is cruel and immoral in result, even if formulated with good albeit dogmatic intentions.