I have just had the fascinating encounter on YouTube with The Munk Debate. The one I have just watched is on Political Correctness featuring Stephen Fry, Jordan Peterson, Michael Dyson, and not least Michelle Goldberg.
My first thoughts on this particular debate is Prof. Dyson could not get out of the mindset that political correctness is more than race. The entirety of his arguments were based upon race and America’s poor history. Now don’t get me wrong, race plays a part in political correctness, but does it?! Not once did I hear the definition of political correctness.
To myself, political correctness is nothing more than legislation of human respect and dignity for a group identity. I don’t think many people can argue against how bad legislating against such undefined ideals is. Your ideas of respect and dignity can be slightly different from mine on a granular level.
There’s a great example of how individual the idea of political correctness is within the debate. Michael Dyson and Stephen Fry have an exchange in which Prof Dyson is mockingly flirtatious with Stephen Fry. Now I believe that it was mutually understood that there was no malintent nor disrespect meant during this exchange. However, the cynic within, can’t help but wonder if that was an exchange between a male and female and not a male and male, there would have been strong objections to the content of it. I am most certainly saying nothing is wrong within the exchange they had. What I am trying to point out is the ideology of political correctness are based around a group identity via an individual’s own morality. If that is the case then the current situation of political correctness is just not sustainable at all.
I think the rise of social media and freely available information on the internet has a lot to answer for in regards to political correctness and individuals feeling more free and open to voice their own opinions. Yet in the same vein, people are also feeling more suppressed because if they say something that a particular bandwagon does not wish to agree with, their point of view doesn’t get mentioned, but they are attacked from all angles.
I think a lot of it comes from a very simple concept. Our minds aren’t limitless, I personally have a poor memory and I’m sure some of you have downfalls too. Now we can go onto the internet and we can get broad overviews of many different topics from sexual harassment to workplace inequality, from the history of Russia to the cold war era. But if we fill our minds with the synopses’ of so many topics then it leaves it up to our minds to draw connections, and without knowing a hell of a lot more specifics, those connections are going to be wrong. When you are only viewing something from a wide angle theres only so much detail you can pick out.
I think The Munk Debate picked the wrong topic for the debate to begin with. I would love to see a debate on purely the topic of what is political correctness.
In this debate, I actually felt sympathy for Stephen Fry and Jordan Peterson as I believe Dyson and Goldberg tried to portray them at the beginning as white males that, of course, are against political correctness because political correctness would demolish the very structure which has given them their current positions. I believe they soon learnt different though.
I think we are getting to the point where intellectual debates are going to have to be voiced by third parties behind screens. It seems quite extreme right? But there seems to be this idea right now depending open your race and gender, you don’t have a say on a particular topic.
For instance, the abortion debate. If a woman, let’s say Jane Doe, was pregnant with a child I helped conceive, I believe I should have a right to at least a discussion with Jane Doe about what she plans to do. Ultimately it would be her choice though. Now if I didn’t know Jane then it would obviously have nothing to do with me, it would not be my place to have an opinion on what she chooses to do. However, the broad idea of should women be able to have freely available abortions etc. is a moral question. And our society would sort out moral dilemmas by intellectual debates. If you are a person which is part of this society and you have a point to add to an intellectual debate, regardless of your gender, or race, or socio-economic background, then by all means voice your point of view. If society believes your point is not valid then it would, I hope, ignore you. But just because of someone’s gender or race should not disqualify them from taking part in debating these hard to talk about issues.
I believe that political correctness is an attempt at legislating what we as a society don’t have the social mechanism to ratify. That is not to say the political correctness comes from a bad place. In fact, I think it comes from a very good, genuine, kind hearted place, but I don’t see how it can work.
I think sometimes political correctness can even lead to inequality, as well as stupidity at times. Now let’s take the example of a chalk board, previously known as a black board. I am not saying that the term black board is right nor am I saying it is wrong, but I don’t get why some people say that is wrong but a white board is ok?! If you are going to draw a logical conclusion on something then the likeminded comparisons have to be took in to accounts surely?!
In programming, for instance, when you are creating an object with equality operators it makes sense that if you define an equals you have to define not equals. If you define greater than then you also have to define less than.
It seems to me that there have been certain things done in the name of political correctness that contract my understanding of logic. Perhaps it’s conceivable that societal logic does not follow logic of mathematics or programming and I would say then that it isn’t actually logical at all. And if society is doing things that are not logical then we have to look at the reasons we are doing them in the first place. Is it to fix a problem or to politically quieten a particular person or group of people?! I fear that it’s the latter.
Anyway, I could ramble on about this for a long time, but I will say this that I think Stephen Fry was by far the winner of The Munk Debate, if indeed it is appropriate for there to be a winner. As he was the only person there that would stand up and say “hang on aren’t we here to talk about political correctness?!” Michael Dyson wanted to give everyone a racial history lesson, Jordan Peterson got pulled off topic by Michael Dyson, and Michelle Goldberg, well I think she did a moderate job but she seemed to struggle to get away from pull of a political debate rather than an intellectual debate on political correctness.