Speaker by Various Artists

Political Correction Fluid

by Che Tibby

OK. So I've realised that I owe the publicaddress community a wee apology. I reread the two comments accepted for posting and it dawned on me that I was foisting a couple of moral vignettes on you. If you managed to sit through my moralising and condescension then more power to you.

But, having absolved myself, let me carry on about the latest bee in the bonnet.

I'm thinking seriously about entering that Maxim Institute essay competition. Trouble is, I'm not a current New Zealand student so am automatically excluded (if anyone out there wants to sponsor me we can split any winnings 75-25). I figure that the best way to win these kinds of things is usually to do some research, so between reading about the marginalisation of Aboriginal people and the comparisons to New Zealand in the 1950s I tried to squeeze in the last winner's essay.

The great thing about doing research is that if you're at all serious about it you're going to have to read opinions and findings contrary to your own. Now while I agree with the premises of the essay, that families are an important unit of any healthy society, I couldn't help but notice a theme that also rears its ugly head here in the land of flies.

Something that pervades the Maxim website is a tendency to rail against that new foe of conservatives, "political correctness". Once again, apologies to the publicaddress community, I don't know why I have such an opposition to conservatives.

Ok, maybe I do. They're dicks. No, really, have a big conversation with any really committed conservative and you'll soon come to the opinion that these people really are, 100% dyed in the wool, dicks.

I'm feeling the need to justify this outburst, just to be sure I haven't offended anyone. So here's a test. John Howard, staunch conservative. Dick. George W. Bush, staunch conservative. Dick. Jenny Shipley? Dick.

What you can glean from this is that if you find yourself identifying with these characters, bad news. You might be a dick.

But! Never fear, things aren't all bad, this problem isn't confined to the ranks of conservatives! I myself am a left-leaning liberal, and have, on many occasions been referred to as a dick. This means then that because I belong to this elite group I can in fact refer to other dicks as being dicks and not have to worry about accusations of bias. After all, I'm an insider. Convenient that.

Mind you, the annoying thing about some of my fellow liberals is that they're pretentious dicks. At least you can guarantee which way a conservative will jump on any issue. Liberals tend to be all things to all men.

Even more annoying, it was just this kind of liberal who invented political correctness. In a nutshell, some people noticed that the kind of language used in everyday settings has a tendency to discriminate. As an aside, if you're the kind of person who's happy to use words like 'coon', 'wog', 'faggot', or a favourite from my time living in Texas 'sand-nigger' (i.e. an Arab), then you'll never really know what I mean.

The result was that as far back as the 1960s in places like the USA you have black people calling themselves 'African-Americans', or in 1970s Australia you have Aboriginal people calling themselves 'Koori', because they are comfortable with these labels.

Along with other sorts of liberalisation like freeing women up from the only jobs they were allowed to do, housework and childcare, this social movement really took off among the ranks of many political groups in the mid-Twentieth Century, around the time the baby-boomers were opting out of having to listen to what they were told they had to do by their 'uncool' and 'heavy' parents.

What we might notice at this point is that the baby-boomers who weren't having fun, taking drugs, getting laid and being involved in social liberalisation were, once again, the dicks.

It's been my opinion for a while though that this liberalisation hit its peak and has started to run out of steam. The trouble is, politics being politics, there was always going to be a backlash, and the neo-conservative revolution we're hearing so much about these days is it.

One of the mistakes the boomers made was to try too hard to force liberal changes into their societies, and it's this that the neo-cons exploit.

What's obvious here in Australia is that the man in the street never really understood why they should have to put up with all the liberal demands made of them, like not calling Aboriginal people 'coons' or 'boongs', and not being allowed to slap round the missus or any itinerant fairies.

Now, I know I said the other week that Aussies are pretty tolerant, but that doesn't mean that people can't speak their minds about their dislikes. The key thing is though that legislation like the Racial Discrimination Act means you can call a spade a spade, but you can't not hire someone because they're not white.

This wasn't good enough for some liberals though, and they tried to suppress even the use of negative or discriminatory language or arguments, eventually giving ammunition to our conservative friends.

People in democracies like to think they can say whatever the hell they want, when they want, to who they want. And that's fair enough. So, if they want to call Arabs sand-niggers they expect to be able to. Now, any liberal can't argue against this type of thing because freedom of expression is vital to a healthy democracy. Any attempt to hush this kind of speak is met with cries of 'political correctness' suppressing public opinions.

This is a real problem for political thinkers because you want to let people be people, but such opinions can be seen as dangerous or inflammatory. But all bans do is push prejudice into private opinions were they sit and fester.

The inability of middle New Zealand to talk about 'race relations' till someone like Brash speaks up is a good example of this stuff boiling to the surface.

The answer to this kind of problem is, in my most humble of opinions, to really let these dicks shoot off all their ammunition. The key though is to let people know that just because they think and say something, it doesn't mean anyone has to listen.
One great indicator is the phrase "I know this isn't very politically correct to say this, but...". In plain English what this means is "I am a dick. Please ignore me."

Remember, political correctness is usually about not saying things or behaving in ways that are offensive, stupid, or just plain uncool. Pretentious liberals will often take this too far and try to be so right-on, 'sensitive' or hip they cross that fine line and also become dicks, but that's another issue.

So what's my moral vignette this time? Say whatever the hell you want. Political opinion, expression and conversation is absolutely vital to prevent people from feeling left out and turning to neo-cons for protection from the things they don't understand. But don't expect the subject of your rants to have to listen. Democracy is also about not having to tout a majority line.