Thursday, January 29, 2015

On Political Correctness

[What does this have to do with Korea? Nothing! As TK have said time and again: this blog is his, and he will write about whatever the hell he damn well pleases in this space.]

(Source. H/T to Rob.)

Criticism of political correctness has one valid point, which is: insistence of political correctness often degenerates into what may be called "Magic Word Racism." Because you used the Word X, you are a terrible person who must be disqualified from public interaction. In this space, I have repeatedly noted the danger of Magic Word Racism. It is simply no way to fight racism. Love, generosity and willingness to forgive are the correct foundations to combat racism, not more recrimination and bitterness.

One way to view the intra-liberal divide regarding political correctness is: whether liberalism is to be considered procedural or substantive. That is to say: one may consider liberalism to be (1) a set of procedural rules and be agnostic about the results of following such rules, or (2) a set of desired outcomes, and the procedure designed to arrive at those outcomes. These two points, of course, are archetypes that stand as poles. Our real-world attitude will usually fall somewhere in between.

I personally stand closer to (2), because I simply cannot bring myself to be agnostic about the result. Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said: "If my fellow citizens want to go to Hell I will help them. It’s my job." There is some merit to this saying if it is specifically limited to the role of judges, in certain circumstances. But applied generally, I find this attitude--which is a re-statement of position (1)--to be unserious. It smacks of the juvenile desire to feel principled and smart by claiming to the world, "consequences be damned!" Such proclamation is juvenile because it comes the type of people who rarely suffer the consequences--like, say, a white male editor of an elite New York magazine. 

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

17 comments:

  1. I'm not sure where I'd fall on this either. I guess the problem I have with "substantive" is that we can't ever really guarantee the "substance" that we want: we can't guarantee results (even assuming that the results we desire are the right ones). We can however guarantee (more or less) a basic premise and procedures.

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  2. I can't help but wonder what prompted this post. Is there a backstory?

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    1. A long, whiny rant against political correctness penned by a white male editor of an elite New York magazine prompted this post.

      Delete
    2. For those wondering-

      http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/01/not-a-very-pc-thing-to-say.html

      Frankly I'm disappointed by T.K.'s reply in this instance. By no reasonable stretch of the imagination is this a whiny rant- the man details several extremely specific instances where political correctness, far from encouraging a free flow of ideas, directly shoots down any attempt at conversation by belittling and insulting anyone who dares to state a political opinion even slightly removed from the radical left. It's something that's done a lot to alienate me from liberal political movements in spite of my educational background, But then, I am a white man. Maybe that discredits my opinion.

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  3. "It is simply no way to fight racism. Love, generosity and willingness to forgive are the correct foundations to combat racism, not more recrimination and bitterness."

    "Such proclamation is juvenile because it comes the type of people who rarely suffer the consequences--like, say, a white male editor of an elite New York magazine. "

    You claim to be combating racism, but you regard the opinions of white men as less legitimate because of their race and sex. That doesn't sound like a very egalitarian view to me.

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    1. you regard the opinions of white men as less legitimate because of their race and sex.

      You are wrong.

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    2. Would you be as comfortable throwing around the term 'Darkie' as you are with saying "Whitey"?

      Over the years, you've frequently used this pejorative when referring to European Americans, especially European American men. I feel like you seem to harbor at least some resentment toward the white patriarchy. I don't have a problem with this manner of speech, but I do question double standards. Many of your questioners refer to themselves in such terms, but please understand that these are fighting words for a lot of white people- with the notable exception of your fellow Berkley Alums, who'd likely give a kidney to live out their days as a transgender, polysexual, Micronesian wolf-kin just to jump to the front of the Progessive Stack at the next OWS rally.

      Johnathan Chait is an ethnic minority, like yourself. He is lineage can be traced back to Ur, in Sumeria, and is therefore not European American and similarly doesn't posses the ability to turn racial insensitivity in FULL BLOWN RACISM. Now that you are aware that he's Semitic, do you feel the same way about his piece?

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    3. Would you be as comfortable throwing around the term 'Darkie' as you are with saying "Whitey"?

      No, for obvious reasons.

      Many of your questioners refer to themselves in such terms, but please understand that these are fighting words for a lot of white people

      Because white people have such a long history of being oppressed, right?

      Now that you are aware that he's Semitic, do you feel the same way about his piece?

      I have always been aware of that, thanks.

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    4. Thanks for the response, The Korean, I've been a huge fan for a long time.

      "White people" is pretty arbitrary, especially when you're willing to include Middle Eastern people who have documented evidence of holocausts, pogroms, and expulsions going back millennia. If you're willing to hold Jewish American peasants responsible for the sins of British American aristocracy, I would feel justified in condemning you for Pearl Harbor, despite knowing better.

      If 'historical oppression' is the metric by which you determine whether or not it is couth to insult an entire race of people, I feel it may be time to reevaluate your stance. I do not feel that referring to Beyonce's daughter as "Darkie" is any more hurtful than calling a semi-literate, inbred, ghetto-dwelling European American "Whitey", in the grand scheme of things.

      I feel that the OP is correct. You seem to discount the opinions of European Americans (or those you perceive as European Americans), for things that happened before they were born and were largely out of the control of their fore bearers. You probably wouldn't have cared for the piece if it was written by a (*hyperbolic description of underprivileged group goes here), but I feel that it's wrong to say it's extra bad because it was written by a 'white' guy (ignoring that he's a member of what may be the most oppressed and stigmatized group on Earth).

      It amazes me that someone who is intelligent, motivated, and possesses the rhetorical skills that you do can sit on the same side of the aisle as Suey Park. I've read every piece you've written on race issues, and I understand that you're busy and it's an incredibly nuanced topic. That being said, I disagree. I feel one should either ignore race entirely and focus only on the merit of the point being made or discount someone's opinion entirely because their grandpa collaborated with the Japanese.

      Given that Asian Americans surpass whites in every single measurable metric of development, I'd posit that white privilege is worth about 2.5 IQ points. But then again I shouldn't have an opinion because people who look like I do haven't been 'oppressed' in an arbitrarily defined time period.

      You are a credit to Berk-han. I hope there aren't in yangban hanging out in the family tree.

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    5. I do not feel that referring to Beyonce's daughter as "Darkie" is any more hurtful than calling a semi-literate, inbred, ghetto-dwelling European American "Whitey", in the grand scheme of things.

      That's a strange way to feel.

      I feel that it's wrong to say it's extra bad because it was written by a 'white' guy

      That's not what I said at all.

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    6. No, for obvious reasons.

      Because white people have such a long history of being oppressed, right?

      It sounds like you hold the Leninist view of morality: Who, Whom? If whites are the designated villain group, disparagement toward them is permissible where it wouldn't be toward any other group. I suppose that philosophy is all right. At least until someone designates your group as the villain.

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    7. It sounds like you hold the Leninist view of morality

      Incorrect.

      Delete
  4. "Politically incorrect" is the accepted-by-polite-society, politically correct version for "racist asshole piece of shit".

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  5. I understand why you said, under the title of the article, that it has nothing to do with Korea, but I'll be picky and say it is a universal thing that has much to do with either Korea as well as with the rest of the world. ^_-
    Anyway, there is a song called PCP by the Manic Street Preachers on the topic of political correctness comparing it to an Orwell's 1994 kind of world, linking it to mass censorship. You might want to check it up, it really won't be hard to find, due to the song's popularity and the band's iconic status.

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    Replies
    1. Orwell's book was titled "1984"

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    2. I know, typo. Thanks.
      Too bad there's no "edit" button.

      Delete
  6. This is a politcally correct rap song that calls out -- among other things -- China's economic and human rights abuses, including aiding North Korea (2:19) in its suppression of its people.....It's named "Made In China"..... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_vXDIlelKI

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