Sunday, November 21, 2010

On PC motivation

Bruce Charlton has recently been contemplating the phenomenon of PC.   I'm rather lukewarm on Mr Charlton, especially since he is a bit negative on my "homie", and especially as he hasn't posted several of the comments I have made on his site. But hey, his blog, his rules. I'll live.

He is close (but not there yet) to a good understanding of the PC phenomenon and he does have some valuable insights. He has put up a rather good post which conservative thinkers need to take heed of.  Why is political correctness utterly immune to evidence is a very good post. I think the pertinent quote from that post is this one:

My point is that political correctness has now reached such a level of abstraction that no evidence could ever challenge it. Reform is impossible, on principle.

This means that those who oppose political correctness should not waste time and energy on rational argument with people who are
truly PC.

There is no way into the system of sincere PC, no possibility of modifying or moderating it - merely of delaying it.

Of course, political correctness will destroy itself, but in doing so it will inflict damage upon its host societies - the scale of which damage increases with every passing year. 

I think Charlton is absolutely correct,  there is no point in arguing with the PC crowd as they simply do not admit any evidence which will falsify their world view.  My interest is why and what does this mean for conservatives?

Our world is full of injustices and miseries. The desire to rid the world of them is laudable and noble. Utopianism is a desire to make the world a better place, and it's from this messianic Utopianism that the PC crowd get their sense of moral superiority. They are always on the "side of angels" and therefore better than the "non-believers".  It should not be underestimated of just how powerful a motivant is this sense of belonging to a Utopian creating movement is. As Orwell repeatedly reminds us, the best fighters for socialism weren't the apparatchiks, but the men who honestly believed they were building a better world.

One of the great themes of the end of the Belle Epoque was the sense of "boredom" amongst the youth. When World War 1 erupted, men suddenly had a purpose to their lives. Several commentators on Fukuyama's End of History expressed regret that their were no more enemies left to battle. I sometimes wonder whether the continual allure of Utopianism is because and women generally lead boring lives. It is an escape from the monotony and gives them a sense of meaning. Amongst these individuals, any attack on the "Utopian vision" is not just a logical refutation of the dream, but a negation of self worth and hence there is a powerful incentive to counter arguments or outright refusal to acknowledge the error.

The other operating factor at play here amongst the more intelligent PC crowd is their innate sense of intellectual superiority and subsequent pleasure in themselves. This sense of superiority is expressed as a dismissal of any "inferior" opinions. These individuals latch onto socialism for the same reason that tradesmen and the peasantry do, it's a simple idea for simple men.  It's ready made for the credulous and half-educated, particularly those with "book-smarts" as opposed to "street-smarts". And by half educated, I mean credentialed as opposed to "educated". There is a big difference between the two and it's an important distinction. Many of our universities are nothing more than colleges of advanced technical training and as such our universities are designed around producing skilled thinkers graduates, not thinkers. The effect in a left wing academic environment is that the skilled technicians leave with left wing views  under the impression that they are "educated", and hence intellectually superior to the proles. Where in fact the prole may be less skilled but is perhaps more "real world educated" than the university graduate.

This combined sense of messianic utopianism and intellectual superiority are probably the most common motivant factors in the high caste PC crowd.  This "priest caste " is so sure of its intellectual superiority and so sure of the moral rightness of its vision that any attempt to dissuade them is going to fail. I agree with Charlton, there is no point, it's a waste of time. The conservative movement needs to circle the wagons, not negotiate with the scalpers.


David Foster said...

Interesting remark by the German historial Friedrich Meinecke, re the sorts of Germans who fell under Hitler's spell:

“It often happens nowdays…that young technicians, engineers, and so forth, who have enjoyed an excellent university training as specialists, will completely devote themselves to their calling for ten or fifteen years and without looking either to the right or to the left will try only to be first-rate specialists. But then, in their middle or late thirties, something they have never felt before awakens in them, something that was never really brought to their attention in their education–something that we would call a suppressed metaphysical desire. Then they rashly seize upon any sort of ideas and activities, anything that is fashionable at the moment and seems to them important for the welfare of individuals–whether it be anti-alcoholism, agricultural reform, eugenics, or the occult sciences. The former first-rate specialist changes into a kind of prophet, into an enthusiast, perhaps even into a fanatic and monomaniac. Thus arises the type of man who wants to reform the world.”

The Social Pathologist said...


Then they rashly seize upon any sort of ideas and activities, anything that is fashionable at the moment and seems to them important for the welfare of individuals–

I think the important term here is rashly as opposed to considered, Most people, even the "educated", don't really think things through. A diabolical genius intending to co-opt the public in the pursuit of his goals should make the ideals both highly emotionally charged and simple to comprehend.

Specialisation is a major factor at play here. The extensive study required for first rate professionalism in an area of expertise means that the individual is never exposed to other ideas which properly orientates their profession in the big scheme of things.

Such individuals are ripe for simple yet seductive ideas when searching for meaning in their lives.

More Anon said...

The poster misses the self-interested aspects of PC. A PC culture helps protect a business or government agency against lawsuits from agitators. These agitators are then redirected against the enemies of PC establishments.

PC is hard to crack rationally because it was not developed as a rational system, it's developed to protect oneself in court, in office politics and in ordinary politics.

The altruistic motives of PC just make these self-interested motives even more dangerous.

The Social Pathologist said...

A PC culture helps protect a business or government agency against lawsuits from agitators.

This is true. The people who enforce PC in this context are different from the PC crowd who have "got PC religion". Still it is a consequence of PC being entrenched by law.

And the only reason it became entrenched by law is because PC influenced politicians voted for it.

And the only reason the politicians voted for it was because it was percieved as a mainstream approved policy.

And the only reason it became a mainstream approved policy is because the average voter--who is not that bright--confused being nice with being good. In the end the "average voter" screwed themselves over.

Scrooge McDuck said...

Edmund Burke would have had an awful lot to say about that. He frequently exposed the vanity of radicals who trust in their own "reason" to guide them, that is this feeling they have to be superior to all.

They will always move from a "cause" to another "cause" as the former becomes irrelevant. When they have purged society of all contravening, dissenting elements, they will rule that gender discrimination in dating ought to be forbidden. Once they are done with it, they will extend it to animals (there are already some pretty daft legal cases in Spain regarding this point). They will ever come up with something to justify their endless meddling. Global Warmism is an obvious example.

NYCer said...

Just wanted to say I enjoy the blog and have become a frequent visitor. Keep up the good work.

Tom said...

I feel most PC is simply common courtesy writ larger.

I'm a Canadian, and perhaps it is different elsewhere, but with one or two exceptions, the PC course of action has generally been what any reasonably polite Canadian would be inclined to do anyway, so I find it hard to get worked up about it.

Now, having said that, I have seen PC used as a weapon to bully and for personal enrichment, but then I've also seen those who rally around freedom for *exactly* the same reasons. People are people, scoundrels will use whatever tool comes to hand. That doesn't invalidate the tool.

The Social Pathologist said...


Thanks for the kind comments.


I feel most PC is simply common courtesy writ larger.

Common courtesy is not a basis for social policy. The basis of courtesy is the polite considerations of anothers feelings. In being polite, we frequently censor ourselves on behalf of the other persons feelings. Many times we tell small "white" lies to protect another's feelings. "Oh, that dinner was lovely!", "No, I'm really enjoying myself, "That dress really suits you" and so on. Sometimes the truth hurts and politeness is a way of avoiding the truth.

These little lies may facilitate social interaction but are intellectual toxins, which stifle argument and inhibit necessary social discourse. Sometimes the truth hurts and unfortunately the pain is necessary.

Tom said...

Sometimes the truth hurts and unfortunately the pain is necessary.

I have to say, the only "speech" I've seen censored by Political Correctness are racial and sexual epithets.

I certainly know about people who have been prevented from presenting views by people who held different views, but that has nothing to do with PC, per se. After all, silencing the opinions of those you disagree with has a long and dishonourable history on every side of the political spectrum.

So, if you have truths that you cannot spill because of PC, as opposed to opinions that many vehemently disagree with, I'd be happy to hear what they are :-).