Volume 90, Issue 69

Tuesday, January 28, 1997

inertia


LETTERS
 

Examining the faults of a 'correct' society

Re: political correctness

To the editor:

I wish I had an easy way of starting what I'd like to say, but I don't. I want to address the issue of political correctness – but addressing the issue these days is itself politically incorrect and so I fear I tarnish my letter by stating at the outset what it is that I want to discuss.

I suppose this is what I want to talk about – namely, that there are certain topics which seem off-limits to discussion. It seems to me that there is a whole slew of things which are no longer open to question. Examples are: whether racism is wrong; whether homosexuality is wrong; whether a given inequality between treatment of the sexes is relevant to issues of equity, etc. The answers to these and other similar questions are considered self-evident to such a degree that to suggest anything contrary is met with derision and condescension even before the reasons for those contrary claims are heard.

This is somewhat surprising given the history of the formation of politically-correct views. It seems to me that the type of views I am talking about were themselves, at one time, shunned. Take our views on homosexuality. The current, correct view entails that homosexuality should not affect the way we treat or think of an individual. But this view has been hard fought for by its original proponents. It was most certainly not the common view 10 or 20 years ago. In fact, it was more often the case that such views were rejected before the reasons for them were even heard.

Thus, while it may have been the case that some proponents of such views had perfectly-good reasons for not treating gays differently, there was no medium through which they could be transmitted. Being gay was just wrong and that was the end of it – so there was no need for discussion. It was not necessary to understand the reasons behind such views. Upon hearing them one was automatically granted licence to insult their proponents.

Condemnation of views whose justifications were not heard was deemed ignorant by proponents of those views. Plainly, one who condemns a view upon immediately hearing it is ignorant.

We now have a new breed of ignorant people. The issue of whether homosexuality is wrong or not is no longer discussed – it's known that it's not wrong, and if you think otherwise, you'd better keep that opinion to yourself. If anyone is dumb enough to actually state otherwise, an all-too familiar set of events occurs: they are met with derision and condescension before their views are heard; they are labeled names and discussion of the matter is deemed unnecessary – since, after all, we already know that such opposing views are wrong.

What I think everyone needs to remember is that someone is not ignorant simply because they deny a certain viewpoint; rather, one is ignorant in the case where they deny a viewpoint without basis.

Where a basis is presented and that basis is shown to be irrational or incorrect, we needn't conclude the person was ignorant – we need only conclude he was wrong.

Let's not allow political correctness – which is really just a veneer for more ignorance and ideological censorship – to dominate our judgements of opinion. Discussion, not instant condemnation, is the key. Next time anyone catches themselves being too swift in their judgement of another's view as ignorant or wrong, remember this – you're being more ignorant, and more destructive, than the person that you're condemning.

Paolo Tonelli
Philosophy IV



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Copyright The Gazette 1997