One-word response: fallacy.
Political correctness doesn’t stifle debate, just as much as the criminalisation of homicide doesn’t promote debate by preventing you from literally silencing your opponent.
Political correctness has its roots in the rejection of Imperialism/Colonialism and the Patriarchy. These ideologies were enforced by organised religion and created the super class: the Caucasian Heterosexual Cisgender Male. Everyone not Caucasian, heterosexual, cisgender and male is still fighting for basic human rights to this day. Yes, supposed “Western” culture has caused much damage and it is through egalitarian and progressive foundations like the South African Constitution that human dignity for all persons is installed.
People often say that we have become oversensitive. It is not about being oversensitive – it is about embracing basic human dignity and equality.
Another defence for being politically incorrect is Moral Relativism. It is defined in an ethics context as Normative Relativism, this being “the prescriptive or normative position that as there is no universal moral standard by which to judge others, we ought to tolerate the behaviour of others even when it runs counter to our personal or cultural moral standards.”
This patent postmodern ethical approach cannot escape reciprocity, though. Ah, the joy of reciprocity, of double-edged swords – it cuts both ways. Normative Relativism also could be interpreted as that you are free to libel since it might be your personal conviction. Alas no ... It is not.According to the University of London’s Department of Philosophy Moral Relativism can be explained as follows:
Standards of morality are all culturally relative ... therefore it is wrong [emphasis in the original] to pass moral judgement upon the practices of other cultures. This style of relativism is obviously self-refuting, since its very formulation involves a non-relative use of "wrong" (or whatever equivalent) in order to rule out non-relative moral judgements. Judgements like "It is wrong to pass moral judgement upon the practices of other cultures" or "It’s wrong to criticize other cultures" are themselves (at least on the face of it) trans-cultural or non-relative moral judgements.
The Stanford University Encyclopedia of Philosophy discusses Moral Relativism:
Most often [Moral Relativism] is associated with an empirical thesis that there are deep and widespread moral disagreements and a metaethical thesis that the truth or justification of moral judgments is not absolute, but relative to some group of persons. Sometimes "moral relativism" is connected with a normative position about how we ought to think about or act towards those with whom we morally disagree, most commonly that we should tolerate them.
Political correctness is very much an ethical matter. And political incorrectness often leads to horrendously shocking implications, and often those who defy political correctness suffer the consequences of their actions.
Three important examples of the defiance of political correctness and the catastrophic consequences:
David Bullard wrote a racist column for the Sunday Times and a spectacle of epic proportions ensued and subsequently the Sunday Times fired Bullard, who now trolls the net and leaves random comments about societal oversensitivity.
[Pierre de Vos].
Deon Maas wrote an impertinent column on freedom of religion for Satanism for Rapport and got fired after brouhaha and an sms campaign by readers calling for a boycott which threatened the commercial interests of the newspaper. Here societal propriety in a deeply conservative market dominated.
[Pierre de Vos].
Jon Qwelane wrote the most morally reprehensible column for the Sunday Sun of 20 July 2008 called “Call me names, but gay is not okay.” All hell broke loose as the Press Ombudsman and the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) received more complaints about this article than ever before, and as far as I know that record still stands. Qwelane is currently facing a case before the Equality Court and News24 dropped his column after the controversy.
[Mail & Guardian]
[Pierre de Vos]
[Mambaonline – Qwelane to face Equality Court]
[Mambaonline – Wrong is wrong].
We have political correctness for a reason. It just enforces a dignitarian approach (I humbly borrow from Justice Albie Sachs here). Former Constitutional Court Judge Albie Sachs explains this concept in his book The Strange Alchemy of Life and Law. It is an approach where human dignity is valued above all else. It prevents ideologues, demagogues and the general public from callously trampling all over minority human rights.
With rights comes responsibility, and you cannot just purge out what you like, it might just expose the bigot that you really are. We operate within legal frameworks and societal propriety; we always have done so and we always will: we will thus have to keep to the codified standards or we might run foul of the law.
(Originally appeared on Litnet: http://www.litnet.co.za/cgi-bin/giga.cgi?cmd=cause_dir_news_item&cause_id=1270&news_id=87586&cat_id=166
Mini-seminars: Political Correctness: http://www.litnet.co.za/cgi-bin/giga.cgi?cmd=cause_dir_custom&cause_id=1270&page=korrek)