How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
The ChangingMinds Blog!
Anti-Political Correctness as Power
Political correctness is a term that first appeared in about 1990 as a criticism of liberal values that promote equality and fairness. It has never been a real term to promote fairness. Instead, it was only an insult, a denigration that declares attempts at fairness as being excessive, wrong and illegitimate.
We are naturally biased. We unfairly criticize and act against the interests of others. We seek out reasons, real or imagined, for those who are not like us to be wrong and bad. We excuse our ill-treatment of them and justify punishments. In this way, we build our identity. We are not like them. We are good and right.
We are also biased towards people who are like us, who share our beliefs and values, who are similar in all kinds of ways. We seek out such similarity and focus on being the same. This is the basis of tribalism, of bonding like-minded people into a cohesive, supportive unit, of creating a powerful 'we' who can defend ourselves and oppose others.
A tricky tribal problem lies the social rule of caring for the vulnerable, who are less able to care for themselves. This can make them an uncomfortable burden and an acid test of morality. Helping our friends is good, but helping the vulnerable is extra-good. For some, this has been a path to social superiority as they champion the weak and chastize those who do not provide sufficient support.
This championing is, by definition, laudable. Yet it has also led to unexpected, immoral effects. Over the past decades, attention to the vulnerable has escalated at a steady rate. For some, this has not been fast enough. For others, it has spiralled out of control. In particular, those just above the 'vulnerable' level feel especially hard done by. They see the weak getting help, with massive funds being used to help the helpless minority. Yet their own majority position has been losing out as their standard of living is constantly eroded and jobs threatened or lost. Worse, they feel themselves now at the bottom of the social order as positive action and other support lifts the vulnerable above them. They can't even tell biased jokes like they used to, that made them feel momentarily superior, without the PC police kicking them back to the bottom.
Feeling ignored, mistreated and downtrodden, many in this underclass had given up voting, considering it a waste of time as neither of the major parties seemed interested or able in improving their lot. So when some canny politicians woke up to this situation, they realized here was an untapped source of great power.
Paradoxically, the majority parties who had adopted the politically-correct position of helping the vulnerable (even if they dragged their heels in practical action) were unable to take advantage of the opportunity. Those able to grasp the politically-incorrect nettle have been thick-skinned demagogues and parties on the political fringes. With conventional rules of politics cast out, they play to their audience, giving voice to common bias and making bold promises that seem politically suicidal or financially impossible, yet which their audience laps up.
This style of politics has been labeled 'populism' by a cynical mainstream. In some ways it is indeed cynical as it tells people what they want to hear, yet impossible promises have long been a political ploy. Politics is a performance and playing to the crowd an essential game.
If the dirty truth be known, there are many more beyond the lower classes who still have plenty of bias and who have tired of ever-escalating politically-correctness. There are also those of power who have smelled opportunity in the shifting winds of opinion and played canny backroom games. The result has been bombshell referenda and elections where the PC-free have gained power. Even those not elected have found themselves listened to, if not in awe then at least in fear.
Has the game changed for good? Is political correctness a thing of the past, a blip in history? I think not. A thing creates its opposite and the shocked mainstream is regrouping and good people will come to the aid of the party. The war of politics is never finally won and I expect more battles and further swinging of the political pendulum.
We live in interesting times and the one thing I don't expect is boredom.