I’m writing this partly as it follows logically from the EDL discussion earlier in the week, and also since I’ve been told, by people whose judgement I don’t respect, that I shouldn’t.
My anti-bigotry credentials should be evident to any of our regular readers by now. The “I’m not racist” is not followed with the word “but” as you might get from a half-cut caller to a radio programme in the dead of night. The stance I take on this is probably best explained by a quote from the late Aaron Russo, “there are no groups, we’re individuals – group thinking is no thinking”. Anyone capable of producing a film as brilliant as Trading Places must be pretty fucking smart, and Russo manages to establish that beyond a doubt in a single sentence. Once you start to move away from the concept that we are individuals, worthy of acceptance or otherwise on that basis alone, then you’re immediately travelling down a seriously slippery slope.
I was actually ‘raised prejudiced’ if such a phrase works. It’s natural for parents to cascade their worldview down to the next generation, but when that includes appeals to group think that include an irrational dislike of other people based on something that is meaningless and/or beyond their control, then father-son chats become little more than the spreading of poison. I haven’t always been a groovy liberal – I held some rather unfortunate views when I was younger, having been programmed that way by my home environment. I remember ‘coming out’ as non-racist when a late teenager, and it being a source of some friction at home. Having seen the other side of the coin, this is probably why I take the view that I do now, and take it so openly.
The point of that bit of personal history (and that’s a totally legitimate question) was to illustrate that I know very well not to use certain words to describe other people. I’ve lived in an environment where they were sprayed around like shit being catapulted towards a wall, been prohibited from watching ‘the Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ because it was a ‘nigger programme’, worked in an office environment (not my current employer, I should add, for legal reasons), where nasty generalisations about pakis and pikeys were rife, had a managing director stand up in that same office and declare that ‘Hitler got a bad press’ to laughter from almost everyone else. I know not just that bigotry is disgusting, but understand the thought process very, very fucking well, believe me.
Of course, sometimes I wish I didn’t…
I suppose the next question might be “is political correctness the solution?”. The answer here is a fairly emphatic no. The best way of explaining this would be to look at the world of football – why did monkey chants and throwing bananas at black players continue for several years after the race relations law had made such acts illegal? It’s because the faith in the law to change human behaviour is usually misplaced, whereas social acceptability, what I call ‘the uncool factor’ is something people are far more likely to acknowledge. Bigotry at football grounds, and in most of general society, is now immensely uncool – this is the real reason it has become a minority sport, nothing whatsoever to do with the state.
Political Correctness has two significant failings from where I’m stood. The trouble with outlawing an opinion or worldview is that there will always be a subjective element to whether or not someone, somewhere finds it offensive, unpleasant or dangerous. Freedom of expression is only worth having if it applies equally to anyone who is not committing or inciting crime in the process, even those whose views we find repulsive. Moreover, the censorship of offensive opinion has a tendency, under the law of unintended consequences, to make martyrs out of morons, create a false impression of a ‘truth’ that is being ‘gagged’ or ‘suppressed’ by ‘the establishment’.
Look, it’s an easy enough argument to destroy – let the knobhead say his piece and then, er, destroy it.
Refusing to use certain words which are unpleasant or offensive is not an issue of left vs right or even small state vs big state, but one of common decency. Political Correctness works on a flawed premise that the state should have a monopoly on something that, in truth, belongs to all of us and society as a whole, that we’re incapable of deciding for ourselves that a bigoted worldview is both dumb and dangerous, that I might walk into a coffee shop with a ‘no Blacks’ sign above the door given the opportunity, when in fact I would actively boycott the place and encourage everyone I knew to do the same so it would go out of business.
Now that I find unpleasant, and offensive – part two to follow soon, take it easy.
- Walter Block on Discrimination and Bigotry (economicpolicyjournal.com)