The End of Political Correctness;
(from the Introduction and Chapter One of the book)
Jay B. Gaskill
What we now call “PC” took root in the wake of the Vietnam War. It was a promising beginning. New social and political norms, aimed at reversing patterns of racism and sexism, captured university and workplace cultures beginning in the late 60’s. But, as momentum gathered, even sexual banter was forbidden as possible “harassment”. This sorry development caused distress among males who had enjoyed the benefits of “sexual liberation” during and immediately following the anti-war movement. The introduction of this neo-Puritanical element was the real beginning of “political correctness”.
Obviously, the PC movement had no sense of humor.
In the very beginning, there were major legislative gains for the civil rights movement; race-based discrimination was banned in public accommodations and schools. It was an admirable accomplishment, if late, and a great watershed in American history. These early successes generated pressures to expand the movement by including more oppressed groups. The search for new “victim classes” had begun. The movement reached a legislative zenith in the early 90’s.
When “insensitive” jokes were banned as potentially offensive to each new protected victim group, the first signs of incoherence began to develop within this loosely defined movement. At least at first, black Americans could still tell sexist jokes and disparage “cripples”, but that was soon to change. All criticism of the new order was to be shut down, and any defense of its primary targets, (Southern politicians, the police, the military, and – eventually –all white males with crew cuts), would be ridiculed as politically “retrograde”.
The parallels from the communist era became too obvious to ignore. Parody was irresistible. Our assigned PC nannies began to look like stand-ins for the Chinese party officers and Soviet secret police who spied on everyone under Mao and Stalin. Then some unsung comedian invented the term “political correctness” and it stuck to the movement like a limpet to the bottom of a ship. Of course, under those communist regimes, people who deviated from political correctness tended to disappear. Except for the secret graves, PC reality often does resemble parody. Just how did we get in this miserable place without a fight?
Our story begins in the 19th century, when the mavens of the new secular, scientific age released a huge tide of doubts and misgivings. Early in our parent’s lives, that tide was rolling over the dam of religious faith. The dam began to fail and doubt engulfed the whole educated world. Some found refuge in hip ideologies – you probably knew them, “JJ” the Marxist misogynist, “Mort” the gentle, hippie, neo-Nazi from down the street. But most of us escaped into a drug-assisted hedonism, followed by a furtive entry into the respectable, comfortable life. There, we tried to ignore our uncanny resemblance to our parents, and to escape history (of course no one escapes that). We had to believe in something important, so we were drawn to that diffuse mix of causes that we now know as PC. Political correctness became our “Ideology Lite”.
Think how we will look to some future generation. We are butterflies who have stepped into syrup, fluttering in place, pretending we are flying. We are stuck, trapped in our comforts, trying to enjoy our illusory security. We think we’re shielded from the real world’s hard moral choices by a soft ideology that allows us the luxury of gesture without accountability. In this state, our PC minds aren’t exactly consumed by the need for consistency. The essential ambivalence of our core beliefs doesn’t allow that.
We tend to say that it’s not for us to judge others, while hoping to escape judgment ourselves. Yet we feel guilty because we know we might be wrong. When some shrill members of our assigned peer group demand our support for their cause, we agree. “Yes you are victims. Of course we support you.” Sometimes we sign petitions. We even write checks. But we rarely pay attention to the real world consequences of our beliefs.
Our PC enthusiasms are symptoms of an underlying essential ambivalence. Of course, I hear the objections: “What do you mean ambivalence? Why are the people you call ‘PC’ so willing to demonstrate, commit trespass, and more, to call attention to important causes? Surely you can see how passionate we are for the support of animal rights, peace, the opposition to overconsumption and globalism. Why do these and so many other issues and enthusiasms continue to stir emotions, generate contributions, media coverage and arrests? How can this be evidence of our ambivalence?”
PC’s essential ambivalence reveals itself in the incoherence of its positions and objectives, the failure to confront obvious instances of authentic evil, and the general fear of moral judgment based on anything other than the interests of the coalition of favored victims.
By “us” and “we’, of course, I’m not talking about the strident followers of Marx, Lenin and the other ideologies of grievance, discredited for the most part, but alive and well among the intelligentsia. And I’m leaving out those ardent worshipers of Allah, God, Christ, or the Buddha who are busy trying to get over their sectarian differences even as their numbers shrink among the post graduates who hope to run things when they grow up. And I’m not referring to those blessed with authentic moral convictions, an interesting group to be found an anthropology museum in Kansas. All these people were inoculated against the essential ambivalence I referred to. No, “we” are a special group.
We are the educated and sophisticated “elites”, the first beneficiaries of first world economies and culture. We include that vast pampered army of boomers, yuppies, and bobos featured in a media run mostly by us. We live in urban areas in Europe and North America, but this is the information age, so actually we live all over the place; we’re a widely dispersed global elite. For the most part, we are the comfortable cohort who find peer support in our shared essential ambivalence. We include teachers, professionals, leaders, journalists, and consumers. We are the “new minds,” the children of “science”. We are the new generations weaned in the post-religious culture.
We have achieved the supreme act of mental compartmentalization: We claim to believe in human rights while at the same time we’ve become the grownups for whom “right” and “wrong” are just the inventions of Culture, Tribe, and Individual Preference. We are “free” only in the sense that we can adopt the transient enthusiasms of gesture politics and moralist stances with the same abandon as a child trying on Halloween costumes. We are not free because, when challenged, the very rights we claim to support are founded on the fragile foundations of cultural relativism.
We are not constrained by principle or consistency because these are artifacts of a discredited age. But we are afraid to openly challenge the moralist enthusiasms of our peers, especially their claims as victims, because we might be excluded from the tribe. We’re certainly not ready to challenge the notion that, beneath all the gestures and enthusiasms, there is a hollow core. We are the prisoners of a facile and hollow political correctness. The hollow, pseudo-ethical mess at the center of our PC ethos is more evident than we think. Our children can smell our ambivalence as easily as a guard dog can smell fear.
We are fools….
I am inviting you to resign from your assigned victim or oppressor tribe, to fire your PC “minders”. You’re invited to recognize and honor only the individual, the separate, living breathing thinking, feeling person in the context of a civilization held together by rules and principles that are embedded in the human experience.
Make no mistake, this is a call to revolution. Shocking, isn’t it that a revolution could be built on the obligation of honesty; the rule of accountability, and a commitment to reason and a courageous humanity defined by individual kindness, humor, and mutual respect. All this because of a commitment to civilization? And laughter?
Well the time to wake up is at hand. You’ll only have your minders to lose.
A SURVEY OF OUR PC NEUROSIS
Why You’ll Know It When You See It
For those who report to work in the in the contemporary academic world, in any public sector or corporate workplace, PC is an oppressive social reality. Workers spend the best part of their days wearing PC straight jackets, trying not to offend the sensitive, trying not to be offended when their own opinions are openly ridiculed. They are the teachers, professionals, and the legions of others who must be hyper-careful when expressing deviant opinions (defined by the party line) but whose otherwise outrageous statements get a pass when they fit the approved orthodoxy. They are the decent people who sometimes have to whisper to each other out of the earshot of their PC minders.
· A suicide bomber kills fifteen women, men, and children in an Israeli marketplace. Professor “X” tells his literature class that such actions are morally justified in the struggle for Palestinian rights. A student who questions the moral premises of X’s peroration is ridiculed in front of the other students. Then the dissenting student complains to the Administration but is warned that the professor’s comments are protected by “academic freedom.” The student receives a reduced grade.
· Professor “Y” tells her biology class that unprotected sexual contact between males represents a serious heath risk; she adds that, from a public health perspective alone, parents of homosexual boys are justified in trying to prevent any sexual contact. A student complains to the administration and the professor is reprimanded and threatened with the denial of tenure for the offense of “insensitivity” and for making a “homophobic” remark.
· A murderer from a “favored” minority kills a policeman. Several issues immediately surface in the PC media: Possible police misconduct. Police prejudice against a particular minority group. The likely prospect of an unfair trial. The expected misuse of the death penalty against a minority.
· A murderer from a disfavored minority (think of a Jewish stockbroker or a Japanese executive or a white female tycoon) kills a policeman. What issues surface in the PC Media? Think of all the issues that were suppressed in the former example — that accused’s arrest and conviction record for assault, even his racial or ethnic identity, — these are now fair game. Now we will quickly earn about any bad prior conduct by accused (perhaps reports of his recreational drug use or her acts of “social insensitivity”), of r her excessive wealth, uncharitable behavior toward “real” minorities, alienation from family, and so on. The discussion about the possibility that the “true” minority in the last example might not get a fair trial (i.e., an acquittal) is replaced by portrayals of the prosecutor as underdog, etc.
These examples should ring true. They should, because they were adapted from real cases; their close resemblance to the common PC experience is no accident. Their archetypal fit can be confirmed by those of us who’ve experienced the described PC constrained environments firsthand. The larger book from which this introduction was abstracted is not another catalogue of PC horror stories, as amusing and distressing as they can be, is an extended analysis of the underlying assumptions that drive PC thinking, making the case for the reasonable alternatives.
My real question is this: In these and the many similar scenarios, why do so many highly intelligent people with access to the facts and common sense (who could easily challenge the errors, contradictions and fundamental silliness of the more untenable PC positions) remain silent? Their silence is evidence of the reality of the “PC prison”, a form of psychological repression generated by of peer pressure. On another level, their silence is the product of the essential ambivalence that gnaws at the modern mind.
Welcome to PC World, an oppressive social environment where victim becomes a no-fault hero, where humor becomes harassment, forthright communication becomes insensitivity, and ordinary person-to-person interactions – dare I say man-woman interactions? — are seen through the lens of oppressor and victim. In PC World, individuals are invited to see themselves as stereotype group-members first, real people second.
Nothing risky can be said or done in PC World. Everyone is protected. Everyone is oppressed. This state of affairs has been aptly called the “nanny state” (without apologies to the nannies themselves, whom it slanders).
The first casualty of PC World is humor and play. The second is humanity, followed by simple trust. The last is simple kindness. We all have experienced the pseudo-caring of someone who is acting from ideology. Authentic kindness, even the gruff, hard nosed kind, is far preferable.
So our PC minders have instructed us not to bruise the self esteem of the “disadvantaged” by using labels that suggest their inferiority. Thus, stupid becomes “intellectually challenged,” slow to learn becomes a “a learning impairment” or even “a learning disability,” while crippled becomes “disabled” and disabled becomes “differently abled” as if mere semantics could repair missing limbs, analytical ability or memory capacity. Parody is almost redundant here. [In my former career I represented criminals who spent time in institutions for the “morally challenged.” Sorry, I meant “behaviorally challenged”.]
These kinds of PC labels share something more than their silliness. They are attempts to deny reality: (1) They are a semantic attempt to negate the existence of a disabling condition; (2) they serve to convert the particular “victim” status into a badge of honor. In either case, the processes of denial or victimization tend to foster fatalistic acceptance of the condition and get in the way of the affected person’s natural human attempt to accomplish the “workarounds.” The PC mindset really doesn’t want to help someone affected to overcome the obstacle as much as it wants to insulate the rest of us from guilt.
I wonder of you have had the pleasure of knowing someone who has made great strides in overcoming a crippling injury or condition. Typically he or she is fiercely proud of the accomplishment and is able to joke about it. The very title “cripple” for such an admirable person can become a earned badge of honor. For the person who has gotten past being coddled as a victim, authentic life is possible.
We don’t have to fall into the trap of brutal social treatment of the disabled to recognize that PC sensibilities are all about the comfort of the rest of us and very little about the people whose “feelings” we are pretending to spare. The core PC ambivalence comes from the apparent contradiction between obvious inequalities among humans, a social ethos that pretends otherwise, and our secret wish to enjoy our own status to the extent that we “are among the more fortunate.” This is a form of survival guilt and it reflects ambivalence about self assertion and one’s right to life itself.
We will eventually see the day when most of this current nonsense will be laughed or derided out of existence. It is social pathology, yet no one seems to know how to reverse it. We will continue to explore its vulnerabilities.
PC World has spawned some bizarre legal rules, especially in the workplace. Pictures, posters, jokes, casual banter, even a simple pat on the back, all are subject to a censorship keyed to protecting the most exaggerated sensibilities of members of the putative victim classes. This confers greatly disproportionate social power on those who are prone to cry abuse. Paranoia results.
Among the legal innovations captive to the emergent PD mindset was the ADA, which some refer to as the Aggrieved Disgruntled Americans Act, a classic good idea gone afoul. No reasonable person objects to the ramps and lifts, but the ADA’s intrusion in hiring, transfers, promotions and firings was made to order for PC World abuse. In the victim-dominated atmosphere of PC World, the ADA’s laudable ends have been distorted to protect performance-impairing afflictions. Lawyers have argued the need to accommodate drug addition, even kleptomania, schizophrenia, and other maladies, everything really, except violations of the rules of PC World. But my favorite ADA accommodated disability is common stupidity, which we must now call a “mental disability.”
In a similar stroke, regulation of so called sexual “harassment” has been made the province of the same administrative agency that administers ADA claims. Vagueness of definition and creeping PC thinking in the cases superintended by that agency have fostered the resurrection of a regime whose neo-puritanical mindset resembles a Victorian boarding house. Such neurotic thinking flows directly from the PC movement’s substitution of victim rhetoric for common sense and common principle.
Symptoms of Organizational Ambivalence
PC-think has begun to clog organizational function, like some rogue computer virus. In any organization, even where there is a clearly defined objective (as in “deliver the service well and on time”), ambivalence always reveals itself in interminable process. Often this reflects the personal ambivalence of a leadership paralyzed by a PC induced failure to apply agreed principles (such as performance merit) to resolve disputes. This problem, endemic to government and academia, has been exacerbated by the shrill advocates of PC tribal interests who would apparently prefer to live in a world in which all employees have equal ability, traits and motivation.
We see evidence of this organizational neurosis everywhere– in agencies that allocate power and responsibility on a rotating basis, based on seniority, minority, or in some other essentially random fashion that produces an arbitrary form of “objectivity.” In the United Nations, the process has reached an intolerable self parody where well known dictatorial regimes ascend to head committees for the protection of “human rights” because, essentially, it “is their turn.”
PC World Abhors Principle
Without common principle, honestly and impartially applied, everything necessarily becomes personal. And in organizational life, everything becomes political – in the very worst sense of that word. In PC World, because we do not value principles, we suffer the decay of our highest ideals—the obligation of truthfulness; the rule of accountability; and simple humanity defined by individual kindness.
All of these ideals, products of an Enlightenment that took root in a brand new country of unparalleled hope and optimism, are withering in the cloying grip of the nanny-state, the advent of the brave new PC World.
What we call political correctness is really an amalgam of societal, legal, and political norms centering around the notion that the issues of contemporary life only make sense only when seen through the lens of oppressed victimhood. Its various doctrines are fluid and even incoherent, but the common theme is a simple one: Victims are to form a coalition of virtue. PC can be seen as a form of “social Marxism”, no longer so concerned with the economic empowerment of the workers as it is with the social and political empowerment of every subgroup that has ever suffered marginalization or discrimination at the hands of whatever group or class is fashionably identified as “the power structure.” The exclusion of workers, particularly the male, blue collar ones, is deliberate, because their “primitive” values are at war with the new ethos.
Like any large scale, but vaguely defined movement, PC bundles issues and positions that include at least one valuable idea. I certainly agree with opposition to virulent, negative stereotypes based on race, gender, or same gender affiliation. But that is a superficial, first cut, the layer of substantial agreement among all people of good will across a broad social and political spectrum. It is just the polished veneer that conceals PC’s less attractive side.
PC’s Taproots in the Anti-Authoritarian Left
Political correctness, as its name indicates, actually has roots in the New Left, the “Post-Marxist Marxism” that infiltrated the milieu of the 60’s. Social Marxism germinated among the “Critical theory” intellectuals whose ideas can be traced back to Germany’s Weimar Republic.
PC is a socio-political ideology based on four elements:
A radical egalitarianism, the notion that all human differences are arbitrary and accidental and that the proper goal of society is: (a) to pretend these differences don’t exist; and/or (b) to force social reality to conform to the construct in which they don’t exist.
Systems of legal, peer, and cultural repression designed to punish those who deny or oppose #1.
A “victim” coalition to implement #2 against all who resist (who now become, by definition, the oppressors).
A style of implementation that conceals the hard edges of the forgoing by promoting fictional voluntary compliance, forms of social “reeducation”, and “consensus building.”
This amounts to a thinly disguised return to tribalism (whose membership is defined by PC victim/oppressor categories), a de facto repeal of the gains for the individualism and rationalism of the Enlightenment. The latent incoherence of the PC agenda becomes evident when conflicts emerge – as they already have– among the various “victim” groups, and when membership of one or more such victim groups must be narrowed, eliminated, or the excluded members even redefined as oppressors.
Like all systems with ambitions to govern, PC follows one of three leadership models:
· Alpha predator. In this model, one individual, cohort or group achieves dominance over the rest. Within the political left, this struggle for dominance has degenerated into a struggle among certain ethnic minorities, feminists, gay-rights advocates, and environmentalists. Within each group and within each sub-group organization, a power struggle is ongoing in which the alpha predator model is followed.
· Egalitarian repression. This is the counter-predator model in which differences in power, among other things, are forcefully equalized. The recurring problem, never solved, is that those empowered to do the leveling always revert to the alpha predator model. Leninists take note: it was a workers party in Poland that helped reverse the communist hijack of the “proletariat”.
· Tables turned. In this model, little pretense of restoration of equality is ever indulged. The liberation of the proletariat becomes the dictatorship by the proletariat’s “liberators.” The formerly oppressed become the new oppressors.
We will never break out of PC prison, (neo-Puritanism, or any other proto-authoritarian annoyance), until we can understand and overcome the essential incoherence and false promise of authoritarian egalitarianism; and we learn to replace it with a more comprehensive, satisfying, and credible system that escapes the trap of the three authoritarian models above.
In PC World, outmoded tribal identifications—and I especially mean the neo-tribalism of putative victims—are joined at the hip to interest group politics. Victims are united by victim status, and divided by everything else. Without principle, group politics rules. But which group? Without governing principles, there is no answer, except raw, unprincipled political power.
Few are fully immune to the lure of PC World, especially when its group politics games seem to serve a short term agenda. It is seductive to see oneself as a major player on the political stage, waving the banner of truth and justice. It is very hard to see a larger picture. Almost impossible to see yourself as others do, as manipulative, self interested, and wearing a victim T shirt.
PC Exploits The Longing For Peace
It is always “PC” to favor “peace,” regardless of context or protagonists. Peace as “movement” is inherently PC. The key is in the very label because the “movement” arises reflexively, without regard to moral context. For the true believers in the peace movement, even authentic, large scale evil will not support a case for “violence.” For the rest of the movement, the presence of true evil tends to generate denial. Those who fear their movement might have gone astray tend to remain quiet, silenced by their own deep ambivalence. It is never PC to criticize those who oppose war. [More on the topic of pacifism in the book.]
The PC Denial of Evil
PC does not recognize evil, except as political epithet directed at the retrograde forces that oppose it. The appearance of authentic evil results in denial among those most captured by the PC mindset, and a discreet silence falls over the rest. The failure to confront instances of obvious evil reveals an ambivalence about the nature of moral obligation itself. When we are unwilling to acknowledge the moral and existential reality of evil, we are able to avoid the burden of moral choice, and to retain the illusion of comfort and security. [I address the question of evil in a separate essay.]
Except for the narrow realm of PC’s accepted causes – opposition to sexism, homophobia, racism, and nationalism – the “judgment” of others is the product of an antiquated (dare I say “religious”) sensibility unworthy of the modern mind. PC has accomplished something truly remarkable: It has engineered the silence of those with common sense and common judgment without firing a shot.
Nothing reveals the essential ambivalence of our culture more vividly than the general fear of moral judgment. Indeed the arguments against making moral judgments are the very language of ambivalence. “Who are we to judge? Things are never that black and white. Live and let live.” This is not a case for a return to puritanical sex mores, curfews, and a restoration of alcohol prohibition. Those are red herrings, the “loss leaders” of the advocates of a more general ambivalence; as if an ethos of tolerance for cultures that permit premarital sex by 19 year olds requires us to tolerate population control by forced sterilization, ritual genital mutilation of children, and so on.
The PC Fog
The PC-cowed journalist survives by adopting a self serving, facile “objectivity” in which all points of view are given a “non-judgmental” forum, but the non-PC viewpoints are buried near the sport’s pages. This is the predictable response of a survivor in a war of words. Strident, but baseless accusations of non-PC conduct are given the equal space with the truth.
In this way, contemporary journalism has been infected with a special form of ambivalence, the fear of identification with a politically incorrect position by inadvertent advocacy. Since all reports, true and false, are judged primarily by their impact on the politically correct agenda, truth, as such, must be handled carefully, like some radioactive isotope. This reveals a corrupting, essential ambivalence about the value of truth that prevents reporters from identifying even obvious lies.
If you were to believe the PC media, you’d think that most street crime is committed by faceless men, whose identifying marks and racial characteristics have been wiped away by some digital pixel smear effect, like those television shows where the headshot of the crime victim or informant is altered to obscure identity.
This is PC Fog.
A robbery shooting of an elderly lady is witnessed by a woman in a parked car and by a man walking his dog. The robber flees on foot, someone calls 911; police and EMT’s arrive minutes later. The officers at the scene get detailed descriptions of the predator, while the victim, Mrs. Jones, is wheeled into the ambulance on a gurney, gravely injured.
The two eyewitness accounts are compared and a description is broadcast over the police radio. Police compiled descriptions in these cases tend to be as complete as can reasonably be gleaned from the eyewitnesses, given the time constraints, and typically include gender, approximate age, height, weight, build, head and facial hair, clothing, race, distinguishing marks, direction and mode of flight, in short, everything that might possibly help officers in the field to stop and detain a suspect.
Over the next forty minutes, various officers will be tasked to briefly detain any suspects who seem to match the broadcast description, and to take any of them in for further identification procedures as appropriate.
But, in our example, the robber gets away.
What will we probably learn from the PC media version of this incident? More likely than not, we’ll be treated to a censored description, something like –“husky male, dressed in dark clothes.” The suspect’s race will be intentionally omitted, typical for urban crime coverage. We’ve all seen the pattern This really is PC at work. These are editorial decisions, certainly not law enforcement policy.
Now assume that in our case, one suspect is detained in the field, and based on the broadcast description, is subdued after a struggle and placed under arrest (based on the his unlawful resistance). But, before the arrested suspect can be handcuffed, he manages to escape on foot, leaving a hand gun behind on the pavement.
In PC World, these police will be criticized for “racial profiling” because the suspect was stopped because he was a “minority.” Later, when the ballistics match the slug removed from Mrs. Jones, the same officers will be accused on negligence for letting the prime suspect get away.
PC Fog is released to obscure uncomfortable truths. In PC World, we are expected to live in the fantasy world where things like physical appearance are irrelevant, where “minorities” are to be protected by racial anonymity if necessary, even if that hampers law enforcement and our need as citizens to know what’s going on in our community.
What is sometimes reflexively dismissed as “profiling” represents a perfectly reasonable conservation of scarce law enforcement resources. Would it matter that Mrs. Jones was a frail 88 year old back lady at an ATM, while her mugger was a head shaved white male of 25? Or that the mugger was initially detained because his presence in the parking lot of an all black church after hours seemed suspicious? Would it matter if Mrs. Jones were an elderly Chinese woman? Or that the mugger, a bearded Hispanic male wearing sweats, was detained because his presence in an all Chinese wedding party seemed suspicious? Would we have the police detain an artificially larger sample, including some young black males and white females, just to avoid “profiling”? Does it make any sense in either fact pattern to alert the public to a mugger, releasing a description that omits race altogether?
PC fog is as dangerous as highway fog without headlights.
Let’s Talk About Prudes
I’ve already briefly alluded to the Puritanical strain of PC driven feminism (see footnotes 6 & 7), the kind that generates lawsuits over nude posters. The more hysterical forms of this agenda would have us believe, contrary to all evidence, that males are inherently brutal to women, and that any sex, not accompanied by an engraved invitation and a 24 hour cooling off period is rape. I think we can benefit by seeing sex for what it is: the source of a compelling ongoing attraction between two members of the human family who are sufficiently different by virtue of their gender that they might not otherwise cooperate on a long term basis. Seen in this light, sexual attraction is necessary to the survival of civilization. The people we call “Prudes” don’t get it. They are afraid of our animal natures, failing to understand that it is civilization and its rules promoting and protecting peaceful interaction that takes us out of the “mere” animal category, not our predisposition to have a good time.
We’ve all seen the bumper sticker: “Life is hard, then you die.” I’d propose the countersticker: “Ditch your PC habit and live!”
And About Children
Any civilization worthy of the name has the right and the obligation to define adult status for various purposes, notably, for military service, voting, making binding contracts, having sex, marrying, drinking spirits, going to adult prison and so on. For some reason the PC crowd has trouble with this issue. Granted, there is no compelling reason that all of these attributes of adulthood need be awarded automatically, nor that they be awarded at the same time — even when a general rule is to applied without individuation, Johnny might be lawfully able to have sex with Jill, for example, before he has a martini with Fred. But no civilization can function without giving the child – adult boundary robust legal and cultural significance, nor by pretending that children are adults when that is manifestly not the case.
Fixing boundaries between adults and children? The very idea!
One of the pathologies of PC World is its tendency to let children run things. This is developmentally harmful to children (who become monsters) and hell for the adults. I’ve heard a hundred variations of the story: A decent parent, pushed to the limit of tolerance, finally confronts Timmy for the lad’s insubordination, truancy, and petty larceny. Our parent raises her hand only to hear – “If you hit me, I’m calling Social Services!”
Yes, by all means, grant the Child Protection people their due — after all there are seriously abused children whose cases require intervention. But little Timmy and his delinquent cohort are not among them.
Social Services have too frequently become co-opted as the PC World enforcers, to be invoked by the brats of the world to ensure their triumph over reasonable parental discipline. In PC World, children of all ages sense, accurately, that their parents haven’t a clue where to draw the boundaries of behavior, what they can and cannot do to enforce those boundaries, and their children suspect, dread really, that beneath it all, their parents are unsure about right and wrong.
Parents are the faces of civilization to children, the first line of defense against the forces that, when unchecked, can take it down. Yes, civilization has a right and obligation to deny children the opportunity to screw their little hearts out with each other, to engage in “harmless” sexual experimentation with adults, and to experience any sexual seduction before they are mature enough to handle it. No child under the age of consent should ever be recruited as a sexual partner by a more mature person, nor for that matter, by another, more sophisticated child.
So Where is The Exit?
There is a way out. It is the path to creative civilization itself, the kind that has enabled diverse populations to live together in relative peace, protected by a law-based justice system that facilitates systems of peaceful exchange and promotes the rapid diffusion of knowledge, technology, goods and services, and encourages and protects creative freedom. To sustain such a civilization and help protect it from its enemies, we need to understand what it is, why we need it, and what it requires of us. We need to recover our confidence in the core values of the Enlightenment, rediscover the fundamental affirmations on which the human enterprise is founded, reestablish the principled reasonableness and mutual trust on which all civilization is based, and find the moral and psychological courage needed to stand our ground in its support.
Humor In The Prison
(Sadly, we do need to laugh.)
There is hope. We’ve started laughing at the guards. Outbreaks of rebellious humor are the leading edge of any “serious” movement’s collapse. Leave it to our Latino brothers to lead the way. One morning over coffee, I noted an account in the 5-1-03 New York Times with a silent, “about time!!!”. A comic humanitarian genius, David Gonzales, has created tiny collectable figurines called “Homies”. These little figures depict characters like the wheelchair-bound gangster “Willie G.” Our PC minders are aghast. The Homies are popular.
As the trend to laugh at our PC minders gathers momentum, we can hope to see the day when PC World dissolves in a huge mirthquake.
Humor is critically necessary to our sanity and to the preservation of our humanity under stressful conditions. I’ve had the privilege being around this kind of humor – you find in the Trauma centers, the ER’s, rehab centers, police stations, and (in my case) among overstressed criminal trial lawyers on both sides of the metaphorical aisle. Sadly, I’ve also seen the gradual decline of permitted humor in the workplace, (including in my former office), in academia, and among friends. And I’ve seen the signs of unrelieved stress in the high pressure workplace when we loose humor.
This non-PC humor goes by a different brand name, “Predator Humor.” In its more benign manifestations (of course, all truly funny humor is benign), we’ve enjoyed it in the cartoons of Gary Larsen. [I’ve often wondered whether Gary was actually taken to his Island in Puget Sound by a band of PC nannies, where he’s being held incommunicado. Gary, you can come out now! ] We’re beginning to hear Predator Humor again in whispers … when our PC “minders” aren’t close by.
The following is what students of the law call a “fact pattern”. In this instance, my fact pattern is based on a real event.
There were three miscreants who formed a criminal cohort. Their basic scheme involved the two robbers (we’ll call them “Tobe” and “Not” for reasons that will soon be apparent) teamed with a mistress of the night (we’ll call her Ms. Bait). Their plan was not sophisticated: Non-indigent victims were seduced by Ms. Bait, then forcibly separated from all their belongings by Mr. Tobe and Mr. Not.
One evening, a contractual dispute erupted between the two male miscreants and Ms. Bait, who was accused by them of retaining more than her share of the proceeds. So Mr. Tobe decided – improvidently– to “shoot the h… ” in retribution. Regrettably (for Mr. Tobe), the bullet passed cleanly through Ms. Bait, leaving her available, after treatment, for testimony). Even more regrettably, the bullet struck Mr. Not, who was positioned in the line of fire behind the “h…”.
Not’s dying words (it was a chest shot) were addressed at Tobe in a mixture of anger and wonder: “You dumb f… !”
Who says G-d lacks a sense of humor? Not’s dying words were later echoed in court, evincing a spreading ripple of agreement: Jury, judge, and Tobe’s girlfriend concurred– he was a dumb f…”.
Sadly, the real world is full of “dumb f…s”, and we do need to laugh.
Copyright © 2003 by Jay B. Gaskill
For permission to copy, print or distribute, contact:
Jay B. Gaskill, Attorney at Law
 For accounts of politically correct academic repression, see “The Shadow University” by Alan Charles Kors & Harvey A. Silverglate, Harper Perennial 1999. For more discussion, see Appendix A.
 Americans Disability Act of 1990 forbids discrimination against the “disabled” but fails to provide an adequately detailed definition of disability: “The term ‘disability’ means, with respect to an individual-(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or of the major life activities of such individual; (B) a record of having such an impairment; or (C) being regarded as having such an impairment.” Congress left the details, including the question of what is or is not the required “reasonable accommodation”, for administrative agencies and court procedures to flesh out.
 Under the act, current drug use of illegal drugs is not a disability, but someone who is currently in rehab and not now using may claim drug related disability. I note that some illegal drugs cause brain damage.
 The stories documenting employee abuse of the disability clause would fill a bookshelf. One of my favorite cases was that of the California supermarket manager who was given leave because of his angry abuse of employees and customers, then referred by the employer to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) expert, who reported that the angry manager suffered a stress disability (“Organic Mental Syndrome” !!). When the manager’s leave was fully exhausted and the supermarket learned he had started a new business, he was finally let go. He sued under the ADA, but admitted on examination that he’d been malingering, so his case was dismissed. In “Rational World”, the matter would never have gotten that far. In PC World, the manager appealed successfully—he got his lawsuit reinstated because the employer’s kindness in referring him to EAP meant that he was “regarded” as being disabled! [See part (c) of the ADA definition of disability in footnote 2, above.] It seems that victim status is so important in PC World that you don’t actually have to be one – mere appearances will do.
 Congress has assigned to the EEOC the task of applying and interpreting sexual discrimination and harassment in the workplace, without providing adequate guidance as to the conduct that can and cannot be proscribed. Wisely, the Congress has exempted itself from the direct impact of these regulations!
 As Camille Paglia has trenchantly put it: “Political correctness, with its fascist speech codes and puritanical sexual regulations, is a travesty ….” Paglia, “Vamps and Tramps,” p 118.
 As former NOW official Tammy Bruce has recently put it, this “the romanticization of my victimhood,” was part of the “malignant narcissism” that captured her movement. From the Epilogue to her 2003 book, “The Death of Right and Wrong.”
 By no means did Marxism define the anti-Vietnam War movement (since Marxists are not pacifists, especially against capitalist targets). At the time, especially in the movement’s Berkeley epicenter, free love, free drugs libertarianism, traditional social democracy, a mid-western patriotic decency (“We just don’t do that!”) were equally strong elements of this unlikely coalition.
 The Weimar Republic (1919-33) ended in political and economic chaos and Hitler’s takeover. Among the German intellectuals of that period, two “social” Marxists, Eric Fromm (1900-1980), and Herbert Marcuse (1838-79), moved to New York and lectured at the “Institute of Social Research”. Although Fromm and Marcuse disagreed (the latter accused the former of espousing “hedonism”), both were highly visible critics of American capitalism and bourgeois culture, contributing to the “New Left” and the subsequent ideas that formed modern (should I say postmodern?) “PC”. Of the two, Marcuse was a stronger critic of Soviet Stalinist excesses and Fromm was a stronger exponent of sexual, gender liberation.
 The group of favored minorities resembles an exclusive social club. The exclusion of the Jews in the decades after their active leadership participation in the American Civil Right’s movement coupled with the growing anti-Semitism among some African-American leaders is one case in point. The attempt to exclude hard working, “over-achieving” Asian-American students in the affirmative action context is another. The prospective exclusion of Hispanic-American males (as “too Catholic” and “too macho”) is the newest trend. Well educated, high achieving African-Americans are not far behind. The growing tribalism has actually prompted some to self identify as “Euro-Americans” but I doubt that membership in “club victim” will be open to them!
 We can reasonably differ about this number, but I have yet to meet a sufficiently mature sixteen year old, ready for seduction by a same-sex adult, or for parenthood as a result of more conventional sexual encounter. That Medieval children were thus abused hardly justifies a modern civilization’s abandonment of them. I think making the age of consent at 17, 18, 19, or even 20 is well within the reasonable range of policy decision by a rationally ordered civilization. If a 15 year old kid can’t make an irrevocable contract, then he/she shouldn’t make an irrevocable decision about sex practices. Minor sexual experimentation among children of the same age is a far less serious matter, but one any responsible parent knows is not trivial.
 Distress, divorce, disability, burnout, depression and suicide.
 You might want to remember this story when you get to the section on “Thieves’ Honor”, infra.
 Street slang for Ms. B’s profession; rhymes with beaux.
 Usage similar to “fool”, rhymes with the four letter word for fortune.