What do each of the following have in common:
- the inappropriate use of apostrophes
- advertisers using “pan fried” when they could just use “fried”
- the belief that bulimia is an illness rather than a moral failing
- the idea that there can be more than one meaning for the word “gender”
- the notion that people other than smokers, motorists and fox-hunting aficionados can be persecuted
- having to use the term “African American” when you just want to say “black”
All of these things are, of course, examples of political correctness, about which I am now an expert.
I have just spent the weekend at my parents’ house and was in their bedroom when I happened upon this.* There are, I suppose, worse things to find in one’s parents’ bedroom – a hidden staircase leading to an underground terrorist network, perhaps, or a naked, oiled-up Boris Johnson – but Dr Peter Mullen’s Politically Incorrect Lexicon really isn’t what I wanted to see (indeed, I may have even recoiled in horror). I’ve always known my parents aren’t particularly PC – that’s not a shock – but the truth is, I’ve long been fearful that I may have PC-tendencies – or even worse, that I am politically correct.
Being politically correct is obviously a bad thing. No one ever says, brightly, “hey, let’s make this message a bit more PC!”. It’s only ever a reluctant “oh, I suppose we’ll have to make this picture of the entire world’s population as middle-aged white men a bit more PC”, or, if you’re about to say something dodgy, an over-excited “hey, this isn’t going to sound very PC, but I’m a racist (and that’s allowed because I’ve already acknowledged that it isn’t PC!)”. No one is ever proud to come out as genuinely committed to the PC cause. At best, they’ll distance themselves from the accusation; “what you call being PC, I just call being polite” or something similarly weedy.
I’ve always thought I might be PC because I generally find people who rant about “political correctness gone mad” to be annoying, boorish tossers. This isn’t a very scientific assessment of political correctness, but then politically correct people aren’t very scientific (unless we’re using “science” as a way of being “militantly secular”). Having found Dr Mullen’s book – and overcome my squeamish liberal horror – I decided it was time to explore this in a little more depth. Just what is “political correctness” after all, and why does it make people – total tossers in particular – so upset? Here are my findings:
Political correctness is, apparently, a failure to be honest
At least according to the great philosopher Quentin Letts, in his foreword to the book:
We live in a time of spiritual humming and hawing. This is the age of ethical prevarication. Society hungers for certitude but instead man clerics offer a form of multiple-choice morality, couched in cotton wool words. Oh, the fakeness of so much modern language. The politically correct jargon spouted by the indulging Left is designed to smudge issues, to avoid the truth.
Examples of this great lie appear to include using “their” instead of “his or her”, using the phrase “non-disabled” rather than “healthy, whole” and defining AIDS as simply a disease rather than “a disease spread chiefly by sexual promiscuity”. I am, clearly, a very dishonest person, as are most people. Let’s hope my generally reasonable use of apostrophes makes up for this dishonesty / failure to be a total cunt (ha! I just wrote cunt! That’s not very PC – except it’s a rude word that would annoy the Daily Mail, so it probably is!).
Politically correct people don’t have values
You would think that not being racist or defending a woman’s right to use contraception is in some way adhering to a value system, but apparently not. Politically correct people cannot grasp “the perverse idea that some things – apart from the material – are worth more than others”. What are these things? Religious beliefs, mainly (as long as we’re not talking about Islam. Islamophobia is, Mullen argues, “unreasonable dislike of suicide bombers”. The searing honesty! Bet no one has ever said that before…)
Political correctness medicalizes morals
Mullen claims that with conditions such as ME, ADHD, alcoholism and eating disorders, we are witnessing “the redefinition of a character defect in terms of disease”. Here, for instance, is how he describes bulimia:
Posh Latin word used euphemistically as a clinical description for the gluttonous young women who habitually make themselves vomit because their vanity will not allow them to risk getting fat.
And here’s how he describes a hyperactive child: “undisciplined, delinquent, out of control”. This is all very helpful, isn’t it? Perhaps if people could actually ridicule and punish people with disorders like this, it would … oh, hang on …
Political correctness is riven with superstitions
These include: Big Bang theory; Bach Flower remedies; self-help books; counselling; crystals and runes; the belief that all people are equal; evolution. Some of these things are indeed, I suspect, total crap. But then I’m not religious which means that, by default, I’m still meant to believe in something and that something must, because it’s not a mainstream religion, also be total crap (Dr Peter Mullen is an Anglican priest. His “peppery pugnacity” almost makes me ashamed of my inability to believe in eternal life as a means of giving my existence purpose and meaning. And as a means of telling it like it is etc. etc.).
Politically correct people have no understanding of English grammar
Quite how this works and why it matters is beyond me. But claiming that the English are “the only people about whom it is permissible to be racist” and busting a blood vessel over someone writing “a male” rather than “a man” are kind of on the same level (writing things like “kind of” and using “basically” when you don’t need to – that kind of thing is basically very politically correct, too. But no one knows why).
I have come to the conclusion that I am politically correct. Except of course a properly politically correct person would feel more irate at a book like this and want to ban it or something. Or perhaps I’d burn it, only I might not have the time as I’d be too busy misusing grammar and claiming benefits and having my next abortion.** And then actually, I’d probably want to keep the book anyhow, then I could use it to claim compensation for my hurt feelings upon finding it in my parents’ bedroom. So in fact I’m perhaps just politically must-try-harder (my parents, meanwhile, are like that, but with political incorrectness; they buy in all the reading material but keep on haplessly meeting “minority” people whom they actually like).
Dr Peter Mullen, though – he really excels at being a stupid, smug, mean-spirited, wannabe victim. What a truly awful person. And yeah, I reckon that is a value judgment after all.
* As I had my sons with me, I was sleeping in my parent’s room while they were in the spare room. I wasn’t snooping or anything. Although that kind of STASI-esque hunting around for evidence against one’s own family is probably another thing PC people engage in.
** Mullen’s definition of contraception is “abortion”. Pregnancy is “a failed abortion”. Even if I were a fan of deliberately dimwitted meanness, it doesn’t really work, that one, does it?