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First printed in the Australian Journal of Comedy - Volume 2 - Number 1 - 1996.
The Road to Hell
A SCENIC GUIDE
Good morning class. Are you all bright and awake? Thinking caps on? Good. We have a lot to get through this morning. First of all let's just make sure we are all in the right place. This is Political Correctness 001. Anyone in the wrong room? Hmm? We always seem to get a couple of Political Science or Political Theory students who havent read the notice-board properly. Everyone here for Political Correctness? Good.
Right. What is Political Correctness? Well - I'm sorry what is your name? Fletcher? Put your hand down Mr Fletcher, that was a rhetorical question - let's begin with an illustration. Imagine you are living in, say, the 17th century during a time when witch-hunting is prevalent. Every day men and women are being accused of witchcraft. They are then arrested, interrogated by Inquisitors after whereupon they usually seem to confess and then they are tried, convicted, and burnt at the stake.
Now you're a rational person and as you look around there are several things that seem to bother you. For example, you note that a City official accuses his superior of witchcraft. The superior is executed and the accuser then assumes his position. A family with a modest farming allotment accuses the old lady next door of being a witch. She is burnt and they promptly take over her land, thereby doubling their holding. Now, while you wouldn't want to accuse these particular people of having anything but the good of the society as a whole in mind, let us say that you do tend to see a possibility that self-interest may cloud people's judgement in this kind of campaign.
You are also concerned about the interrogation process in which the accused are given the following choice:
A: confess and be burnt at the stake, or
B: don't confess, be tortured beyond endurance and then burnt at the stake anyway.
Although you have no formal legal training, you feel that this, like some of the tests employed by the court, such as "Throw her in the pond. If she drowns, she's innocent, if she floats, she's a witch." seem just a tad unfair.
So here is your first question students. Faced with what seems to you to be obvious injustice and cruelty, hands up those who would try and do something to stop it?
Ahh. Almost everyone. Good. All right. Hands down. Well, I'm sorry but you're all wrong. The correct answer is that "none of you would do anything." I can assure you that in that situation everyone of you would keep quiet, go on with your lives and just hope that no one ever actually pointed the finger at you.
I see that you all look offended, but that is the case and here's why. You see, living in those times, you, like everyone else, would be aware of the Ancient and Honourable Rules of Witch Hunting which go something like this:
1. Anyone accused of being a witch almost certainly "is" a witch and must be burnt.
2. Anyone who confesses to being a witch is a witch and must be burnt.
3. Anyone who refuses to confess to being a witch is a witch and must be burnt.
4. Anyone who questions the existence of witches is a witch and must be burnt.
5. Anyone who tries to defend a witch is in league with witches and must be burnt.
6. Anyone who questions rules 1 - 5 is a witch and must be burnt.
7. Anyone who questions rule 6 is a witch and must be burnt.
8. Anyone who questions rule 7 is a witch and must be burnt.
9. Anyone who questions rule 8 is a witch and must be burnt.
10. etc etc etc to infinity
In other words, if you even so much as raise your hand politely and say in your nicest voice "Excuse me, I don't wish to interrupt, but with all due respect and without wanting to cast any doubt on the integrity or the intelligence of the court could I suggest that extracting confessions through torture is a little", before you could even finish the sentence you would be clapped in irons and waiting in a rat infested dungeon for the man with the blunt surgical instruments.
You see, this is how Political Correctness works. It is a Law which prohibits certain things: one of the things prohibited is the act of questioning the Law itself. In a Rule book it would look something like this.
Rule 1. You are not permitted to challenge the validity of these Rules.
This belongs to the wonderful class of recursive or self-referential statements which includes sentences such as "This sentence is true", but enough of that for now. You can read more about that in the Self-Reference section of the Library.
The point is that by making the act of questioning "itself" dangerous, completely irrational and often very destructive ideas can spread unchecked throughout society and gain enormous social momentum.
In America in the Fifties the House of Un-American Activities committee set about rooting out communists from various professions. Following an allegation of communist activity or even just communist sympathies, the impugned person would be hauled in for interrogation. They were told that it was pointless denying their guilt and that if they resisted the inquiries they would certainly be branded as traitors, and black-listed from their chosen career. However there was one chance to save themselves from incrimination and social vilification; they could name other people they knew to be communist sympathisers, and so it went on.
And how many dared to object to this witch hunt? Does anybody have any idea. Mr Fletcher? Well, I'll tell you. With the exception of a few genuine communists, very few. And why would a non-communist be so loathe to protest against the techniques of this committee? Because to protest about the activities of Senator McCarthy and the HUAC was to be immediately "branded" as a communist, for after all, who would object to a bunch of communists being thrown in jail, or out of their jobs and homes except another communist?
Now let me be clear. There is no ready cure for this form of social epidemic. It's a chain reaction which once started, sweeps, or should I say, seeps through a society neutralising all resistance - the behavioural equivalent of a plague. Today, people secure in their chronological remoteness, look back and say "Why didn't they stop Hitler in 1933?" But who was going to stand up in 1933 and say "This is all nonsense." No one who didn't want to be branded anti-Fatherland.
But I can see you shifting restlessly in your seats. You're thinking. "These are exceptions. The human race is not consistently so cowardly." And you are right. For Political Correctness does not operate purely through fear. That would simply be Political Fear. No, Political Correctness is far cleverer than that; more subtle; more plausible.
An idea which is obviously brutal and oppressive doesnt spread easily. People are better trained than that. The reason for the success of Nazism, Communism, anti-communism, and witch hunting, was that superficially they were presented as very good, positive movements. Hitler was rebuilding Germany and re-establishing national pride. Lenin and Stalin were enriching and ennobling the working class. Joe McCarthy was ridding America of dangerous subversives, and the Witch hunters were cleansing the world of agents who killed cattle, crops, and babies through black magic. Yes, blood had to be spilt, and from time to time innocents got caught up in it, but it was all for a good cause.
Now there is an interesting implication which arises from this. Can anyone tell me what it is? No one. Am I talking to myself? Well it's simply this. The implication is that good causes are potentially far more dangerous than bad causes. Are you grasping this Mr Fletcher? Yes? A bad cause is easily detected and guarded against, but a good cause, precisely because it is good, has the potential to wreak much more harm by placing itself beyond criticism. Now consider that term "beyond criticism."
What's that face Mr Fletcher? You think I'm playing with words? Proving black is white? Good is bad? Not at all. I'm not criticising good causes. Political Correctness can be attached to a good cause or a bad cause. But that's the point. When something becomes Politically Correct we can no longer "tell" whether its a good cause or a bad cause. Why not?
Come on. What have I just been saying? We cannot tell whether a Politically Correct cause is good or bad because, yes Mr Fletcher? "Because Political Correctness prevents you from.....", What? Go on! "It prevents you from questioning the issue." Yes. "And so you have no way of telling whether an issue is good or bad." Very good. We are getting somewhere.
But I see that some of the rest of you doubt me. You think that people are more reasonable than that. All right. Let's try it out. Pick up your hand-outs and turn to the first page. On that page you will see a number of true statements:
Some women just want to stay home and be mothers and homemakers.
Some men are better at some things than some women.
Some Jews are greedy.
Some Irish people are stupid.
Sometimes you hire a woman, train her, and then she gets pregnant and leaves.
Now these sentences are demonstrably true because of the all important word "Some" at the beginning. However these sentences are seen as tending to undermine certain movements within the community. As a result, although they are empirically provable, you will find that you cannot utter sentences like these very often without someone saying, "You shouldn't say things like that." Or "Comments like that don't really help."
What about the following?
Why should rich people pay more tax than poor people, after all they don't use any more government services and in fact might use less?
The feminist movement has made a lot of women unhappy.
Why can't a fifteen year old consent to sex with a fifty year old.
The Mabo legislation is ridiculous.
The Gay Mardi Gras demeans homosexuals.
We waste too much money on the arts.
There is no Greenhouse effect.
These statements are not empirically provable, however they are statements which have been made from time to time by informed and intelligent people backed by serious argument and evidence. Still, in many social environments - households, workplaces and institutions - these propositions could not be made without being immediately condemned as reactionary, racist or sexist, and clinically insane.
I'm sorry, what was that? How can I say there is no greenhouse effect? I'm sorry but did you just listen to what I said? Yes? Were you fully conscious or have you been lapsing in and out of a coma? I didn't say that I thought there was no greenhouse effect. No. I said that some people have "put the view" that there is no greenhouse effect, but many people are not even prepared to discuss the view, and tend to be dismissive of the people who put it. What I am saying is that right here and now, today, in this country, in this university, there are statements which cannot be made even though they are clearly true, and there are quite reasonably propositions which cannot even be raised in order to discuss whether they are true or not.
Now, if you cannot say things that are clearly true, and you cannot propose things which "might" be true, what can you do? Well Mr Fletcher? What can you do? Have you any idea? No idea? Well I'll tell you. You can agree. Would you agree with that Mr Fletcher. Yes, you agree that all you can do is simply agree. After all, you don't want to burn as a witch do you... No, it's painful. So let it happen to someone else. So you agree, and of course, by agreeing, you add one more to the social consensus which then makes it that much harder for the next person to raise questions.
By the way, you don't have to continue to agree forever. Sometimes a Politically Correct view is later discredited? So what do you do then Mr Fletcher? That's right. You deny supporting it. Very good. In fact I would go further. You can say you were always against it. Very good. You're catching on. So, although you may have supported the McCarthy trials in the Fifties, when the whole thing is discredited in the Sixties you say you were always against it. Just like everyone against the Nazis in the thirties and nobody ever voted for Nixon.
All right, let's move on. If you would turn to the other pages of the hand-outs. Starting on page two, you will find a list of some of the Political Correct views current in Australia today. You must "memorise" these as you will be examined on them. What's that Mr Fletcher? When will you be examined on them? That's easy. Every day of your lives.
This is probably the most volatile area and so we should deal with it first. Now many people think that politically correct gender attitudes boil down a few simple contradictions e.g.
A. A man looking at a woman's breasts is demeaning.
B. A woman looking at a man's buttocks (or "butt" in the cute American slang) is okay.
A. Calling a girl "cute" is demeaning.
B. Calling a boy "cute" is okay.
However, it's slightly more complex than this. The basic rule you have to understand is that "women are equal to men and at the same time superior to them." Once you have mastered this you have mastered the most difficult part of Gender Correctness. What it means is that, while the superiority of women is unquestionable, under no circumstances should women be "praised" since placing women on a pedestal, i.e. regarding them as angels, is just as oppressive as denigrating them. This is related to the Male Oppression Rule which states:
"If a man is hostile, uncaring or indifferent to a woman he is expressing his misogynist tendencies, and if he is caring, protective and interested he is being paternalistic and condescending."
Here are some major GENDER TENETS:
1. All women are non-violent and caring individuals who are anti-war and pro-environment. They are also practical, problem-solving people, supportive of each other and never competitive.
2. Men are dominated purely by competition with other males and primitive macho posturing and ego-boosting.
3. Men are all basically patriarchal and at the same time, deep down, little boys who want their mummy.
4. A woman who works hard is a shining example to other women.
5. A man who works hard is motivated purely by competition with other men.
6. A man who buys an overpriced car is insecure about the size of his penis.
7. A woman who buys overpriced shoes has high self esteem.
8. On the subject of penises, Men are obsessed with the size of their penises though in reality size makes no difference at all.
9. There's nothing more pathetic than a man with a small penis and women are perfectly entitled to mock such a person.
10. Women are victims.
11. Women are NOT victims.
12. There is no pain greater than childbirth. SPECIAL NOTE. Do not in any event make mention of men suffering maiming, disembowelling or napalm burns in war.
Now we come to HISTORY.
History is integrally related to gender issues because it is a tenet of current Political Correctness that the history of the world has been created by men, and thus everything that has ever happened has happened because of the problems with men. The basic precepts are:
13. History has been written by men.
14. War was created by men because they are inherently violent and want to boost their own egos.
15. Capitalism was created by men because they are inherently competitive and want to boost their egos etc.
16. Western society is based mainly on war and capitalism.
17. Science is a patriarchal system of thought control created by men as a means to enhance their militaristic and capitalistic enterprises.
18. If women had invented science, science would be more holistic.
19. If women has controlled society the world would be different.
20. History has been dominated by two forces. The oppression of women and the oppression of the working class.
21. By contrast with the military capitalistic patriarchal industrialised society, indigenous people are basically peaceful and live in harmony with the earth.
22. No indigenous people ever cut down forest or hunted anything to extinction.
SPECIAL NOTE. For those who have studied Palaeontology, we must assume that Diprotodon, Macropus, Megatheriums, the sabre tooth tigers, the mammoths, etc just died of natural causes.
SPECIAL SPECIAL NOTE. Concerning palaeontology or anthropological research see note 17 above on Science.
23. Indigenous people are really spiritual and their religions are based on some really interesting creation, fertility and afterlife myths.
24. The Bible is just a collection of irrational superstitions.
25. We should all feel guilty because of what happened to the Australian aborigines.
26. We should not blame the current generation of Germans for the holocaust.
27. Anyway, Britain was as much to blame for the Second World War as Germany. (Everyone knows Churchill was just as bad as Hitler.)
This leads inevitably to the Politically Correct attitudes to various countries. The basic rule here is that you must never criticise any country or its culture, or practices because "we are only seeing it through our own narrow cultural perspective." Therefore we have no right to judge the actions of other countries, and you may not compare certain cultures as being superior or inferior to others. There are two major exceptions.
28. The United States is the most right wing, greedy, militaristic, war mongering country in the world.
29. All Americans are right wing rednecks or religious fanatics.
30. All American films are trash except those made by Quentin Tarantino. In fact anything American is trash except Levi's, old Fifties cars, old black and white movies, Marilyn Monroe, Warner Brothers Cartoons, the Internet, Bruce Springsteen, and calling men's arses, "butts", "buns" and "asses."
31. France produces the best philosophers in the world.
32. France produces the best movies in the world.
33. France produces the best food in the world.
SPECIAL NOTE: Do not mention France's nuclear arms industry and how they sold weapons to all sides in the Israeli/Arab, Iran/Iraq wars.
34. Art is the most important thing in the world.
35. Any piece of art is worthwhile.
36. Any piece of art is intrinsically more valuable than any functional object.
37. The more useless a piece of art is, the greater its integrity.
38. The uglier a piece of art is, the more meaningful it is.
39. Nothing which is representational can truly be called art unless the thing represented is distorted beyond recognition. If you can recognise anything in a painting or photo it fails to be art.
40. The government should put more money into things like the Australian Opera.
41. Elitism in art is really terrible.
42. The Europeans design the best of everything, except for a few Japanese.
43. It's okay to be a drug addict if you're a painter or a rock star.
44. It's okay to be rude if you're a painter or a rock star.
45. If it's on public broadcasting it must be true.
46. It's okay to invade people's privacy if you work for a newspaper or a magazine.
47. Famous people have no right to privacy. Getting photographed changing your swim togs on a private island through a 1000mm lens by a photographer up a tree disguised as a toucan is okay because it's your fault for being famous.
48. Capitalism is bad.
49. Businessmen are crooks.
50. Businesswomen are reputable and hard working.
51. Teachers are good hardworking people.
52. Nurses are good hardworking people.
53. All other government employees are obstructive bureaucrats.
54. Rich people get away with paying almost no tax at all.
55. Any relationship between business and government is bound to be corrupt.
56. Nuclear power is inherently and "will always be" inherently unsafe.
57. Asian leaders like Lee Kuan Yew really know a lot about running a country.
58. The unemployed are not to be criticised, unless of course they fail to find work.
59. No charity can ever be criticised even if it is patently obvious that most of the money collected does not go to the cause in question.
SPECIAL NOTE: Criticising a charity organisation amounts to the same thing as criticising the people whom the charity is set up to help.
The existence of an actual needy cause is not necessary - for example, Red Nose day. This is a world wide campaign to buy and wear a stupid plastic red nose for a day. Why? To raise funds for research into SIDS. Now over the last few years there has been an enormous amount of research into SIDS and much of the mystery has been unravelled. Apart from a few children with congenital breathing problems, most cot deaths are a result of children being wrapped up too tight and placed face down. They overheat and suffocate - end of research. And yet the sales of red noses go on each year, and refusing to buy a red nose is regarded as tantamount to personally asphyxiating a newborn in her cot. It has not been explained how "wearing the red nose" as opposed to simply making the monetary contribution helps the cause.
The same dilemma is posed by the Forty Hour Famine. Australians "go without eating" for 40 hours to help starving people in Africa. How does this help? Is the implication that the food we don't eat will go to the Africans? Of course not. Then what is the point? Well, say the advocates, you sponsor yourself to starve for 40 hours. I still don't get it. Wouldn't it make more sense to sponsor yourself for "eating." Why don't we have a day where we all go to restaurants and eat like pigs and 10% of what we spend goes to help starving people. Wouldn't that raise MORE MONEY?
Now there is a new one. People wear a red ribbon on special occasions in honour of AIDS awareness. This is interesting because AIDS has probably had more press than any disease in history, with the exception of The Black Death and that had to kill one third of Europe to do it. The truth is we don't need more AIDS awareness, we need an AIDS cure and wearing a small red ribbon on the lapel contributes nothing to that. But wait there's more. Now there's a green ribbon for something else and no there are blue, purple and yellow ribbons for other "awarenesses".
But when someone asks you to wear a red nose, or pin a red ribbon to your lapel you will agree because to do otherwise is to say, I don't care about these people. Even if you donate a thousand dollars a year to cancer research, to refuse to wear the nose is to be virtually a psychopath.
60. Everything natural is good.
61. Everything man-made is bad.
SPECIAL NOTE. Normally the use of "man" to mean "human" is forbidden as sexist, but in this case, where it used in reference to something bad, it is not only permissible but mandatory. Women do not engage in industrial activity because it is bad for the Earth.
62. Forests once felled never grow back hence cutting down a tree is a form of murder.
63. Native species are good. "Introduced" species are bad.
SPECIAL CASE: This is a hard one because obviously all species were introduced at some stage. Basically, species which were introduced to Australia 40,000 years ago such as dingoes and humans are "good", but species which were only introduced a couple of hundred years ago are "bad." It is not clear whether blackbirds, rabbits and Italians will be considered "good" 40,000 years from now.
64. It is a terrible thing to let a species become
NOTE: Once more, do not refer to Science to mention that literally "millions" of species have become extinct since the beginning of life on earth.
65. The earth is a very delicate eco-system and we can
easily throw the whole system out of balance and make it an uninhabitable rock.
NOTE: Do not mention that the Earth has sustained millions of years of tectonic upheavals, volcanic activity in which areas the size of India were covered in lava, ice ages and several direct hits by meteors the size of the Albert Hall, and still continues to support life.
All right, we're almost out of time, so I'll leave it there. Now one very important note. I know this is a lot to take in but I expect you to have all this learnt by the end of next week. The reason for this is that you must give these hand-outs back to me next week so they can be destroyed. It is also very important to understand that these lectures are top secret and if you are asked you must not disclose that you are enrolled in this subject, or that you have attended this class. I assume you all understand why. Mr Fletcher? Do you understand why?
Good. Very good Mr Fletcher. Mr Fletcher has done his homework. Did everyone else hear that answer? The reason you cannot admit to taking this unit is because of the last rule printed on your list. Do you see it there in bold type? Do you see what it says.
Rule number 66. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS POLITICAL CORRECTNESS.
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