Wednesday, 27 August 2008

What the fuck does 'Political Correctness' actually mean?

A few years ago, I was out on the turps with a group of expats when one of the Kiwi guys launched into a tirade bemoaning how Politically Correct New Zealand has become. The rant went on and on until one of the Americans in the group slammed down his beer and stated that New Zealanders' obsessive anger over political correctness was actually far more obnoxious and annoying than political correctness itself could possibly be.

And the American was right. 'Political Correctness' is nothing more than a safe term to justify any bigotry, sexism, or in fact any aspect of society that the speaker doesn't like but isn't intelligent enough to come up with a reason. Usually these idiots spend there time agreeing with each other on talkback or the blogsphere but occasionally they get front page billing if they happen to be a former All Black captain and coach.

Because reading through Brian Lahore's comments that political correctness is apparently the force that destroyed the golden age when men where 'men,' women were in the kitchen, and any child who stepped out of line could be hit by any of your mates (and yes hitting and smack are one and the same Brian) if they weren't happy to spend their nights sleeping in a car while you got pissed at the rugby club ticks all the boxes of lazy intellectualism that usually doesn't merit much coverage. But I forgot. This great man coached the All Blacks 20 Years ago and captained them 40 years ago so of course he's the ideal person to give expert opinion about the challenges of modern fatherhood on the frontpage of our largest daily.

And boy does he seem to have some opinions. Apparently our society is being destroyed because we don't respect each other. But Brian you seem to have trouble with what respect actually is and more importantly how to get it. Because unlike the old days, respect isn't something that is immediately bestowed on you because you happen to be male, old, a father, a teacher. Using violence and intimidation isn't a way to gain respect either, it is a way to elicit fear from victims which I suppose for the people who talk about 'PC madness' is one and the same thing. But for some people real respect is something that is earned through excelling in your role whether that be as a parent, teacher, coach, older sister and also treating others well.

But of course the article that talks about initiatives to help men become better fathers is relegated to page 3 because those hard manly men wouldn't want to 'risk' being mistaken as 'male mothers.'


stargazer said...

great post and i agree totally with what you say. i remember sue moroney's inaugural speech in the house (found here, which includes this bit:

Understanding the difference in the two leadership styles I have just outlined puts the political correctness debate into context. Some have struggled to define what political correctness is. It appears that anything not believed or accepted by the majority is politically correct and therefore must be eradicated.

However, I’m going to stick with the literal meaning. Strictly speaking, the term political correctness means the correcting of power. Power is corrected when rights and recognition are given to those who previously didn’t have them and this has the effect of taking power out of the hands of the few and putting it in the hands of the many. Therefore, when I hear people complaining about something being “politically correct” I know that they are worried it will pass some power onto another group. It’s called power sharing and I’m all for it.

Alison said...

Fortunately, he sounds like such an idiot, I have high hopes that some lukewarm supporters of the s59 repeal might get jogged towards more ardent support.

I don't think there are many rational people out there who would support a call to allow parents to leave their kid in the car while they go to the pub, and then drive them home, post drinking, yet Lahore seems to be suggesting they should. Hopefully such an irrational assertion on his part will contextualise his own and others' calls to be allowed to smack (hit!) their children - or anyone else's for that matter.


Hugh said...

It sounds to me like he was auditioning for a part in the Four Yorkshiremen sketch.

alison said...

It sounds to me like he was auditioning for a part in the Four Yorkshiremen sketch.


Danielle said...

My emailed reaction to a friend this morning:

"Crusty Old Man Berates These Kids Today; Says They Should Get Off His Lawn

Seriously, was that an article from the Onion?"


Russell Brown said...

Tragically, I had been under the impression that Brian Lochore, as a successful All Black captain and manager, was a man of some stature.

Unfortunately, he proves to be a whining old git.

Honestly, most of that speech didn't even make sense.

George Darroch said...

"Political correctness" simply means treating people with dignity and respect. It's something that groups with power would rather choose to give only when it suits them.

I find that if I replace someone's "political correctness" in a statement, it's immediately apparent what they mean. That they don't want to treat (insert group) with dignity or respect.

Julie said...

Hugh, you made me laugh out loud in the internet cafe, now everyone will know I'm not gaming!

Fab post E-E, I'm so glad you've written about this, I had to have a few go's at reading Lochore's comments this morning because they were kind of contradictory and I thought I must be missing something.

There was an ad for Marcus Lush's radio show on the telly a while back with a soundbite from him saying that "PCness" is really just manners and respect, and I was so pleased they played it for months.

And I heard an interview on the radio a while back about the roots of the anti-PC thing and basically a lot of the silly examples that get bandied around were made up for a book of jokes about PC stuff, eg "personhole" etc. So most of the extreme things that piss people off and are labelled "PC" actually never happened to start with.

And on that article about supporting fathers, I was really heartened to see that. I hope it isn't one of the things that might get ditched if the Families Commission goes, say if National gets in. I never thought I'd be a big supporter of the FC, but they really are doing some good work.

Dave said...

Stargazer - Political Correctness is not about correcting the balance of power. In 1040's nazi germany it was politically correct to promulgate the ideal of the final solution to the jewish problem.

Danielle said...

[dingdingding] We have a Godwin!

Psycho Milt said...

For all that Lochore appears to be a deranged old munter, I must say I would rather gnaw off a limb than endure some liberal lecturing me on "becoming a better father."

Deborah said...

Fabulous post, Steph. I saw Lochore's nonsense as I was heading off to work this morning, and thought, I'm going to have to write something about that tonight. But as Julie has said before me, it's the quick and the postless around here....

I endorse what you have said, thoroughly and totally.

Hugh said...

1040s Nazi Germany? Wow, I didn't realise Heinrich III was a National Socialist.

In fact I didn't realise Germany existed in 1040.

Gee, we left-wingers really don't know the first thing about history!

Hugh said...

Tragically, I had been under the impression that Brian Lochore, as a successful All Black captain and manager, was a man of some stature.

Let's hope that this does something to chip away at the widespread delusion that being able to kick a ball across a goalpost real good somehow makes one a superior human being.

Natalie Ferguson said...

I'm just excited about finding a place where an article like that doesn't encourage more 'anti-political correctness activists" to chime in with how much of a feminist you are and how you need to move on because everything is equal now.

You explained my thoughts exactly and I think you're right that those who are anti-political correctness are actually the boring, obnoxious ones. I always found that but couldn't put it into words.

Julie said...

Ok Hugh, we have to stop meeting like this, that's twice in two days now that you have made me laugh out loud at the screen. If you do it again and I spit out my drink all over the laptop then you and I may have to have words.

Readers here may be interested in the thoughts of my fav current MP Sue Bradford at Frogblog and the wonderful Xavier Goldie at

Christina said...

I agree with the post and most of the comments here, but at the risk of getting smacked, can I point out that the term "political correctness" actually does have a long history - going back to Marxism/Leninism and Communist China, according to the excellent Wikipedia article. I was interested when I first read the phrase in a translated Chinese detective novel, essentially refering to "things the Party approves of". I guess that's where the perjorative sense comes from, and now it has just become lazy shorthand for "I can't be bothered changing the way I do/say things just so someone else can be treated with dignity and respect"

Glenn said...

“Political correctness” does have referents in reality and, for many people, like many things, they know it when they see it, but have difficulty defining it. Political correctness is effectively the co-option of language and the enforcement of behaviors to achieve certain socio-political outcomes, hence “politically correct.” One behaves or speaks (and hence thinks) in a way that is in alignment with that political outcome.

Someone mentioned that political correctness is simply “respect.” Someone else astutely mentioned that respect has to be earned. Yet political correctness is a kind of unconditional, unearned respect. Political correctness compels us to uncritically “respect” other cultures, for instance, simply because they are other cultures. For the politically correct, culture is beyond criticism (western cultures an interesting exception, for some reason), enforcing a form of cultural relativism that precludes rational criticism. It replaces critical thought with a Pavlovian reaction of “that’s offensive!” Unfortunately, political correctness has spawned a backlash that itself operates on a knee-jerk basis. People sense political correctness, and react in an exaggerated manner to express their opposition to it.

Perhaps the form of political correctness that offends most people is the attempt to impose an artificial egalitarianism. Hierarchies of ability, of outcome, and of performance exist in nature and, for many, it seems absurd to pretend that they don’t, as political correctness does. A classic example is the revision of “disabled” to the cumbersome “differently-abled.” “Different” implies an equality that, in reality, does not exist. Another example is the artificial elevation of participation to the status of success or winning. Again, this artificially imposed equality of outcome runs so counter to the hierarchies that exist in nature, that people react negatively to it.

Anyway, just two cents from who can actually articulate their opposition to political correctness, even if somewhat extemporaneously.

Have a nice weekend and respectfully :) yours


Zonk said...

The irony struck me as I was reading this. Was I the only one who noticed all the responses are in the "blogsphere"? One or two posters have also been listening to talkback radio too. Sadly, there was a fair amount of disrespecting Brian too.

Looks like there's more than one way to be a bigot.

By the way, nice post Glenn.

Ayrdale said...

Glen, excellent post. Clear and unambiguous. Politically correct is another term for "ideologically sound". Orwell understood it well enough.