According to Wikipedia: “Political correctness (adjectivally, politically correct; both forms commonly abbreviated to PC) is a contentious term that today commonly refers to enforced language, ideas, or policies that address perceived discrimination against political, social or economical groups (“protected classes”). These groups most prominently include those defined by gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age and disability.” I am one of those who have gone on record as describing myself as politically incorrect, and have been known to wear that label as a badge of honour. However, when I checked one online definition, I found it is: “the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against” and had to conclude that on that basis I must be politically correct after all, evidenced by the fact that in the past I have organized diversity events, sat on committees that have promoted equality and diversity and have championed equal opportunities in the workplace.
When the other day I shared an image that someone had posted on Facebook that had particularly struck me: “Political correctness is Fascism pretending to manners”, I got a number of “likes” from my Facebook friends but also one comment to the effect: “what a load of nonsense”. I felt it illustrated how different people can react differently when the notion of political correctness is banded around, and the possible untoward consequences that could result. A little under three years ago, a friend, who has since died, posted an article on Pink News titled “Should the law protect us from insults?”. He argued “Yes” given the distress it can cause to the person being insulted and I argued “No” given all of us feel insulted at some time or another, and we are on a slippery slope if we might be penalized whenever someone takes offence at something we say or do. Unlike as what often happens, we agreed to disagree and remained friends, and I wrote an obituary. I have to confess my interest as a gospel preacher, for I know when I preach we are all sinners that are destined to Hell some will take offence, but it is a necessary pre-requisite for when I go on to say how we can be saved.
In recent days, there have been numerous incidents of people taken to task for saying or doing something that has upset someone else, which I have elaborated in my writings and previous blog entries. This has included preachers being arrested for giving the sort of offence I have just described, people being taken to court, such as the Irish cake makers who refused to make a cake for an activist group that wanted to promote their message, and fined, such as the Bed and Breakfast owners who refused a double bed to a gay couple, and people losing their jobs or demoted such as the employee of a housing association that gave his opinion on gay marriage on his Facebook page. The point here is not to take sides, and I may have acted differently and in a way that is politically correct, but to point out that at this point in our national life, people are penalized for saying what they think and doing what they feel is right, and this without any intention to discriminate against or harm others.
It is right that we promote equality, and no-one should be allowed to deliberately, wrongly and persistently undermine or “do down” or discriminate against another, and get away with it, although I regret the one group that often does get overlooked are the socially disadvantaged, followed by carers, those with a disability e.g. mental health not registered as such and the elderly, meaning we still have some way to go. What I do regret, and it has become increasingly apparent ever since I started to become aware of these things, when I was a teen, is that paying attention to equality is coming to trump doing what is right, such that out of fear, and the result of being brain washed, people just go along with the status quo. The history of my nation has been forged to a significant extent by those who have acted out of conscience (sometimes paying the ultimate price), and while we should not allow it as an excuse when it comes to doing what is harmful (part of the problem is who decides what is and what isn’t harmful), to penalize those who act in accordance with their conscience (as now happens) is a retrograde step.
One of the insidious drivers to the doctrine of political correctness are the militant secularists that would have us believe all ideas or ways of life are of equal merit unless these challenge too strongly their own. Tolerance has come to be seen by some of the PC brigade as the overriding virtue, but not for those who insist their way is the only right one. It is “righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” Proverbs 14:34, and the need of the hour is for people to say and do what is right, and do so without fear.