by Stephen Ross
First Published: Scoop, Nov 7, 2005 READ
If the National party could have their way, they’d have you believe the Labour party regularly ships in container loads of a substance known as Political Correctness, and that they routinely hose down the Beehive, policy and parliamentarians with the stuff.
National want to get rid of PC in government. They want to stamp it out, and to this end Dr Don Brash has appointed Dr Wayne Mapp as “Political Correctness Eradicator”. This is akin to appointing a Witchfinder General, and honestly, it’ll have about as much effect as would appointing a Minister of Silly Walks.
National have overlooked a rather obvious detail in their cunning plan: there is no such thing as political correctness. Not per say. PC is just a concept. It’s not tangible in any way. It’s just an idea, and you can’t eradicate an idea.
Political correctness, if it’s anything at all, is a filter through which you can perceive things … if you choose to.
* Smoking banned in bars. Political correctness.
* Prostitution legalized. Political correctness.
* Civil Unions. Political correctness.
Tune into talkback radio — the bastion of the anti-PC crowd — and in addition to the above, you’ll hear everything from the Treaty of Waitangi to even daylight saving labelled as PC mumbo-jumbo.
For Drs Brash and Mapp, and many other “mainstream” New Zealanders, political correctness is the default label for anything they don’t like: I don’t like it, ergo PC.
If you want to get philosophical about it, you could go even deeper and say that the perception of PC (or not PC) is that which separates the ideologies of the left and the right — liberal and conservative thinking.
Your bog-standard conservative will see PC in action, whereas a liberal will see commonsense and a wrong put right.
A few years ago, the majority of New Zealanders didn’t really care about someone using racial epithets to describe someone from a minority group. It wasn’t considered offensive. If anything, it was considered slightly bad mannered. A little further back in time and it wasn’t even deemed that. The majority didn’t give two hoots.
But perceptions change. Society is more and more moving from general thinking (what does it matter?) to specific thinking (well, yes, actually it does!) when it comes to attitudes towards minorities.
And so it should. Minorities are always the last to get a fair deal — because the majority gets theirs first. But just because a group is in the minority, is that any reason not to redress imbalances in society?
Since his appointment as Political Correctness Eradicator, Dr Mapp has been quick to target the smoking ban in bars. It’s not a good start. The smoke-free bar legislation wasn’t enacted for reasons that could even vaguely be read as politically correct. It was a health issue — why should bar workers, and even if they enjoy the odd fag themselves, have to work in atmospheric conditions reminiscent of Welsh coalmines circa 1900?
More disturbingly, Dr Mapp has also advocated that people should be free to express their views both privately and publicly regarding homosexuality, and that PC hate-speech labels or laws shouldn’t stifle such expression.
I believe in this country, we already can articulate ourselves on that subject. Has Bishop Brian Tamaki yet been arrested for telling us exactly how he feels about gays?
It is this in particular that I find deeply worrying. What actually does Dr Mapp want people to be free to say?
I am reminded of the US Supreme Court’s ruling of over a decade ago, when it allowed under the first amendment that it was okay to dress up in white hoods and burn crosses, just so long as you did so on your own front lawn.
Yes, there are some very silly things done in the name of political correctness — mostly overseas — such as the attempt to ban the technical terms “slave and master” from electronics manuals, or the redesign of the Barbie doll because she was too anatomically incorrect (like a Cabbage Patch doll isn’t?).
Although the silliest thing I have yet heard regarding political correctness has come straight out of this country, and that is the appointment of someone to try and eliminate it.