Political Correct Minds Are Fragile Sharing


Politically Correct Minds Are Fragile, Fragmented Minds

Shafkat Sakeebur Rahman

Oh! What a world we live in! Everyone’s obsessed with labeling everyone else. In the 1980s, eminent physicist David Bohm addressed this particular fragmentation of our consciousness in which us, humans, have this natural proclivity to create distinctions among ourselves in terms of race, gender, nation, etc. These kinds of classifications lead to instabilities within political systems resulting in conflict. Recently our prime minister was criticized for mansplaining a woman in the audience during a town hall in Edmonton. On the other side an esteemed professor from the University of Toronto, Dr J B Peterson came under fire for refusing to use legislated gender neutral pronouns under Bill C-16 a bill that has now passed second reading in the House of Commons, which adds “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the list of attributes protected by the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.

So what’s actually happening?

These days everyone is so afraid of being called “sexist”, “racist”, “anti-Semitic”, “transphobic” or some other label that can end your career, that we are all treading too carefully around issues of diversity, avoiding them altogether if we possibly can. Such is the idea of political correctness (PC) and it has gained quite the traction lately. The term is usually associated with the censorship of policies, actions, and language seen to disadvantage or offend a particular group of people in society, and the development of ways to fix such social injustices.

So what’s the big idea?

Critical Theory and the PC Culture

The present counter-revolution against liberty has several battlegrounds amidst the North American society. The most graphic account of this can be seen on college and university campuses across the country, where the ideology of “political correctness” is suppressing freedom of speech and repressing intellectual controversy and debate. The most essential ingredient to this campaign is the capture of language. It is important to understand the fact that language shapes our reality.

A major contributor to the PC movement is the doctrine put forward by postmodernist academics such as Derrida, Foucault, and Marcuse. Derrida criticized the psychological process of categorization, suggesting that making any divisions is itself an act of motivated exclusion, serving the interests of maintaining power, an idea that got popular in the humanities department of universities. The central tenet of postmodernist philosophy being that there is no single description of reality but infinitely many. This being a valid claim has been misinterpreted and misused to a degree which has blurred the lines of what is true and false. Because there is a tremendous variability in the number of interpretations you can bring to bear on a situation then you can instantly jump to the conclusion that none of those interpretation should be privileged above any others. This makes postmodernism correct in its central claim but incorrect because even if there is a large number of potential interpretation of the world that doesn’t mean that there is an equally large number of viable interpretations of the world.

But long even before Derrida, there was Marxism from which the fundamentals of postmodern philosophy is derived from. Enter critical theory, also known as cultural Marxism, both terms which hold important historical origins.

Right after World War I, intellectuals, Antonio Gramsci in Italy and Georg Lukacs in Hungary concluded that the Marxist class theory didn’t play out because Western values were too religiously bound by Christianity and had more emphasis on the individual over the collective. These values had to be destroyed in order for the communist utopia to be achieved. A spinoff from this philosophy was used by a few intellectuals to create the Frankfurt School which introduced the idea of cultural marxism.

The members of the Frankfurt School Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Wilhelm Reich, Erich Fromm and Herbert Marcuse, to name the most important, arrived at was to replace class as the locus of struggle with culture. In other words, the traditional Marxist Klassenkampf (class struggle) was to be entirely repackaged with a new set of Marxist values of the Kulturkampf (culture struggle). This whole idea was imported to North America when Hitler came to power  and these intellectuals at the Frankfurt School fled and found themselves a new home in New York City’s Columbia University.

Marxism got rebranded and repackaged as Critical Theory and was propagated as the central theme for the ideology in transforming socialism to liberalism to progressivism. Now, there is no proletariat vs the bourgeoisie only the oppressor vs the oppressed. The progressives we see on the media are built on the ideologies of the same socialists a hundred years ago. Once socialism got a bad rap for central direction and command under what was likely to be a dictatorial political regime, it quickly transformed itself into “progressive liberalism” with a linguistic sleight-of-hand commonly known as “postmodernism”.

The new race collectivists and progressives have learned to use this philosophy as proper etiquette and good manners that acts as a weapon to silence and beat down anyone or anything not consistent with their worldview and political agenda. Anything said or done inconsistent with their ideas and ideology is “hurtful” to some oppressed minority or subgroup in society.

Networks, Beliefs and Antifragility

Our brains are complex systems that are made of neurons which network together and give emergence to conscious experiences. Just as our neurons form networks in order to give us a conscious experience, our T-cells form networks to keep our immune systems working, our organs form networks to keep the body working. All complex systems have this inherent need to form networks with other complex systems to achieve a higher level of organization. Since humans are complex systems they have social networks between themselves that give rise to an organizational structure we call society.

It is of immense importance to understand that our beliefs are an emergent phenomenon of networked perceptual experiences. The perceptual experiences we have communicate within themselves in certain recognizable patterns, what we call beliefs. All complex systems are subject to certain rules and one of them is anti-fragility.

Anti-fragility is a term coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, to describe a system that gets stronger when subject to disruptions. Our beliefs are antifragile systems because they grow stronger when faced with examples that counter it. One such example is the belief in God for religious people. When faced with hardships or situations that are difficult, their belief in God increases. The same goes for our immune systems which is anti-fragile as well. When one is given a flu shot, a tiny amount of virus is introduced in the body which causes the body to produce a better defense system against the flu.

In my opinion, the West has a tremendous disgust towards discomfort. That goes for every aspect of life from eating habits to child rearing. Overprotective parents shielding their children from adversity, but also from hardships that help them mature, giving rise to hypersensitive adults as Jonathan Haidt points out in his essay in the Atlantic, “The Coddling of the American Mind”. Doctors prescribe Prozac like candy: One in 10 Americans is on an antidepressant. If one looks at the statistics, Africa, where healthcare is almost next to nothing, people there are more resistant to diseases. But here in North America you will see that excessive germ-sensitivity has given rise to a phenomena in which their own immune system attacks the body resulting in autoimmune diseases.

The same goes for our sociocultural position right now. Certain groups of people have become so hypersensitive because of their upbringing that they have an immediate reaction towards anything that doesn’t match their current state of beliefs. Their beliefs are not prone to anti-fragility. Every now and then it’s okay to eat with a hand that has not been washed properly. We don’t want “safe spaces” in universities but instead we need the humanities departments to be humane enough that they empower people intellectually so that the students can foster in themselves the right kind of anti-fragility required to protect their belief systems from viral thoughts that result in negative ideologies. The need for a generative metalogue on this issue becomes a necessity.

  Source: Graphite Publications