Reply
Moderator
KxBurns
Posts: 1,006
Registered: ‎09-06-2007
0 Kudos

Political Correctness

The idea of political correctness pervades The Believers and has been the topic of a wonderful exchange over in the Community Room. What demands does political correctness make of us, and how does it operate in reality to foster or impede dialogue?

 

In what ways is political correctness manifested in the novel? What importance does political correctness carry in the milieu of the Litvinoffs? How does the inability or reluctance to express politically incorrect opinions for fear of censure allow some characters to maintain unexamined prejudices?

Inspired Contributor
Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Political Correctness

[ Edited ]

I think of political correctness as being kind and polite to people who historically have had a raw deal. For that reason I do not baulk against it as much as most although it seems to have got more out of hand in the US than in the UK. There are also a lot of untrue stories about the use of it.  These two BBC Radio 4 programmes discuss this topic:-

 

 

1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/pcrip/pip/mj1qc/

 

2) http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/pcrip/

Message Edited by Choisya on 10-28-2008 09:14 AM
Distinguished Wordsmith
Everyman
Posts: 9,216
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Political Correctness

What demands does political correctness make of us, and how does it operate in reality to foster or impede dialogue?

 

One aspect of political correctness is that if a group wants to avoid being criticized, all it needs to do is successfully claim victimhood.  

 

Political correctness, at least in this country, has some insidious and often out-of-sight effects. One such was well covered in a program shown last night on the Documentary Channel, which unfortunately I cannot find a link to, which exposed the well recognized on campus but largely ignored problem that students who dare to express conservative viewpoints on many (probably most) of the major colleges and universities in the country sometimes receive lower grades even in classes (several specifically named were biology, romance languages, and physics) because which have nothing to do with political thought because of their expressed conservative political views, which are anathema to the prevailing political correctness culture.  

 

Conformity of thought is replacing any sense that colleges and universities have any responsibility to teach critical thinking or expose students to a range of viewpoints.  We are raising a generation in which thinking for oneself is unacceptable.  We will eventually pay a price for this as a society.  

_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
Inspired Contributor
Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Political Correctness

Everyman: 

well recognized on campus but largely ignored problem that students who dare to express conservative viewpoints on many (probably most) of the major colleges and universities in the country sometimes receive lower grades even in classes (several specifically named were biology, romance languages, and physics) because which have nothing to do with political thought because of their expressed conservative political views, which are anathema to the prevailing political correctness culture.

 

But is this anything to do with political correctness, which is a comparatively new phenomena?  It is well recognised throughout the world that student communities and academia are more left wing, more rebellious, than the general population.Particularly those studying the arts. Look at who make up the majority on protest marches, who are the most bohemian in dress and behaviour - left wing students. Most left wing writing and thought comes via the universities and always has done.  It therefore stands to reason that students who are right wing will have a harder time 'getting on the wavelength' of both their fellow students and their tutors.  There are some universities who buck this trend, especially the ones with strong religious and/or science faculties but right wing young people have often had difficulty in fitting in at university. 

 

This is true of Oxford, Cambridge and many of our old universities and true of the Sorbonne too so I guess it may be equally true of American universities. 

 

 


Everyman wrote:

What demands does political correctness make of us, and how does it operate in reality to foster or impede dialogue?

 

One aspect of political correctness is that if a group wants to avoid being criticized, all it needs to do is successfully claim victimhood.  

 

Political correctness, at least in this country, has some insidious and often out-of-sight effects. One such was well covered in a program shown last night on the Documentary Channel, which unfortunately I cannot find a link to, which exposed the well recognized on campus but largely ignored problem that students who dare to express conservative viewpoints on many (probably most) of the major colleges and universities in the country sometimes receive lower grades even in classes (several specifically named were biology, romance languages, and physics) because which have nothing to do with political thought because of their expressed conservative political views, which are anathema to the prevailing political correctness culture.  

 

Conformity of thought is replacing any sense that colleges and universities have any responsibility to teach critical thinking or expose students to a range of viewpoints.  We are raising a generation in which thinking for oneself is unacceptable.  We will eventually pay a price for this as a society.  


 

Frequent Contributor
VictoriousMary
Posts: 48
Registered: ‎09-11-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Political Correctness

The whole family with the exception of Lenny, believes that it has stock in political correctness.  I think that they never consider that they are so liberal that they have gone over the edge to being politically incorrect in not accepting any one else's political views or political freedom. 

 

The reality of Audrey fighting for the freedom and underprivileged  minority rights  in striking contrast to the GirlPower girls who are there representing the purely underprivileged minority with little freedom and no rights being lead around by her own daughter.  They are not even speaking the same language - never mind political correctness.  

Victorious Mary
Distinguished Wordsmith
Everyman
Posts: 9,216
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Political Correctness

I don't agree that the universities have always been leftist, at least nearly to the degree that they are today.  My father's experience at Cambridge was not that at all, for example.  My own college had much liberal thought, but also had plenty of room and scope for conservative though, and constructive dialogue between the two was perfectly possible.  No student at my college would even have dreamed that their grades would be negatively affected by their expressing conservative points of view.

 

What political correctness has done is to largely eliminate and delegitimize even the possibility of dialogue between differing points of view.  That, at least in American academia, and I spent some time in teaching and administration at the college and graduate level so do have some personal experience to draw on, is a relatively recent phenomenon.  The difference in student experiences on college campuses from the time my sister and I went to college and graduate school in the 1960s to the time I went back to campus for three years of law school in the late 1980s/early 1990s was startling.  And it was in large part a function of out of control political correctness.

_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
Distinguished Wordsmith
Everyman
Posts: 9,216
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Political Correctness

I think of political correctness as being kind and polite to people who historically have had a raw deal.

 

But not to those who had nothing to do with creating the raw deal but are nonetheless blamed for it.  There is no obligation to be kind or polite to them.

 

My father didn't come to this country until the 1930s, but because I have the same skin color as many of the American slaveholders (not all by any means -- there were black slaveholders, too, but that is conveniently forgotten) I am presumed guilty of and blamed for the sins that were perpetuated by people with whom neither I nor my family had anything whatsoever to do.  

 

Which is, of course, pure racism, but it is politically correct racism.   

 

But we should bring this discussion back to the issue of political correctness in the book at issue.  One thing I found interesting was how smug Joel became at his activities as an uber-liberal political-correctness to the extreme defender of the most unpopular figures he could dredge up.  On page 28, for example, he is almost disappointed that he doesn't inspire more hatred and loathing.  It's sort of like a person who walks naked up Broadway expecting to experience gasps of horror and disgust only to be met by yawns and so-wnat smirks.  

_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
Distinguished Wordsmith
Everyman
Posts: 9,216
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Political Correctness

I think that they never consider that they are so liberal that they have gone over the edge to being politically incorrect in not accepting any one else's political views or political freedom.

 

That's an interesting comment because one of the tenets of political correctness is that one should NOT accept non-conforming political views, but should battle them without any attempt at genuine understanding or dialogue.  It really reminds one strongly of the worst of the Catholic-Protestant hostility where one who didn't share your beliefs was necessarily heretic, damned to perdition, and an enemy to be destroyed, not tolerated.  

 

Which makes it interesting that what has traditionally been fervor based on religious, not political, belief has infest this avowedly atheistic family so ferociously.  

 


VictoriousMary wrote:

The whole family with the exception of Lenny, believes that it has stock in political correctness.  I think that they never consider that they are so liberal that they have gone over the edge to being politically incorrect in not accepting any one else's political views or political freedom. 

 

The reality of Audrey fighting for the freedom and underprivileged  minority rights  in striking contrast to the GirlPower girls who are there representing the purely underprivileged minority with little freedom and no rights being lead around by her own daughter.  They are not even speaking the same language - never mind political correctness.  


 

 

_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
Moderator
KxBurns
Posts: 1,006
Registered: ‎09-06-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Political Correctness


Everyman wrote:

[edited]

But we should bring this discussion back to the issue of political correctness in the book at issue.  One thing I found interesting was how smug Joel became at his activities as an uber-liberal political-correctness to the extreme defender of the most unpopular figures he could dredge up.  On page 28, for example, he is almost disappointed that he doesn't inspire more hatred and loathing.  It's sort of like a person who walks naked up Broadway expecting to experience gasps of horror and disgust only to be met by yawns and so-wnat smirks.  


Absolutely -- great job. This is an interesting dialogue, but let's get deeper into the issue of political correctness and the novel.

 

To my mind, political correctness is -- or at least started out as -- a taboo placed on certain opinions with the intent of discouraging the airing of morally reprehensible views.

 

What I find most interesting is how, in the particular social climate of the Litvinoffs, PCness creates an environment hostile to the expression of any attitudes that don't satisfactorily exemplify the liberal agenda. This results in Audrey trying to hide (even to Maria, her cleaning lady!) that she has a cleaning lady because she can afford it and it's a nice luxury; it prevents Rosa from really acknowledging or dealing with the feelings of disdain she feels toward her charges at the GirlPower Center. Not being able to openly examine these attitudes for fear of condemnation is what keeps them from being resolved.

 

Agree or disagree? Fire away!  :smileyhappy: 

Frequent Contributor
LucyintheOC
Posts: 69
Registered: ‎03-05-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Political Correctness

[ Edited ]

Kx Burns wrote: What demands does political correctness make of us, and how does it operate in reality to foster or impede dialogue?

____

 

(Ohh!! I feel so terribly un-PC! ..Do I dare even post this response?! )

 

I think political correctness has killed (ok, let me tone this down to "stiffled almost to death" ) honesty between individuals (unless you know someone REALLY well or have known them REALLY well for a really long time), and has also trampled our ability for honest dialogue, not only on many individual levels, but on public levels as well. While the idea of, and the reasons for, political correctness may be noble, I think polical correctness has crippled us as individuals and as a society. And I don't think we will get to the place where we hoped political correctness would take us, or was supposed to assist us in getting to, as PC is practiced by people, and our society, today.

 

This does not mean I believe in being a cretin...because I believe people should interact with each other in an honest way with civility, descretion, tact and kindness. In the short term, and in theory, I think political correctness may have its value...but in the long term, I don't think it has, nor will in the future, serve us very well.

 

With respect to the book and the characters, I think that PC is one of the main reasons that the Litvinoff's were so dysfunctional (not so much Joel, but the rest of the family). They were so entrenched in political correctness, they couldn't even be honest with each other or their own selves -- a source of their respective, individual unhappinesses.

Message Edited by LucyintheOC on 10-28-2008 09:43 PM
Message Edited by LucyintheOC on 10-28-2008 09:44 PM
Inspired Correspondent
EbonyAngel
Posts: 276
Registered: ‎12-22-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Political Correctness


LucyintheOC wrote:

Kx Burns wrote: What demands does political correctness make of us, and how does it operate in reality to foster or impede dialogue?

____

 

(Ohh!! I feel so terribly un-PC! ..Do I dare even post this response?! )

 

I think political correctness has killed (ok, let me tone this down to "stiffled almost to death" ) honesty between individuals (unless you know someone REALLY well or have known them REALLY well for a really long time), and has also trampled our ability for honest dialogue, not only on many individual levels, but on public levels as well. While the idea of, and the reasons for, political correctness may be noble, I think polical correctness has crippled us as individuals and as a society. And I don't think we will get to the place where we hoped political correctness would take us, or was supposed to assist us in getting to, as PC is practiced by people, and our society, today.

 

This does not mean I believe in being a cretin...because I believe people should interact with each other in an honest way with civility, descretion, tact and kindness. In the short term, and in theory, I think political correctness may have its value...but in the long term, I don't think it has, nor will in the future, serve us very well.

 

With respect to the book and the characters, I think that PC is one of the main reasons that the Litvinoff's were so dysfunctional (not so much Joel, but the rest of the family). They were so entrenched in political correctness, they couldn't even be honest with each other or their own selves -- a source of their respective, individual unhappinesses.

Message Edited by LucyintheOC on 10-28-2008 09:43 PM
Message Edited by LucyintheOC on 10-28-2008 09:44 PM

 

I agree with you on this.  PC does take a lot out of a person.  Even in families, you're almost forced to act and be a certain way because of sex or birth order.  I noticed this a little in the book.  Not that this is so much PC as behavior and what society deems is the correct behavior.
Frequent Contributor
mwinasu
Posts: 149
Registered: ‎02-02-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Political Correctness

  The noun "Liberal" has come to be one of the ugliest names that a person can be called in this nation. I remember the first time I was called a liberal( actually it was liberal bitch)  It was because I told one of the people who run this town that they couldn't  keep handicapped kids out of the schools.  He called them mouth breathers and said there was no way to know if they learned anything or not. And it cost us more than we got from the feds to keep them in classes.  After the first sting I admit I started feeling pretty good about myself.   Calling someone a liberal is just  a way to dismiss the concerns and needs of people who are not like you. It is a way to convince yourself that your are morally superior.  It is a label that keeps us from coming together and solving the very real problems that we face today.

  So I can understand what Joel felt.  I have found that it is more important to please myself than others.

Author
Zoe-Heller
Posts: 33
Registered: ‎10-27-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Political Correctness


mwinasu wrote:

  The noun "Liberal" has come to be one of the ugliest names that a person can be called in this nation. I remember the first time I was called a liberal( actually it was liberal bitch)  It was because I told one of the people who run this town that they couldn't  keep handicapped kids out of the schools.  He called them mouth breathers and said there was no way to know if they learned anything or not. And it cost us more than we got from the feds to keep them in classes.  After the first sting I admit I started feeling pretty good about myself.   Calling someone a liberal is just  a way to dismiss the concerns and needs of people who are not like you. It is a way to convince yourself that your are morally superior.  It is a label that keeps us from coming together and solving the very real problems that we face today.

  So I can understand what Joel felt.  I have found that it is more important to please myself than others.


I'm with you, mwinasu! I bear the name of 'liberal' proudly. (Although it doesn't exclude me from taking issue with my fellow liberals, from time to time.)

 


Learn more about The Believers.

Discover all Zoë Heller titles.
Author
Zoe-Heller
Posts: 33
Registered: ‎10-27-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Political Correctness


LucyintheOC wrote:

Kx Burns wrote: What demands does political correctness make of us, and how does it operate in reality to foster or impede dialogue?

____

 

(Ohh!! I feel so terribly un-PC! ..Do I dare even post this response?! )

 

I think political correctness has killed (ok, let me tone this down to "stiffled almost to death" ) honesty between individuals (unless you know someone REALLY well or have known them REALLY well for a really long time), and has also trampled our ability for honest dialogue, not only on many individual levels, but on public levels as well. While the idea of, and the reasons for, political correctness may be noble, I think polical correctness has crippled us as individuals and as a society. And I don't think we will get to the place where we hoped political correctness would take us, or was supposed to assist us in getting to, as PC is practiced by people, and our society, today.

 

This does not mean I believe in being a cretin...because I believe people should interact with each other in an honest way with civility, descretion, tact and kindness. In the short term, and in theory, I think political correctness may have its value...but in the long term, I don't think it has, nor will in the future, serve us very well.

 

With respect to the book and the characters, I think that PC is one of the main reasons that the Litvinoff's were so dysfunctional (not so much Joel, but the rest of the family). They were so entrenched in political correctness, they couldn't even be honest with each other or their own selves -- a source of their respective, individual unhappinesses.

Message Edited by LucyintheOC on 10-28-2008 09:43 PM
Message Edited by LucyintheOC on 10-28-2008 09:44 PM

Yup, I agree with you, Lucy. If by "political correctness", we mean a set of rules about what it is acceptable to say aloud, I think p.c. can be deeply unhelpful to political debate. Audrey, for example, could never consider the possibility that the invasion of Afghanistan serves any decent purpose - it would offend her deepest sense of her liberal self.

 


Learn more about The Believers.

Discover all Zoë Heller titles.
Frequent Contributor
mwinasu
Posts: 149
Registered: ‎02-02-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Political Correctness

  Thank you Zoe, I so needed to hear that .  I think the book is brilliant. And I love the way you use language. 
Frequent Contributor
Jennd1
Posts: 75
Registered: ‎01-28-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Political Correctness

I always think of political correctness as a set of rules of what you can and can't say and how you should say it.  I see it as more of a social construct and it can be constricting in some social situations.  I think the way Karla  tries to control Mike and his over the top behavior  toward Audrey point us in the direction of this type of political correctness.  It is some times painfully obvius that Mike just does not know the right thing to do, but then again I found myself wondering if he didn't know darn well and was doing it to get at Audrey or Karla.

 

Jenn

Frequent Contributor
LucyintheOC
Posts: 69
Registered: ‎03-05-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Political Correctness

Jennd1, I got the feeling that Mike knew "the right thing to do" but I think that in his personal life he just didn't care enough about the feelings of others actually do the right thing. He did "his thing" in that he followed his own personal agenda and first, and foremost served his own personal needs, without much consideration for the feelings of others -- most importantly, the feelings of what should have been the most important "other" in his life -- his wife. I think he was loutish and, at moments (especially the more personal moments between himself and his wife) was a true lout. Although there was a moment or two where he did pause and consider the feelings of others, there weren't enough to count and I think he was as self-serving in many ways as Audrey -- he was just a nicer person and not as bitter as she. As far as his public life, I think he was PC without question.

Distinguished Wordsmith
Everyman
Posts: 9,216
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Political Correctness

  The noun "Liberal" has come to be one of the ugliest names that a person can be called in this nation.

 

The problem is that just in my lifetime the term liberal has undergone an almost 180 degree change.  When I was young and an unrepentant liberal, back in the days of Stevenson, Humphrey, and Kennedy, what I now have to call classic liberalism meant accepting personal responsibility, belief in free speech (no classicliberal would tolerate speech codes in universities), social programs only for those in genine need, openness to all ideas, and respect for life.  But contemporary liberalism has abandoned almost all of these key values of 50s and 60s liberalism and turned them on their heads.

_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
Moderator
KxBurns
Posts: 1,006
Registered: ‎09-06-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Political Correctness


Everyman wrote:

  The noun "Liberal" has come to be one of the ugliest names that a person can be called in this nation.

 

The problem is that just in my lifetime the term liberal has undergone an almost 180 degree change.  When I was young and an unrepentant liberal, back in the days of Stevenson, Humphrey, and Kennedy, what I now have to call classic liberalism meant accepting personal responsibility, belief in free speech (no classicliberal would tolerate speech codes in universities), social programs only for those in genine need, openness to all ideas, and respect for life.  But contemporary liberalism has abandoned almost all of these key values of 50s and 60s liberalism and turned them on their heads.


 

I think you've hit the nail on the head, Eman. The personal and cultural impact of this metamorphosis is one of the issues raised by the book. Have Audrey and Joel been carried along by the tide or have they been left behind?...