Nowadays, it seems impossible to work an entire week without encountering the weasel word that is ‘diversity’. Business corporations organize ‘diversity awareness courses’. Public sector agencies employ ‘Diversity Officers’. My daughter’s university holds an annual ‘Diversity Week’, as do, I presume, most others. This central plank of political correctness has become ubiquitous.
The first online definition I came across read as follows:
‘Diversity awareness is one’s ability to embrace the uniqueness of all individuals along several dimensions such as race, religious beliefs, ethnicity, age, gender, physical abilities, political beliefs, and socio-economic status.’
It sounds benign enough. Even so, such elementary human attitudes used to come under the heading of ‘common courtesy’. Anyone obliged to attend a ‘diversity training’ event would probably receive careful instruction regarding tolerance of others and of their respective opinions and beliefs.
So far, so virtuous – but let us scratch the surface a little. Imagine participating in a ‘diversity’ seminar, where the importance of mutual tolerance was repeatedly stressed. Now, suppose a fellow trainee introduced him or herself as follows:
‘My name is XXXXX. I am a racist. I believe racism forms the intellectual basis for the concept of the nation state. Furthermore, I am proudly xenophobic; although I do not like the word “xenophobic”, as it is a Greek word, and I cannot abide Greeks … or, for that matter, Italians; and the less said about most other Europeans, and more so non-Europeans, the better. Today’s young people are largely devoid of education; elderly folk have an unwarranted sense of entitlement; and religious devotees are delusional, possibly a consequence of undiagnosed mental illness. I reject entirely the multicultural ideal. This is particularly relevant to Islamic culture, which is pervasive and fundamentally incompatible with the established Western secular way of life. Oh, and lastly, owing to my unwavering belief in karma, it seems clear that disabled people, and the disadvantaged in general, had it coming to them.’
This is, of course, a deliberately controversial caricature, drawn purely to demonstrate a point. If such a case were made, it would doubtless go down like the proverbial lead brick. Jaws would hit the floor and eyes would pop out on stalks. Mine certainly would. We must, however, refer back to the obligatory ‘tolerance’ of others’ views. Should the aforesaid views, therefore, be tolerated? I would say so, however unpalatable they might sound. Would they be tolerated by ‘diversity’ advocates? I think you know the answer to that as well as I do.
Therein lies the inherent hypocrisy of political correctness. It recommends tolerance of only those views that it finds tolerable, and is intolerant of views that it considers to be intolerant. This misguided doctrine thus eats itself, rather like the mythical ouroboros in Egyptian iconography – a snake or dragon which devours its own tail (Figure 111.1).
Figure 111.1: The word ‘ouroboros’ is Greek: ‘oura’ = ‘tail’ and ‘boros’ = ‘eating’. The icon even has relevance in modern science, namely in organic chemistry. (Look up Kekulé’s dream.)
The (intentional) consequence of this (unintentional) self-contradiction is a smothering of legitimate debate, rhetoric and argument. In an enlightened society, it ought to be possible to hold an unemotional discussion with someone who fervently disagrees (Figure 111.2). Much truth, after all, begins as heresy; whereas suppression of dissent allows the perpetuation of falsehood and absurdity. Irrational arguments can be contested and demolished only if they are permitted to be aired in the first place.
Figure 111.2: PC zealots would do well to remember the wise words of French philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778), who famously declared: ‘I disapprove of what you say, but would defend to the death your right to say it.’
Free speech is the charlatan’s nemesis. Sadly, it is not the norm worldwide. Most nations are run by autocrats, theocrats, fascists or barefaced gangsters. People risk punishment by speaking out of turn. We in the West have – for now – more rights than most. We must, therefore, decide: do we value freedom of speech and expression, even in their most repellent forms; or should the contemporary Orwellian ‘thought police’ be here to stay?
So, the next time you witness politically-correct, self-styled ‘anti-fascists’ striving to stifle debate (and true diversity of opinion), you might wish to remind them that they resemble the likes of Hitler and Franco more closely than they care to imagine.
Copyright © 2017 Paul Spradbery