Common Sense Vs Political Correctness… defining the ‘ideological’ battle

Tory Poster makerWhile I’m a partly political blogger, I won’t be boring anyone with blow by blow accounts of the campaigns or policy announcements as I care little for either. In my, perhaps idealistic, world we’d be voting for Big Ideas, values and inspiring visions of the way the world should be. All policy would flow from these, rendering detailed policy debate redundant. But we’ll get the opposite, epitomised by the debate on public sector waste. What a charade. Nobody’s going to argue for waste and whoever’s in power will employ the same small clutch of management consultants from time to time to look for efficiency savings. Yawn!

That said, the Tories’ ‘Are you thinking what we’re thinking?’ campaign is open to parody in wonderful ways thanks to the Conservative Party poster generator, which I first found at Small Values of Cool. More than that it’s actually the closest thing we’re going to get to an ideological discussion. It’s a call for Conservative Common Sense rather than Political Correctness, a divide well worth exploring.

Beware of anyone who evokes common sense, implying it to be a shared body of knowledge – the things everyone knows (or should know) to be true – that requires no explanation. Far from being neutral, common sense is acquired by osmosis and reflects the world view and prejudices of the sub-culture to which you belong. So to rely on common sense is to rely on prejudice and while different forms of common sense afflict us all (few have the time to challenge and think everything through) it’s dangerous. (It’s unreliable too. Take the Conservative slogan, ‘How hard is it to keep a hospital clean?’ calling upon common sense to say it’s easy. If it were easy, we’d have no MRSA.)

That said political correctness is common sense to some people, but not to those who’ve thought the issues through and reached politically correct conclusions. Political correctness is just good manners. It’s about not causing offence to those who belong to groups that tend to suffer discrimination because of their race, for example. The politically incorrect are frustrated that their language causes offence and tend to rely on stated intentions or self belief: ‘I’m not racist, but…’. They fail to recognise that a language’s meaning is not fixed and that their words mean different things to different people. They have their own common sense definitions and when somebody else says they’re offended they deny their experience and accuse them of censorship.

Many conservatives genuinely believe themselves not to be racist, but reliance on common sense shows a failure to examine the ideas that drive them: conservatives can’t be sure they’re not racist. And we can go further. Conservatives’ rejection of political correctness requires them to deny (whether they articulate this or not) the existence of racist language and implies that they’re racist by instinct.

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