The strangest moment of my Christmas was my mother-in-law removing her rosary and crucifix prior to a visit to the pub in case it offended somebody. She doesn’t go to church, doesn’t celebrate Christmas and shortly before that had told us she’s bought a herself a very simple funeral – box and burn – with no religious content. So I’ve no idea why she was wearing them in the first place. The chances of somebody taking offence are nonexistent, except perhaps in the mind of a Daily Mail reader who rarely leaves the house, which she is. Nevertheless, I said nothing.
There’s little doubt that she’s a victim of the war on political correctness, epitomised by the latest nonsense from Civitas. At first sight it’s the phoniest of conflicts, but every now and again they scare one of their own witless. So spurious is the claim that PC thinking ‘is harming society’ last night’s short debate on Channel 4 had to go ahead without a proper PC advocate. By that I mean there was nobody prepared to defend political correctness as defined by Civitas. That’s because nobody of significance subscribes to the ridiculous concept of political correctness condemned by the political right. Instead, we had Polly Toynbee supporting a view I share: ‘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.’
Polly Toynbee rubbished political correctness as a label akin to left or rightwing. If you oppose political correctness, you’re rightwing. If you’re not bothered, you’re leftwing. But just because those on the left aren’t bothered, doesn’t mean political correctness isn’t an important concept. It clearly is or it wouldn’t vex the political right so. And the BNP wouldn’t be so excited by Civitas’ findings (all evidence purely anecdotal, of course): they’re ‘guaranteed 100 per cent politically incorrect’, you’ll be shocked to know.
The war on political correctness is a mechanism by which rightwing thinkers can explain what they’re against and be a little rude. But the more energy they expend on their imaginary enemy, the harder it will be for them to let us know what they stand for.
Update:Political Correctness: the ‘victim’… let’s call a spade a spade