Saturday, 19 March 2016

The Spectator: How my disabled son has changed my mind about political correctness

The Spectator: How my disabled son has changed my mind about political correctness

by Simon Barnes


"I sometimes notice a momentary dismay in people in shops or pubs or casual encounters, but it’s soon conquered. People know they’re not allowed to feel distaste any more. There’s an obligation to get over it and behave as one human being to another. More or less — though not quite — invariably, that’s what people do. They walk away surprised at themselves, and I think enriched.

They do so because society has changed in Eddie’s favour. Because it would be politically incorrect to treat Eddie badly, it has become inexorably clear that treating Eddie badly is also morally incorrect.

It’s natural to resent the bullying of the self-righteous. It’s also natural to feel that students — people forever seeking to make a better job of the world than their parents did — are mistaken to the point of lunacy. When I was a student I was crazy enough to believe that what the world needed was love and peace; one look at today’s newspaper will show you how wrong I was.

Correct terms change with bewildering frequency. Felix Leiter tells James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever: ‘People are so dam’ sensitive about colour around here that you can’t even ask a barman for a jigger of rum. You have to ask for a jegro.’ That was published in 1956: perhaps the first recorded joke about political correctness.

But at heart, political correctness and its attendant language are about inclusivity: race, religion, sexual orientation, age, gender, physical and mental capacity. Non-PC views, however jovially expressed, are about exclusion, generally exclusion of the weak by the strong. And if you go to the pub with Eddie, you do rather tend to think that an inclusive society is better than the other kind."


An excellent article. I had a friend who used to refer to people with Downs Syndrome as 'mongoloids.' When I challenged him, he accused me of being 'politically correct.' Some people use hostility to political correctness as an excuse to say things that really are offensive.

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