1970s - Empire as Country and City:
1. "Political Correctness Gone Mad"
New Left Project, 2011:
This is why “PC” and “PC gone mad” are virtually identical – a combination of misunderstood hypersensitivity and Newspeak jargon, resulting in apparently euphemised and politically protected identities that politicians can appear paradoxically (and even hypocritically) to prioritise in the name of equality. In this way, PC risks stigmatising differences by placing the possibility of offence as the foremost concern in a pluralistic society, and may prevent an individual distinguishing themselves positively from their negative, implicitly problematic collective identity. Consequently, cultural homogeneity is seen as an attractive oppositional remedy.
Given all this, it is easy to see why PC is such a popular right-wing sounding board. The right has the additional advantage of its legions of shrill crusading evangelists of ‘Widdy-Wisdom’; the resulting contrast with the more cautionary, dovish left compounds the sense of traitorous effacement of ‘national identity’ that many perceive in PC.
Clifford Geertz, 1984:
What the relativists, so called, want us to worry about is provincialism – the danger that our perceptions will be dulled, our intellects constricted, and our sympathies narrowed by the overlearned and overvalued acceptances of our own society. What the anti-relativists, self-declared, want us to worry about, and worry about and worry about, as though our very souls depended upon it, is a kind of spiritual entropy, a heat death of the mind, in which everything is as significant, thus as insignificant, as everything else: anything goes, to each his own, you pays your money and you takes your choice, I know what I like, not in the south, tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner.
As I have already suggested, I myself find provincialism altogether the more real concern so far as what actually goes on in the world. (Though even there, the thing can be overdone: “You might as well fall flat on your face," one of Thurber’s marvellous "morals" goes, “as lean too far over backward.”) The image of vast numbers of anthropology readers running around in so cosmopolitan a frame of mind as to have no views as to what is and isn’t true, or good, or beautiful, seems to me largely a fantasy. There may be some genuine nihilists out there, along Rodeo Drive or around Times Square, but I doubt very many have become such as a result of an excessive sensitivity to the claims of other cultures; and at least most of the people I meet, read, and read about, and indeed I myself, are all too committed to something or other, usually parochial. “‘Tis the eye of childhood that fears a painted devil”: anti-relativism has largely concocted the anxiety is lives from.
But surely I exaggerate? Surely anti-relativists, secure in the knowledge that rattling gourds cannot cause thunder and that eating people is wrong, cannot be so excitable? Listen, then, to William Gass, novelist, philosopher, précieux, and pop-eyed observer of anthropologists’ ways:
Anthropologists or not, we all used to call them “natives” – those little, distant, jungle and island people – and we came to recognize the unscientific snobbery in that. Even our more respectable journals could show them naked without offense, because their pendulous or pointed breasts were as inhuman to us as the udder of a cow. Shortly we came to our senses and had them dress. We grew to distrust our own point of view, our local certainties, and embraced relativism, although it is one of the scabbier whores; and we went on to endorse a nice equality among cultures, each of which was carrying out its task of coalescing, conversing and structuring some society. A large sense of superiority was one of the white man’s burdens, and that weight, released, was replaced by an equally heavy sense of guilt.
Zizek, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce:
…[Once we understand that the intellectual aspect of the Haitian revolution was supplied by white Frenchmen, w]e white Leftist men and women are free to leave behind the politically correct process of endless self-torturing guilt. Although Pascal Bruckner's critique of contemporary Left often approaches the absurd, this does not prevent him from occasionally generating pertinent insights--one cannot but agree with him when he detects in European politically correct self-flagellation an inverted form of clinging to one's superiority. Whenever the West is attacked, its first reaction is not aggressive defence but self-probing: what did we do to deserve it? We are ultimately to be blamed for the evils of the world; Third World catastrophes and terrorist violence are merely reactions to our crimes. The positive form of the White Man's Burden (his responsibility for civilizing the colonized barbarians) is thus merely replaced by its negative form (the burden of the white man's guilt): if we can no longer be the benevolent masters of the Third World, we can at least be the privileged source of evil, patronizingly depriving others of responsibility for their fate (when a Third World country engages in terrible crimes, it is never fully its own responsibility, but always an after-effect of colonization: they are merely imitating what their colonial masters used to do, and so on):We need our miserabilist clichés about Africa, Asia, Latin America, in order to confirm the cliché of a predatory, deadly West. Our noisy stigmatizations only serve to mask the wounded self-love: we no longer make the law. Other cultures know it, and they continue to culpabilize us only to escape our judgments on them.
To provoke people when I’m asked about racism, I like to do my line I love racism, I can’t imagine my life without racism, there there’s no progressive movement now without racism. I’m not crazy…Now comes the preacher part, the real….what do I mean by this is that there is something false about this respectful multiculturalist tolerance…my God, for me political correctness is still inverted racism…let’s cut the crap, let’s say we want to become friends, there has to be a politically incorrect exchange of obscenity. You know, some dirty joke or whatever, whose meaning is “cut the crap we are now real friends”. And I can tell you this from my wonderful experience here, you want a shocking story you will hear it. How did I become here a friend, a true friend, am not advising anybody to do it because it was a risky gesture, but it worked wonderfully with a -with a -with a black, African-American guy. No? How did I become? We were very friendly, already, but not really, but then I risk and told him, it’s a horrible thing I warn you, is it true that you blacks you know have a big penis, no? but that you can even move it so that if you have on your leg above your knee a fly you can Boff! smash it with your penis. The guy embraced me and told me dying of laughter “now you can call me a nigger.” Like when blacks tell you “you can call me a nigger” means they really accept you no?
Kai Chang, 2006:
As it's commonly used, "PC" is a deliberately imprecise expression (just try finding or writing a terse, precise definition) because its objective isn't to communicate a substantive idea, but simply to sneer and snivel about the linguistic and cultural burdens of treating all people with the respect and sensitivity with which they wish to be treated. Thus, the Herculean effort required to call me "Asian American" rather than "chink" is seen as a concession to "the PC police", an unsettling infringement on the free-wheeling conversation of, I suppose, "non-chinks". Having to refer to black folks as "African Americans" rather than various historically-prevalent epithets surely strikes some red-blooded blue-balled white-men as a form of cultural oppression. Having to refer to "women" rather than "bitches" lays a violent buzzkill on the bar-room banter of men preoccupied with beating on their chests and off other body parts.
Obviously these examples fall on the simplistic side of things, but I think they illustrate the shaky philosophical foundation of today's usage. Underlying every complaint of "PC" is the absurd notion that members of dominant mainstream society have been victimized by an arbitrarily hypersensitive prohibition against linguistic and cultural constructions that are considered historical manifestations of bigotry. It's no coincidence that "PC"-snivelers are for the most part white men who are essentially saying, "Who the hell do these marginalized groups think they are to tell me how I should or shouldn't portray them? I'm not going to say 'mentally challenged' when it's my right to say 'retard', goshdarnit there's only so much abuse I'll take!"
Gary Younge, 2011:
On 18 February 1943, Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's minister of propaganda, took to the stage at Berlin's sports palace calling for "total war". "Two thousand years of western civilisation are in danger," he said, before going on to blame his favourite scapegoat. "Things have gone so far in Europe that one cannot call a danger a danger when it is caused by the Jews."
Hari: Can We Talk About Muslim Homophobia Now?
When gay people were cruelly oppressed, we didn't form gangs to beat up other minorities. We organized democratically and appealed to our fellow citizens' sense of decency.
What Hari does with the identities in this piece is very important to observe. He constructs white gays as a category signifying innocence, belonging to which erases individual crimes (for example his own enabling of aggressive war, mass murder, maiming, rape and torture); in contrast he constructs Muslims as a guilty category, belonging to which implicates an individual in all the crimes other members of the category perpetrate (despite the impatient "concessions" that of course not all Muslims...) because the individual Muslims' crimes are explicitly attributed to the environment that is the community. Persisting in being a Muslim, part of a "Muslim community," crucially enables the production of criminal deviant individuals who inevitably emerge from the specific deviant characteristics of this community permeated with Islam. In the three card monty trickery of his prose, Hari establishes that "Muslims" are to (implicitly white male) "Gays" as an individual Muslim guilty of gaybashing is to Harvey Milk, rather than "Muslims" are to "Gays" as say Hanife Karakus is to Roy Cohen, Ernst Rohm, or Pim Fortuyn, or "Muslims" are to "Gays" as one of the Iraqis Hari arranged to have raped and tortured in Abu Ghraib is to Hari who assisted in delivering him or her to the torturers there (torturers Hari naturally gave the benefit of the doubt for kindness and trustworthiness, being of the innocent, civilised types they are, and thus judged perfectly fit to enjoy despotic control over conquered Arabs.)
Establishing "gays" as a group imbued not only with innocence but with civilisation, bearer and corollary of "democracy", "solidarity with fellow citizens" and "decency", immune to the criminality of individual members of the category "gay", Hari employs and revitalises the ideology of white supremacy and individualism to distinguish the members of his group designation from the horde-being of the socially toxic orientals on the subject of whose evil he claims he is being silenced in an outrageous manner that compounds the portrait of their "community" as the opposite of all the lovely things characteristic of "gays", here, evoked as Hari's own tribe, representing a familiar figure often referred to as "the West", European civilisation, white culture. In addition to democracy and decency, Hari and "gays" are associated with liberty and self-expression in contrast to the repressive, silencing, threatening Muslims who menace him and declare their loathing openly, a thing harmless "We Gays" simply would never do.
Hari easily conjures the white supremacist paradigm - which can be activated by very few words - which divides humanity into the raceless and the raced, the self-fashioning and the wool-dyed cultured (who also, however, are responsible for the choice of belonging), to support his insinuations about the degeneration of Western Civilisation brought about by a minority Muslim presence, and strengthen his assertions regarding the connection between homophobic and misogynist violence in the UK and contamination by a foreign culture. He practises what is by now a set of common evasions alongside the deployment of motifs which serve as shorthand for this Heimat/heathen worldview, for example the image of a foreign, murky, infectious invasion establishing regions plagued by an evil miasma, an insalubrious environment around the Muslim nests where homophobia will "incubate". An enlightened journalist like Hari, who must respect facts and data (and avoid making statements too easily debunked), is bound to concede that all Muslims may not individually be homophobes, and all Muslims homophobes may not be violent criminals, but he can nonethless suggest compellingly that if they were not protected and nourished by their flourishing hives, and insulated from the wholesome, democratic, tolerant, nonviolent, decent host society, Muslim individuals would not dare to be violent criminal homophobes. Hari is careful to explain, in few words of inarguable confidence, that the whole community's existence is vital for the criminality to be sustained and defended against criticism. Violent homophobic individuals, whose ghastly acts are vividly presented, sprout from the unhealthy overgrowth of their fellow Muslims, all of whom seep Islam. Therefore in 'tolerating' the community as a whole, in failing to master it, tend and weed it, to civilise and supervise it, Hari and his fellows have allowed the seeds of evil it breeds to effloresce. Each Muslim in these infestations may not be him- or herself a violent reactionary criminal, but all contribute to the population density of their hive which is the condition for the growth of the poison mushrooms:
These [acts of horrific anti-gay violence] are not isolated incidents. East London has seen the highest increase in homophobic attacks anywhere in Britain, and some of the worst in Europe. Everybody knows why, and nobody wants to say it. It is because East London has the highest Muslim population in Britain, and we have allowed a fanatically intolerant attitude towards gay people to incubate there, in the name of 'tolerance'.
Hari would not of course dream of explaining the staggering violence, chemical poisoning, immiseration, terrorism and sadism to which he eagerly submitted the majority Muslim population of a whole country, straight, gay, lesbian and trans, with reference to our lack of vigilance as the white nests expanded. He really, I think, cannot imagine any meaningful connection to be made between the homophobic tortures (unto death in cases) which he considered an acceptable risk to force others to take for his benevolent dream of "a better Iraq" and the density of atheist whites among whom pernicious qualities ferment into imperial intentions, in the community in which he lives and works, and which infected him as part of this white infestation, a toxin and deadly parasite on the global host society, and whose hives incubate - as everyone knows, and few dare to say because of the ridicule, ostracism, career sacrifice, abuse it provokes - sadistic patriarchal white supremacy and myths of white collective innocence to seduce those from lesser rungs of wealth to assist in the adventures spurred by the cupidity of the higher eschelons of the elites. While it is certainly true that not all white gay men are as depraved as Karl Rove or as willing to abet profitable crimes against humanity as Johann Hari, would Hari suggest it is the overgrowth of white hives that produces and emboldens the individual imperial aggressors, their soldiers and propagandists, their courtiers and accessories?
Slavoj Zizek, 2010:
Socially, what is most toxic is the foreign Neighbor—the strange abyss of his pleasures, beliefs and customs. Consequently, the ultimate aim of all rules of interpersonal relations is to quarantine (or at least neutralize and contain) this toxic dimension, and thereby reduce the foreign Neighbor—by removing his otherness—to an unthreatening fellow man. The end result: today’s tolerant liberal multiculturalism is an experience of the Other deprived of its Otherness—the decaffeinated Other who dances fascinating dances and has an ecologically sound holistic approach to reality while features like wife beating remain out of sight.
It's instructive to compare the anxiety of racial contamination and the decline of the American Empire (patriarchal white supremacy) of these successful and influential American 80s films, (Back to the Future, Blue Velvet) and how they conceal, provoke and allay it (this is one of those bizarre Zizney style speaking-for/as-to-speak-against Caveman-Reckless Tortuga-toned things but it states the case) to the infantile, fan-focussed, feverishly hardworking fantasies of whiteness that have developed in the new century, from Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain to Red Riding Hood.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell:
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell:
In this novel, a fanastic "alternative history" of England (and an English Britain) is constructed, equipped with a parallel magic universe, solely to expell the problems of slavery and white supremacy - these features of real history which taint the mythology and prevent the decent contemporary reader's pure pleasure in entertainments steeped in it - to this magic otherworld. The removal of Stephen the black slave to another world, a marvellous underworld constructed solely to accomodate him, cleanses the mythic history - the immensely popular Regency Austen fanastyland - marred by the requirement ("politically correct") to acknowlegde not only his presence but some of the terrible reality to which his figure refers, for renewed guiltless enjoyment (indeed for enjoyment with enhanced self-congratulation). Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell performs an operation on the chauvinist, and childish, fantasy of Regency England much like that which the spectacle has performed on the white race - whiteness is all the sturdier for being digitised, coded for mobility, detached from any crude materialism or biologism, just as the Europe of Derrida's Eurosupremacism is rendered invulnerable to anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism by abstraction, spectralisation, flexibility. In Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, mythical English history and glory is affirmed, as entertainment saved from the soiling of anti-racist, anti-imperialism and anti-colonialist critique, and the wish for goodness and self-approval of white nostalgic English readers (discursively constituted in spectacle like Europe and whiteness) is gratified by the narrative arranging to accord the victims of real English history (represented by a black slave) a seperate kingdom, a dark realm of magic, over which to rule. This other realm, where magic reigns and is produced for use in the "ordinary" world, is presented as the magical forge of glorious English history, at once conceding and concealing the fact of the exploited African labour engine of Englishness and Empire. But it is not a realm of suffering; rather this Faerie - like all such realms an enchanted idea of fecund and unfathomable nature, to which the black slave is appropriately consigned in the white supremacist scheme - is flaunted as the compensation to Stephen (and those he represents) who must be evicted from the vision of history to sustain the chauvistic and childish delight taken in more naïve versions; it is recompense to those who spoil the pristine fantasy of Regency England for their expulsion - again - from the pleasant stories of romance and adventure, and on another plane for the exploitation and expropriation in concrete history as well. It is a compensation designed to set the English reader's mind at ease, free it to take pleasure in the fables of national past and simultaneously to gratify that sentimentality associated with Dickens and seeming to do and delight in providential justice. This delivery of Stephen the black slave out of slavery to a kingdom of his own is offered as a relief from an alternative with which the author has menaced her readers throughout the text - an alternative imaginitive justice which sees a black slave rising to the throne of the alternative Britain and which enthrones servant/slave as hero of novels, dethroning white gentlemen and their gentleladies. That idea - that vision of an African king on a British throne brought about by the whirligig of history - is suggested, or really paraded as a danger with tremendous anxiety, and finally rejected and evaded with the help of "English magic" (associated with a genre of children's literature) which preserves English patriotic myth and an alternative history which alters nothing of the nationalistic fantasy. "English magic" is finally nothing other than the white supremacist imagination.
Stardust, a comic big budget fairytale film, can be compared to its predecessor (as the promotional material had it) The Princess Bride to bring out this same style of pandering to the same kinds of impulses, supplying itself with the alibi of tradition (it's about childhood and wonder, the stories we loved as children seen through the simple Jungian schemes we loved as adolescents) for the sin of reaction and nostalgia, as are catered to by Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain:
From here, the inevitable trajectory for Hollywood would be through Disney rides and children's classics, to infantilised, attenuated, kiddieporny, violent videogame versions of folktales.