Political Correctness Is War By Other Means

Political Correctness Is War By Other Means

Because feeling better about one’s self by punishing others is an addictive pleasure, victories can never satiate those who wage identity politics as war.
Angelo Codevilla
By

Our ruling class’s forceful exaltation of the persons, proclivities, and symbols by which it defines itself, along with its pretense that its preferences trump reality, defeat themselves by their absurdity. That absurdity stems from its members’ conceit about who they are.

Led by Barack Obama’s Democrats, echoed by the media, backed by big corporations’ muscle, and trailed by Republicans with tail tucked between legs, our rulers demand no less than the paradigm of totalitarianism in George Orwell’s novel, “1984.”

Recall that Big Brother’s agent berated the hapless Winston for preferring his own views to society’s dictates, then finished breaking his spirit by holding up four fingers and demanding that Winston acknowledge seeing five. Our rulers, like Big Brother, hector us to accept their rewritten history and to superimpose their scales of value on ours. They end by demanding that we substitute their will for what our very senses tell us is reality—because they please to be who they are.

There is a sense in which the ruling icons of political correctness—lesser Americans are racist, sexist, religiously bigoted, and infested by pathologies for which they must make amends—are petty partisanship meant to squeeze the last drops of voter participation out of the Democratic Party’s habitual constituencies. But our Progressive rulers’ partisanship is more. It is identity politics waged as war.

Ignoring the irony, Obama described what the war is about by accusing Americans unlike himself (and the progressives to whom he was speaking) of being inferior because of their “antipathy toward people who aren’t like them.” Specifically, he said, they “cling to guns or religion.” Hence, pursuing identity war requires breaking the American people’s grip on their sense of worth, on their very connection to reality. That is why, over decades, our Progressive ruling class has penalized Americans who say the wrong thing in front of the wrong person, re-written schoolbooks, etc.

It’s All About Us

But 2016 will be remembered as the year in which Progressives forced their redefinition of American history upon one and all by re-facing America’s currency with their favorite faces. Obama took Andrew Jackson off the $20 bill and replaced it with a glowering image of anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman. Jackson’s victory at the 1815 battle of New Orleans ended the War of 1812 and removed doubt about America’s independence by securing America’s possession of the Mississippi valley. But Progressives think it more important for Tubman to reproach us (not themselves, for sure) every time we open our wallets.

Next to this, Big Brother’s demand to call four fingers five is small, mild stuff.

We may also remember 2016 as the year in which Progressives dropped pretenses about asserting the rise of their class as world history’s main event, that all concerning the clash of empires and civilizations must be judged by its relevance to themselves. This Obama did when he justified to a British audience his decision to remove Churchill’s bronze bust from the Oval Office. Churchill had led the Western world to recognize Nazism’s evil and to vanquish it. Churchill had also fought the Communist empire and championed the Western world’s civilization.

But for Progressives, the first is of small account, while the latter is unforgivable. Symbolically, Obama replaced Churchill’s bronze with one of Martin Luther King Jr. who, Obama said, had done so much to “allow me to have the privilege of holding this office.” That’s what’s really important.

Our Progressive ruling class’s war on our scale of values climaxed in 2016 with a campaign in favor of “transgender rights”: a demand that Americans accept that someone with a penis can be a “woman” while another with a vagina can be a “man.” Object to that mandate to take leave of your senses, insist that sex-specific public bathrooms be used exclusively by persons with the requisite personal plumbing, and be expelled from polite society. Next to this, Big Brother’s demand to call four fingers five is small, mild stuff.

Subjugating Fellow Americans to Make Our Rulers Feel Good

Why also, for example, do our rulers force schoolchildren to recite Islam’s act of submission, order male soldiers to walk around in pink high heels and wear simulated female breasts; why do they lecture others on how ashamed they should be of their “white privilege”; why do they proscribe common words and prescribe others in their stead, etc. ad nauseam?

The more fault I find and the more penance I impose on thee, the holier I am than thou.

Surely these impositions are not attempts to turn inferiors into equals by persuading them. Progressives view those outside their class not as fellow citizens who are capable of being persuaded into equality with them, but rather as a herd to be prodded into alienation from their irremediably flawed natures and affections. But why do that? To what end?

The answer is one of mankind’s oldest stories. Confessing other people’s sins (real or imagined) and inflicting punishment on them has ever been human beings’ preferred path to feeling good about themselves. The more fault I find and the more penance I impose on thee, the holier I am than thou. The worse you are, the better I am and the more power I should have over you.

Because feeling better about one’s self by denigrating and punishing others is an addictive pleasure the appetite for which grows with each satisfaction, victories can never satiate those who wage identity politics as war. The insatiability of their need to bolster self-esteem at others’ expense is the reason why our rulers must trump every imposition with another, without end.

It is why satisfying any of political correctnesses’ demands only generates more. Finding or manufacturing new ones is cheap and fun. But precisely that unwillingness, that incapacity, to aim at an end point in which our rulers might be satisfied ensures that they engender more revolt than submission. The sort of people against whom Americans revolted 250 years ago were not as pretentious.

Angelo M. Codevilla is a fellow of the Claremont Institute, professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and the author of To Make And Keep Peace, Hoover Institution Press, 2014.

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