LIBERAL Senator Cory Bernardi was spot on last week. But with just two points.
He stated on ABC News Breakfast: “It’s absolutely critical that politicians are prepared to discuss ideas that are controversial, otherwise we are stuck with a tyranny of political correctness which is a stifling doctrine. It’s something we need to rebel against in this country”.
Bernardi, whose political career resembles the brittle, cheesy and seriously malformed appearance of a Twistie, seems to have borrowed some words from Charlton Heston who said" "Political correctness is tyranny with manners”.
(Heston's taste for conservative right wing politics and religion were very similar to those espoused by Bernardi, but I can’t speak for the latter's taste in films.)
The Senator also said: "The political pressure from the left has ushered us into a morbid new world. It is not enough to stop the trend. What is needed is a reversal back to sanity and reason."
Whilst I believe his idea of “sanity and reason” is void of, well, sanity and reason, his point stands true for the recent federal Labor term. Another ineffectual crusade for equality, their six years were hobbled by kowtowing to political correctness.
In rural and regional Australia, we’re known to be refreshingly blunt with an uninfected vocabulary and an earthy, 'no frills' style of speech. We don’t just “call a spade a spade”, it’s a bloody shovel mate.
Two of our agricultural flag bearers in Canberra, Barnaby Joyce and Bill Heffernan, have consistently and actively borne a healthy disrespect for political correctness. This wins the hearts of constituents and seems to be an angle favoured by those on the conservative side of the political spectrum.
But their influence, and that of many others, is tempered by the harsh reality of Bernardi's point: that we can’t have a productive brainstorming session in government these days without offending some group of delicate little flowers.
This societal fence-sitting drains the power from passionate leaders wanting to roll up their sleeves and make some gutsy calls for the greater good. Instead of getting stuck in, they seem more occupied with attacks from minority groups and trying to keep everyone happy. It’s creating a defensive culture in our political leaders.
Australian ag's social culture is something I’ve spent much time living in and looking at. My blogs are testament to the questioning, praise and poking I’ve given it. I think we’re in a safe place with our not-so-sugar-coated language that is often “politically incorrect”.
What we have to remain vigilant of though, is the notion that managing our vocabulary can be linked to the way we manage thought, and therefore behaviour.
George Orwell nailed it in 1949 with his famous novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. The fictitious government in the book created a language called “Newspeak” to be spoken by the public. With the same grammatical rules as English, it’s made up of specific words and rules that ultimately make it a tool to limit freedom of thought.
The "tyranny of political correctness" Bernardi railed against should be a topic of informed and spirited debate.
We knew political correctness had gone mad when a school in Seattle started calling Easter eggs “spring spheres” so not to offend non-Christians. But globally, it seems the accusation of being politically correct is a weapon used by right-wingers to insulate themselves against criticisms of their own biases. It can be a way of diverting the issue of bias to issues of freedom of speech without acknowledging that the right to question their authority is also a free speech matter.
Could it be that political correctness and tradition are simultaneously obstacles to progress? And does that also hold for social progress? What are your thoughts?