Dogmatic political correctness’ tendency to belittle people directly contributed to the rise of Donald Trump because it made the creation of a counter movement – dogmatic political incorrectness – inevitable. Because Trump claims to be politically incorrect, he will always have the vote of those who believe in political incorrectness – the nature of their idea forces them to vote for him, regardless of what he says or does.
Does political correctness matter?
Political correctness is an attempt to adapt the idea of kindness to macro-level discussions to fight intolerance. This is an honorable goal, but it only works as long as we avoid charging it with a high moral quantity. Otherwise, the fight against intolerance becomes intolerant itself. We create a radical anti-radical movement, which makes matter worse. The only cure is tolerance.
Political correctness is based on the idea that language shapes reality. This idea is tried and true. For example, before philosophers defined the terms individual freedoms and human rights, they often accepted massive individual suffering if it supposedly served the state. The invention of these words radically changed our world view.
Advocates of political correctness want to start similar processes by shaping our language in a way that instinctively advocates a more harmonious society. This is why they prefer some forms of language to others.
Political correctness can be an important tool to a harmonious society. Language indeed shapes our reality, and insulting groups or creating the image that it is fine to insult certain people can lead to the exclusion of some groups from society. These groups are forced to rebel, which endangers society. Societies that fail to include all of their members, sooner or later fall apart.
Political correctness can be an important tool to a functioning society.
How important is political correctness?
Political correctness has a good moral quality. But moral quality is only important on the micro level, in direct interactions between two people or small groups. On the macro level, when we analyze societies and governments, what matters is moral quantity – whether an idea is constructive or destructive.
Promising ideas can create destructive macro level results when we inflate their moral quantity – if we think that they are the only relevant ideas or that they permit us to infringe on other people’s rights. Constructive ideas have a low moral quantity – they remain tools to the goal of a harmonious society and lack the inner dynamic to become goals that use the people as a tool.
Whether political correctness has a constructive moral quantity depends on whether we keep the idea’s moral quantity low.
Ideas with a high moral quantity show three characteristics:
- They divide the world into irreconcilable groups,
- They force a binary argument, and
- They appeal to higher wisdom.
Because of these three characteristics, ideas with a high moral quantity create an infinitely evil threat. To people who believe in these ideas, it seems as if this threat is the personification of everything that is evil in the world, and that the fight against it justifies all means.
Some believers in political correctness clearly show these characteristics. Consequently, they consider those who, allegedly, use the wrong language as an infinitely evil threat and fight them with all means.
This is a problem. Some of these attacks target innocent victims that made insignificant mistakes, which enrages them and their social circle; some simply go too far – and that creates resistance.
Some of these people fight back by inflating the moral quantity of their own idea – the idea that they are politically incorrect. This movement will again enrage some people, which will lead to even more radicalization. We have started a vicious cycle that can only end violently.
To avoid this cycle, political correctness must remain a tool, not become a goal itself. A society needs political correctness – but it can survive a little incorrectness. There is no need to correct our grandpas on Thanksgiving when they use words that were fine for most of their lives.
When we elevate the moral quantity of political correctness, we discredit a good, important idea, and we force some people to resist it.
A constructive society is sometimes politically correct and sometimes politically incorrect. Both ideas are important tools. As long as we avoid mistaking them for goals in themselves, we can combine them in reasonable ways and apply the correct one to each situation.
How can we keep the moral quantity of political correctness low?
To keep the moral quantity of political correctness low, we must avoid elevating the idea to a goal and make sure that it remains a tool. We can do this by always reminding ourselves of the goal we are trying to accomplish – we are trying to create more harmonious societies.
We can better achieve this goal by emphasizing the difference between a person and the words we use to describe them. Whether we use benign or insulting words, the person remains the same. The only difference is that insulting words hurt while benign words can motivate goodness. There is no reason for using insulting words other than to reveal our own bias.
By teaching this thinking, we can get people to ignore specific words and focus on the intention in which they are spoken. They will choose their own words more carefully and feel better than if new forbidden words are forced on them every few years.
Of course, this is only one possible approach. The point is that by attacking the problem from an angle of reducing moral quantity, we can find better solutions than by trying to force our definition of goodness on others. When we take political correctness too far, we declare certain people idiots or bad persons because they use certain words – hardly a good concept for a harmonious society.
The opposite of a high-moral-quantity opinion often is another high-moral-quantity opinion. Whether you take political correctness too far or ignore it, the result is equally destructive. Let people speak the way they want, and let those who want to be called a certain way have the right to decide their name/sexual identity. It is their life, so it’s their decision. But: not every word must be written in gold.
What happens when we elevate the moral quantity of political correctness?
When we elevate the moral quantity of an idea, we automatically create an opposite idea that has a high moral quantity, too. We end up with a radical movement in opposition to a radical movement in opposition to a radical movement. This chain has to stop, and the only way to stop it is tolerance.
When we take political correctness too seriously, we create the idea of dogmatic political incorrectness. This idea has a high moral quantity, too – it will cause its believers to divide the world into us and them, use a binary argument, and appeal to a higher wisdom. Politically correct people become the infinitely evil threat.
The people who believe in the idea of political incorrectness need some way of defending themselves from their perceived infinitely evil threat. In the 2016 presidential election, they considered all candidates a part of this threat. Consequently, a newcomer that claimed to be politically incorrect held a unique characteristic that rendered all other considerations irrelevant. When there is an infinitely evil threat and only one person to protect us from it, we have to do whatever this person says.
This is why some people support Trump even when he says or does the stupidest things. As long as he remains politically incorrect, their mental process will reinterpret all other information in a way that confirms their initial belief – that Donald Trump is the ideal president.
This is what happens when we inflate the moral quantity of an idea – we create the exact opposite of what we want. Dogmatic political correctness, which aims to create a more harmonious society, contributed to a divide in the American society and the rise of Donald Trump.
To achieve our political goals, we must keep the moral quantity of our ideas low. Ideas that are impossible to achieve without inflating their moral quantity are not worth achieving.
- Political correctness and a tolerance for political incorrectness are both important tools for creating a harmonious society – as long as we keep the moral quantity low. When we increase moral quantity, both ideas become destructive.
- When we inflate the moral quantity of political correctness, we automatically create the idea of dogmatic political incorrectness – an opposed idea with a similar high moral quantity. We start a cycle of increasing opposition with no happy ending possible.
- Donald Trump claims to be politically incorrect. This means he is the only savior who can defend people who have inflated the moral quantity of political incorrectness into an infinitely evil threat – he will always have their vote.