Thursday, August 19, 2004

"Political correctness"

The Herald has published another opinion piece tilting at the windmill of "political correctness", this one from evolutionary psychologist Valerie Grant. In it she treads the well-worn path of pointing out that people are not possessed of equal capacities, and that gender differences in employment are not prima facie evidence of discrimination. She could have saved herself the effort. "Political correctness", as used by right-wing politicians and Herald columnists, simply means "bad" or "I don't like it", and is overwhelmingly applied to policies designed to encourage the very moral equality and equality of opportunity which Grant praises. It is the cry of every bigot upset by the fact that bigotry is no longer socially acceptable, and of every beneficiary of an unequal status quo who fears the erosion of their privilege.

When Peter Dunne and the Maxim Institute cry "political correctness" over the civil union bill, they are complaining about a policy which treats people as being of equal moral worth regardless of sexual orientation. When Don Brash cries "political correctness" over unequal funding for Maori education and health, he is complaining about policies which attempt to guarantee Maori the very basics of equality of opportunity. And when David Farrar cries "political correctness" over the idea of a "Treaty Council" managing the foreshore, he is complaining about the idea that Maori are New Zealanders too, and are therefore entitled to a say in the management of common resources.

Look at who complains about "political correctness". Look at what they are complaining about. If we take those complaints at face value, then "political correctness" stands for the expansion of equality and opportunity and the erosion of entrenched privilege. And that is something we need more of, not less.