Thursday, January 4, 2007

Learn something new every day: PC edition

As for the original literal meaning of "PC", the phrase is believed to have emerged from China (seriously, I'm not making this up) during the reign of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist thought. Revolutionary leaders unironically applauded words and actions as "politically correct" when these were seen to advance the revolutionary cause (ya think something was lost in translation?). Personally, I suspect that the Chinese phrase predates Maoism and hearkens back to imperial China when complying with the demands of the throne and advancing the interests of the empire, at any level of society, would be "politically correct"; as opposed to, say, writing dissident literature, which would be "politically incorrect" to the point of getting you exiled or executed. In both the Maoist and imperial contexts, the key point to observe is that "PC" denotes alignment with state power. On a semantic and philosophical level, this makes a good deal more sense than the vague pejorative sarcasm of today's "PC"-snivelers.

Interestingly enough, according to this non-sarcastic, relatively unconsidered, more meaningfully precise definition of the term, the USA is a politically correct nation indeed; but not in the way that most Americans are led to believe. Some examples: Magnetic yellow ribbons are PC. Denouncing Islamism in the name of 9/11 is PC. Reciting the pledge of allegiance is PC. Not talking about radical politics at work or in polite company is PC. Gay-bashing is PC. Standing and placing your hand on your heart during the national anthem is PC. Smiling and applauding when the president enters the room is PC. On the other side of the equation: Marching for civil rights is not PC. Protesting a US war is not PC. Questioning US-Israeli neo-colonial policy in the Middle East is not PC. Calling the US government a white male supremacist corporatist kleptocracy is not PC. Agitating for structural change in our society's distribution of wealth and power is not PC. Refusing to shake a corrupt president's hand is not PC.

Frankly, I can think of far more extreme examples of politically incorrect acts and statements, but it's a testament to the real coercive power of the police state — not some imaginary "PC police" — that I hesitate to publish these thoughts even hypothetically, even with ample theoretical padding. Given this reality, perhaps we might reconsider exactly whose free speech is being violated by whom. As far as I know, "the PC police" haven't thrown any insensitive white men into Gitmo or launched CointelPro operations against white bloggers who publish blackface. For some reason, people of color who oppose US imperialism haven't had that same good fortune.
Good to know that I've been using the term 'PC' correctly all these years.

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