Has Sweden taken political correctness too far?

Why so pessimistic? - I ask political correctness.

Political correctness promises us a world in which no one exercises power over the other. Moritz Knigge also wants such a world, but considers PCs to be just as unsuitable as John Cleese: "If people can't control their own emotions, then they have to start trying to control other people's behavior." The political correctness actually seems something To be for people who, because they cannot control their own emotions, try to control other people's behavior:

About dealing with political correctness

Adolph Freiherr Knigge said: “Respect what is venerable to others! One should spare the prejudices that give others peace of mind! Do not forget ... that a defective system, on which the basis of good morality lies, cannot be easily demolished without at the same time throwing the building itself upside down. ”On dealing with people, I, 1, 42

Pessimism as a new moral?

If I were to sum up the current change in our moral order in one sentence, I would say: We are currently experiencing how an optimistic conception of human capabilities and possibilities is being replaced by a pessimistic conception of man assumed an optimistic view of mankind. It is the Enlightenment's image of man. It triumphed in the French Revolution and then took control of all heads in the western world. At that time people were trusted to do difficult things, for example, to act well and sensibly from their own insight and to be able to create a more just world on their own - if only everyone first took their fate into their own hands and no longer waited for the intervention of a higher power and would rely on their minds alone. An optimistic, perhaps overly optimistic view of human beings. This enlightening notion got competition about thirty years ago. Since then, a new moral order has been established in a creeping process. It has many facets. It is best summarized under the heading Political Correctness. I think that the name already reveals something about the character of the new morality. With "political" one expects that it is not content with private life, but aims at public life, at the big picture. And the fact that it is somewhat "correct" as a sergeant suggests that it does not tolerate any contradiction in its area of ​​application. Finally, I consider it pessimistic because it seems to me to represent a system of social self-control that incapacitates the individual. For his own good, as the followers of the new morality would add.

A new moral?

I have to admit that Political Correctness has reason to be so pessimistic. Its roots go back to the first half of the last century. And it is so deadly serious because it has a deadly serious background: two world wars - and above all the Holocaust. After 1945, both the Holocaust and the world wars aroused serious doubts about the Enlightenment's optimistic view of mankind. Didn't civilized, Christian-enlightened people, especially in their German variant, prove themselves to be downright insane at the time? In any case, the basis of previous morality was discredited, and confidence in the rationality of civilized people was shaken. Political correctness then formed when the shock waves of this moral disaster hit a new generation. Now they no longer wanted to leave it to the historians alone to draw conclusions from history; now they wanted to win from it a universal moral program suitable for everyday use. To prevent history from repeating itself. Or go on as before. So I find it perfectly understandable that a moral could develop on the shambles of reason that no longer leaves the decision about good and bad to the conscience of the individual, but relies on social self-control. This concept fit in with the demand for a more consistent orientation of public life to morality, which was raised in the sixties. With political correctness, we gave ourselves a new moral law, so to speak, which claims to draw the lesson from history. Perhaps that explains its unbroken success story: It seems plausible, plausible - and undemanding on top of that. There is no catalog of virtues to heed, no register of sins to be memorized. Yes, it doesn't even require an individual conscience. It only demands one thing of us: to take responsibility for history and those who embody the conscience of history. So the victims of history. By which is meant everyone who has been discriminated against or disadvantaged in the past, who have been deprived of rights and who have been exposed to persecution.

Responsibility for language

But what does this responsibility look like, what does it consist of? If everything is not deceiving me, political correctness assumes that all social groups, all ethnicities and peoples who can claim an experience of injustice are entitled to compensation. It therefore requires the state and society to be particularly sensitive to their demands. The question of whether these demands are reasonable pales in comparison to the moral obligation to fulfill them for the sake of previous disadvantage. The compensation sought may be of a financial nature, such as the billions that some Africans demand from those nations that were involved in the slave trade two or three centuries ago. In general, however, it is more likely to aim at granting these groups greater rights and special moral authority. At the same time, the new morality places these groups under the special protection of a collective, public conscience that functions like an early warning system. Everyone is connected to this system, so everyone has the right, even the duty, to act as a warning and judge over others in case of doubt. Public opinion thus becomes the last resort in moral questions. And this body does not primarily evaluate actions. Nor does it evaluate intentions. Most of all, what she rates is the spoken or written word. How people talk about and with one another in a society is the main focus of the public conscience. Political correctness is probably not misunderstood if one understands it as a comprehensive preventive program based on a preventive collective conscience that is, so to speak, ahead of the action - sensitive enough to avoid discrimination and injustice in the bud by mobilizing the public in general outrage I do not deny that the new morality has something to offer. She shakes us up. It forces us to review or suppress prejudice. It sharpens our view of the contempt that may cling to our attitudes towards certain groups of people. It draws our attention to the fact that other perspectives are also possible and that these perspectives cannot be less justified than our own. But above all: At a time when the state and church are no longer emitting any noteworthy moral impulses, political correctness is, as far as I can see, the only moral order left for us.

Collective instead of individual conscience?

However, what follows from the triumph of political correctness is nothing less than a fundamental change in our moral orientation. It believes in the intellectual autonomy of the individual just as little as in moral self-determination, and it can do without a sense of personal responsibility. The individual is only relevant to them if he belongs to a group, and the group only if it has a history of suffering. And this story of suffering alone counts. The only thing left to bear in looking at the world is discrimination and persecution. The new morality therefore enforces a strictly moral assessment of world events and of all human conditions in the past and present. Those who ignore this point of view already make themselves suspicious. But she rewards her followers with a scale of victim groups, in which as many as possible who can prove that they have experienced injustice are recorded. In this way she arrives at a rough but extremely practical division of mankind into good and bad, the effects of which, for example, tour operators in Morocco have been feeling for years, as more and more western travelers shy away from contact with Arabs and, if possible, in Berber villages want to be led to Berber markets. Why? Because Arabs are misogynistic, so the stereotypical justification, and therefore strictly taboo for a decent European. The division into good and bad is therefore in favor of the Berbers - whose only advantage is likely to be that nothing is known about their misogyny. The Arabs, on the other hand, are cursed by the new morality, and respect for the individual Arab can no more prevail than curiosity about Arab culture as a whole when faced with the compulsion to moral condemnation.

Correctness knows no nuances

As you can see, this morality allows only very general judgments, which can turn into new prejudices and resentments at any time. In addition, it demands a constant readiness to condemn, if one does not want to fall unexpectedly into the suspicion of sympathizing, for example, with Arab misogynists. Political correctness knows no neutrality, no deliberate judgment, no nuances; it clarifies the fronts, it creates clarity with simple means. For all the evils of this world she has only one explanation ready: oppression. And what it has to offer against it is also always the same, namely equality. In a nutshell, the creed of the new morality should be: Put an end to all oppression worldwide through equality for all! Whereby this equality relates to literally every area of ​​life and does not even stop at artistic freedom - as a children's book illustrator in our country had to experience years ago when it was proven to him at a public event that he had painted boys more often than girls in his hidden object books. Then the nerve of the female audience was hit, they whistled over him, there was evidence that he belongs to the class of misogynists and oppressors. Reason has a difficult position against the black and white painting of political correctness anyway. Priority morality before reason is one of its most sacred principles. And it's hard to shake. Because the new morality is not derived from a political or religious system that could be attacked and questioned with reasonable arguments. Their truths are nowhere firmly established, nowhere written down. Instead, it is based on lived, possibly personal, experience of injustice. In these circumstances an argument of reason can never have the impact of a moral one. Anyone who invokes reason in a dispute with this morality inevitably draws the short straw, because his behavior can at any time be understood as a mockery of the injustice on which this morality is based. Reason therefore threatens to be pushed further and further into the area in which morality was located in the old days: the private area. Should it come to that, one day we will be able to be sensible at home in our little room undisturbed, but we will no longer be able to trust ourselves to leave the house without the magic hat of the new morality. And would have to find it sensible for a country like Sweden to try to get rid of prostitution by threatening the suitors with imprisonment while leaving the whores unscathed.

Dangerous Moralism?

Finally, I fear that the new morality is making it far too easy for us to be moral. Is it really enough to demonstrate moral competence by taking the right side once the moral nerve is hit? Is it really proof of decency to reflexively react to taboo violations with indignation? Can trained moral reflexes actually replace conscience - and the willingness to reasonably argue? How automatically outrage sets in was something a teacher had to make some time ago who had told his students a joke that included a Turk. Actually it was harmless, this joke, because people laughed with them rather than at Turks; the laugh showed solidarity, as it were, with the main Turkish character. Nonetheless, the teacher had to answer to his principal on the same day for xenophobia. It was enough for denunciation that a foreigner had gotten lost in a joke at all. It didn't matter in the slightest that there was no question of contempt, even of mockery. A fundamental change in our moral orientation, as I said. However, it seems to me questionable whether the new morality will keep what it promises. Whether one can actually promise a fairer future from a morality that relies on reflexes and self-censorship and switches off reason. After all, we still have the choice between two different moral systems - one that relies on reason, understanding and conscience, and one that relies entirely on social self-control. But since we have to live with political correctness - no matter how we decide - we should behave as wisely as possible when it comes to the practical consequences. For example, in the case described above, I mean the director was right when he advised the said teacher to keep such jokes to himself in the future. We are dealing here with a morality that does not ask about the intentions, only about the effects, and deduces from the effect on the intention. Since our good reputation these days depends to a large extent on the effect of our words, we should, at least in public, exercise the greatest caution and exclude any avoidable misunderstanding. Once expressed, the suspicion of being on the side of xenophobes or racists can hardly be refuted by reasonable arguments. But let's also remember that this is not just about our reputation, but also about the sensitivity of others. Let us do the adherents of political correctness a favor to judge the new morality not only by its effects but also by its intentions; we respect that for many this is linked to the hope for a better, more just world.

Not in the mood for taboo slalom

In other situations, however, we might have good reasons not to bow to the politically correct compulsion to speak and think according to the rules - after all, it can sometimes be a question of showing backbone. If it is a matter of protecting others against insinuations, or if there is the danger of having to deny ourselves, we should not hold back with our own opinion, with our better knowledge and conscience. However, if you don't want to be intimidated by taboos, you should consider one thing: Such taboos cannot be overridden by even the cleverest argument. They are resistant to reason, and any taboo break would be perceived as a provocation by the followers of the new morality. Provocateurs, however, should not count on indulgence. Even a single wrong word can serve as proof of a person's moral corruption, and then it is not far to the “racist” or “enemy of peace”. On the offense, however, stands the expulsion from the community of decent people. Anyone who still wants to take the risk should be above any suspicion of acting frivolously or without conscience. It would not be a sign of character to swing derogatory speeches and call Africans “bimbos” just because it is politically incorrect. Nor would it be a sign of intransigence or courage. Regardless of what standard one applies, it would be a sign of contempt and spite. So you don't make resistance to the new morality too easy - if you don't want to be intimidated, first make sure that you have nothing to blame yourself for . But you don't make it as easy for yourself with a clear conscience as the new morality allows. Certainly, it was always tempting to let the decision about right and wrong, good and bad, be made for you.But it was also always dangerous. Moritz Knigge says: “Do not allow yourself to be taken in private against your better judgment, do not be hypocritical. But refrain from violating taboos and provocations in public if they can damage your reputation in the long term, and always respect the high hopes that others associate with the new morality. "