Monday, September 26, 2011
Our language is being hijacked by the Left to muzzle rational debate
By Melanie Phillips
One of the most sinister aspects of political correctness is the way in which its edicts purport to be in the interests of minority groups.
This is despite the fact that, very often, they are not promulgated at the behest of minorities at all, but by members of the majority who want to destroy their own culture and who use minorities to camouflage their true intentions.
The latest manifestation stars once again that all-time world champion of political correctness, the BBC. Apparently, it has decided that the terms AD and BC (Anno Domini, or the Year of Our Lord, and Before Christ) must be replaced by the terms Common Era and Before Common Era. Actually, this edict seems to have been laid down merely by some obscure tributary of the BBC website rather than from on high.
Nevertheless, the terms CE and BCE are now increasingly finding their way onto news bulletins and on programmes such as University Challenge or Melvyn Bragg’s Radio Four show In Our Time.
The reason given on the website is that, since the BBC is committed to impartiality, it is important not to alienate or offend non-Christians. Well, I am a Jew, so I am presumably a member of this group that must not be alienated. It so happens, however, that along with many other Jewish people I sometimes use CE and BCE since the terms BC and AD are not appropriate to me. But the idea that any of us would be offended by anyone else using BC and AD would be totally ridiculous.
How could we possibly take offence, since these are the commonly used and understood expressions when referring to the calendar?Moreover, I most certainly would not expect society in general to use these Common Era terms rather than BC and AD.
Indeed, I would go much further and react with undiluted scorn and disapproval to any attempt to do so.
That is because I feel passionately that a society should be allowed to express its own culture – and this attack on BC and AD, fatuous as it may seem on the surface, is yet another attack on British culture and the Christian underpinnings which provide it with its history, identity and fundamental values.
The impulse behind changing such established terms – obviously as familiar to us all as the names of the days of the week – is part of the wider desire to obliterate Christianity in British culture.
The fact remains, however, that whatever terms are used the British calendar is calibrated from the birth of Jesus. As Ann Widdecombe remarked, whatever next - abolishing the calendar itself on the grounds that it too therefore offends non-Christians?
The reasoning behind this linguistic legerdemain is entirely spurious. There is no evidence whatever that any non-Christian group is offended by BC and AD, nor that they would like it to be replaced. Even if they did, it cannot ever be right for minorities to seek to replace fundamental majority cultural expressions or values with their own.
To do so has nothing whatever to do with impartiality – indeed, quite the reverse. For what about the need not to offend or alienate Christians?
To ask the question is to realise how far we have travelled down this invidious road. For Christians in Britain are now routinely offended and alienated – indeed, positively harassed, and with their religious rights denied – and all in the Orwellian cause of promoting ‘diversity’.
In the latest example, police have threatened a Christian cafe owner with arrest – for displaying passages from the Bible on a TV screen which are said to incite hatred against homosexuals. Why stop at a TV screen, one might ask. For in such a climate, it is hardly frivolous to wonder how long it will be before the Bible itself is banned.
At the weekend, a campaign was launched by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, to press for greater legal protection for Christians against such attacks.
The pressure on Christians, however, is merely part of a far wider onslaught on Western culture through the hijacking or censorship of language. Thus Christmas has been renamed in various places ‘Winterval’.
Last week, it was reported that Southwark council has renamed its Guy Fawkes fireworks display ‘The Colour Thief: A Winter Extravaganza Celebrating the Change of the Seasons’. This ludicrous gesture is presumably aimed at being more ‘inclusive’ of Catholics upset by references to the 17th-century Popish gunpowder plot. What is actually does is exclude Britons by airbrushing out part of their history.
Even more bizarre are the latest edicts by so-called ‘equality’ experts, who say that the traditional black garb of witches in children’s stories leads to racism (yes, seriously). Witches should therefore be given pink hats, and fairies dressed in dark colours.
Meanwhile Anne O’Connor, an ‘early years consultant’, advises that ‘white paper’, especially in schools, provokes racism since it does not reflect the range of hues of the human race. Maybe Ms O’Connor needs especially strong spectacles. Has anyone ever seen a human being with skin as white as paper?
And finally, teachers are told they should be ready to lie, if necessary, when asked by pupils what their favourite colour is and, in the interests of good race relations, answer ‘black’ or ‘brown’.
Can you believe this? What on earth has our society come to when grown individuals in receipt of public money descend to such mind-blowing imbecility?
Calling children as young as two ‘racist’ is simply grotesque. Helping them ‘unlearn’ negative associations with dark colours is to try to brainwash them in ways reminiscent of Soviet Stalinism.
But then, political correctness is all about dictating what people are permitted or forbidden to say as a way of controlling and reshaping a society and its values.
Look at the way the Labour leader Ed Miliband has refused to call people who defraud the welfare system ‘benefit cheats’. He has condemned abuses of the welfare system and said it must be stopped. So why does he say he cannot accuse the people who behave in this way of being ‘cheats’?
The answer is surely that political correctness means you can’t criticise anyone who does wrong if they belong to a group of people who are considered marginalised or oppressed. This is effectively to give such groups a free pass for any bad behaviour. And anyone who dares criticise is accused of ‘demonising’ such groups.
This means, of course, that those who criticise such bad behaviour are themselves demonised. Indeed, they can be positively victimised and even threatened with their lives by vicious campaigns on Twitter or the internet – all on the grounds that they have ‘demonised’ some ‘victim’ group or other. If this wasn’t so terrifying, it would be hilarious.
The result of this hijacking of the language is that debate becomes impossible because words like rights, tolerance, liberal, justice, truth and many more have come to mean the precise opposite of what they really do mean.
The result of this inversion of right and wrong is that morality itself has been reversed or negated. Politically correct language is thus a way of shifting the very centre of moral and political gravity. So what was once considered far-Left has become the centre-ground; and those who stand on the real centre-ground are now dismissed as extreme.
The attack on BC and AD is merely the latest salvo in the war of the words, part of the defining madness of our time.
Persecuted British Christians take Government to European Court so they can express their beliefs at work
The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey is leading a campaign to urge David Cameron to back the rights of Christians to express their beliefs at work. He wants the Prime Minister to press for greater legal protection for Christians who have been sacked for following their consciences when a group of test cases are heard by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg next month.
Four Christians are taking legal action at a landmark hearing because they believe British laws have failed to protect their human rights to wear religious symbols or opt out of gay rights legislation.
The cases include those of Shirley Chaplin, a Devon nurse banned from working on the wards after she failed to hide a cross she had worn since she was 16, and Gary MacFarlane, who was sacked as a Relate counsellor after suggesting he would refuse to provide sexual therapy to gay couples.
The judges will also examine the cases of Nadia Eweida, a check-in clerk for British Airways who was told to remove her small crucifix at work, and registrar Lilian Ladele, who lost her job at Islington town hall, North London, after refusing to officiate at civil partnerships.
The Government must submit a formal statement by the end of next week outlining whether it believes the rights of Christians have been infringed in Britain. Lord Carey, along with 150,000 other campaigners from the lobby group Christian Concern, has written to Mr Cameron calling on the Government to back new safeguards for religious believers.
‘No one wants to deny homosexual people rights, but can a way be found for Christians to have rights as well? I would like the Government to acknowledge that something has to be adjusted in the law so people can express their faith in the workplace in a non-confrontational way.’
Both he and the former Church of England Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali have made their own submissions to the ECHR, asking employers to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to accommodate the religious beliefs of employees.
Under this proposal, staff could refuse to do something against their religious consciences as long as the same service could be provided by a colleague.
Bishop Nazir-Ali said ‘reasonable accommodation’ could include ‘both expression and manifestation of belief. Thus a registrar refusing to officiate at a civil partnership because of religious belief would qualify because other registrars would be able to officiate and the delivery of a service would not be unduly hindered.
‘Similarly, a counsellor refusing counselling on the sexual lifestyle of same-sex couples would fall within the criteria for reasonable accommodation as there are other counsellors, even in the same agencies, who could deliver the service.’
In July, the watchdog Equality and Human Rights Commission announced its support for the concept of ‘reasonable accommodation’ but it appeared to backtrack within weeks following criticism from pressure groups.
Old-fashioned morals can rescue societies broken by bad behaviour
One of the more disturbing reports of rioting in London and other British cities was of the Malaysian student who was knocked to the ground, robbed, and had his jaw broken. That was bad enough, but what happened next seems somehow worse.
While passers-by helped him to his feet, they ransacked his rucksack. What sort of mentality lies behind that?
The student, as it happened, behaved with magnanimity, telling journalists that he still thought very highly of Britain, which was, he said, a great place. He did say, though, that he thought this sort of thing would not happen in Malaysia, which was a well-ordered country in which the police did their job well. Ouch.
There were plenty of other stories of breathtakingly bad behaviour. The reaction to all this was numbed shock, in some cases disbelief. Is this what Britain has become, where we have ended up? Yes, of course it is. And should we be the slightest bit surprised? We should not.
People have been talking about the "broken society" for some time now - all these riots demonstrated was just how broken. Australia is not in so bad a way but nobody should be complacent. The causes of this desperate situation are common, even if they are worse in some places than in others.
The broken society is a consequence partly of social change and cultural change. The social change is familiar: the destruction of the family as the fundamental social unit would be fine if we had replaced it with something. We have not.
It would be fine if we had devised ways of ensuring children had stability and security, but considerable numbers of them are brought up instead in chaotic households where there is no consistent authority. What do we expect from that, if not behavioural problems and damaged lives?
Teachers will spell that out for you, if you ask them. Arguments about that side of the picture are familiar to all of us, and there is room for disagreement.
What interests me more is the cultural side of the equation. Is there something going wrong with the sort of culture we are creating? It's a culture in which we seem to have abandoned many of the values on which we based our civilisation.
Civilisation? That's an unusual word these days, perhaps because people are embarrassed to talk about it, and therein lies at least part of the reason for the crisis. We don't know what we believe in and are busy bringing up children who share our confusion. The result is that we have massive numbers of people who are dishonest, indifferent to casual violence or aggression, and devoid of respect or consideration for others.
If you doubt this, look at the studies. In one piece of British research in 2009, it was discovered that a substantial proportion of the population - almost half - was prepared to steal and commit fraud. Another study of US students found that about three-quarters of them were regular cheats. There are plenty of these enlightening statistics.
Where does this come from? Mainly it comes from an espousal of moral pluralism - the idea that there is no such thing as a general right or wrong, only differing visions of them.
This means that there are few broad certainties that society can put as unequivocal values. Schools cannot teach values because not everybody shares those values. As a result, the goal of character education has been lost: children must decide for themselves.
In Britain, schools have even taken this to heart in school lunch programs. Children should be able to choose for themselves between healthy food and pizza, goes the argument. They choose pizza, and are becoming obese.
But the issue is more than educational. We have created a strange culture perpetuated by television and other media that rejoices in and celebrates dysfunction, violence and anti-social behaviour. Our popular films are highly aggressive in tone, our reality television holds a mirror up to selfishness, shallowness and often sheer nastiness. This is all presented as being the only form of reality.
The opposite choices - those of the virtues - are impossibly boring and therefore more or less totally excluded.
And the remarkable thing about this is that we do not see it! We have come to expect this vision of life as the default position. And so we should not be surprised if we create a culture that is selfish and aggressive, that has no interest in improving the extent to which concern for others, old-fashioned good manners, or any of the traditional virtues, including honesty, are actively stressed and propagated.
Hopelessly old-fashioned? If it is old-fashioned to yearn for a day when people's lives were not made a misery through bullying and intimidation, when one could rely on the honesty of others, then old-fashioned it is.
We must try to assert values. As societies we have to decide again to believe in something and begin to teach those values. That well-mannered Malaysian student, I suspect, might just agree.
Marine Le Pen prospering politically
Sitting in her office at the headquarters of France's Front National, the obligatory French Tricolour flag nearby, Marine Le Pen is relishing her I-told-you-so moment.
The striking blonde is not only enjoying her role as the wildcard that could upset next year's presidential election, but is profiting from a confluence of events that has made her look less the "devil's daughter" - as she has been called – and more a political diviner.
A decade ago, when the far-right FN warned abandoning the franc for the euro was madness and vowed to pull France out of the common currency, the idea was dismissed as nationalistic folly. Today, the economic crisis engulfing the eurozone, has made the once preposterous idea if not a possibility, then at least a possible solution to the continent's financial woes.
The remarkable turnaround is not lost on Miss Le Pen, who suffers neither false modesty nor self-doubt.
"Much of France now realises we were right to sound the alarm, because what we warned for a long time would happen, is now happening," she says.
"There is a normalisation of our movement that is incarnated by my personality. The effect has contributed to making our analyses more credible.
"Left voters have been betrayed by a political discourse that has no sense. Right voters have been betrayed by a party that has not kept its promises. This has allowed me to position myself as one of the three main candidates."
Opinion polls suggest she has a point: before the summer they showed her with the support of 22 to 23 per cent of voters, compared with just under 20 per cent for President Nicolas Sarkozy. Even without a candidate, the opposition Socialists were in the lead. Today, the positions of the two figures of the Right have been reversed - and the Socialists still lead - but the pollsters admit anything could happen over the next eight months.
Miss Le Pen's election strategy is to deflect from traditional Left-Right arguments. Today, she says, the only sensible division is between those who believe in national interests and those who believe in globalisation.
"The Left/Right division makes no sense because they both think the same way – about the euro and the European Union for example – and they both have the same solutions that don't work," she said.
"Both Left and Right have come up with the same ideas for saving the euro at any cost, both agree to continue allowing immigration that is evidently excessive. My idea is to explain to the French people that the only real choice in the presidential election will be between a project that is national and a project that is global.
"I say the euro is dead. The euro is a stalemate and has brought nothing but pitiful results in both the economic field and the social field in the last ten years.
"The current sovereign debt crisis means we are called to show solidarity with countries that we cannot bail out because we don't have the means. It's not possible. I would prefer to anticipate our exit from the euro and prepare for it than to wait for it to happen and suffer it. If we wait for the euro to collapse it will be an economic and social catastrophe.
"I believe the people are with me on this. The French are against the bail-out plan, so are the Germans and Italians. There will come a moment when people will take power from their leaders."
Since she took over the head of the Front National from her truculent, pugilistic one-eyed father Jean-Marie Le Pen in January, Miss Le Pen has set about trying to take the "extreme" out of extreme-right. She would prefer the expression "de-demonise".
She has been credited with softening the party's image, distancing herself from the bully-boy skinheads who used to police FN rallies and marches, and bringing the party out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
Her manifesto is a mix of patriotism, protectionism, state regulation and the re-industrialisation of France coupled with the traditional far-right themes of halting immigration and – at the furthest extreme – limiting welfare and social benefits to French nationals while supporting capital punishment. She reserves her greatest disdain for the European Union and what she describes as "massive immigration".
Just as with the euro, Miss Le Pen claims she has been proven right on other issues.
In the past four and a half years, Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP government has been accused of stealing the FN's ideas on numerous occasions, notably when it tightened its stance on immigration, sent gendarmes into Roma camps, expelled illegal immigrants by the tens of thousands, reintroduced border controls, and banned Muslim women from wearing veils.
A few months ago Miss Le Pen caused a storm by likening the sight of Muslim's praying in the streets, and blocking the traffic, to the Nazi occupation. It was a remark that reminded voters of her father, who once described the Holocaust as a "detail" of the Second World War (before revising his analysis and describing the war as a "detail" of the Holocaust.)
Aha!... said critics, she is the devil's daughter - Jean-Marie Mark II.
This month, the French government outlawed Muslims from praying in the streets, and it became clear that some of the far Right's most vilified ideas had gone mainstream.
When the FN, always the gatecrasher in French politics, accused the country's ruling elite of all colours of being rotten to the core, corrupt and morally bankrupt, it was rejected as the sour-grapes of the outsider.
Since then, there have been a series of high-profile scandals including the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair, alleged illegal party funding, accusations of suitcases stuffed with cash being handed to politicians at the highest levels of state.
Little wonder that the struggling former mining villages and gritty one-time factory towns of her constituency of north west France, where rates of unemployment are high, her railing against foreigners stealing French jobs and costing French taxpayers' hard-earned money finds a receptive audience.
Many years ago, the rabble-rousing Jean-Marine Le Pen once tried to commend Marine, the youngest of his three daughters, to the party faithful by describing her as "a big, healthy, blonde girl, an ideal physical specimen".
She was later nicknamed "the clone", and more recently "la peste blonde" - a play on "la peste noire", the French for the Black Death plague, and "la peste brune", a reference to the occupying brown-shirted Nazi troops.
The FN's headquarters is in the Rue des Suisses in the western Paris suburb of Nanterre. Here the local Communist mayor objected to the party setting up shop here and threatened to change the name of the road to Brahim Bouarrain street, the name of a young Moroccan who drowned in 1995 after being thrown into the Seine by FN supporters.
Inside the security gates, visitors are greeted with a statue of Joan of Arc in full fighting pose and on the terrace inside is a huge statue of a Gallic cockerel.
Miss Le Pen, 43, a twice divorced mother of three and lawyer by profession, is disarmingly amiable and unusual among French politicians in cutting straight to the chase.
She is less punchy – metaphorically and literally – than her father and uses a sophisticated, gentler vocabulary but has the same combative character. Like him, she gives the impression she says what she thinks and thinks what she says.
"I believe I have succeeded in de-demonising the party, perhaps not among the elite, because the elite are very attached to the system that feeds them but among the ordinary people. When you see how I am approached by people in the street and treated with kindness and affection even among those who don't vote for me, you can see that in the space of ten years things have changed enormously," she says.
"Of course people say I am the soft face of the devil and suggest that nothing has changed, but that's their only way of maintaining the wall to keep us out. If that falls, then we will be elected and they know that."
Asked what she believes is the greatest menace to France, she is quick to respond and unequivocal: the European Union and immigration.
"The greatest threat is the loss of our freedom as people because we can see that in reality the European Union has become another Soviet Union constructed without the people and sometimes against the people. It makes decisions and our democracy has disappeared; we French people cannot decide on our own future, it's a bureaucrat or technocrat who decides in our place.
"The other great danger is massive immigration that will result in the loss of our identity. I am madly in love with the idea of there being a diversity of nations, but for nations to be diverse their people have to stay together. It is not a lack of respect or hatred for foreigners, but I want Malians to remain Malians and defend the language and identity of Mali, Americans to stay Americans, the Chinese, Chinese and the French, French."
In 2002, Miss Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie, stunned France by winning his way into the second round of the presidential vote, knocking out the main opposition Socialist candidate, before being trounced by the incumbent Jacques Chirac.
Jerome Fourquet of the opinion pollsters IFOP, says the FN's popularity in the run up to next year's presidential is considerably higher than it was in 2002, a phenomenon he attributes to the global economic turmoil.
"The current financial crisis is bringing water to Marine Le Pen's mill," he says.
"When she says Europe will bring us to ruin and we see the news and the turbulence in Europe, it gives what she says credibility. The evolution of this economic crisis will be very important to the Front National.
"If it gets worse and there is more euro-scepticism, this could reinforce the party. She can only profit from a degradation of the situation. Then she'll be able to say, 'I told you so'."
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.