03 July 2006

On 'Political Correctness,' Religion, and Politics

Note from the LuapHacim, 11/14/2012: The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect my current beliefs and convictions. Even if they do, I would almost certainly express them in different words today. Time changes people, and I am not exempt. Nonetheless, because of its historical value, I will not modify or remove this post. It tells you (and me) something important about where I've been. Read on at your own peril.

There's an interesting New York Post editorial today that deals with Harvard and its loss of a big donation from Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison:
Someone finally put a price on political correctness:

$115 million.

That's the tidy sum that Harvard won't be getting because its PC-obsessed faculty drove the school's president, Larry Summers, out of office.
What kind of "political correctness" does the Post's editorial board villify? The answer, of course, is anti-essentialist, egalitarian theory:
The final straw was Summers' observation at an academic conference about the preponderance of men in the hard science and math fields. He urged the attendees to think outside the box and consider the possibility that men were different than women.

Cue a wave of PC outrage: Academic freedom, it seems, no longer stretches so far as to permit the questioning of feminist dogma. Summers was obliged to backtrack and grovel for forgiveness.
And there's a very good reason he was "obliged" to do so: that statement goes against every legitimate theoretical framework of the past 30 years. Moreover, the Post's board misstates the case. Of course women are different from men. That's the starting point for feminist thought. The difference between feminism and essentialist modes of thought, however, is that most of the differences between men and women are socially and culturally constructed. That is, they are more or less artificial and can therefore be remade.

The fact that the vast majority of academics believe in some form or another of feminsm should probably make the president of a university think twice before saying things that go completely against what most of his underlings hold to be valid. At the very least, his statement demonstrates his abrasive, to-hell-with-you management style (which seems to be the real reason for his sacking, if you look at the opinions of people who actually know what they're talking about).

I love how "political correctness" has become shorthand for "philosophy that some people value but I don't because I don't want to take the time to understand it." That's fantastic.

In a development that probably shocks someone but shouldn't, male NY prison guards may have sexually assaulted female prisoners. What? Men in a position of power tend to victimize women for their own gratification? When did this start happening?

Maybe I shouldn't be too hard on them; I know that boys will be boys (according to ex-president Summers, anyway).

Stanley Crouch writes about Barack Obama and his efforts to return the Democratic party to the good graces of that ol'-time religion. He astutely discusses Obama's recent recognition of multiple Christianities in the nation's past:
The compassion at the center of Christianity drove both the abolition movement and the civil rights movement. This was an alternative Christianity to the one that upheld slavery and remained silent while its symbol, the cross, became a beacon of bigotry when burned as a signature of the Ku Klux Klan.

Obama's recognition of that difference could reinvigorate partisan discourse and make the next presidential election much more unpredictable.
Here's to hoping.

In related news, the Christian Science Monitor has noticed what my friend Evil Bender has observed in a recent post: There's been a lot of talk about religion and politics in recent days, especially as we approach the Fourth of July holiday.

The article raises some interesting points:
230 years after the first Independence Day, Americans of varied political and religious stripes are determined to prove that the Founders' beliefs are similar to their own. Helped by a spate of new books this year, skeptics and believers alike have fresh intellectual gunpowder this July 4 for claiming the framers as members of their respective camps.

For a nation torn over what role religion should have in the public square, the stakes are high. Both religionists and secularists say they're under attack in the public domain and want America's first patriots on their side to maintain legitimacy.

Each side has its favorites. Patrick Henry's frequent references to Jesus Christ help make him a darling of Christian conservatives, some of whom opened a Virginia college named after him in 2000. Secularists prefer to invoke Thomas Paine, whose "Age of Reason" treatise mocking Christianity earned him a badge of scorn in his day.
Side note: the aforementioned Virginia College accepts only the retarded or certifiably insane. No, I'm joking. But it was founded by and for homeschooling families, and that's no joke. I know people who went there. It's like the perfect way to ensure that you will never actually have to meet anyone with ideological views different from your own. It's splendid.

It's fascinating to me that Americans feel like they need some kind of "original" authority in order to validate their views of religion and government. This trend was started by historical revisionists like the late Puritan Cotton Mather, and it was then picked up by all manner of "thinkers" who felt an overpowering helplessness to come up with their own rationale for their belief systems.

I am an Evangelical Christian. Nevertheless, I believe firmly in separation of church and state. I also believe that America's independence was not a gift from God; I think the Revolution was a rebellious, treasonous, reactionary, and biblically unjustifiable event.

So there ya go.


Unknown said...

hmm.. well, we disagree on somethings.. and so I have posted. Although I fear that both sides tend to "ensure that you will never actually have to meet anyone with ideological views different from your own" Just out of curiousity, how many people that you hang around that you didn't know from childhood are conservate idealogues? :)

Unknown said...

conservative.. I really -can- spell :)

luaphacim said...

Actually, one of my favorite teachers is, and I've met several fairly conservative English grad students (most of whom are creative writers or grammar nerds). :-)

Yes, the majority of folks here at the university are liberal, but you have a better chance of running into diverse, "unorthodox" views here than you do at someplace like PHC, whose only goal seems to be to shield homeschooled kids from experience with the world outside their churches and homes.