Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Kowtow – when freedom bows

Maybe China has a political lesson for us. Maybe there was only ever one brand of politics - kowtow – the bow to political authority.

Kowtow - verb [no object]
1 act in an excessively subservient manner.
2 historical kneel and touch the ground with the forehead in worship or submission as part of Chinese custom.
Early 19th century: from Chinese kētóu, from kē 'knock' + tóu 'head'

Head knock – sounds about right on a number of levels.

Politically, kowtow has many names from socialism to fascism to communism, dictatorship, monarchy and last but not least - social democracy.

In extreme cases such as North Korea, kowtow is demanded personally by the leader, even stone dead leaders such as Kim Il-sung. Today, kowtow is more commonly demanded on behalf of state-sponsored abstractions – especially those we lump together as that dreary curse on the modern world, political correctness.

However, the word correctness doesn’t bring out two key aspects:-

  • The coercive demand, the lack of choice – the kowtow.
  • The sentimental sweetening – kowtow makes you a better person.

Sentimental kowtow to political correctness is a key aspect of modern social democracy, leaving freedom-lovers with a problem in that modern kowtow tends to be sentimentally rather than physically coercive.

Modern political kowtow is designed to leave us with a feelgood sense of doing the right thing, being on the right side of the debate, however absurd the debate might be. It’s a powerful approach because the sentimental appeal is overt while the kowtow is covert – little more than a quiet acquiescence. The head knock is hardly felt at all – especially by soft heads.

It comes under many guises where official involvement is often covert, such as health issues, alcohol, gender politics, sexual orientation, racial identity, cultural identity, road safety, transport, education, smoking, abortion, eco-worries and even the food we eat and the air we breathe.

A huge political attraction is that the official line is made to seem almost voluntary, as if designed by earnest people working to soothe cares of the wannabe disadvantaged and maybe a few celebrities in need of a caring makeover.

Sadly, kowtow enthusiasts commonly fail to understand motives other than their own. A love of sentimental kowtow seems to overpower their capacity for rational thought. Maybe it’s all that head-knocking.

Neither do they appear to understand the dynamics of personal freedom. How it may be damaged by too much kowtow to keep those dynamics alive. Not an easy idea to get across to those millions of head-knockers who, being mediocrities themselves, are so willing to kowtow before a mirage of rule by the mediocrity, for the mediocrity.

This is the elephant in the room, as many in the blogosphere see all too clearly. The intimate link between freedom, social dynamism, personal responsibility and social resilience.

Fortunately, freedom lovers and innovators do not naturally kowtow to anything, let alone sentimental blackmail.

Long may they prosper. Long may they refuse to kowtow.


Demetrius said...

Bow down, ye lower middle classes.

Sackerson said...

Doesn't it translate as "knock head"?

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - and knock your heads.

Sackers - yes, I just thought it sounded better, although now you mention it I'm not so sure.

James Higham said...

A failure to kowtow has left me very much out in the cold in the past few years. Kow tow to these people?

A K Haart said...

James - it's not failure although it can be damaging.