Saturday, 17 April 2021

A lost art

It is something we remember about the Duke of Edinburgh, his politically incorrect generalisations. Amusing half-truths which at the very least added a touch of colour to life. Almost a lost art, or it will be in another decade or so. Yet maybe the Duke caused at least some of us to consider the shallow nature of grey and timid convention.

It is another of those issues with which we are familiar enough but find difficult to tackle. We use generalisations because they reduce impossible complexities to manageable ideas. Even generalised parody has its uses and even partial accuracy may be better than nothing at all. At least it may stimulate some kind of debate.

Yet we are currently under intense political pressure to limit the use of political generalisations by both voters and children. Don’t venture beyond official generalisations concerning race, gender, immigration, culture, climate, sexual orientation or the demographics of violent crime for example. Do so and you risk being abused or worse.

This is what political correctness seeks to do, to expunge useful and flexible generalisations in favour of official one-dimensional versions. The effect is to undermine our ability to build widespread untrammelled political discourse around almost all aspects of the modern political game. If we are unable to use and explore generalisations we already have a subtle and effective version of Newspeak.


Sam Vega said...

I wonder whether we have just moved from a time when there was one "official" and dominant generalisation to there being another, different one, but no less official and dominant. The old one was that things are best viewed through a lens of nationalism, that foreigners are interestingly different and usually a bit amusing, that women are weaker than men and deserve protection, and that one shouldn't make a fuss and just get on with doing one's duty.

As for the new one, well, just look around. The important point is that influential people will make life hard for you if you depart from the narrative. And I guess the same thing happened in times past.

Perhaps the D of E was so notable because he lived long enough, and publicly enough, to straddle the two narratives. When he started in public life, most people thought the way he did. Towards the end, he was considered a dinosaur. Most old guys of his generation would have toned it down a bit in order to avoid trouble, but who was ever going to give Philip trouble?

Rest in Peace, anyway. I'll miss him.

DiscoveredJoys said...

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Wokespeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”

With apologies to George Orwell.

A K Haart said...

Sam - I suspect you are right even though I seem to recall more freedom of speech in the seventies for example than there is now.

That could be an illusion or it could be that free speech expands then contracts again as puritans stifle it but in a way which is not the same as previous puritan generations. In which case people who live long enough may recall the expansion and deplore the contraction.

DJ - as many have said, some people seem to take 1984 as an instruction manual. Yet I do think many middle class people favour totalitarian politics while calling it something else. Many are not at all comfortable with free speech.

MrMC said...

I have just spent a few days travelling around Norfolk and Suffolk. What these people think when they switch on the TV must beggar belief, a swathe of England without the requisite 50% or more of black people let alone married to white women. Not a black person in sight for three days.
Black being the operative word as, for some strange reason, it is black and only black that is currently being pandered to, my Chinese wife wonders why not her race or culture. the hundreds and thousands or more immigrants from around the world in the UK, maybe she should riot ?

A K Haart said...

MrMC - weird isn't it? Almost makes me wonder why Norfolk and Suffolk are two of my favourite counties because they clearly shouldn't be.