In the lead-up to the climax of the 2016 US general election (for the president et al.), I heard far too much about the issue of ‘political correctness’ (PC) and especially how it would no longer be needed if the right man won. I have calmed down enough to be able express the absurdity of such claims.
The need for and practice of political correctness has been with us since before the recording of history. It springs up as one of two possible methods for avoiding the rathe-full expressions coming from a community one is stuck in. Communities do not tolerate the intolerable, regardless of it being innate (like hair color — try being a “ginger”) or being a mutable behavior. The offending person must hide the offense. In the case of immutable characteristics (such as skin color), the only recourse is to avoid being noticed (even to the extent of exile). Beliefs and other behaviors, can be hidden by diligently guarding against words or actions that reveal what the community will not tolerate. Or the person can effect a change of personality to not speak or act in a manner that offends.
Persons with intelligence and persons with education have a tiny advantage vis-à-vis the average person, and in modern societies the accumulation of these advantages result in such persons influencing the societal norms. For example, science has produced overwhelming evidence that homosexuality is innate and not a “matter of choice”; thus, we are abandonning the practice of punishing homosexuality, as it serves no benefit to either the individuals or the community. Science has contributed to better understanding of not just economics, human development, education, and law enforcement, every aspect of society, with commensurate reformulation of norms and practices.
Those persons who have loudly resumed offending decent people because they imagined that their candidate would ‘reset’ the societal norms, merely show how little they understand of reality. While a significant leader can have much more influence than the average person, the weight of public opinion exceeds that of any individual.
Moreover, there are two basic patterns of response to authorities. Some people accept truth as it comes from authoritative sources (authority begets truth), others of us judge the merits of the source by the truths it presents (truth begets authority). We in the second group are slow to accept new leaders, and equally slow to accept change that is not supported by long collected truth. Thus the swings affecting PC are not symmetric. Tough!