Today’s college campuses are hotbeds of anti-intellectual insanity—a world of micro- aggressions, trigger warnings, safe spaces, speech codes, cultural appropriations and mandatory sensitivity training where the slightest impolite utterance, regardless of intent or heartfelt apologies can result in harsh punishment. Can this be reversed? The answer is “yes” but this will require a devious pathway that begins by seemingly encouraging the opposite—yet more PC to, eventually, kill the beast. Let me explain.
Analyzing the PC distemper invariably focuses on a reign of terror by snowflakes, cupcakes and social justice warriors seeking to punish anything (“hate”) that might possibly offend anybody but particularly members of certain privileged categories.
Not true though it is absolutely correct insofar as these misguided airheads are the ones doing the actual damage.
What really drives this insanity is the absence of clear-cut rules regarding the PC-cosmology. Anarchy, not malevolence is the core of the problem, since nobody in advance knows that is hateful, let alone its punishment. Today’s campus PC disaster is the classic illustration of life without the rule of law. How can a Goodthink professor escape the little Torquemadas if he has no idea of what they consider “offensive”? Life thus abounds with ever-changing wooly-headed rules, many invented on the spot with Kafkaesque variations. We obviously need a clear PC code that defines offensiveness and stipulates its punishment.
The solution requires each campus to create an assembly of students, administrators, professors and activists to formulate a “PC Code.” Now, unlike the American Constitutional Convention dominated by White Protestant Males (including 25 who owned enslaved persons), this Assembly of Social Justice Warriors (ASJW) will be a truly representative law-making body. The school will also pay students members generously and benefits will include free meals, trips and conferences. We cannot foresee its exact composition and final size (at least 500, hopefully), but it will certainly include representatives from multiple communities of color, the LGBTQIA community and practitioners of other erotic predilections such as S & M as well as those previously marginalized, stigmatized and voiceless, those associated with indigenous peoples (particularly if negatively impacted by climate change), and where feasible, delegates from the currently incarcerated community.
Then there are the Assembly’s procedural rules, for example, can a single delegate, thanks to intersectionality, represent more than one perspective. Might a disabled lesbian of color be counted as three votes? Voting rules are particularly important. Will each community vote en bloc or will members freely pick their unique identity per vote so our black disabled lesbian might align with fellow blacks on issue “A” but and with the disabled community on issue “B”?
Meanwhile, should a simple majority of all delegates suffice or, following John C. Calhoun’s design of concurrent majorities, might proposals require a two-thirds or more vote with each community counted as a single vote. Most perplexing, are all votes to be counted equally or, in the interest of making amends for past racism, sexism, misogyny, oppression, ableism and the like, are voices to be weighted to reflect degrees of suffering?
Nevertheless, these will be settled, so now on to formulating the PC Code, a deliberative process no different than a legislature inventing the white male patriarchy criminal code though, of course, these enactments will not aim to subjugate, marginalize and disempower. Consider, for example, micro-aggression, just one of many, many troubling campus behaviors to be remediated.
Micro-aggression will first have to be formally defined with sufficient precision so that even white heterosexual males in denial can understand the concept and, as with criminal codes more generally, this Code must calibrate seriousness (e.g., the misdemeanor/felony distinction). Conceivably, a white cis-gendered female who asks an Asian male for help with a calculus problem (this assumes that all Asians are good at math, a stereotype) is less guilty of a micro-aggression than, say, the same cis-gendered female who inquire about a black male’s SAT math score since this question falsely assumes that black male college students have lower SAT math scores. What about a white professor who unconsciously gives African American students higher grades than whites for identical work? Can this micro-aggression be subject to the mens rea principle: — actus reus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, i.e. “the act is not culpable unless the mind is guilty.” Is the white Professor, all denials aside, guilty of unintentional condescending White Racism?
What about penalties for micro-aggressions? Might penalties draw distinctions over the perpetrator’s mental condition, for example, innocence due to the debilitating legacy of slavery and whether a “weapon” was involved , for example, posting a humiliating micro-aggression on Facebook?
Then there’s enforcement. How about paid student enforcers? The University of Arizona, for example, once advertised for students who would receive $10 per hour to spy on fellow students for exhibiting any bias toward fellow students. Why not a special “Chief Prosecutor for the Suppression of Heresies”? Can the PC Code include a “due process” element that would require a formal indictment, an opportunity for the accused to defend themselves (sic) in open court or, will the feelings of the victim automatically trump any defense?
Enacting a PC code, let alone just creating the initial Assembly is obviously a Herculean, attention-distracting, time-consuming, exhausting task. Months—maybe semesters– may pass while the battle over personal pronouns, let alone fuzzy definitions of “hate” or “bias” drone on. The happy upshot, however, will be that the pox will now be quarantined while all the snowflakes and social justice warriors antagonize each other over who is the most oppressed. With a little luck, the entire anti-“hate” impulse will vanish into a Tower of Babble.
Lastly, even if the PC Code could be formulated (unlikely given student turnover and the inventive of payments for pointless debating), the final product is likely to be so vague and cumbersome, that those accused a PC offense can readily escape punishment. For example, a white Sombrero wearer up on charges of Cultural Appropriation can demand that his accuser specific what PC “stature” was violated since the code itself fails to define “Sombrero” precisely and will call experts for his defense demonstrating that the Sombrero is not distinctly “Hispanic.” He might even claim a dollop of “Hispanic” ancestry since an unspecified ancestor was kicked out of Spain in 1492. The investigation, “trial” and all the appeals can drag on for years—long past graduation–and the very prospect of this farce will undoubtedly discourage future charges of “Cultural Appropriations.” Recall the brouhaha a t the University of Pennsylvania when a white Israeli called a black student a “water buffalo.” Even testimony from zoologists regarding water buffalo habitats and experts on the Hebrew language failed to resolve the issue, and the entire episode embarrassed the University
Recall Oscar Wilde’s insight about why socialism will fail—it takes too many evenings. Hopefully, the Pox will now vanish for the same reason—it will take too much time.