Special to the Cape Charles Mirror by Charles Landis
Ideology is a comprehensive set of beliefs or ideas held by a dominant group or elites. As a political tool, it is used to advance goals and interests by distorting political or social realities. Existentially, political correctness is an ideology.
My personal experiences with the excesses of political correctness began a few years after WWII ended when a German friend, then living in Geneva, invited me to visit his parent’s home in a small village in the Black Forest near Freiburg. His father, a retired general from Silesia, had fought on both fronts in both World Wars. He was of the quintessential Prussian military officer class with conviction of the absolute correctness of that heritage. He was a soldier and soldiers obeyed orders. He insisted the cause of WW II was the terms of surrender imposed at Versailles after WW I and need to resist Russian communism. This is the penultimate of political correctness; second only to the true believer of an ideology.
I was also introduced to someone who had been with the SS and one of the officers assigned as personal bodyguard to Hitler. He insisted Hitler was “ a good old man” and only others around him were the bad people. He drove me to Heidelberg where I was introduced to a group of students who had been in the Hitler Youth and attended Heidelberg University, aka the Nazi University during the Third Reich (1933-1945). We met in an underground bunker frequented by students as a private beer hall. While they accepted that Germany lost the war, they were not critical about the political correctness of what they had been taught and believed what happened in Germany could happen again and in other countries. You are as you have been taught.
Years later, in 1985, a Chinese exchange student (about 30 years of age) visited our home outside Washington, D.C. She grew up and attended school in Beijing during Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Mao had said, “Letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thoughts contend is the policy for promoting the progress of the arts and sciences and a flourishing culture in our land.” She exercised what she thought was an invitation to speak freely. One night she was arrested by the Red Guard and taken to a prison. She was not charged with a crime or told how long she would remain there. She was only told she would be held in the prison until she confessed to knowing what her crime was and would be released when they determined her thinking was correct.
She wrote a book about her experience and gave me a copy of the manuscript. Day after day she recounts, for more than a year, she and her group met with their teacher to read the writings of Mao (ie. The Little Red Book) and discuss the politically correct way to think about old customs, culture, habits and ideas, the traditional elements of Chinese history and society. In time she was able to convince her teacher that she was no longer a reactionary, her mind was cleansed, that her thinking was politically correct, and she was released. While she was visiting she secured a scholarship at Georgetown University and, later, a scholarship at the London School of Economics. She now lives in China and is a writer.
In 2003, while traveling in China, I visited Mao’s Memorial Hall in Tiananmen Square where he is laid to rest. He has been deified and millions visit and wait long hours to place flowers at his tomb. These are the politically correct from all over China.
I also visited Cambodia and saw what the genocidal social engineering of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge did. Anyone who did not fit into the communist agrarian ideal was exterminated. In addition to the mass graves (killing fields where 2 million were killed), there are large silos with chicken wire enclosing thousands of skulls of Cambodians who were slaughtered for not being ideologically/politically correct. In the infamous School House S-21, 17,000 people were interrogated and tortured into confessing to having done something considered ideologically/politically incorrect. Only 7 people are known to have survived S 21. All of this was under the direction/leadership of a 17 year old boy who joined the Khmer Rouge at age 10.
In recent years, we witness the destruction of 1700 year old Buddhist statutes by the Taliban in Afghanistan and the destruction of a 1900 year old temple in Palmyra, Iraq, by Isis. Again, this is done in the name of cultural cleansing. The purpose of destroying ancient buildings and monuments is to eliminate the memory. If you erase the memory, you erase the history.
Today, we witness the growing imposition of political correctness, especially on college campuses, to censure any speech, action, expressions, or images that may offend, marginalize, or appear to exclude particular groups of people. This includes monuments and memorials, from confederate soldiers to founding fathers. A Gallop poll reports that 69% of college students believe their schools should restrict “intentionally offensive speech”. It has become acceptable to shout down any speaker that is not politically correct, and to engage in violence to deny the right to speak. Anyone on campus or in media who is not politically correct or has a conservative agenda is considered racist, misogynist, xenophobic, fascist… a white supremacist.