Back in the 1990s I was on a committee of people from around the country. It was mostly a cordial gathering, but the atmosphere would change completely if one person was there. He constantly hounded the chairman, questioned every item on the agenda, asked for the detail of every minute. There were times when he could be down right obnoxious. There was a general sense of relief when he decided he was leaving the committee.
Only after he was gone did I realize how valuable he had been. He stopped drifts into inanity. He ensured business was relevant. He made sure that every penny was used to maximum effect. His departure allowed scope for laziness and ineffectiveness. Those most pleased at his departure were those who most needed his presence.
The committee became intellectually flabby, bad practices were tolerated, inefficiency went unchallenged, the edge was lost.
Conspiracies of “niceness”exist among people who think they are acting for the best. If we all behave in a pleasant manner then the world will be nice and all the bad things will go away.
The committee was a microcosm of a society where political correctness says that no-one should say anything that’s not nice; where gatherings of like-minded people share platitudes and sincerely believe the world corresponds to their earnest desires.
The politically correct hound anyone who doesn’t conform. If they can silence voices they don’t want to hear, then nasty things will go away. Like the committee, an intellectual flabbiness creeps in. When no-one is allowed to challenge the conventional wisdom, when dissenting voices are banished by illiberal liberalism, no-one remains to ask the awkward questions. But the questions don’t go away, they are asked by others who thrive on attempts to silence them, who offer simplistic answers to the questions the politically correct refuse to ask.
Riding a chairlift on the side of an Austrian mountain, a question to the ski instructor about support for the Far Right brought forth a series of questions he believed that were not being answered, even when we reached the top he continued his explanation of the way he saw things. He is not a Fascist, nor is he a racist, all he asks is that the liberal values he cherishes continue in his society, that the traditions and the customs of his community be allowed to continue. It didn’t seem such a hard thing to ask.
European politics has become lazy and flabby in many places, no-one asking big questions or nasty questions. Political correctness has ruled out fundamental questions about how we preserve individual freedom and liberty in the face of those who do not share a European liberal world view. We need nasty people within our ranks, otherwise they will come from outside and come with a greater nastiness that is destructive of the very liberalism they purport to protect.