Robert Hughes has exposed the threat of political correctness in his book entitled The Culture of Complaint. Perhaps because he is a transplanted Australian who took up residence in New York he had the perspective of an outsider to offer a powerful dose of social criticism that applies equally well to the Canadian experience.
His thesis is simple: political correctness is a dangerous movement towards cultural separatism that is undoing the fabric of society and is bringing free thought to a stop. Some examples he cited are worth considering. The civil rights, feminist, and gay liberation movements of the last several decades have created a “culture of complaint” wherein groups claiming victim status demand redress, entitlements, and apologies from society that complainers view as oppressive, insidious, white, and male. Afro-centrist extremists have taken to re-writing history, making a series of outlandish claims, including one that credits the building of the pyramids to black Egyptians using telekinesis. All of this was purportedly to provide a black perspective on history and science. And in the name of cultural diversity and acceptance of minority rights, these outlandish claims are accepted unchallenged. They are not subject to the same rigorous intellectual tests as any other claim because to do so would be viewed as racist. As a result, open debate fails and truth suffers.
Moreover, Hughes challenges works of Kirkpatrick Sale’s The Conquest of Paradise that portrays Columbus as responsible for the devastation of Native American cultures. Hughes insists that such books merely replace one historical myth, namely, Columbus as a noble discoverer, with an equally fallacious one, namely, Columbus as a malevolent conqueror. This is not even historical revisionism. It is historical distortion. Hughes admonishes: “You cannot remake the past in the name of affirmative actions.”
Blind acceptance of the grievances put forward by groups on the left or the right have transformed a diversified nation – which is good – into a nation of victimized factions – which is not. Our task as Jews and as Jewish students is to scrutinize every argument and to debate each issue. After all, it is the Torah itself that instructs us to search out the truth: “to investigate and inquire and search thoroughly” (Deuteronomy 13:15; 17:4). If the arguments are sound and the facts are correct, then our support ought to follow. But the uncritical embrace of a cause, no matter how just it may appear to be, will ultimately serve no good.