All Very Juvenile And Correct

All very juvenile and incorrect

Commentator with The National and host of CBC Radio's Cross-Country Checkup
The Globe and Mail
November 29, 2008

I know Margaret Wente has already wrung out the dishcloth on this one, but I figure it's worth one more passing squeeze. I'm referring to that farcical, and now almost famous motion of Carleton University's student union, that passed by a vote of 17 to 2, to stop the annual Shinerama in support of cystic fibrosis.

Most readers will already have choked on the revelation that the worthies on the student union wanted to give up on cystic fibrosis, after nearly a quarter of a century of Carleton's supporting the charity, because – in homage to that stern god, Diversity – the disease wasn't “inclusive” enough.

The telling phrase in the motion, a monument to the caring and scrupulous intellect of that most delicate of mechanisms – the politically correct sensibility – was that “cystic fibrosis has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men.”

Well, shiver my multicultural timbers. Next time I catch a flu, I'm not going to the doctor. I'm going to ask to see its papers. If my poor hack fit is not at the very least polyethnic in origin, bisexual in tendency, and unless I'm sneezing in at least three languages other than English, then I'll know this is just that damn white man's cough and just shut up about it.

Don''t even get me started about mononucleosis! In the name of all that's inclusive what kind of sicko opts for mono in a polyviral world. But I, infectiously, digress.

Now it's already been explained, in a tidal wave of derision, that all its “facts” were wrong. Cystic fibrosis is not, medically speaking, just a white person's burden, its dread operation is not confined to men. But let's skip these “facts.” Assume, as we must assume the student union did to vote in favour of this superb asininity, that these so-called facts were right.

They had then, these young Pasteurs of political correctness, stumbled upon a disease that affected only … white people. That's a two-pointer right there. What kind of second-rate, exclusivist, snooty, supremacist illness only caters to “white people?” But, that was only a halting-place on the way to a real summit. Not only, in their deliriously inclusive rapture, had they hit upon a disease that blasted only white people, but – and here they took the very Triple Crown of right-thinking – even among white people it affected … “primarily men.”

Hosanna! A disease that affects only white people, and then, primarily men! In the world of officially sensitive politically correct thought, that's not a disease: It's a public service.

Everybody knows that men, and most emphatically white men, don't get sick – they are sick. So you see where, conceptually, they were coming from. Support a charity to fight an illness that affects mainly white men? Good luck with getting a rock star benefit going for that one.

I'm not even going to go near the consideration that it was a fourth-year science student who produced the farrago of assumption and error that constituted the motion. It might be understandable if some masters student in, say, Performance Art and Heterosexist Normativity (Under the Hegemon) had conjured this up. But a science student? Fourth year?

What is finally interesting about the episode is that it's almost a casebook example of how political correctness, the attempt to purge every thought, word, or deed of its ideological impurities, almost always ends up like the fabled serpent that devours its own tail. Of committing greater sins than the ones it seeks to proscribe.

In the effort to be purer than the pure, the poor innocents at Carleton demean a fine charity, offend its many victims and embarrass their university. In pursuit of the ignis fatuus, the foolish fire, of diversity at all costs, they wander into a great wilderness of bad taste and offence. Much like their equally risible brethren at Queen's, with their grotesque innovation of “conversation monitors” or “dialogue facilitators” whose goal is to purge the campus of every trace, every scintilla of the dreaded “homophobic, sexist, racist” trifecta.

I repeat: In seeking to displace one social or ideological sin, they commit far greater ones. Very, very much like those grandnannies of all political correctness, the various human rights commissions, the great hall monitors of government, who in the name of human rights take aim at the central one of free speech and thought.

Carleton, Queen's and the human rights commissions. There's a continuum in all this. The pursuit of absolute tolerance leads to the most rigorous and ludicrous intolerance. The search for absolute diversity leads to the most ruthless homogeneity. The urge to be always “correct” leads to a society of prissy busybodies and puritanical beadles.

It's all very embarrassing. It's all very juvenile. And I wish we had done with it.