How Political Correctness can make you Deaf and Dumb. But Mostly Dumb.

 (sanjay austa austa)

Writer V. S. Naipaul claimed in an interview that he can tell after reading just a few sentences from a book if the author is  a female. I don’t know about women’s writings but I can tell just by looking at the car in front of me if it is being driven by a female.  I say it out aloud so that my co-passengers can hear me and can see for themselves when we pass the vehicle.  Out of ten,  I am right eight times.  The times I am wrong is when I am not paying much attention.

Comparatively women make bad drivers. A research done by the University of Giessen, Germany  found that,  ‘’spatial skills such as map reading and parking may be difficult for some women because they had too little testosterone in the womb’’. John Gray postulated eloquently the Mars-Venus  divide between men and women in his well received bestseller Men are from Mars and Woman are from Venus . This psychological, biological difference is also explained in another bestseller Why Men Don’t Listen and Woman can’t read Maps by Allan Pease and Barbara Pease.

One can however argue that of all the fatal car crashes in the world 95 percent are due to men. Men are certainly far more dangerous behind the wheel. But there is  a  difference between being a bad driver and a dangerous one.  Dangerous driving is an act of will.

When I say bad, I mean bad in the ‘clumsy’ sense of the term. Females are generally too cautious, too slow (in the fast lane) and somewhat uncertain at the wheel.

For his remark the Nobel Laureate was hauled over the coals by the literati, the feminist and the readers at large.  He was called a male chauvinist, an illiterate and much worse. A newspaper in London even ran a column – ‘Guess the Writer’  as a spoof on Naipaul’s utterings. Much of the diatribe Naipaul received was largely due to his personal history of being a wife beater of the sadomasochistic variety helped largely by his biography  by  Patrich French.

But Naipaul is an exception as is the occasional good female driver.

However, there  is nothing more important for those who call themselves liberals  to remain on the right side of political correctness. Political correctness stems out of lack of conviction and partly due to our  cavemanish instinct to remain in the cozy comfort of the herd.  It means preserving the status quo at all costs.

The liberals (so called ) suppress any thoughts or research  that could brand them one of these terms : sexist, racist, communal and in the case of India castist.  Liberals will do anything to be seen as liberals. Which paradoxically often leads them  to voicing illiberal ideas.

They particularly don’t want to  get on the   wrong side of the feminist debate. Make any rash statement and you are branded a misogynist  for life.

For example there is the perennial debate in India and elsewhere on whether female army personnel should be allowed in combat zones. If you are an educated, well-traveled, well-read person as any middle class Indian is today, you would be expected to say yes they should.  If men can do it why not women.

One can of course agree with the sentiment  but its really naïve to suggest that every woman is as physically strong as the next man.

Why then would you have different sports events for the sexes? In such a scenario it would be fair to pit a Mike Tyson against a female boxer  or Usain Bolt against any female sprinter.  The fact is, the  male pugilists land the  meanest punch and  the male sprinters  clock the fastest time.

Therefore I don’t see why one  should  say a female solider can kick any male soldier’s butt  just  to keep few busy body feminists happy.

The problem is that women have been so ruthlessly dominated,  exploited and browbeaten by  men  since millennia that you cannot make a fair criticism or observation without touching a raw nerve.

Perhaps political correctness is a palliative for those who have faced gross persecutions, biases  and discriminations in history.

 (sanjay austa austa)

Take Jews for example. Everyone knows you cannot beat a Jew in making money. Jew jokes especially  revolving around their money making abilities were staple  fare but after the holocaust the jokes  don’t  seem so funny.

Even   Shakespeare is accused of being anti-Semitic for his unflattering portrayal of Shylock -the blood-sucking jewish money lender in  Merchant of Venice.  Professor Noam Chomsky, a Jew himself, is branded  anti-Semitic by the Zionists because of his criticism of Israel and their  unaccounted  atrocities on the Palestinians.

Similarly in India sardar jokes lost their punch  after 1984 anti-Sikh riots which left almost three thousand Sikhs dead.

As for the backward castes or the Dalits they have always had it tough in India.  Therefore when India sociologist  Ashish Nandy tried to make a nuanced remark on the egalitarian nature  of corruption at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2013 there was an expected rabble rousing against the remark.

The liberals defended him yes but their argument was specious and a cop out. They were defending him because he was an intellectual. They sent out a petition to the government in his support because they were sure his remark was misunderstood and they had ‘’no doubt that it was meant to question the upper caste-middle class notions of morality rather than denigrate marginalized and subaltern groups’’.   Which means had Nandy made his statement as a matter of fact rather than as irony,  no liberal would have backed him.

The truth is, most of our intellectuals and writers, known for their free thoughts and outspokenness have  displayed a shocking lack of nerve when it comes to defending freedom of expression. Author Khushwant Singh, known for debunking superstitions, God- men and absurd beliefs has the dubious distinction  of being the first person to propose a ban on the publication of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses in his position as Consulting Editor with Penguin Books when he read the advance copy of the book. Secularism in India often means appeasement of minorities.( Or at any rate the appeasement of the fringe groups who claim to represent them). It is no surprise therefore that it became the first country to ban the Satanic Verses much before Iran or Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.

Our media is largely nationalistic often bordering on jingoism.  And its political correctness that defines our media debates on any Indo- Pak issue. Indian journalists who have covered Kashmir know that  beheading of soldiers happen on both sides of the Line of Control. Journalists like Barkha Dutt have written about the beheading of Pakistani soldiers in great detail in the past  but  chose  not to bring it up in her show during a discussion on Pakistani soldiers beheading of Indian solders in 2012. It could have certainly tempered the jingoistic baying for blood to a great extent.

11 Responses to “How Political Correctness can make you Deaf and Dumb. But Mostly Dumb.”

  1. Anubha Yadav says:

    Sanjay: The points I am trying to drive straight home here are two – a)very activity has a cultural history (gene pool affected by it too)- so women have joined this pool of mechanized vehicle drivers very late- the gene pool and cultural enabling is still very lacking, not done at all. May be reading anthropologist Margaret Mead on it will shed some political correctness in terms of factual knowing. Although that is not the point of the essay but considering you have started it with Naipaul and a bit of your own Naipaul-ness, I think it is relevant to add that I am a great straight driver, I am. Backing, I suck, have still not got it in a decade. Now that apart, mys sister is exemplary on the wheels and my dad could not learn driving a car in 10 years(3 attempts)- he drove a scooter all his life thus. The day we have equal men and women driving cars from the same age and with the same cultural allowing from families we will talk. Driving anything is still a privilege for women. And political incorrectness and correctness in personal opinion is fine till it is an opinion which does not need facts to ratify it. But then that is where it will cease to be relevant for others- is it not?

  2. Natasha Badhwar says:

    Also lets define good driving. Women drivers are irritating and slow decision makers…male drivers are overwhelmingly responsible for accidents and fatalities caused by speeding and loss of control.

    Which category is the better driver?

  3. Rashmee-Karnad says:

    What part does caution bred through socialization play in ‘slow’ decision making on roads? What part does ‘you don’t know how’ deep rooted in patriarchy affect this judgement? Why are there higher insurance rates for young men drivers than women drivers in many parts of the world? Also ethnographical work such as Mead or Goodall even are single point perspectives are they not? Who asked the Samoans or the chimps what they thought and why they did what they did? Observing women or any other group from a perspective of superiority, even within subgroups: these women observing those women, is based on a hegemony that is ingrained into the lens. Great opinion piece by the amount of conversation it is generating.

  4. Anubha Yadav says:

    I do agree with you on socialization’s role to breed a framework of acceptance. Although I am talking about Mead’s work on urban -anthropological observations not ethnographic- but yes perspective is of value and so is the framework in all works.
    In that respect I do find it revealing that Sanjay chose to give these examples- and no example of a from a man’s world came naturally to him- I think we are also more used to giving a kind of privilege to certain kind of discourses on women. For example what would an example of a similar type be around men in the society? Would that be equally politically incorrect to say? Why? or Why not? Why is that discourse so politically absent?

    • sanjay austa says:

      Anubha no- i think political correctness or the lack of it come into play only for the suppressed people or minorities. Men have dominated and bullied so obviously there is no question of any political correctness in depicting aspects of them. For example R K Laxman’s cartoons with the wife throwing the belan at her husband or thrashing him with the broom are funny. But they certainly wouldn’t be should it be the other way around.

  5. Noni Chawla says:

    Excellent piece!

  6. Rashmee Karnad says:

    Ah discourse. That’s what is interesting. Rather discursive webs as the entanglements are many. And privilege is so deeply ingrained that we forget we have it. Unpacking that baggage is essential at every stage so we observe without judgement. Hard not impossible.
    I have stopped driving on the highway after an accident caused by a teenager who ran a stop sign three years ago. Now it’s interesting when I share that information, just the first half: the assumptions are many. If I tag on the second half there are some more. And if I were to state that I had never driven in India due to being in a different socio economic bracket, there will be others. Well, if I were to speak of environmental consciousness therefore no driving on the highway when the bus gets me to Montreal in less time, there is a whole new lens that I’m seen through. Identity is performative. The gaze matters.

  7. farah khan says:

    its a new fact that women are bad drivers!!i m not agree.

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