Friday, November 22, 2013

Doris Lessing and Political Correctness

From David Chambers:
British writer Doris Lessing died in London today, aged 94. She had become a communist in the 1940s about the time she married Gottfried Lessing but had abandoned such ideas by 1949. 1 2

In 1992, Lessing wrote and lectured about “Unexamined Mental Attitudes Left Behind By Communism.” 3 A brief of that essay appeared in the New York Times, called “Language and the Lunatic Fringe.” 4 In it, she warns of vestiges that remain after the “apparent death of Communism.” She was particularly concerned one of those vestages not “as immediately evident,” namely “Political Correctness.”

Lessing was a fair-minded writer and so is careful to note, “I am not suggesting that the torch of Communism has been handed on to the Political Correctors. I am suggesting that habits of mind have been absorbed, often without knowing it.” She does concede that Political Correctness can have a “good side” in that it challenges us to “re-examine attitudes, and that is always useful.”

Lessing did not address other political movements or their own tendencies toward Political Correctness. For instance, the Encyclopedia Britannica notes Political Correctness as a characteristic of the American Neo-Conservative movmement: “It also encourages the excesses of “political correctness”—that is, an overly acute sensitivity to offending people of other backgrounds, outlooks, and cultures.” 5 (Read more.)

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