The Political Correct Red Guard

In the late 1960s student communist enthusiasts in China called the “Red Guard” scoured the country for symbols, people, books, ideas, monuments, etc. that did not reflect Mao’s values or the stated aim to remove all vestiges of Western influence from his country as part of a greater cultural revolution.

Basically, the Red Guard were self appointed guardians of what constituted appropriate values, beliefs and behaviours practiced by the Chinese public (too bad if you disagreed). History was white-washed and re-written to reflect Mao’s radical leftist vision for the country; ironically, Mao’s influence and vision spread to university campuses in Canada and the United States in the 1960s, eg. My harmless Aunty Judy kept her copy of Mao’s “Little Red Book”. Dissent was punished cruelly and there was no room or intellectual space for public dialogue or consensus building in China.

I get why so many people do not like various monuments, eg. Statues of Lee. These statues represent oppression for a lot of the public (which is understandable). The anti-monument movement has moved from America to Canada with a recent call to strike the name of John A. MacDonald from schools, etc.

The people on the left in Canada, well meaning people to be sure, want to knock down offending symbols; prevent us from wearing certain Halloween costumes; control how we speak and dictate our values; control what can or cannot be said on university campuses or in public generally, etc. remind me of those enthusiastic and well-meaning but ill-considered Red Guard students in the 1960s.

What’s that aphorism, again? Oh, yeah: the road to Hell is paved with good intentions…

I am not anti-politically correct because I do not care about my fellow Canadians: I accept the need and wisdom to be considered, tempered and responsible when I speak because what I say affects others. I am also sensitive to the need for our country to meaningfully address the darkest pages of its history.

I am anti-politically correct because of the inherent authoritarian nature of political correctness; it is an attempt at engineering society just as doomed as Mao’s own attempts; and as a cultural force it is intellectually stultifying because it places arbitrary limits on what I can or cannot say.

So instead of dictating to others what they must believe let’s talk openly and frankly in a genuine desire to understand one another. Let’s have the discussion about controversial personalities and spaces named after them, eg. Place Riel at the University of Saskatchewan or John A. MacDonald High School in Ontario. This is what you do in democracies–you talk, you don’t bully (no matter how justified in doing so you believe yourself to be).

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