Sunday, July 16, 2006

Why Political Correctness Goes Mad

A letter from yesterday's Telegraph:

Sir - A colleague brought back a box of loose tea from his holiday in Sri Lanka. When it came to the office juniors' turn to make real tea, they had no idea how to do it, and ended up putting the tea leaves in what they called a "tea sieve" and pouring the water through it into the cup.

This important British ritual should be taught as part of the National Curriculum, before it dies out.

Jonathan Yardley, Wolverhampton

I hope this letter was written with tongue somewhere in cheek. But knowing the usual lack of grip on reality possessed by most Telegraph correspondents, it seems entirely plausible that Mr Yardley genuinely believes the words written in his name. Even if they don't, they are indicative of a broader attitude that ultimately leads to the state of affairs the right complains so bitterly about - the old dictum of "political correctness gone mad".

How far this can be said to be true, of course is questionable - and I will return to the theme. But here, there is a quite simple formulation employed by the writer. Situation A is something that is a desirable characteristic in people - therefore it should be enforced by the state. Regardless of what situation A is, the basic formulation of looking to the state to guarantee its adoption is all too common.

Why should children be forced to learn how to make a cup of tea? Surely if the taxpayer pays for their education, there are far more useful skills that could be passed on? Some that actually have some relevance to the modern world, for example.

But all too often, the Government is the repository of action in the minds of people. If an attitude like that prevails, the state will inevitably reflect the interest groups closest to power. Only a spirit of greater vigilance over the operation of government can preserve our liberty.