South Africa has arguably become the most politically correct country in the world where even the most innocuous statement may invoke hysterical denunciations, complaints to the South African Human Rights Commission or terminate an academic career.
For example, saying that “women do not run as fast as men” could land you in hot water as a sexist, mysogynist and patriarchal denialist.
However, amid the plethora of politically correct utterances that confront us daily, I have made a minor discovery, with the help of old-fashioned literary theory, applied by people like Roland Barthes and Umberto Eco to both classical realism and popular novels by Ian Fleming.
Almost any PC statement invariably contains three codes:
I’m so clever (with its corollary, you are mentally retarded).
I laugh at you.
Number 1 (the IQ code) stems from an amazing explosion of self-conscious genius in South Africa. I suppose if you obtain two distinctions in matric, one for Mathematical Literacy and one for English Third Additional Language it is only natural that you could take yourself for Einstein. I call it “South African IQ narcissism”.
Code 2 (some call it the race card) is of course a kind of nuclear weapon in the arsenal of PC semantic war and is liberally employed. Although most people do not know what the integral of x is, they are au fait with the finer subtleties of Afrocentrism as taught at American universities. So if you disagree with the statement, “Europe stole its culture and technology from Africa”, someone will cast the first “j’accuse”, after which a whole mob will join in.
Code 3 is the class code. Yes, apart from race, there is still class. It is the clincher, employed by the speaker after he has posited his unassailable intellectual and moral superiority. It also has some connection with the British class system which many South Africans emulate and secretly hanker after. So appealing to old-fashioned logic will expose you to sneering snobbery and ridicule: “I am descended from Peers whereas you are a real low-life miscreant, a single-passport holder born in Klerksdorp. I spit on your velskoens.”
Do yourself a favour and read all the newspaper columns, blogs and tweets. You will spot at least one or two of the PC codes, if not all three in one go!
Just don’t take yourself for a genius, or you might lapse into PC discourse yourself.