1 November 2005

PC: minorities

Some wise words, I think, from some American guy:

No democracy can long survive which does not accept as fundamental to its very existence the recognition of the rights of minorities.

(Franklin D Roosevelt, Letter to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (25 June 1938))

1 comment:

Graeme Edgeler said...

Couldn't agree more; and the way the debate surrounding political correctness has been framed can suggest that this quote is an effective answer, however, it may be (and I for one would personally favour this as a working definition of political correctness) that if political correctness is not about respect for minority views, but rather about pandering to those views (or worse, government-imposed pandering) then political correctness has its definite drawbacks.

Should then minister of ethnic affairs (is he still?) Chris Carter be allowed to send out a letter wishing people a Merry Christmas or Happy Easter? I should have thought so, especially when he had received letters from various ethnic and religious communities (of which he was not a member) wishing him well in their holiday seasons. But some people found it "un-PC".

It *is* exceptionally important for the majority to recognise the exercise of fundamental rights of minorities, but those minorities must in turn recognise the fundamental rights of other minorities *and of the majority*. I think this is the concern people have with what they deride as political correctness - a concern that where we once had a tyranny of the majority, it may be replaced with a tranny of the minority - a situation in which adherents of the muslim and christian faiths cannot denounce what they view as sinful behaviour be it public drunkenness, fornication or homosexuality; and in which "piggy banks" are not allowed lest muslims be offended (we ought to note that no British bank considering abolition of piggy banks is considering abolition of interest chrages :) ).

It is a requirement of a liberal pluralistic society that the majority accepts the right of minorities to engage even in behaviours shocking or offensive to that majority; but these minorities cannot expect the majority to cease activities offensive or shocking to a minority. Where government policy seeks to prevent majority behaviours that may offend minorities (perhaps in the form of hate speech laws, or in DPF's words "allowing publicly funded organisations to ban women from premises on the grounds of Maori culture.") then I do not find it at all innaccurate to say that "political correctness has gone too far."

Liberalism requires not only that we respect the rights of people who engage in pre-marital sex, or who eat pork, but also that we respect the rights of those who don't and who wish to tell those who do that they might just go to hell because of it.

Course Outline

Lord Justice Lawton in Maxwell v Department of Trade and Industry [1974] 2 All ER 122 said:

"From time to time ... lawyers and judges have tried to define what constitutes fairness. Like defining an elephant, it is not easy to do, although fairness in practice has the elephantine quality of being easy to recognise. As a result of these efforts a word in common usage has acquired the trappings of legalism: 'acting fairly' has become 'acting in accordance with the rules of natural justice', and on occasion has been dressed up with Latin tags. This phrase in my opinion serves no useful purpose and in recent years it has encouraged lawyers to try to put those who hold inquiries into legal straitjackets.... For the purposes of my judgment I intend to ask myself this simple question: did the [decision-maker] act fairly towards the plaintiff?"


This course examines the elephantine concept of fairness in the law, along with other contemporary legal issues.

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