Yugoslavia and Political Correctness
Tito's Yugoslavia was widely regarded as the best country in the Communist bloc. With a standard of living sufficient for it to be included in Organization of Economically Developed Countries, an infrastructure adequate for it to host Olympic Games, universal high-quality healthcare and education, world-quality science and engineering, religious tolerance, and nowhere near the level of abuses committed in Soviet Union or its satellites, Yugoslavia had some of the best accomplishments and quality of life of all Communist countries. The events of 1990s came as a shock to many people, who thought that Yugoslavia,as the most civilized of all Communist countries, was in the best shape to enter the 21st century prosperous and intact. To people who tried to make sense of what happened, many conflicting explanations were offered.
One was offered, to me personally, by Bush Sr.'s Secretary of State Larry Eagleberger, who came as a guest speaker to a political science class at University of Virginia and responded to a question I asked him about Bosnian war. He stated among other things that he had held negotiations with Yugoslavian people; that they were (in his words) "the nastiest people [he]'d ever known;" and that he knew there was going to be a war in Yugoslavia. I am not sure with which people he had negotiated, or in what manner; but the Yugoslavian people whom I have known personally and in my work as a tutor were among the most genuine, most ethical, most intelligent, most responsible people I've known in my life. And it was from one of these people that I have finally gained a more insightful explanation of the events.
The Tito government preached national identity as a Communist country under an ideology of brotherly love. However what people actually thought and felt and talked about privately was entirely to the contrary of that ideology. And when the Communist party line was no more, the country exploded in ethnic hatred, which was what people had been thinking and feeling for decades - and to which they could not admit in public and therefore not be able to work through and find meaningful ways to resolve or move beyond.
I can see correlations between the situation in Yugoslavia in 1990s and the situation in America the following decade..
The politically correct ideology had been telling people for over a decade what they could think, what they could say, what they could feel, what personality they could have, and how they could relate to each other, while maliciously exterminating all thoughts, feelings and choices that were inconsistent with their party line. The supposed tolerance preached by the politically correct was in no way matched by their behavior, and their extreme intolerance of everything that was not of their party line brought them to not only effectively destroy free speech in America but likewise free thought and any form of genuine feeling or genuine interaction. This resulted in a climate of extreme and suffocating hypocrisy - a climate destructive to development of either intelligence or sincerity, and particularly to sincere intelligence. But there were even deadlier problems with this arrangement, and we have seen them play out in recent events.
Political correctness, like Tito's party line, created a climate in which people could say only the party line, which was of course inconsistent with their real feelings and thoughts. This created a schizophrenic separation between what people could say publicly and what they actually felt and thought. People's feelings in such climates are suffocated and made small, twisted and hideous; and when they come out, they do so with an explosive and murderous rage.
Eminem had a huge following, because he articulated sentiments that had been suppressed but that were felt by many people. Religious, cultural and national hatreds, that had likewise been brewing under the surface, exploded similarly in the past decade with a murderous force. The people had not been allowed to articulate these things, but they were feeling and thinking them anyway. And when the Bush-style demagogues and Eminem-style misogynists came along to articulate or pander to these sentiments while taking them into a thoroughly destructive and ugly direction, they were seen as sincere and genuine people and a break from the coldness and insincerity of 1990s.
Of course, in cases of Eminem and Bush, the rightful question to ask is "sincere and genuine - as what?" As Martin Luther King stated, nothing is more dangerous than genuine ignorance and sincere stupidity. That, has been the historic lesson of Bush and Eminem. But there are other historical issues here, with even more significant implications for education, public debate and political policy.
The experience of both Tito's Yugoslavia and politically correct America have shown that is not wise, nor is it viable, to force down people's throats a line while suffocating what they actually hold inside them. The prudence comes in embracing what people are feeling and thinking and guiding it toward a place that is intelligent and constructive rather than one that is destructive and dumb. American Constitution postulates freedom of speech, for a very good reason. It's not just a personal right; it is an absolute necessity for a self-governing nation that hopes to be a democracy in any meaningful sense. Free speech - and that means meaningful free speech, whether or not it is part of a party line - makes it possible for people to express what they think, give perspectives that are not anticipated by others, tell crucial information that may be missed by any other group or any decision-makers, and reveal reality as it is faced by a person or by a group. And then it becomes possible for people to actually understand the conditions enough to create meaningful, informed, insightful and proactive solutions - both for their own situations and for the political entities that they represent.
So that when a party line takes away from people the right to free speech, not only do the people never develop their actual thoughts and feelings enough to find workable ways to affectuate them, but the policy makers are likewise clueless. Sincerity goes away from the public discourse and finds a way to exist in most destructive and most ugly possible ways. And then the logical result is events in Yugoslavia of 1990s, or in America under Bush.
It is for this reason that the purpose of real education is development of both intellect and emotion, not suppression of the same. With these developed into genuine and mature fruition, people have better chance to become intelligent, sincere, genuine, healthy and wholesome individuals - with intelligence based in sincerity and the core of sincerity developed likewise into an intelligent and viable form. And what political correctness has done instead, is turn centers of education into centers of indoctrination, where minds and personhoods are not nurtured but broken, and neither intelligence nor sincerity are allowed to develop in any kind of a wholesome way. This has created a population of people fragmented, hypocritical, and intrinsically insincere, and has inflicted such population upon America as its supposed educated class. Meanwhile the people with less education have claimed to possess integrity - integrity to ignorance and stupidity, which by masquerading as ethics or guts or manliness or common touch or integrity has allowed ignorance and stupidity to take over the country and take it to a completely disastrous place.
In similarly wiping out sincerity from public discourse, political correctness has likewise helped along the same stance. With no sincerity allowed in intelligence, it has been found in ignorance and stupidity. Which ignorance went on to control American government and trying to turn it away from science, constitutional rights and freedoms, and even democracy itself.
That's not what makes great countries, nor is that what makes great citizens. Nor is this what liberalism, of which political correctness is a degenerate perversion, is about in any meaningful sense. The flaws associated with Democratic candidates - the wishy-washiness and irresoluteness of Kerry, the impersonality of Gore, the slipperiness of Clinton, the out-of-touch weakness of 1980s candidates - are all a function of disconnection made between intelligence and sincerity in American character. And the only way for people, societies and public policies to work in a meaningful manner, is to find ways to become sincere and intelligent at once.
This has been seen in the actions of Bill Maher, then Howard Dean, then more mainline Democrats, seeking to break through political correct doubletalk, pinpoint matters squarely and sincerely, and based on that create solutions reflecting sincere intelligence, sincere understanding, and sincere will to affectuate solutions reflecting the preceding. Which means to be able to understand cultural matters enough to address them honestly and without distortion. This, we have seen done by Barack Obama, in telling black fathers to take care of their children and other black people to stop using victimhood as an excuse for everything, took up the less educated white people on their scapegoating hate-everyone-who-is-not-like-us ways, and addressed the ruinous anti-intellectualism of youth in all races that keeps them away from educational knowledge and leads them to create aggressively ignorant cultures that claim integrity - to a lie.
The things that politically correct would not talk about, found the way to express themselves in reality. As always in such conditions, they did so in the ugliest possible ways. And now, it becomes possible to actually see those things clearly enough to address them rightfully and intelligently. Sincerity found a way to exist - as sincere destructive ignorance and sincere disastrous stupidity. Now it becomes possible, with the politically correct distortion that had kept sincerity and intelligence apart having been quite convincingly broken, to wed sincerity and intelligence and make sincere intelligence and sincere knowledge the basis of a better American character and a better American future.