The bombing of civilian and infrastructure targets in Lebanon has asked me to again what may be discussed under the constraints of political correctness.
Rules have always worried me a bit. I have no problems with the 10 Commandments. The lawyers in out society would have a lean practice if they relied on finding different interpretations in their meaning. The Commandments are very straight forward and it seems that the main problem is in compliance. Then people write more and more rules – laws, and even if one was aware of all the rules it would be hard to know what they all mean and even harder to know whether everybody agrees with you. Our tax laws are a good example. The doctrine of political correctness is as vague as the Commandments are definitive.
Some Freemasons, when it suits them, try and enforce the doctrine of political correctness on their fellow brethren. They seem to be unaware of the meaning of the masonic obligations pertaining to this matter (and it is not uncommon for many not to know the meaning of the ritual that they mouth). Alternatively, they do not understand the dangers of the doctrine of political correctness in a brotherhood such as ours.
We are required to refrain from every topic of political discussion whilst in the lodge room. There can be no room for misinterpretation of this requirement but it is emphasized that it only applies to the lodge room. We are also required to do unto others as you would wish in similar cases they should do to you. Again the requirement is straightforward and, furthermore, together they are complementary. It seems, therefore, that the constraint on discussions outside the lodge room is to engaging in subjects that might hurt someone else. If all this is so straightforward then why do some demand political correctness as well?
There is no question that “Party” politics should be automatically excluded from all conversations among brethren at all times as some may be hurt or offended. The same applies to sectarian religious discussions as we are an all embracing brotherhood. In officer’s messes discussions on women and telling risqué jokes and stories is also considered to be inappropriate for similar reasons and it is a good rule to apply in general masonic company. However, politics at large touches every aspect of out lives from the cradle to the grave. If diarists like me, or even Freemasons at large, were to be bound by the political correctness of the 1970’s and 80’s there would be some fairly sterile diary notes and conversations in masonic circles.
If political correctness were the doctrine we would be out of order in discussing the national issues behind the story of “Breaker” Morant. The same offended would even be more aggrieved if the means used to bring the United States into WW1 were to be discussed particularly with the current crisis in the Middle East. We would dare not raise the issue of the “Bodyline” series. Some could even get upset when the Collingwood Football Club has an unexpected win!
We could not talk about the environment we are leaving for our children because this issue has been captured by political forces, how we might get to lodge in the next decade because of the energy crisis or whether there is likely to be enough funding in the future for the aged (Tut tut, did I mention something else naughty?).
I am very comfortable with the principles in the masonic doctrine and recognise that it has stood the test of time. I think that the doctrine of political correctness goes over the top. It amounts to censorship by those inclined to control of others, by those with a fragile ego and who hold an indefensible position, or those without the knowledge or intellect to engage in a mature discussion or all of these conditions. It was a term adopted in the late 1970’s at the same time greater tolerance on new norms on many social issues and demographic changes in our society were sought. Some would now argue that the doctrine of political correctness, which stifled much debate on these changes, has left us with a situation that is not good for the long term interests of the Nation.
When a breakdown occurs in families, in employment relationships, between nations and so on, the standard advice is to “keep communications open”. Such communications need to be frank and open. In our brotherhood we need to be able to have open and frank discussions and not constrained by the artificial morality and censorship of political correctness. With such a relationship there is no wonder that one of the first actions of a totalitarian regime is to close down Freemasonry. The principal of not hurting others in our doctrine is as simple as the Commandments.
Fraternal best wishes to all