One thing that is striking about political correctness and the various shibboleths that it entails–for equality, mostly–is that it can be deadly, and yet it masquerades as if this suicidal impulse were the most obvious, righteous, and, at once, sophisticated and common sense thing on Earth. It is nearly a religious impulse, immune from appeals to reason, even the appeal of saving lives, and we see this manifest in the refusal of western countries to stop travel from the Ebola-ridden countries of West Africa.
True, every choice that saves lives is not an obvious one. There are cost-benefit analyses to be performed. We allow various “deadly” freedoms, whether guns or swimming pools or motorcycles. But here there is little benefit obtained for the cost. We are told, with little evidence, that stopping travel would be a chimera that “isolates” the affected countries. Indeed, it would. That’s the point! Surely we can restrict all non-essential travel from these countries until this epidemic is under control. Surely we can allow a handful of health care professionals to travel under controlled conditions without allowing every random Liberian to travel back to their menial jobs in the US.
There is something elemental and ancient needed here: primitive, hard-headed, masculine decision-making. We need the old code: the separation of the few and the many, mine and thine, us and them, that is, the most fundamental of human distinctions, understandable to toddlers, but apparently alien to our leadership class.* In any case, the stuff of rationing, conscription, curfews, and quarantines is the stuff of survival. It is the rawest of raw political power in the service of the most basic need: to protect our people from deadly diseases that cannot otherwise be stopped.
Something went awry with public health–which is really one of the chief sources of prolonging life in the western world–around the time of the AIDS epidemic. Combating that disease also would have benefited from an early, strict quarantine. But instead there was hand-wringing on whether or not to shut down bath houses and the expressive freedoms of those concerned. The public apparatus that took on Polio in the 50s became defanged in the 80s through the same political correctness that defangs our armed forces and tries to make the rest of us geldings at work and at home.
In college, I divined the roots of this insanity when I was exposed to Carol Gilligan’s famous essay “In a Different Voice,” summarized by good old wikipedia as follows: “[M]en typically think in formulas of peoples’ rights, like a math problem. And in turn, women are more uncomfortable responding to ethical dilemmas. When looking at a situation, men will ask of themselves what is the ‘right’ answer. On the other hand, women will tend to solve an ethical dilemma without trying to hurt anyone. . . . That equates to two very different types of moral reasoning, namely that of rights and that of ‘sympathies.'” The former is supposedly more masculine and the latter more feminine and, Gilligan would argue, equally “valid.” Regardless, the latter is inferior and useless for making difficult, political decisions. It purports to be the same tool, but it can’t do the job, because, at the end of the day, everyone has feelings, even the guy who wants to hurt you, your family, and your community. One feeling is the same as another, and, without some means of adjudicating these competing “hurts,” you’re paralyzed by the equal and opposite claims, or, alternately, the loudest, whiniest, or most media-savvy voice wins.
Empathy and attunement to others may be useful for dealing with squabbling toddlers or keeping the peace with your in-laws or even in navigating the modern corporate environment, but an Ebola problem–like an al Qaeda problem or a broken borders problem or a debt bomb problem–requires people to be hurt. There is no way around it. In war, the enemy must be hurt and, in some cases, as in deadly communicable diseases, some of our own must be hurt. It’s unpleasant. It’s a power capable of being abused. But all power can be abused, and no power short of a robust state wielding the power of the state in the service of the community can really be of use in this kind of situation.
But instead we have the head of the CDC, Thomas Friedan, saying, “Though we might wish we can seal ourselves off from the world, there are Americans who have the right of return and many other people that have the right to enter this country . . . We’re not going to be able to get to zero risk no matter what we do unless we control the outbreak in West Africa.” This bastard is a liar who is insulting our intelligence. We can send medical personnel to help without keeping the incoming gates wide open and risking the lives of ordinary Americans. Our own public health infrastructure can work better that he claims will save us can work if we have fewer potential Ebola cases running around; on the other hand, it may be overwhelmed if too many of these people come too quickly. Also, we can allow travel, if we quarantine people from these countries for 7-14 days upon their return. That will separate through self-selection casual from necessary travel. More important, it will save lives and save our country from this awful exotic import. But we don’t do it. Instead, our own lives and our own freedoms are diminished one again by the false freedom of open borders.
We are being treated worse than a nation under enemy occupation. Even the Nazis inoculated the people whom they occupied from communicable diseases out of naked self-interest! But leftism, after all, is an ideology of suicide. Both its intent and its effect is to make us think our collective suicide is the advance of justice. Now the mushy majority will see in stark relief just how sincere their masters are regarding exactly that.