For years, the terms ‘left wing’ and ‘liberal’ have been closely associated with acts of increasingly searing illiberalism. From students at Yale University pushing a lecturer into resignation for a controversy over Halloween costumes, to British students hounding Germaine Greer from the university, it is no surprise that the collective conscience equates left-wing liberalism with hyper-sensitive political correctness. Now, as Donald Trump begins to get comfortable, the right wing has established its own wing of political correctness.
New York’s Central Park has launched a production of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, with the title role characterised by a man in a suit with blonde hair, and with Calpurnia wearing designer clothes and speaking in a Slovenian accent. Most of us will accept that this is an artistic experiment with a politically charged play – unless, of course, you’re one of Donald Trump’s most ardent of supporters who cannot believe that a likeness of the President is (as per the script) assassinated on stage.
Outraged that a theatre company would dare to take creative licence, Jack Posobiec and his friend – Laura Loomer – decided to gate-crash a performance. Posobiec filmed as Loomer shouted ‘this is violence against Donald Trump’, and he earnestly informed the audience that ‘you are all Goebbels. You are all Nazis like Joseph Goebbels.’ If this had been reversed, and left-wing protesters had disturbed a performance that had been implicitly critical of Bernie Sanders, they would have been mocked. But because it is the Dear Leader Donald J Trump being criticised, the illiberal wing of his followers has come out to play.
There are two causes of this travesty. The first is undoubtedly the illiberal liberals. These people, in an attempt to coerce more people into thinking like them, have facilitated the growth of a monster. Aggrieved by being told what to think by those who do not even know them, right-wing narcissists have in turn decided that their feelings and thoughts take priority over anybody else. Such a clash was inevitable, and it’s beginning to look nasty.
The more pressing cause of this disaster applies both to the left and the right and is, simply put, the debasement of culture. If Loomer and Posobiec had been educated, or had bothered to educate themselves in an intellectually vigorous manner, they would have understood that Shakespeare’s message within ‘Julius Caesar’ is that political violence is futile. The destruction of the conspirators who killed Caesar ultimately stands testament to this, as does Marcus Antonius’s proclamation that Brutus ‘was the noblest Roman of them all.’ If they had bothered to wait until the end, perhaps the symbolism of Brutus being interred ‘with all respect and rites of burial’ would have made them realise how empty their protest was.
Rather than a desire to open the mind, to discover more of our literary heritage, to deepen knowledge of our historical origins, to harness the power of our cultural roots, the politically correct (of both Left and Right origins) instead prefer to see everything through the lens of their political inclination. Those of the Left will care for literature no matter what its aesthetic value so long as it has been created by a gay lesbian feminist (or some such descriptor) whilst those of the Right will care for art so long as it was not created by somebody who has little time for the cult of the Donald (or another such ideology.)
In ‘How to Read and Why’, the great literary critic Harold Bloom urged the following: ‘read deeply, not to believe, not to accept, not to contradict, but to learn to share in that one nature that writes and reads.’ The participation in, and contribution to, culture cannot realistically be accompanied by selfishness and narcissism. Whilst we live in a society where these two characteristics have taken root, we cannot hope to shred the yoke of political correctness. Our culture must be refreshed, and urgently, if we want to liberate ourselves from this wasteland of our own creation.