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Scourge of political correctness

Charles Caruana Carabez is a frequent contributor to the opinion columns of this newspaper. He has a smooth pen but also has a problem: he is a man. John Grey’s book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus cannot have been a bestseller here, although reading just the book title would have been enough.

Mr Caruana Carabez got the wrath of the women’s brigades for penning a piece titled ‘The foibles of women’. It was satirical, humorous and, above all, frank and honest. He must have expected some backlash because he wrote: “So I am being, what? Anti-feminist? Chauvinist? Sexist? But I have always loved women, even with their foibles.”

The rumblings began in the chaotic and often illogical and intolerant social media and culminated in a statement by the Malta Confederation of Women’s Organisations, which called on the Ombudsman to remove Mr Caruana Carabez from his post of Commissioner of Education. They accused him of being strongly prejudiced against women and of not considering women to be at par with men.

Equality Minister Helena Dalli and the Association for Equality (see below) were equally unsympathetic towards Mr Caruana Carabez.

To say they missed his down-to-earth humour would be to exonerate his critics because it is far more serious. It is, above all, intolerance, and it is not the first instance of its sort.

When the Women’s Rights Foundation recently wrote to this newspaper to rebut an editorial against abortion, their first argument was that the “Times of Malta’s editors consist of men only… they managed to pen their editorial diatribe without once mentioning the word woman”. Like Mr Caruana Carabez, the newspaper was wrong because the editor was unforgivably male.

Such intolerance, camouflaged in “political correctness”, is certainly not endemic to Malta. It is a natural offshoot of the extremities of pseudo-liberalism, which first turned everything subjective and then tried to rein in the chaos by imposing new norms, new no-go areas, a secular religion of the worst kind.

Former General Workers’ Union secretary general Tony Zarb had passed sexist remarks against Occupy Justice women protesters. It was in very bad taste but that is exactly what freedom of speech is about: the right to offend, and our responsibility to defend that right, even if it offends us.

The women’s confederation, on very contestable grounds, found Mr Caruana Carabez’s piece offensive. Their stand undermines exactly what they stand for: equality and tolerance.

Nothing is ever achieved through imposition. Nothing is achieved through punishing what, in one’s eyes, myopic as they may be, is errant.

It is a common perception in this country that the so-called tribalism that exists all around comes from our two-party system. All intolerance is blamed on political partisanship. Cases such as that of Mr Caruana Carabez show how wrong that perception is.

This country is divided in a hundred ways and that is not necessarily wrong. There is class division, band club loyalty, football loyalty, even neighbourhood loyalties. It is not the fault of our Mediterranean-style politics and maybe not even a fault at all.

But in a post-modern age of individualism and freedom, nothing, not least political correctness, should ever shut anybody up the way Mr Caruana Carabez’s critics want to do.

This is a Times of Malta daily print editorial

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