Cultural Caviar

Oh, the Hupersonity!

February 04, 2017

Multiple Pages
Oh, the Hupersonity!

The British Medical Association, of which I am an undistinguished member, recently published a booklet entitled A Guide to Effective Communication in the Workplace, which I strongly suspected would be as helpful as a booklet entitled Improving Athletic Performance by Cutting the Achilles Tendon. I was right.

The document begins:

We are committed to promoting equal rights and opportunities, supporting diversity, and creating an open and inclusive environment for our members, employees and stakeholders. The successful implementation of equality and inclusion in all aspects of our work will ensure that members, colleagues and staff are valued, motivated and treated fairly. It will allow us to respond appropriately and sensitively to an increasingly diverse society.

Long experience of apparatchiks has taught me that anyone who prefaces what he is about to say—his communication—with the words “I am committed to…” will soon proceed to something unpleasant hiding in his thicket of polysyllabic euphemism. If a hospital manager, for example, says “I am committed to…” (or, even worse, “I am passionately committed to…”), you know that something is about to be closed down and its staff (except for the managers) sacked.

“What a relief to belong to the first enlightened generation in the history of mankind—oops, sorry, humanity.”

“We are committed to…equal opportunities,” says the BMA, knowing full well that many of its members, probably a majority, seek advantages for their children that, almost by definition, other children cannot enjoy. They are right to do so—a parent who in the name of a utopian ideal did not do so would be something of a monster—but they cannot then go round proclaiming their devotion to the ideal of equal opportunity.

As to equality in the economic sense, the BMA, as a trade union–cum–professional association, is dedicated to procuring as many pecuniary advantages as it can for its members, and would be horrified if someone suggested that doctors should be paid, in the pursuit of equality, the same as cleaning ladies.

Not, of course, that one should use the term cleaning ladies, for to do so is not inclusive, and should be consigned to the semantic equivalent of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum by the little Popes of political correctness. But even if they were henceforth to be called cleaning persons rather than cleaning ladies, I doubt that the BMA would press for equal wages with them. All persons are equal, but some persons are more equal than others.

I hesitate to repeat what I have said elsewhere, but the fact remains that we have reached the stage where satire is prophecy. If, five years ago, you had been tasked with writing a politically correct booklet, A Guide to Effective Communication in the Workplace is what you might well have written. Here, for example, is what the BMA advises doctors to call, and not to call, pregnant mothers, and why:

A large majority of people that have been pregnant or have given birth identify as women. However, there are some intersex men and trans men who may get pregnant.

Therefore doctors should not use the expression expectant mothers but expectant people, for fear of offending all the pregnant transsexuals. Whether anyone has ever met an expectant transsexual offended by the term expectant mother is not stated; nor is the possibility aired that, if such a being actually existed, he or she should simply be told not to be so silly. The BMA now lives, or wants to live, in a world in which taking offense is its own justification: The offended, or yet-to-be offended, have taken over from the victims as the world’s heroes.

In the BMA’s brave new world, no one is a woman, there are only people who identify as women. Likewise, one must not say of someone that she is biologically a woman, but rather that she was assigned as a woman, or rather as a female (according to the guidance, the word girl should also be avoided as demeaning), at birth. The process of assignment, of course, has been purely arbitrary over the past millennia, and has had nothing whatever to do with biology. What a relief to belong to the first enlightened generation in the history of mankind—oops, sorry, humanity.

Come to think of it, humanity is wrong also, containing within it as it does the syllable man. How about hupersonity then, as a sexually neutral—sorry, another mistake, I should have said gender-neutral, for as the booklet tells us, we should endeavor to “move away from the sensitive sexual word”—collective term for featherless bipeds? But it is no better, for it implies that everyone is a son, namely the son of Per (which must, etymologically, have been another name for Adam). I suggest, therefore, the word huperoffspringity as a really correct collective noun; though, given that Per was another name for Adam, who was assigned a male at birth and identified as a man, perhaps the syllable should be left out altogether.

No words of mine can do justice to the wealth of absurdity that the framers of this booklet have managed to pack into fourteen pages, which has come in for well-merited mockery around the world. It abolishes biology altogether in favor of a kind of Promethean self-identification: If I say that I identify as a slug or a bird, though I was assigned as a huperoffspring at birth, then I am a slug or a bird.

For fear of being ageist, the booklet says, we should not associate age with abilities. There is no reason to assume that a football team composed of 90-year-olds should not be able to take on Real Madrid or Manchester United. The Book of Proverbs tells us that “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven,” but, as Sganarelle tells Géronte in Le Médecin malgré lui, we have changed all that, and now we practice medicine in an altogether new way—and not only medicine, but life itself. The booklet tells us that we should not refer to children under the age of 1; so that from now on we shall have to forgo one of the most useful measures of the health of a population, used for a couple of centuries, the infant mortality rate (the number per thousand of children born alive who die before the age of 1).

The booklet speaks of our values, as if we all have precisely the same values. “Starting from absolute freedom,” said Shigalev in The Devils, “I arrive at absolute despotism.” Of the BMA booklet, one might say that, starting from absolute diversity, it arrives at absolute uniformity.

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