Political correctness:
The term political correctness is used with heavy irony if not sarcasm by most who use the term.  But I have heard it used with sympathy and without irony so I propose to stifle the urge for sarcasm and look at what it really means.  

A “polis” is Greek for a city, as in Indianapolis in Indiana.  This contrasts with a village or “deme” as in democracy.  What is politically correct than literally means what is right for the city.  Since no city can maintain a fertility rate sufficient of indefinite survival, recruiting people into the city is obviously right for the city.  It is an unavoidable task for a city, something the city must do.  Then there is the question of what else a city must do.  A city is a large group of people living together, typically with buildings, streets, freedom of the bulk of the people to move around among those buildings and the presence of commerce.  But what is vital?

There not need be multiple buildings.  If there are a sufficient number of flyovers connecting buildings, it is effectively one building.  Humans just about always need shelter, so that is not distinctive of cities.  It would be expensive but possible to roof over all the streets of a city so that traffic ran through tunnels and the space above was all pedestrian mall, so streets are not required.  Freedom of movement is expected, but a very large prison might be called a city and its occupants would be restrained.  Commerce is optional.  A large military camp or the Vatican City does not engage in significant commerce.  The one thing that a city must do is recruit population. 

In recent years cities have become extremely effective in recruitment.  Not that many decades ago the largest cities were in the most developed countries.  That is no longer the case.  In poorer parts of the world cities recruit easily because there are job opportunities there.  It is by no means rare for a young person, usually a man, to move into a city and live a very Spartan existence eking out an income and living rough in order to be able so send money home.  As always, it is the high minded and self sacrificing agenda that calls in the best talent however difficult conditions. 

So politically correct means only one thing.  A thing is politically correct if it maximizes recruitment.  The liberation of women may seem like the simplest, most rudimentary justice, but it also results in adding the energies of women to the urban enterprise.  Tolerance of varying religions, ethnic backgrounds, old age and physical limitations is taken to be a basic right of humanity, and so it is.  But its effect for the city is again to broaden the horizon for recruitment.  The protection and care of children is vital for any society.  The city, since it is going to recruit anyway, does not actually need to produce children at all.  Monasteries, prisons and military camps might be called cities that do not significantly add to their numbers by reproduction.  But since society recognizes the importance of children, the city cannot afford to neglect them.  Such neglect would not be found tolerable and recruitment would decline.  A good social safety net to protect those who are unable to support themselves for various reasons is not necessarily a mark of what are now the fastest growing cities.  And in socialist countries, the same safety net is afforded to all citizens.  Yet it remains a good idea.  I was in Syracuse in Sicily some years ago.  The tour went past some altars that were used by the ancient Romans in their holy sacrifices.  One of the rules of a sacrifice was that the meat was distributed to the poor.  The city at one time was big enough so that a single altar did not provide enough meat for the poor.  They had built ten identical altars side by side in order to be able to provide enough meat for the needs.  I cannot say whether the Roman gods were pleased or were believed to be pleased, but it seemed that the purpose was at least as much social as it was religious.  Even poor people contribute to the life of the city, so if nothing else works, give them free food.  It is a noble impulse to help, but the end result is that cities who do whatever it takes go get people to cast their lot in are the cities that survive.

As a youth, I liked medieval castles.  I would read about them, look at pictures of them and at a later age when I could I would travel to see them.  But in fact the thing that gave me the most pleasure was just thinking about them.  The castle of my dreams was cool, clean, safe, with a good view and with all one’s friends and family and enough to eat.  Those same advantages are offered by a good limb of a chestnut tree to an ape in the dirt below.  (That’s right.  Apes evolved in Europe and later moved to Asia and Africa.)  It seems we may not have forgotten that these things are a nice combination.

If you give a little boy some blocks, he will immediately set about building a tower.  If you give a little girl some blocks, she will immediately set about building an enclosure.  Invent your own theory, but it seems to be that we like towers and enclosures.  A castle typically has both.

I was rather surprised that the medieval castle was not a medieval invention.  In Uruk in the Fertile Crescent, the very first baby rattle of the cradle of civilization, they already had fortifications with battlements, curtain walls, flanking towers, gatehouses and enclosed space. 

Yes, I am sure there have been legitimate military advantages to castles.  But I also think that people like them.  Skyscrapers and other heroic buildings have many of the advantages of imaginary castles and features of real castles.  I doubt they are cost effective.  But as features of modern cities they serve the same emotional needs as castles used to.  People are drawn. 

By that logic, skyscrapers are politically correct.  I’ll bet they weren’t on your list.

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