Doris Lessing on “Raising Consciousness”

The IHT decided to reprint today a June 1992 Op-Ed piece on The New York Times by Doris Lessing: “On Political Correctness – Questions you should never ask a writer

The topicality of some of the thoughts of the Nobel Laureate in Literature for 2007 is uncanny:

[…] ways of thinking that were either born under Communism or strengthened by Communism still govern our lives […] The first point: language. It is not a new thought that Communism debased language and, with language, thought […]

The second point is linked with the first. Powerful ideas affecting our behavior can be visible only in brief sentences, even a phrase – a catch phrase. All writers are asked this question by interviewers: “Do you think a writer should. . .?” “Ought writers to. . .?” […]

the assumption behind the words is that all writers should do the same thing, whatever it is. […] Another is “commitment,” so much in vogue not long ago. Is so and so a committed writer?

A successor to “commitment” is “raising consciousness.” This is double-edged. The people whose consciousness is being raised may be given information they most desperately lack and need, may be given moral support they need. But the process nearly always means that the pupil gets only the propaganda the instructor approves of.

“Raising consciousness,” like “commitment,” like “political correctness,” is a continuation of that old bully, the party line. […]