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Ban the mine

By Alberto Mingardi
web posted June 18, 2001

It is very hard to define "politically correctness", especially since what this term refers to is not an old-style ideology, nor a series of clear statements about some particular issues.

"Politically correct" ideologues are very different individuals -- Bill Clinton and Jesse Jackson both fit the description. Also "politically correct" are the famous "Vagina Monologues" performed here and there in theatres and universities, and the anti-smoking hysteria endorsed by organizations like the World Health Organization with the purpose of establishing a worldwide smokers' apartheid.

But even a very praiseworthy battle, like the campaign for a landmine-free world led by the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, is "politically correct." This is a comprehensive program addressing the global land mine crisis: it operates clinics in Cambodia, Vietnam, El Salvador, Angola and Sierra Leone, providing physical rehabilitation services to the innocent victims of war, and also conducts mine impact surveys in landmine-affected nations.

For this remarkable work, "Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation" and a coalition of more than 1,000 organizations in 60 countries were awarded the 1997 Nobel Prize for Peace.

Minesweeper
Minesweeper

Following their example, other people have started a simpler but even more successful campaign on the Internet. I refer to the "International Campaign to Ban Winmine" (you can find more info on their web site: http://rcm.usr.dsi.unimi.it/rcmweb/fnm). No, it isn't a typo: we're speaking about the popular "Windows Minesweeper", the wishy-washy game that has been included in Microsoft Windows from its first release. But it wasn't included in the last release -- that's politically correctness, baby.

If you're wondering why, it's simple: "Winmine" as you can read on ICBW's web site, "is an offence against the victims of the mines, and to those who sacrifice themselves, risking their own life, clearing the lands contaminated by these implements".

In 1999, ICBW launched a petition through the Internet, in order to make Microsoft aware "of this mistake, and in the next versions of Windows substitute the game with something more respectful of the person and of the environment." And here's the apocalyptic conclusion: "if this happened, perhaps the Government of the USA would open its eyes."

I know, this seems like just a sort of Dave Letterman-style joke. But it's not, trust me -- or check out the web site for yourself. However, the most tragic thing is not this bobby-dazzler campaign itself, but the fact that Microsoft has paid attention to it -- so that in Windows 2000, users can no longer play "Winmine", but have to play "Winflower" instead. An open homage to ICBW, whose motto is "Sow flowers, not mines" recalling the old-style leftist rhetoric (put flowers in your guns and all that kind of stuff).

But the politically correct world is a never-ending surprise: still not satisfied by the successful results of this campaign, and presumably before starting a crusade again the TombRaider's hero Lara Croft (who's clearly a gun-owner), someone has written another petition to Microsoft.

SolitaireThis time, it is called "International Campaign to Ban Solitaire", the other popular, harmless game released with Windows. "We fight with an even more dangerous enemy than Winmine", the web page assures us, because Solitaire, like every card game, is a first step towards gambling. And since many gamblers feel depressed after a lousy hand, and some even try suicide, the only possible solution to this tragedy is to abolish the Solitaire game on every computer of the world. To prohibit, to abolish, to ban: that's the politically correct vocabulary.

After examining these two very particular campaigns, I'd like to propose a definition of political correctness: something able to turn tragedy into farce, and --even when it's supportive of a very respectable cause and campaign to solve an actual problem -- succeeds in transforming a humanitarian spirit into a kind of hysteria.

Maybe Bill Gates doesn't agree, since he, instead, is taking some advice from ICBW or ICBN very seriously. No problem: I'm a Mac user.

Alberto Mingardi is a regular columnist of the Italian daily "Libero" and a visiting fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation.

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