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Jordan Peterson: male-bashing and political correctness called out

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It’s much better to pursue things that are meaningful, than things that make you happy. — Jordan Peterson

A friend turned me on to Jordan Peterson, the author and professor. Apparently, I’m one of the few people in America who had never heard of him! So I went to YouTube, found some videos, and have been listening to him, usually in heated conversation with people who don’t agree with him (especially feminists). My first impression was of his speaking skills—he can really hold his own with antagonistic opponents. He remains calm (for the most part) and articulate. I don’t think I could do that, and I admire him for it.

What Peterson says also resonates with me, particularly his criticism of what he calls “the radical left.” His complaint is the authoritarian way they have of shutting down conversation, or “free speech,” when said speech upsets them. Events of the last few years have made me more and more upset by this censorship.

I live in Oakland, a bastion of the extreme left, and I see this all the time. On nextdoor.com, it’s impossible to have a civil conversation about race, or education, or the police, or homelessness, or gentrification, because if you say anything that’s even mildly against the prevailing leftist ideology, you’re violently attacked. You’re called a racist, or a privileged white male, or something equally vile; and I’ve been banned, for weeks at a time, from nextdoor.com because some anonymous employee with the power to do that didn’t like what I said.

In Peterson’s case, he speaks for many of us men (and women as well) when he says that we need to defend ourselves against these allegations of being part of the “patriarchy.” I’ve had that charge leveled against me, and it always makes me wonder how anyone could confuse me with, say, Donald Trump, who is the living embodiment of straight, white male privilege and patriarchy. I have no power whatsoever. I’m an old gay man, on a fixed income, living in an inner city. I’m in favor of a woman’s right to choose. I’ve fought for gay rights for years. I’m totally in support of trans people; hell, I’ve dated trans people. I want taxes to be raised on the rich, and I don’t like it when corporations don’t pay their fair share, or when billionaires contribute money to the far-right (as the Mercer and DeVos families do). I’m about as un-patriarchy as you can get. But there is one thing about myself I can’t change or hide: my gender. The fact is, men—and white men, in particular—are pretty much the last demographic group it’s possible to bash these days.

Another of Peterson’s criticisms of the radical left is their assumption that they know everything about us based on what we look like. The BLM movement says, justifiably, that too many White people judge Black people by the color of their skin: they’ll cross the street when a Black kid with a hoodie is walking towards them. On the other hand, the same radical leftists take one look at a white man and make a whole host of negative assumptions. (Peterson is routinely skewered by his female interviewers.) In any reasonable world, that would be called hypocrisy.

Peterson puts much of the blame for how out of whack our political conversation has become on Schools of Education in colleges and universities. I used to work in the School of Education at San Francisco State University, and my master’s degree is in education, so I know something about that. His viewpoint is that radicalized leftwing professors are intolerant of anything and anyone who deviates from their extreme leftwing positions, that they are banning real conversation, and brainwashing students. That’s why I find this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education so compelling. It claims that Ed schools are “pushing the academy toward ideological fundamentalism.” Such fundamentalism is little different in kind from the Taliban, or from the rigid irrationality of Christian sects such as evangelicals. The Chronicle article details examples of this fundamentalism that would be funny, if they weren’t so appalling: the Yale administrator who warned students about “insensitive” Halloween costumes, or the admonition from the leading teacher accreditation organization that candidates for classroom teaching should be evaluated on the basis of their “social justice disposition,” rather than their mastery of subject matter and pedagogical skills.

I see the same ridiculousness in the ruling by the San Francisco School District, just yesterday, to strike the names of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and (believe it or not) Dianne Feinstein from public schools that were named after them, because they were supposedly “racist.” !!! I think a lot of Americans witness this sort of thing and just shake their heads. But the most grievous thing is that it drives otherwise decent people to vote for the likes of Donald Trump. Some Republicans obviously are racist, fascist thugs, but many others aren’t. They just want to live peaceful lives, and are tired of being lectured by the radical left fundamentalists. They’re tired of being told they’re evil, horrible people who must be toppled from their positions atop the hierarchy. The guy in the steel plant, the auto worker, the truck driver, the schoolteacher, they think what the hell are these liberals talking about? They’re pushed to the point where they perceive liberalism—an admirable political philosophy—as antagonistic to their needs and to them personally.

I led this post off with the Peterson quote about happiness because it’s central to his critique of the radical left. The extreme liberals feel that it’s their right to be happy, and that anything or anyone that makes them unhappy is wrong, and must be opposed, and even crushed. Peterson’s position, with which I strongly agree, is that the Universe gives no one the right to be “happy.” People who are unhappy with their lot in life should learn how to improve it, instead of attacking the straw dogs whom they think are oppressing them. I’m reminded of neighbors I once had in our condo, who hung their laundry on a clothesline on their deck, which faces the street. I was Board president at the time, and I felt that hanging laundry made the building look slummy. No one else on our crowded street had ever done it. My Board agreed with me. We sent a politely-worded note to my neighbors, which they immediately deemed “racist,” and they threatened to sue us under Oakland’s anti-discrimination ordinances. My neighbors, you see, were Black, from West Africa.

Well, they didn’t sue us. They did stop hanging their laundry, and they soon moved elsewhere. But the experience left a bitter taste in my mouth. All we were trying to do was protect the building’s visual integrity. Did we care about our property values? You bet. What’s wrong with that? But it wasn’t just that. My main objection was that my African neighbors perceived their rights as more important than everyone else’s. They thought the Universe centered around them. It does not. But the Universe does assign to us certain responsibilities, including to be a respectful, cooperative citizen in this village common we all share. That’s a sane message, and if it’s a white, privileged one, I thank Jordan Peterson for articulating it so well.

  1. “ All business depends upon men fulfilling their responsibilities.”
    — Mahatma Gandhi

    Well conceived and articulated, Steve. Might I ask, do you believe you would have presented this same argument in your college years? My query relates to your comments on the article in “The Chronicle of Higher Education” and “pushing the academy toward ideological fundamentalism,” and the age of the minds being channeled therein.

    Thanks for this.

  2. No, I would not have written this when I was in college.

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