The Perils of A University Education

Jason Tucker
December 1, 2016
The pandemic has damaged university students’ education and many are beginning to ask why they should pay the same for virtual, online classes as for classroom instruction. In this broad-ranging interview, Jordan Peterson tells why he thinks that large parts of the university might already be irrevocably damaged.

The Perils of A University Education

Jason Tucker
December 1, 2016
The pandemic has damaged university students’ education and many are beginning to ask why they should pay the same for virtual, online classes as for classroom instruction. In this broad-ranging interview, Jordan Peterson tells why he thinks that large parts of the university might already be irrevocably damaged.
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Interview with Dr. Jordan Peterson by Jason Tucker and Jason VandenBeukel


Can you give us a brief background of your academic career and your interests?

For the first two years of my undergraduate degree I studied Political Science and English Literature. I was very interested in politics, but what I was learning in economics and political science was just not correct. There was too much emphasis placed on the idea that economic interests were the prime motivators for human beings, and that was not obvious to me at all. I was spending a lot of time thinking about the Cold War, and the Cold War was not primarily an economic issue. So I started taking psychology, and I was interested in clinical psychology. I did my PhD under Dr. Robert Pihl, and I worked on drug abuse, alcoholism, and aggression – there was a heavy biological emphasis. I did my post-doc with Dr. Pihl, and Maurice Dongier. Then I taught at Harvard for six years, and I’ve been at the University of Toronto ever since then.

My primary interest has always been the psychology of belief. Partly religious belief, and ideology as a sub-category of religious belief. One of Jung’s propositions was that whatever a person values most highly is their god. If people think they are atheistic, it means is they are unconscious of their gods. In a sophisticated religious system, there is a positive and negative polarity. Ideologies simplify that polarity and, in doing so, demonize and oversimplify. I got interested in ideology, in a large part, because I got interested in what happened in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, the Cultural Revolution in China, and equivalent occurrences in other places in the world. Mostly I concentrated on Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. I was particularly interested in what led people to commit atrocities in service of their belief. The motto of the Holocaust Museum in Washington is “we must never forget.” I’ve learned that you cannot remember what you don’t understand. People don’t understand the Holocaust, and they don’t understand what happened in Russia. I have this course called “Maps of Meaning,” which is based on a book I wrote by the same name, and it outlines these ideas. One of the things that I’m trying to convince my students of is that if they had been in Germany in the 1930s, they would have been Nazis. Everyone thinks “Not me,” and that’s not right. It was mostly ordinary people who committed the atrocities that characterized Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

Part of the reason I got embroiled in this [gender identity] controversy was because of what I know about how things went wrong in the Soviet Union. Many of the doctrines that underlie the legislation that I’ve been objecting to share structural similarities with the Marxist ideas that drove Soviet Communism. The thing I object to the most was the insistence that people use these made up words like ‘xe’ and ‘xer’ that are the construction of authoritarians. There isn’t a hope in hell that I’m going to use their language, because I know where that leads.

There have been lots of cases where free speech has come under attack, why did you choose this particular issue?

This is very compelled speech. The Supreme Court in the United States has held that compelled speech is unacceptable for two reasons. One is to protect the rights of the speaker, the other is to protect the rights of the listener. The listener has the right to be informed and instructed without being unduly influenced by hidden sources. If your speech is compelled, it isn’t YOU who is talking, it’s some other entity that’s compelling your speech. So I actually think that Bill C-16 is unconstitutional. I’m using American case law, but the principles apply. It just hasn’t been pushed to our Supreme Court yet.

For me this became an issue because there is not a chance I’ll use radical, authoritarian language. I’ve studied this psychologically, and I know what it does.

I was also quite profoundly influenced by [Alexsandr] Solzhenitsyn’s book The Gulag Archipelago. People say that real Marxism has never been tried – not in the Soviet Union, in China, in Cambodia, in Korea, that wasn’t real Marxism. I find that argument specious, appalling, ignorant, and maybe also malevolent all at the same time. Specious because Solzhenitsyn demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that the horrors [of the Soviet system] were a logical consequence of the doctrines embedded within Marxist thinking. I think Dostoyevsky saw what was coming and Nietzsche wrote about it extensively in the 1880s, laying out the propositions that are encapsulated in Marxist doctrine, and warning that millions of people would die in the 20th century because of it.

You’ve painted a pretty bleak picture for the future.

There are bleak things going on. To start with, Bill C-16 writes social constructionism into the fabric of the law. Social constructionism is the doctrine that all human roles are socially constructed. They’re detached from the underlying biology and from the underlying objective world. So Bill C-16 contains an assault on biology and an implicit assault on the idea of objective reality. It’s also blatant in the Ontario Human Rights Commission policies and the Ontario Human Rights Act. It says identity is nothing but subjective. So a person can be male one day and female the next, or male one hour and female the next.

                                                                                                                        (Image: Marta Iwanek)

How do you see the future of public discourse in this country if we don’t reverse course on things like C-16?

I have no idea. I think that we’re in a time of chaos and anything can happen in a time of chaos. I don’t know what will happen at the university in the next week. There is a debate on Saturday at 9:30 in the morning. It’ll be live-cast on my YouTube channel. I have no idea what the consequences of the debate will be, I have no idea whether I’ll be teaching in January. The university has told me that that every time I insist that I won’t use those [gender neutral] pronouns, the probability that I’ll be teaching in January decreases.

Do you believe that you or others could be imprisoned for refusing to comply with these laws?

There’s no doubt about that. The human rights tribunals have been given the right to hold people in contempt. Well, you’re going to be in contempt if you don’t pay the fine. My opponents say ‘you’re just scare-mongering. We don’t really have that much power.’ Then why change the criminal code? Why put the hate speech amendments in there? The final word in law is incarceration. There is no question about this. When I made the video on September 27th, and I said, ‘probably making this video itself is illegal’. Not only that, the university is as responsible as I am for making it, because that’s in the human rights code. The university read the damned policies and had their lawyers scour it, and concluded exactly what I concluded. That’s why they sent me two warning letters. They’re on the hook for everything their employees say, whether or not the consequences of what they say were intentional or unintentional, regardless of whether or not there was a complaint.

Does that include things that my employees say in their private time?

It includes everything they say. It doesn’t matter whether people complain or not. Even if no one complains, or even if the effect is unintentional. The other thing that’s built into this law and the surrounding policies – and this is also increasingly the case in sexual harassment tribunals on university campuses which the [Ontario Premier Kathleen] Wynne government is pushing like mad – they’ve changed two legal principles. It’s not ‘innocent before being proven guilty,’ it’s ‘preponderance of evidence,’ and it’s not intent, it’s outcome. Those transformations are so far reaching, it’s almost unimaginable.

Are you suggesting they’ve altered the rule of law as we traditionally understand it?

They have. They say ‘what you said hurt my feelings’ – and this is part of the assault on the objective world – your intent is irrelevant. My subjective response is the determining factor. The idea that they would dare to undermine the doctrine of intent is beyond belief.

Are you surprised that almost half of the Conservative Party of Canada caucus voted in favour of C-16?

Not only that, isn’t there a leadership convention right now? Have any of the candidates commented on any of this? No. Why? Because they’re afraid. I think the fact that no one’s commented on it is an indication of how even for conservatives, especially in Canada, this demand for orthodoxy has gone so far that even Conservatives are afraid to be conservative. This stuff is not easy to understand. You might ask, ‘why can’t you just call people what they want to be called?’ Well, when someone questions your use of pronouns, it puts you on the spot. You don’t know why you use the pronouns you use. You use them because everyone else uses them – it’s a social convention. Then someone else says ‘it’s a mark of respect to use a pronoun, and it’s a mark of respect to use the pronoun of someone’s choice’. Those are large-scale philosophical assaults. If you’re not prepared for them, all you can do is stumble around, and your default is going to be ‘well, maybe we should be nice’.

So maybe some of them voted for it because they don’t understand the philosophical issues and just didn’t want to offend anybody?

That’s why I’m trying to take these arguments apart. First of all, “he” and “she” are not marks of respect. They’re the most casual terms possible. If I refer to someone as “he” or I refer to someone as “she,” it’s not a mark of respect, its just categorization of the most simple and obvious kind. There’s not anything about it that’s individual, or characteristic of respect. Second, you have no right to demand from me that I do anything with regards to you that’s respectful. The best you can hope for from me is sceptical neutrality and courageous trust. That’s it. That’s what you get from me.

Could you define those two terms?

Skeptical neutrality is ‘you’re a bucket of snakes, just like me. However, if you’re willing to abide by your word, and I’m willing to abide by my word, then we’re able to engage in mutually beneficial interactions, so that’s what we’re going to do’. The reason I said courageous trust is to distinguish it from naiveté. Naive people think that everybody’s good. That’s false, everybody’s not good. But acting in a manner that’s hostile and sceptical and anti-social is completely counter-productive. So what you do if you’re a mature person is you say ‘well, yeah, you’ve got a dark side, so do I. That doesn’t mean we can’t engage in productive interactions’. We do that by sticking to our damned word. Honesty simplifies us to the point where we can engage in mutually beneficial interactions. But you certainly don’t get my respect by demanding it. You have no right whatsoever to ask me to mark you out as special in any way whatsoever.

So we shouldn’t call someone ‘your majesty’ just because they ask for it?

Well that’s another problem that’s lurking under the subjectivity argument, once you divorce identity from an objective underpinning. These people [advocates for multiple gender identities and laws to protect them] claim that identity is a social construct, but even though that’s their fundamental philosophical claim, and they’ve built it into the law, they don’t abide by those principles. Instead, they go right to subjectivity. They say that your identity is nothing more than your subjective feeling of what you are. Well, that’s also a staggeringly impoverished idea of what constitutes identity. It’s like the claim of an egocentric two-year old, and I mean that technically. Your identity isn’t just how you feel about yourself. It’s also how you think about yourself, it’s what you know about yourself, it’s your educated judgement about yourself. It’s negotiated with other people if you’re even vaguely civilized because otherwise no one can stand you. If your identity isn’t a hybrid of what you are and what other people expect, then you’re like the kid on the playground with whom no one can play.

Plus, your identity is a practical vehicle that you use to manoeuvre yourself through life. In your real identity, you’re a lawyer, you’re a doctor, you’re a mother, you’re a father, you have a role that has value to you and others. None of that’s subjectively defined. So that’s completely absurd, and philosophically primitive, and psychologically wrong. Yet it’s built into the law. I think the law makes discussions of biology and gender illegal. I think we got a taste of that in the TVO Agenda interview I had where [U of T transgender studies professor] Nicholas Mack said ‘well, the scientific consensus in the last four decades is that there’s no biological difference between men and women’. It’s an absurd proposition. There are sex differences at every level of analysis. There are masculinity/femininity scales that have been derived; they’re basically secondary derivations of personality descriptors. There are huge personality differences between men and women. There’s literature looking at differences of men and women in personality in many, many societies throughout the world. I think the biggest paper examined 55 different societies. And they rank societies by sociological and political equality. The hypothesis was that if you equalize the environment between men and women, you eradicate the differences between them. In other words, if you treat boys and girls the same, the differences between them will disappear. But that’s not what the studies showed. In reality, they get bigger. Those are studies of tens of thousands of people. The social constructionist theory was tested. It failed. Gender identity is very much biologically determined.

Do you see any parallels between this issue and some of the other ‘social justice’ causes that have come up in the past few years, like Black Lives Matter or IdleNoMore?

It’s all part and parcel of the same thing. There’s a war going on at the heart of our culture. Lots of people have talked about political correctness, and the fact that its pernicious. Often, that just disappears into the ether. I think what I did was different because there was something I said I wouldn’t do. That took the general and made it specific.

In Christianity, there’s the idea of the general Christ, that’s the “Word” that God used to speak chaos into order. Then there’s the specific Christ, a carpenter in the Middle East 2,000 years ago. So there’s this weird notion in Christianity between this general principle, which is the logos roughly speaking; the logos is the thing that mediates between order and chaos and is very abstract principle; and the specific human being who had a specific identity tied to a specific time and place, making the archetypal individual, and that makes an unbelievably compelling story. The archetypal is too abstract. It’s like saying ‘the good guys won’ – there’s no story there. I think that what I did was make the general concrete and specific, and drew a line. Now the price you pay for drawing a line – especially with the politically correct material – is that you’re going to get tarred and feathered for bigotry. The social justice people are always on the side of compassion and ‘victim’s rights,’ so objecting to anything they do makes you instantly a perpetrator. There’s no place you can stand without being vilified, and that’s why it keeps creeping forward.

(Image: Iwanek)
                                                                                                                         (Image: Marta Iwanek)

Isn’t that the logical outcome of the tactical application of Saul Alinsky?

That’s exactly right. The thing is if you replace compassion with resentment, then you understand the authoritarian left. They don’t have compassion, there is no compassion there. There’s no compassion at all. There is resentment, fundamentally.

In a National Post op-ed you wrote that ‘words like zhe/zher are the vanguards of a radical left wing ideology that’s frighteningly similar to Marxism’. Can you elaborate?

Assigned identity is oppression. Assigned identity is the identity that’s assigned to you by the power structure – the patriarchy. The only reason the patriarchy assigns you a status is to oppress you. And so the language that frees you from that status is revolutionary language. So, as an example of revolutionary language, we’re going to blow out the gender identity categories, because the concept of woman is oppressive. The anti-patriarchy philosophy is predicated on the idea that all social structures are oppressive, and not much more than that. Then to assault the structure is to question its categorical schemes at every possible level of analysis. And the most fundamental one that the anti-patriarchy radicals have come up with is gender. It’s a piece of identity that children usually pick up on around two – it’s pretty fundamental. You could argue that there isn’t anything more fundamental. Though, I don’t know of anything that’s more fundamental, more basic, and that would have been regarded as more unquestionable, even five years ago.

Do you believe that society should draw the line at all when it comes to limitations on hate speech?

No. Hate speech laws are wrong. The question – not a question, but THE question – is ‘who gets to define hate?” That’s not to say there’s no such thing as hate speech – clearly there is. Hate speech laws repress, and I mean that in the psycho-analytical sense. They drive [hate speech] underground. It’s not a good idea, because things get ugly when you drive them underground. They don’t disappear, they just fester, and they’re not subject to correction. I made these videos, and they have been subject to a tremendous amount of correction over the last six weeks. I don’t just mean from my public response, but also partly from the university’s response, partly from a group of friends who have been reviewing my videos and criticizing them to death. This is why free speech is so important. You can struggle to formulate some argument, but when you throw it out into the public, there’s a collective attempt to modify and improve that. So with the hate speech issue – say someone’s a Holocaust denier, because that’s the standard routine – we want those people out there in the public so you can tell them why they’re historically ignorant, and why their views are unfounded and dangerous. If you drive them underground, it’s not like they stop talking to each other, they just don’t talk to anyone who disagrees with them. That’s a really bad idea and that’s what’s happening in the United States right now. Half of the country doesn’t talk to the other half. Do you know what you call people you don’t talk to? Enemies.

If you have enemies, you have war.

If you stop talking to people, you either submit to them, or you go to war with them. Those are your options and those aren’t good options. It’s better to have a talk. If you put restrictions on speech, then you can’t actually talk about the difficult things that need to be talked about. I have about 20,000 hours of clinical practice and all I do for 20 hours a week is talk to people about difficult things – the worst things that are going on in their lives. These are hard conversations all the time. The conversations that are the most curative are simultaneously the ones that are most difficult and most dangerous. Most normal people will not have those conversations. That’s why so many marriages dissolve. People don’t like to have those conversations. Part of that too, is because – let’s say you have a little tiff with your wife, and you know there’s more to it than the little thing that’s bothering her, and you ask ‘what are you REALLY upset about’? Try peeling that back. You might find she’s upset about something her grandfather did to her grandmother two generations ago that hasn’t yet been resolved within the family, and that’s the determining element of her attitude at the present moment. If you unpack it though, then you don’t have to live it over and over again.

There’s also this idea that you shouldn’t say things that hurt people’s feelings – that’s the philosophy of the compassionate left. It’s so childish it’s beyond comprehension. What did Nietzsche say: ‘you can judge a man’s spirit by the amount of truth he can tolerate.’ I tell my students this too, you can tell when you’re being educated because you’re horrified. So if its pleasant and safe, it’s like you’re not learning anything. People learn things the hard way.

What happens when that truth actually does contribute to violence against groups?

You pick your poison, and free speech is the right poison. There are groups that advocate for hate, but that’s not the issue. The issue is whether repressing them makes it better or worse. I would say that [repressing them] just makes it worse. There’s lots of times when you don’t have a good option. People think that if we just don’t let them talk, it’ll go away. It doesn’t work that way at all. In fact, if they’re paranoid, you just justify their paranoia. By pushing them underground, you don’t weaken them. You just give them something compelling to fight against. You make them into heroes in their own eyes.

Can you comment on the U of T’s specific response, the letter you received from Arts Faculty Dean David Cameron?

They talked to their lawyers, and they’re doing exactly what HR people always do. If you want to get rid of someone, you write them a letter. Tell them what they’re doing wrong, tell them to stop, and you tell them nicely. Then you write a second letter, and you tell them the same thing except not so nicely. Then you give them a third letter, and after you give them a third letter, if they don’t comply, then you can do whatever you want, you’ve put your paper trail together. The lawyers looked at the policies on the OHRC website, and they’ve concluded that my interpretation of the law is absolutely correct. It’s worse than that however. It’s like ‘okay, that’s against the law, the university is supposed to abide by the law, and I’m not doing that, at least in principle.’ So they have a legal and ethical obligation to do what they did, but they did it in a deceitful way. In the first letter, they misquoted me. So I told them ‘you guys should take this letter back and rewrite it because it’s not accurate, and if you want to hand me a warning letter, it’s in your best interests to get it right.’ The second letter was far worse. It said that I contributed to this climate of fear and danger on campus, which I thought was a specious and unfounded claim to begin with, but when they mentioned that they had received many letters from groups on the university campus, they didn’t mention the 500 letters they received from supporters of mine, which I know about because I was CC’ed on them. They didn’t mention the petition with 10,000 signatures which I also received. That’s the lie. They didn’t have to omit that. They could have said ‘we understand there are a variety of opinions on this, and you have substantial public support. But the truth of the matter is, as far as we can tell this is illegal, and its our obligation to tell you to, you have to comply with university policies and the law.’ They could have done that, but they didn’t.

Then, when we started talking about the debate after the second letter, I went to talk to David Cameron. I thought that since this is an issue of great public interest here, maybe we should have a debate about it. That’s what a university would do, if it was a civilized place, so that’s what I recommended to Cameron. He took it to the university administration, and they agreed. But they put a restriction on me: at the debate, I’m not allowed to repeat the statement that I won’t use these preferred pronouns. It’s a little absurd that we’re going to go forward with a debate about freedom of speech, and I can’t repeat the central claim that initiated the debate. So I wrote to them and I said, ‘look, you guys are doing this wrong. Instead of telling me “look, you can’t say this,” what you SHOULD be doing is saying “you might be wrong, but you should be allowed to say this, and we’ll support you all the way to the Supreme Court. We’ll take our legal resources and we’ll throw them behind you, and we’ll fight them through the courts.”’ Cameron said categorically that they wouldn’t do that. They had to choose between social justice or freedom of expression. They chose social justice – which is equity, or equality of outcome – because that’s what they’re teaching. I decided that I would go forward with the debate anyways because all things considered you don’t always have a good option. I decided to take the lesser of two evils and go ahead with the debate.

So, just to clarify your thoughts on C-16. Do you think your YouTube video definitely violates it?

The university thinks so. I thought so. I read the damned policies. I looked at the policies on the Ontario Human Rights website because I think those are the people that are behind all this. The writing on that website is appalling from a technical perspective – it’s incoherent. They’re the semi-literate, philosophically ignorant, malevolent little coterie who are behind it. You would expect better than that from quasi-judiciaries.

What do you hope to achieve coming out of this?

I hope that I can continue to educate people, both at the university and, if not at the university, then on YouTube. For the first time in human history, the spoken word has the same reach and longevity as the written word. Not only that, the space between the utterance and the publication is zero. Three months ago, I had some research assistants writing out the transcripts of my lectures so people could watch my lectures with the subtitles because its easier for people to follow and I was looking at my growth in terms of subscribers, and I half-jokingly thought I could soon have more subscribers to my YouTube channel than U of T has students. I don’t know what the significance of that is. It might be that the university is already dying. It wouldn’t surprise me. I mean, I think huge swaths of the university are irrevocably corrupted: sociology, gone; anthropology, gone; history, big chunks of it are gone, the classics, literature, social work, political science in many places, and that doesn’t cover women’s studies, ethnic studies. They probably started lost, and it’s gotten far worse. I believe now, with the exception of the science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) branch, that universities do more harm than good. I think they produce indentured servants in the United States because tuition fees have gone up so much and you can’t declare bankruptcy on your student loans. We’re teaching university students lies, and pandering to them, and I see that as counterproductive.

There’s even an anti-psychology program at OISE [Ontario Institute for Studies in Education]. It started when they got rid of [Ken] Zucker, and you don’t stop with one person. Zucker was a more than credible psychologist. He ran a very good program for people who had gender dysphoria, and he was conservative. Zucker’s attitude was that if you’ve got a kid who is complaining about their gender, you follow them up, and you see what happens, and you derive your conclusions from the research. Eighty percent of them declare themselves as homosexual, ninety percent settle into their biological identity as adults. His logical conclusion is to keep the goddamned surgical knife sheathed, and don’t bring out the hormones too soon. Well that’s all gone – it’s illegal now for doctors to question the decision of a three-year old child that he is a she. And if the parents want to start biological transformation, it is illegal for the doctor to reject that.

Did you see that Lauren Southern got identity as a man from the Ontario government? That shows you what the law has done to the physicians. That physician couldn’t question her because it’s illegal. So now Lauren Southern has government identification as a man. She went to the Service Ontario kiosk in high heels and makeup. She didn’t expect to get the god damned ID. That also means that the government is so tangled up in this mess that they’ll actually sacrifice their own ID. Think about that – think about what will happen to our society if people’s identification became unstable.

You said in your interview with Gad Saad that free speech is – “The right and maybe the obligation to conduct discourse that is aimed at solving serious problems.”  What happens when the discourse itself becomes weaponized?

Errors accumulate, and chaos ensues. I’ve studied mythology for a long time. The flood story means that if you warp things badly enough, everything falls apart. If you interfere with the mechanism by which people formulate problems, solve them, and negotiate their implementation, then problems accrue and multiply. That’s what a hydra is – cut off one head, seven grow back. These things can multiply out of control far faster than people think.

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson poses for a photo near his home in Toronto, Ontario on November 23, 2016. Photo by Marta Iwanek.
                                    (Image: Marta Iwanek)

Is that part of what explains the results of the United States’ election?

The Democrats decided in the 1970s that they were going to abandon the working class and play identity politics, and the working class bit them. [Hillary Clinton] lost all the rust belt states. You really have to work pretty hard to lose the rust belt states if you’re a Democrat. So, they got exactly what was coming to them. And all the lefties are worried that Trump is a right-wing demagogue. It’s insane – he’s a liberal. He was a Clinton supporter. I mean, you could say he’s opportunistic, he’s narcissistic, but he’s no right wing demagogue. I don’t think he’s any more narcissistic or opportunistic that Newt Gingrich, I don’t think he’s any more narcissistic or opportunistic than Hillary Clinton. I don’t think what happened in the U.S. is a surprise at all. I think the left is saying “My god, this is a catastrophe.” It’s no more a catastrophe than Margaret Thatcher or Ronald Reagan as far as right-wing demagoguery goes. I don’t think it’s any different than the Reagan revolution, or what happened with Thatcher in terms of seriousness. Trump’s a moderate. He’s a noisy moderate, and he’s a bit of a populist, but fundamentally he’s still a moderate – and people are reacting as if he’s Hitler. You could get Hitler – and it certainly isn’t Trump. Was he a qualified candidate? No, I don’t think so, but he did a lot of things right, and one of those was he didn’t give the same canned speech all the time, and he wasn’t handled to death. People saw that and thought “he’s not crafting every utterance. He’s kind of jerk, but at least we know what he thinks.” Then people went into the ballot room, and they thought “fuck it, I’m voting for Trump” and that’s what they did. It was just like Brexit. The left pushed too hard, mucked about too much, and people thought “we’re not doing this anymore,” and then Democrats abandoned the working class. I’m not a Sanders admirer because I don’t think the kind of socialism he promotes is a tenable solution, but I certainly understand the working class in the United States has been screwed since 1975. Their social institutions are falling apart, their wages have been flat, the advances of India and China have all been on the backs of the American working class. Then the intellectuals think ‘oh, those rednecks, they’re stupid.’ Trades people are NOT stupid. In fact, they tend to have a lot more sense than most of the intellectuals that I know, even though they’re not as good at articulating their arguments.

How do you define social justice warriors?

They’re the ones who weaponize compassion.

Do you view social justice culture as a threat to democracy, and why?

Absolutely. There’s nothing about the PC authoritarian types that has any gratitude for any institutions. They have a term – patriarchy. It’s all-encompassing. It means that everything our society is, is corrupt. There’s no line, they mean everything. Go online, go look at ten women’s studies websites. Pick them at random. Read them. They say ‘western civilization is a corrupt patriarchy right down to the goddamned core. We have to overthrow it.’

Which means democracy, which means liberalism, which means human rights.

It means the whole thing. The whole edifice. And what do they compare it to? Utopia. Why do you think the feminists would go after Ayaan Hirsi Ali? She’s a hero, that woman. She’s from Somalia. She grew up in a very oppressive patriarchy – a real one. She escaped from an arranged marriage, and moved to Holland and she fell in love with Holland. Two things really struck her initially before she went to university and become a student of the Enlightenment. Number one – she would stand where there was public transport, and a digital sign would say when the public transport was going to arrive, and it would arrive exactly when it said it was going to. It was unbelievable to her. And the other thing she couldn’t believe was that police would help you. You know you’re in a civilized country when the police don’t just rape you and steal everything you have. The radical left people don’t give a damn about any of that.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

You asked what people can do. They can refuse. They can refuse to be pushed in this direction any further. Anything that’s predicated upon group identity, we need to get rid of. Albertans were very sceptical of Pierre Trudeau and all his changes, especially with the introduction of the Charter and they were right about that too. We should never have had a bill of human rights in Canada. That was an import of French Civil Law over top of English Common Law, and it was a mistake. In English Common Law, you have all the rights there are except those that are expressly forbidden by law. In the French system, you enumerate people’s rights – that makes it look like rights are granted to you by the government, and that’s not true. Then we started talking more about identity in Canada, and that was a deviation from the tradition of enlightenment individualism.

Are you denying the existence of discrimination based on sexuality or race?

I don’t think women were discriminated against, I think that’s an appalling argument. First of all, do you know how much money people lived on in 1885 in 2010 dollars? One dollar a day. The first thing we’ll establish is that life sucked for everyone. You didn’t live very long. If you were female you were pregnant almost all the time, and you were worn out and half dead by the time you were 45. Men worked under abysmal conditions that we can’t even imagine. When George Orwell wrote The Road to Wigan Pier, the coal miners he studied walked to work for two miles underground hunched over before they started their shift. Then they walked back. [Orwell] said he couldn’t walk 200 yards in one of those tunnels without cramping up so bad he couldn’t even stand up. Those guys were toothless by 25, and done by 45. Life before the 20th century for most people was brutal beyond comparison. The idea that women were an oppressed minority under those conditions is insane. People worked 16 hours a day hand to mouth. My grandmother was a farmer’s wife in Saskatchewan. She showed me a picture of the firewood she chopped before winter. They lived in a log cabin that was not quite as big as the first floor of this house. And the woodpile that she chopped was three times as long, and just as high. And that’s what she did in her spare time because she was also cooking for a threshing crew, taking care of her four kids, working on other people’s farms as a maid, and taking care of the animals. Then in the 20th century, people got rich enough that some women were able to work outside the home. That started in the 1920s, and really accelerated up through World War II because women were pulled into factories while the men went off to war. The men fought, and died, and that’s pretty much the history of humanity. And then in the 50s, when Betty Friedan started to whine about the plight of women, it’s like, the soldiers came home from the war, everyone started a family, the women pulled in from the factories because they wanted to have kids, and that’s when they got all oppressed. There was no equality for women before the birth control pill. It’s completely insane to assume that anything like that could’ve possibly occurred. And the feminists think they produced a revolution in the 1960s that freed women. What freed women was the pill, and we’ll see how that works out. There’s some evidence that women on the pill don’t like masculine men because of changes in hormonal balance. You can test a woman’s preference in men. You can show them pictures of men and change the jaw width, and what you find is that women who aren’t on the pill like wide-jawed men when they’re ovulating, and they like narrow-jawed men when they’re not, and the narrow-jawed men are less aggressive. Well all women on the pill are as if they’re not ovulating, so it’s possible that a lot of the antipathy that exists right now between women and men exists because of the birth control pill. The idea that women were discriminated against across the course of history is appalling.

Now groups that were discriminated against. What are you going to do about it? The only societies that are not slave societies are western enlightenment democracies. That’s it. Compared to utopia, it sucks. But compared to everywhere else – people don’t emigrate to the Middle East to live there, and there’s good reason for that.

The other thing is to do a multi-variate analysis. For example, if we wanted to predict long-term life success in western countries the two best predictors are intelligence and conscientiousness. Intelligent people get there first, and conscientious people work hard. It accounts for about 30 percent of the variance in long-term life success. There’s no discrimination there, it’s just competence. What about women and the glass ceiling? That’s a lot more complicated than it looks. For example, I’ve dealt with big law firms for years. They can’t keep their women. All the big law firms lose all their women in their thirties. Do you know why? It’s easy. Women mate across and up the dominance hierarchy, so women in big law firms who are over 30 who are married, maybe they’re making $300,000 per year. So are their partners. They don’t need to make $600,000 per year. If you want to make $300,000 per year as a lawyer, here’s your life: you work 60-80 hours a week flat out, and you’re on-call. If your Japanese client calls you at 3:00 on a Sunday morning, your answer is ‘yes, I’ll do that right now’ because they’re paying you $750 an hour. These women are high in conscientiousness, great students, brilliant in law school, and stellar in their articling. Then they make partner, and they think ‘what the fuck am I working 80 hours a week for?’ because that’s what sane people think. So it’s all men who are at the absolute pinnacle of professions.  But it’s not all men, it’s this tiny percentage of weird men. They’ve got IQs of 145 or higher, and they’re insanely competitive and hard-working. It doesn’t matter where you put someone like that, they’ll work 80 hours a week. The reason men do that more than women, is that status makes men sexually attractive. Men are driven by status – both biologically and culturally – in a way that women aren’t. So the real issue, when you look at these positions and thinking ‘oh, these are wonderful, luxurious positions of plenitude and relaxation’. That’s rubbish. Those people work so hard that it’s almost unimaginable. Most people not only can’t do that, but there isn’t even a chance that they’d want to. Most women hit partner in their 30s. The funny thing is when you’re in your thirties is that that’s when you really start to have to have your own life. When you’re 18, you’re just like every other knob-headed eighteen-year old, you’re all the same. By the time you’re thirty, you have enough idiosyncratic experience to sort of carve your own life, and most people realize ‘well, I don’t want to work 80 hours a week.’ They want to have a family, and they’re out of time. And then when they have a family, they discover that to have a child – it’s not a generic baby, it’s a new person in your family. That new person is THE most important thing to you. Period. So women they hit that, they get two kids and they think ‘I’m only going to have little kids for five years, you think I’m going to go work for eighty hours a week? To make money I don’t need? Doing something I don’t like? Or am I going to spend time with my kids?’ They can’t keep women in law – there’s no goddamned glass ceiling. The legal profession is desperate to keep qualified people because they don’t have enough. They haul them in from anywhere – especially the women who are not only good lawyers, but who can also generate business. That’s just one dirty little secret about the difference in power structures between men and women. Men do almost all the dangerous jobs, men work outside, men are far more likely to move than women are. So, if you look, if you break down the statistics in terms of wage differential, if you equate for the other factors, young women make more money than young men. The whole “women make $0.70 for every dollar a man makes” is such a lie. Men-run small businesses make way more money than female-run small businesses. Why? Because females start small businesses when they have kids, when they’re at home, so the business is just part time. So that’s why they don’t make as much money. It’s got nothing to do with prejudice, it’s got everything to do with choice. So these arguments that people make about prejudice are not even out of tribal psychology yet.

We’ve made unbelievable advances in terms of levelling the playing field, and a lot of that was due to pure capitalist greed. In capitalist societies, people are desperate for talent. If they have to put up with women and minorities, generally they will. Transformations are happening so fast that there’s nothing you can do to make them go faster. Everybody’s yelling ‘prejudice’ – it’s a one-stop shop for every explanation. Why is society like this? Prejudice. Why is it like that? Prejudice. There’s no thinking involved at all, no multi-variate analysis. It’s reprehensible. Warren Farrell wrote the book Why Men Earn More. He was a worker for the National Organization of Women in New York before he wrote the book. He actually wrote the book, at least in principle, for his daughters, because he wanted to help guide them to higher status. He did a multi-variate analysis. He went and looked, and learned more. He found that men do the high paying trades jobs, they’re dangerous, they’re outside, they’re doing hard, physical work. Then there’s the other reasons as well. There’s discrimination for sure, but it counts for maybe ten percent of the variance in success.

For more on this subject, see Jason VandenBeukel’s article about Jordan Peterson, which also in this edition of C2C Journal: Jordan Peterson: The man who reingnited Canada’s culture war

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