Each of us wants to believe that we would have had the courage to stand up against the worst evils of historical times, like Hitler or slavery. But would we? Brunhilde Pomsel, former personal secretary to Hitler’s Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, scoffed at the idea, saying “Those people nowadays who say they would have stood up against the Nazis – I believe they are sincere in meaning that, but believe me, most of them wouldn’t have.” She explained that during Hitler’s reign, “the whole country was as if under a kind of a spell.” And what’s more, “the idealism of youth might easily have led to you having your neck broken.”
Our own times are marked not by fascism or Communism, but by the Sexual Revolution. That movement, which began in the 1960s and continues today, has ravaged our core institutions, including marriage and the family, and has left untold broken lives in its wake. It has also resulted in millions of deaths through abortion. The newest phase of the revolution is demanding shocking concessions from our society under the banner of a radical gender ideology. This ideology is getting more aggressive and intolerant by the day. It is now pushing for legislation and policies that would sacrifice our long-cherished freedoms of speech, expression and religion at the altar of newly minted gender identities.
And how much opposition is rising up against it? Here in Canada, there is barely a whimper. Just like Germany under Hitler, our society appears to be under a spell, and many of us stand frozen in the headlights. We may not like what is happening, but as Pomsel predicted, we are choosing not to stick out our necks. Going against the tide and witnessing to the truth would threaten our reputations, careers, and friendships. It is never a good time to become a sacrificial lamb. Even the federal Conservatives caved in last May, choosing electability over principles and declaring that they will no longer fight to protect the family by opposing same-sex marriage.
All the more surprising then that from the most unlikely of places, a battle cry has risen up. From the left-leaning ivory tower, from a profession dominated almost exclusively by liberals, there has arisen a voice crying out from the wilderness.
Protest out of left field
Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, Clinical Psychology Professor at the University of Toronto, is tenured, accomplished, and well respected. In other words, he has a lot to lose. Nevertheless, on September 27, he took to YouTube and published the first of a three-part series of lectures where he unleashes a fury of logic and rational argument against the politically correct activism which has been spreading through universities and other institutions, and seeping into our laws.
With this act, Dr. Peterson has placed himself among the foolish souls whose devotion to truth and justice outweighs their fear of the consequences. Historians call such people heroes. Their ranks include the Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, whose famous essay "“Live Not By Lies” calls upon the resigned hostages of a drab collectivism to embrace a life of moral courage. Each person, said Solzhenitsyn, has at least one way of resisting the regime and reclaiming his dignity through "personal non-participation in lies". He says: "in our timidity, let each of us make a choice: Whether consciously, to remain a servant of falsehood...or to shrug off the lies and become an honest man worthy of respect both by one's children and contemporaries."
Dr. Peterson is engaging in exactly this kind of moral resistance, and perhaps it is no accident that Dr. Peterson mentions Solzhenitsyn in one of his lectures. He was clearly affected by Solzhenitsyn’s seminal work The Gulag Archipelago, which he says “eradicated any shreds of intellectual respectability that the [Marxist] doctrine...still had after its decades of unbelievable murderous existence.”
“Marxism and neo-Marxism is no better than Fascism and neo-Fascism. I think the historical evidence for that is absolutely clear," says Dr. Peterson. How then, he asks, is it all right for 20% of social scientists to identify as Marxist? "I can’t understand why we think it’s acceptable for academics and their followers to call themselves Marxist and neo-Marxist but we would not for a second countenance the same thing from the Fascists and the neo-Fascists.”
Indeed, the neo-Marxist revival on university campuses is not innocuous. It is responsible for today's politically correct activists, says Dr. Peterson. Many of the social science disciplines, including women’s studies departments and others, intentionally train such "PC game players". Dr. Peterson estimates that these faculties have produced anywhere between 300,000 and 3 million activists over the last 30 years.
“The PC game players have infiltrated our institutions at many, many levels of the hierarchy," says Dr. Peterson. "And they’re also now writing legislation at the top, and now we’ve got a positive feedback loop going between the legislative activities at the top and the people who are acting as essentially insurgents for this movement at all the levels of the social hierarchy.”
This "increasingly rigidifying positive feedback loop" has enabled a swift advance of political correctness, and it has gotten out of hand. “I’m a clinical psychologist. This is starting to affect my clients. I’ve had three clients in the last two years who have been driven near the point of insanity by politically correct occurrences at work.” Dr. Peterson is also noticing that his colleagues in academia are being scared into self-censorship and silence, and even leaving the profession. They are afraid of losing their jobs, of “being pilloried online by social justice warriors and so on, and having their reputations savaged and demolished.”
We are reaching the point where politically correct activism is directly threatening our democracy. “I know something about the way that totalitarian authoritarian political states develop, and I can’t help but think that I’m seeing a fair bit of that right now.” For instance, says Dr. Peterson, “I’m nervous about doing this lecture, and I’ve also become nervous about some of the things that I’m teaching...I think that some of the things that I say in my lectures now might be illegal, I think they might even be sufficient for me to be brought before the Ontario Human Rights Commission under their amended Hate Speech Laws.”
Dr. Peterson is quick to point out that “What’s happening in Canada is happening throughout the West….This is certainly not only a Canadian problem.” And he is under no illusions as to the possible consequences of his public stance. Still more admirable, then, is his resolve to expose the lies and logical inconsistencies of gender ideology. Speaking of the gender-related definitions in Ontario's human rights legislation, he says: “[I]f someone should be put in jail for questioning that, then I guess I should be put in jail, because I’m going to question it.”
The gender ideology has no clothes
And question he does. His first lecture is a devastating and detailed critical analysis that undeniably succeeds in showing the deep flaws of Bill C-16 and other Canadian legislation and human rights codes which contain the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression”.
As an example, at one point Dr. Peterson addresses the Ontario Human Rights Commission's statement that “A person’s gender identity is fundamentally different from and not related to their sexual orientation”. His response:
“Well, that’s rubbish, fundamentally. Because if you ran a correlation analysis between gender identity and sexual orientation, the correlation is going to be something like 0.95, which indicates an almost perfect correlation. For the vast majority of people, gender identity and sexual orientation are the same thing. And so it is not ‘fundamentally different from’ and ‘not related to’ their sexual orientation. That’s just a misstatement of fact. Perhaps for a minority of people, sometimes they’re dissociable. But that doesn’t mean that a gender identity is ‘fundamentally different from and not related to’ sexual orientation....If there’s a correlation of any magnitude between two things, then one is related to another. And when the correlation is just about perfect, well then they are fundamentally related. So that’s another policy that’s based actually on a lie, a misstatement, an untruth.”Another example is Dr. Peterson's perceptive call-out of an irreconcilable contradiction at the heart of gender ideology:
"Here’s one of the things I find very confusing. It seems to me that the leftist activists have made the claim, with regard to transsexual individuals for example, that you can be a man in a woman’s body, and that that’s a biological reality, or that you can be a woman in a man’s body, and that’s a biological reality. So as long as your gender identity is opposite to that of your cardinal biological sexual attributes, then that’s biologically determined. But if your gender identity is in sync with your biological attributes, then that’s a free-floating cultural construct... And I cannot see how both of those things can possibly be true. But I don’t think that coherence is one of the hallmarks of radical politically correct thinking.”Dr. Peterson's criticism of 'hate speech' legislation is also interesting because it shows the distinct concern of a psychologist:
"It’s not obvious when speech is motivated by hate. Angry speech can feel like it’s motivated by hate. But angry speech is the only kind of speech in some sense that is indicative of real disagreement….If there is real disagreement, anger is often the evidence for the existence of real disagreement. And if there’s disagreement, angry people have to talk it out, because if they don’t, then, well, then a bunch of terrible things happen....First of all, you start losing track of who the angry people are. Second, they don’t get to say what’s on their mind...They don’t get to modify their viewpoints, because talking is thinking....We even tell two-year-olds who are angry ‘use your words’. And the reason we tell two-years olds that is because the alternative to using your words is using your fists. And so if we don’t let angry people talk, then they only have two alternatives...they either pull it in and get resentful...or they get violent or start agitating for violence."Following up, Dr. Peterson’s second lecture intellectually demolishes a recent University of Toronto Human Resources Initiative which sought to mandate politically correct training for all university staff. "[T]here is increasing administrative buy-in" of political correctness, says Dr. Peterson, "and a lot of this seems to be driven by human resources departments, which I think are generally the most pathological elements of large organisations…HR training is very politically correct."
If Dr. Peterson expected that his lectures would result in a vicious reprisal, he was right. Almost instantly, he was mocked and derided on Twitter, where activists summarily judged him guilty of hate speech. Within mere days, two protest “teach-in” rallies were organised at the University of Toronto, one by students and another by faculty. On the Facebook page of the student rally, one student accused Dr. Peterson of "transphobia, transmisogyny, dyadism/intersexism, cissexism, racism/anti-blackness, ableism, sexism". The faculty rally was presented as an official event of The Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, and so carried the imprimatur of the University of Toronto itself.
On October 5th, Dr. Peterson was asked in an interview whether his job was in danger. "Hard to tell," he responded "It could be in danger. I don't actually think it is". He said that the University of Toronto had sent him a letter the previous day, in which "the university reminded me...that I'm to adhere to the university polices and also to the relevant legislation". In addition, "they also commented about what I said, and did a very bad job of that in the letter they sent me. They misrepresented what I said quite terribly, which I also thought was careless."
Many of the activists and mainstream media have seized on a remark made by Dr. Peterson in his first lecture, where he stated: “I can envision a student or a colleague insisting that I call them using gender-neutral pronouns, 'zhe'. I’m not doing that...I think it’s manipulative. And I don’t recognise another person’s right to determine what pronouns I use to address them. I won’t do it. Now, again I think that because of these new laws, that my decision might be illegal, and maybe it’s even a decision of 'hate'. But I’m not doing it.”
Dr. Peterson's refusal to "accommodate" the gender ideologues by adopting their language seems to have convinced the liberal media that he is a bigot. Renowned CBC journalist Carol Off, who ironically serves as the vice president of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, could hardly contain herself when she interviewed Dr. Peterson. She was preoccupied with the idea that society must make trans people “feel included”, and asked: “Do you not see that society might be evolving in a way that might be leaving you behind?”
Orff also reminded Dr. Peterson that his refusal to use gender-neutral pronouns “may become a criminal offense”. “I’m not going to mouth words that I believe put me in the position of an ideological puppet," he responded. "I won’t do that. And if it turns out that that’s a hate crime in Ontario, well...bring it on.”
The power of the powerless
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Dr. Peterson has responded with ingenious wit and humor. In his third lecture, he proposes a light-hearted yet hopeful method by which ordinary citizens can engage in a type of peaceful guerrila warfare which undermines the victory of political correctness. He calls it “Pokemon PC”, and it consists in stealthily placing anti-PC stickers on posters and other advertising of politically correct events or messages.
It’s a brilliant idea. While Pokemon PC will not result in any immediate political changes, it reminds me of the dark sense of humor that carried the disheartened citizens of Communist countries through their longest hours.
Dr. Peterson encourages people to "always pay careful attention" when looking for PC posters. He declares the open-eyed Egyptian god Horus as the "patron saint" of Pokemon PC, because "Egyptians worshipped Attention as their highest deity. They regarded the careful attention that individuals paid as the antidote to the corruption and stagnation of the state.”
Once a poster is found, says Dr. Peterson, “strike like Mono, the Air Cobra”, a Canadian comic superhero. He encourages people to place the stickers at the bottom right of the poster: "Be a little subtle” he says, rather than sticking them “bone-headedly” in the middle. The message of the poster should still be visible, but the organisers will see that an insurgent was paying attention. After placing the sticker, people are instructed to take a photo of the stickered poster, and upload it to his upcoming app, where such photos are to be shared among all participants. Then, "disappear stealthily into the night, like Zorro."
What will be the outcome of this activity? Dr. Peterson acknowledges that “This is a long-haul process, and this is only the starting place”. A sticker campaign will not change legislation. But Dr. Peterson is cautiously optimistic: “I don’t think the people who are playing these games are particularly brave. And so I think if proper attention is called to what they are doing, they might wander back into the darkness that initially spawned them.”
In my view, the cleverness of this idea resides in its potential to bring people together in solidarity, and to help germinate an underground community of resistance. It allows ordinary people to manifest their dissent, and so it is an embodiment of Czech dissident Vaclav Havel's idea of the power of the powerless. Even when humor is all one has, it is still something, and it can carry our hope through to a genuine political opportunity for change, such as when anti-Communist demonstrations finally felled the Iron Curtain in 1989.
A dissident in the West
Vaclav Havel once wrote: “The dissident does not operate in the realm of genuine power at all. He is not seeking power. He has no desire for office and does not gather votes. He does not attempt to charm the public, he offers nothing and promises nothing. He can offer, if anything, only his own skin--and he offers it solely because he has no other way of affirming the truth he stands for. His actions simply articulate his dignity as a citizen, regardless of the cost. ...The innermost foundation of his ‘political’ undertaking is moral and existential.”
By that definition, Dr. Peterson has emerged as a true dissident, here in the West, where dissidents from the East formerly fled for freedom. He is offering “his own skin”, so to speak, by placing his career and reputation on the line in an act of following his moral conscience. The fate that awaits him will surely be a litmus test, showing us the depth to which our freedoms have deteriorated.
And as was the case with the dissidents from the East, such daring defiance will have reverberations for years to come. One man can indeed make a difference. Dr. Peterson's principled refusal to submit to the lies of a logically incoherent, neo-Marxist ideology is a bright light that will serve to motivate us and gird our loins for the long road ahead.
photo credit: yoshiffles 366 - 350: You can't shut me up via photopin (license)