Wednesday, June 7, 2017


A friend sent me a panel presentation by professor Jordan Peterson of the University of Toronto who explains postmodernism to what I assume to be a gathering of conservative students. Peterson describes why he thinks postmodernism is such a threat to traditional Western values like rational discourse and freedom of speech.

I've pulled some excerpts to give you a sense of why Peterson thinks the cause of resisting the incursions of postmodernism is urgent:
You need to understand postmodernism, because that's what you're up against. You're up against it far more than you know or think, and it's a much more well-developed and pervasive, pernicious, nihilistic, intellectually attractive doctrine than has yet come to public realization. It absolutely dominates the humanities and increasingly the social sciences in the universities.

It's not like any given person is absolutely possessed by the spirit of postmodernism, because often they're not educated enough to know all the details about what it is that has them in their grip, but if you get 20 of them together and they're all 5% influenced by the postmodernist ethos, you basically have the spirit of the mob. It's a mouthpiece for that particular philosophical doctrine.

And if you understand the doctrine than you understand why things are progressing the way that they are progressing.

So I'm going to tell you a little bit about doctrine, because it's not optional to understand this. This is crucial to understand this, you can't underestimate the power of ideas and also of words, of course, because ideas are expressed in words.

So the first thing that you might want to know about postmodernism is that it doesn't have a shred of gratitude -- and there's something pathologically wrong with a person that doesn't have any gratitude, especially when they live in what so far is the best of all possible worlds. So if you're not grateful, you're driven by resentment, and resentment is the worst emotion that you can possibly experience, apart from arrogance. Arrogance, resentment, and deceit. There is an evil triad for you.

And if you're bitter about everything that's happening around you, despite the fact that you're bathed in wealth, then there is something absolutely wrong with you.

So here's what the postmodernists believe: They don't believe in the individual.

They believe that since you don't have an individual identity, your fundamental identity is group fostered, and that means that you're basically an exemplar of your race.

Hence, white privilege. Or you're an exemplar of your gender, or your sex, or your ethnicity, or you're an exemplar of however you can be classified so that you are placed in the position of a victim against the oppressor.

So for the postmodernists, the world is a Hobbesian battleground of identity groups. They do not communicate with one another, because they can't. All there is, is a struggle for power, and if you're in the predator group, which means you're an oppressor, than you better look out, because you're not exactly welcome. Not exactly welcome, and neither are your ideas. So that's what you're up against.

They believe that logic is part of the process by which the patriarchal institutions of the West continue to dominate and to justify their dominance. They don't believe in dialogue.... They don't believe that people of good will can come to consensus through the exchange of ideas. They believe that that notion is part of the philosophical substructure and practices of the dominant culture.

I would say it's time for conservatives to stop apologizing for being conservatives.

You don't apologize to these people. It's a big mistake. They read apology as an admission of guilt. You don't apologize, and you don't back down.

With regards to the universities, I thought at one point that the best thing to do would be to cut their funding by 25% and let them fight among themselves for the remnants, because it would force universities to decide exactly what's important and what isn't.

So I would say the humanities, and much of the social sciences, have turned into a postmodernist neo-Marxist playground for radicals. The scholarship is terrible. 80% of humanities papers are not cited once. Once!

And so what that means is that they write papers for each other, and they sell them to libraries, and that's a how the publishers are making money. No one reads them, but the publishers can print them and the libraries have to buy them -- And they are buying them with your tax money. And so all of you who are sitting here are funding a postmodern radical neo-Marxist agenda that has its roots in the university, and your tax money is going towards it.

And if you want proof of that. Just go online and look at the websites, especially of disciplines like 'women's studies' which is pathological right to the core. But it's not just women studies, it is all the ethnic studies groups, it is anthropology, it is sociology, social work, and most of all, it's education.

They're not interested at all in [genuine] education. They are interested in the indoctrination of people as young as they can get their hands on, so to speak.

Our society needs to figure out how to stop shunting public tax money to radical left-wing activists. If we were doing that for the radical right-wing activists, there would be an absolute storm, but it's happened incrementally since the 1960s and needs to stop.

So that's what conservatives and also liberals --true liberals in the English sense-- are up against. What's happened also as a consequence of this postmodern neo-Marxist intellectual invasion, is the center keeps moving way to the right now, so if you're a classical liberal, you've become a conservative.

And then finally with regards to talking to young people. You finally have something to sell to them. It is not easy to sell conservatism to young people, because they want to change things. That's not what conservatives want to do, they want to maintain things. Well, now you got something to sell -- you can sell them freedom of speech, and you can sell them responsibility.
Postmodernity, put simply, is essentially the denial of objective truth and value. It subjectivizes everything and makes truth group-based and feeling-based. Thus, if I feel oppressed then that's my truth regardless of whether I am or not. LeBron James recently came home to find a racial epithet spray-painted on the gate of his mansion. He lamented that it doesn't matter whether you're admired or rich or successful it's still tough to be black in America.

James makes millions of dollars a year playing a game, yet he thinks life is tough because some pimply-faced kid with a can of spray paint did something malicious and stupid. The postmodern would say, though, that if James and others feel strongly about their lives being tough then it's a true belief - true for them - regardless of the objective facts of the matter.

Peterson notes in his speech that if American blacks comprised a country they'd be the 18th wealthiest nation in the world. I can't vouch for the statistic, but if it's true it's an objective fact that's meaningless to many postmodern progressives. Their truth is that African Americans are oppressed and statistics such as that are simply part of the white, patriarchal, logical mode of thinking that the postmodern rejects a priori.

It's easy to see why Peterson thinks such a worldview is dangerously corrosive to a pluralistic society. It pits one group against another and makes dialogue and reconciliation difficult, if not impossible. The only way for one group to accomplish its goals is to acquire more power than competing groups and to impose their will upon the others.

No worldview is all bad, of course, and there are some aspects of the postmodern mindset that could and should be seen as beneficial, but Peterson is right that much of it is extremely toxic to a free and open society and students should strive to resist it's siren song.