Jordan Peterson

…is not really the subject of this post, but I guess he is the reason for it (plus I’m guessing that title is more likely to get attention).

Some quick context for those who are unfamiliar: Jordan Peterson is a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto who made the news last year when he answered a question nobody asked about his personal stance on the use of gender-neutral pronouns by penning an open letter. In the letter, Peterson made it clear that he has no intention of ever using said pronouns, whether or not a student ever personally asks for such a courtesy. You can imagine how that went over. Ever since, he’s been making the rounds as a saviour of sorts to the virulently anti-PC crowd, giving talks about the perceived death of free-speech on campus and in broader society.

Enter Lindsay Shepherd. Lindsay is a Master’s student and TA at Wilfrid Laurier University. Since last week, she is also a poster-child for public censorship, workplace bullying, and anti-discrimination policies run amok. In a tutorial she was facilitating, Lindsay apparently had the audacity to play a video clip in front of the class of a year-old debate between Peterson and Nicholas Matte (also a professor at U of T). Soon after, she was told that a student or students had complained, and that she would be sanctioned for violating the university’s gender discrimination policy. Her crime? Presenting the clip from TVO (a public broadcaster) without sufficiently denouncing Peterson’s position. This, she was told, was tantamount to “neutrally presenting a speech by Hitler”. We know this because Lindsay had the foresight to record an actual conversation with 3 of her superiors where she was chastised for bringing gender based violence into the classroom.

Yes you read that right. A post-secondary classroom full of adults is apparently no place for controversial subjects, unless they are pre-emptively qualified or figuratively bubble-wrapped.

The recording is damning. If you’ve listened to it and aren’t at least a little disturbed, there is something horribly wrong with you. It will come as no surprise to anyone that Peterson’s supporters have seized on this as proof of everything they’ve been rambling about, and quite frankly you can’t really blame them. Here is a young student being accused by her superiors of violating the Canadian Human Rights Act, explicitly because she was “too neutral” when allowing a controversial and possibly offensive position to be aired.

Let that sink in.

Ignoring the irony of enforcing an anti-violence policy by ganging up on a subordinate, here’s what I find most disgusting: Every word of the recording suggests in no uncertain terms that these administrators feel it is their mission to teach students what to think instead of how to think. That is not education; it is quite literally the definition of indoctrination. Worse yet, it’s impossible to believe that this is the only university in Canada where this is happening. Usually, the line parroted by proponents of this pseudo-dystopian nonsense is that they are protecting the fragile mental health of some of their students. I find that insulting, because it effectively amounts to telling students: “You do not have the capacity to face people whose opinions you find repulsive, or the ability to handle positions that you vehemently disagree with. You are also incapable of discerning facts for yourself and might gravitate away from conventional wisdom… so we’re going to take it out of your hands and decide for you what you can hear and how you can hear it. It’s for your own good. Trust us.”

The truth is that as much as they may feel that they are ‘protecting’ their students from unnecessary distress, they are actually doing a terrible disservice by artificially shielding them from a wide array of dissenting opinions in a way that can never be matched after they graduate. When these graduates are eventually challenged (and they will be), they will only know to respond in 1 of 2 ways: either they turtle, or they become belligerent… in both cases unable to comprehend how someone can possibly disagree with them so fundamentally, much less be capable of dismantling the opposing argument.  But I guess it’s all in the name of social justice, so everything is fine and dandy… so long as they are unable to imagine a situation where the power structure is reversed. The shortsightedness is galling.

The fact that Peterson is basically an academic troll who appears to take a particular amount of glee from poking and provoking is completely and utterly irrelevant to the discussion. Post-secondary students pay thousands in tuition expecting to come out the other end with some tangible and marketable gain in knowledge and perspective, not just the ability to regurgitate their instructor’s opinions. At least that’s what I tell myself to sleep at night.

In the meantime, we can only hope that more students like Lindsay have the balls to speak out. But as long as administrators like the Laurier politburo are in positions of power, I won’t hold my breath.


Mike Pence walks out of a football game

< Originally written on Oct. 8 >

That sounds like the setup to a terrible joke, but I’d say it’s more of a punchline.

Yes it’s that time of the week again: Sunday Night Football. That means that we get to spend the next day, possibly two, talking about who did or didn’t do what during the playing of the national anthem. How this ever became such a huge deal is still somewhat beyond my comprehension, but then again I’m not American.

At this very moment, the top story (on the CBC mind you) is about Mike Pence walking out of the Colts-49ers game because he didn’t like how some players took a knee during the anthem. What I’d like to know is: what the fuck did he think was going to happen? Was that your strategy Mike? Show up to watch Peyton Manning get his jersey retired only to make a spectacle of leaving early? That ought’ta show ‘em!

Here’s my take on the whole ‘NFL players don’t stand during the anthem to protest racial inequity’ “issue”: Good for them.

Let’s take a step back here and put into context what we’re talking about. A bunch of millionaires doing the least they possibly can to express a popular opinion about a deeply rooted social issue. How outrageous. The reality is this America: you have a racism problem, whether you’d like to admit it or not. The problem was not “solved” with Martin Luther King Jr. and it was not “solved” with desegregation. There is no such thing as a perfect nation. For all the talk about “history” when statues are coming down, you seem to be real quick to “not focus on the past” when it comes to race relations.

Don’t bullshit yourself with the idea that this is somehow about respecting the flag and military veterans, as if you’re standing and saluting in your living room every time instead of stuffing your face with nachos and beer. Your heroes didn’t give their lives thinking America was some infallible nation of peace, always beyond reproach. They did it to protect your relative freedom and prosperity, knowing that a constitutional democracy is worth fighting for. That same constitution guarantees these players’ right to express themselves as they please. If there is a more respectful way of saying “Guys it’s 2017, this is seriously fucked up”, then please, enlighten me.

Ultimately what this comes down to is that either you recognize the problem or you don’t. Personally, I love to tell people that I believe in equal opportunity, and NOT equality. But if you honestly believe that the kid born in the projects in Queens has an equal opportunity to the one born in the Hamptons, then you’re fucking delusional.

Although I may question the usefulness of these protests, I don’t for a second begrudge them for using their platform to make you uncomfortable. They’re not hurting you. They’re not inconveniencing you in any way. If anybody has been disrespecting military members and their families it’s the draft-dodger in the White House using them to score cheap political points. The same draft-dodger that spent a portion of his presidential campaign trading insults with a Gold Star family. But at the end of the day, none of this really matters, because if you’re so offended by a couple of football players quietly taking a knee during the anthem, then you need to grow some thicker skin snowflake.

Maybe find yourself a safe space.