Authors note: This is the first of a three part series. The second will look into the origins of current progressive left thinking, the third will look at the state of alt media in Canada.The opinions here are mine. I will accept being shown wrong in them, but I will not be silenced by anyone.
A dark poisonous force has risen in our society that threatens to blight all social progress and end any advancement toward a better life for our children. It threatens the basic social peace of the communities and societies we live in every day. It worships violence and draconian censorship, not just of speech, but of thought itself. It demands total capitulation to all aspects of its dogmatic worldview. This force has spread hate and division throughout our society. It openly preaches a form of moral relativity that tells its adherents that whatever they do is acceptable in light of smashing the society around us, that is literally the stated ideology of some parts of this group. Not returning control to the population, not massive social and economic reform but literally the complete destruction of our society, economy, and communities in favor of a mythical utopia to be worked out later. No doubt everything will be explained to us after in tones of exhausted moral superiority by our ideological betters. It is completely acceptable for this group to ceaselessly vilify actions and attitudes in their arbitrarily defined enemies that they vigorously exhibit and practice themselves. The new doctrinal machine has its own propaganda arm, which used to be known as the alternative media. Most of it has become nothing but a worldview reinforcement mechanism carried out by the most miserable excuses for “Journalists” who’s sole skill-set seems to be a sense of moral superiority and access to the internet. This group practices deceptive tactics and uses abusive, pseudo-scientific language to enforce its rhetorical truth. It deploys vicious social media attacks or direct physical violence on anyone who questions any part of its self proclaimed “truth”. This is not a shadowy corporate backed think tank, not a move by the feared alt-right or some aspect of now omnipresent State repression. It’s us.
The damage already caused to achieving actual social progress is massive and will persist for years. Progressives went from fostering debate and exchange to declaring it a form of fascism, and punishing any who dare practice it. We went from the ageless truths spoken by Martin Luther King and the amazing courage of non-violence to the banshee screeching of pseudo-academic buzzwords backed by smug self righteousness and open threats of assault. Molotov’s and black hoods instead of morality and reason. We have turned activism into a religion who’s draconian canons must be obeyed unquestioningly for fear the humorless SJW inquisitors be set loose on us. We must either denounce our heresy or be consigned to the 7th level of social media hell. Instead of winning over the population to the idea of expanding social rights, we are alienating a generation from the very idea of even discussing social change by making it a toxic experience. Full of dogmatic mines and mandatory self loathing.
One of the reasons the ideologues were able to overtake social movements is the base truth to the issues that they have turned into iron orthodoxy. We all recognize that there is still structural inequality in our societies based on race, gender, and a myriad of other factors. I do not dismiss any of this in attacking a dogmatic system that has turned these points of departure for discussion and action into weapons of group and race retribution. The persistent cause of the division and exploitation of humanity has equally used race, religion, language, economic and social status, gender to propagate through the ages. The medium doesn’t matter, a third grade teacher proved you need nothing more than eye colour. It is the message that remains constant, division, a fear of “the other”. It exists in all of us. Across all cultures and races, for all of our history. It has always fed on difference and a will to dominance that is in some form innate to our entire species. It is a part of the human condition not the characteristic of any group within it. Instead of working to change the archaic vestiges of our shared past the new doctrine looks to fix each of us in an immutable place in its rigid taxonomy. To regulate each one of us to speak only from our assigned places and only in a way that must always cede intellectual honesty and critical thinking to affirmation of our new canon law.
Another no less important reason for the rise of this dark vision is our own complacency. Because of fear and apathy we failed to keep pushing forward in every aspect of social equality in a remorseless manner. We have to recognize that many of the people that have flocked to this false ministry are driven by legitimate fear and desperation. A generation that lived the Orwellian spectacle of 9/11 and all that followed, who live in a world sliding toward chaos. They rightly will not tolerate standing still, and we should all welcome that. We need to be shocked out of our complacency by the virulence of the ideology our inaction has led them to. We must rise with determination and vigor to move forward on every front. We must show them that the belief in unity and peaceful co-existence is the way forward, that an evolution of consciousness is required not adherence to the warped ghost of a discredited political theory. We have tried enough of those.
I am not in any way a fan of Mr Peterson. He’s in the title because people have been publicly trolling Peterson’s social media accounts in the last few days trying desperately to find some smoking gun that will confirm that he is indeed a fascist, misogynist, white supremacist or really anything they can use to discredit him. They completely miss the point. Dr Peterson’s massive and sudden notoriety is testament to the already huge and increasing numbers of reasonable people who are tired of a discourse that consists of pseudo-intellectual slogans being screamed at them. A mantra telling them how disgusting they are and how, if they fail to acknowledge their putrid condition, they are inestimably worse. Surprisingly enough the average person doesn’t want to be told what a racist, oppressive, something-privileged, trans-phobic, colonial, complicit, ableist, piece of garbage they are five times a day while they struggle and satisfy the basics needs of life. It’s hard to imagine but some people actually object to being told they are inherently evil because of the color of their skin or the biological reality of their birth. Truly an unexpected development. Instead of trolling his twitter might I suggest you check the comments on articles about him and on his YouTube videos. If you put away your outrage goggles for a second you will find something that should really worry you. The majority of the comments are not racist, reactionary rants. Many of the comments are people eloquently railing against being shut up and shut down, against actually being told how to think. Too many of the comments come from people who, based what they are writing, seem like they should be on the progressive left. We have closed the door to them.
There is a huge backlash coming, I think many of you sense it. If people of good faith don’t act now it could destroy the painful and hard won advances of a generation. The bulk of society will turn away from unity toward the tribalism we are accusing them of by making the alternative a life of enforced guilt. And the guilt is universal in our new scripture. If you’re not a person of colour, then you have white guilt. This particular brand of racism caused an activist I know, a fierce woman of colour, to explain how she had been “awoken” to sharing “white privilege” because her skin is not dark enough. If you’re not gay or lesbian you get hetero-normative guilt, and if you were born as either a boy or girl, cisnormative guilt. Everyone gets to play and everyone gets a taxonomic label. Don’t blame the backlash on some nefarious right wing plot, it is being made inevitable by our actions.
We on the left, all of us, have stood silent and allowed a situation to be created where a hard working longtime campaigner for human rights, a woman, South Asian in ethnicity, is brutally attacked on social media and even alluded to as a tool of white supremacy for the crime of organizing a woman’s march in Halifax and trying to highlight woman’s issues. Even though modern social movements owe much of their very existence historically to the woman’s movement. The ridiculous response to the debacle involving the Laurier University teaching assistant is another perfect example. When confronted with a mountain of evidence that what had actually occurred was a young woman being by victimized by two men in positions of power instead we doubled down with our go-to attack, she’s a racist.We posited that it is her who has victimized the “racialized” professor with “her white tears”. We have created a public space where it is permissible for young people to fill huge water guns full of urine and paint and spray them at “fascists” pushing infants in strollers, and beat senior citizens so randomly that one of their victims was actually protesting on the same side. An atmosphere where an entire society is mindlessly castigated by a line up of their political masters for being abjectly racist, based on the lie of an 11 year old child unethically paraded in front of the cameras. Have a look at the rage that this incident prompted and be proud of our accomplishment. We are the ones who have fed the fire of identity politics with the most gleeful abandon. Even physical exercise is not safe from our desperate need to racialize everything. It is however permissible in our regulated discourse for the most blatantly racist things to be said, as long as they are said by someone in a permitted group. This springs from the ridiculous theory that racism is somehow only defined by outcomes. Racism is the state exhibited by any individual who proceeds from the base assumption that all people of a certain racial group are either inferior or superior. But the “truths” that motivate these actions must never be questioned or critically examined , the very action of doing so being thought crime of the worst sort. We must act before our intolerance for debate and our rejection of empathy in favor of ceaseless attack makes inevitable the rise of something far more frightening than Mr Peterson’s pithy commentary.
We had a unique chance after 9/11, endless wars, and the financial collapse. For the first time in human history people were rising in a coordinated fashion across the globe. The Occupy Movement occurred in a thousand different cities, on five continents. The population of the entire planet was ready for fundamental change in a manner perhaps not seen since the renaissance. People of all races, sexes, sexual orientations, religious and economic backgrounds were uniting in common cause across national frontiers. Real truth about our recent history and the reality of the power structures that control us was spreading like wildfire everywhere. The advent of social media, You Tube, and sites like Word Press meant for the first time we could speak to each other without filters. Mass education was at our fingertips to spread ideas who’s power should have shaken the world. We chose instead to debate the political correctness of cafeteria food.
Where are we now? We are pushing an agenda of hard identity politics and a warped mirror image of class privilege. We have polarized civil discourse to a truly frightening point. We vilify anyone who commits the original sin of critical thought. Anyone basing their opinions of an issue or event on its specific facts and context is introduced to our new-found love of violence as the death threats fly in the agora of social media. We are literally telling the majority of the population that if they don’t wish to live their lives in intellectual totalitarianism they had better stick with the status quo or worse. We are confirming the unreasoning fears about social justice and minority rights that the giants of social struggle proceeding us spent lifetimes erasing. We are driving people into the arms of extremist ideologues by ignoring the fundamentals of human nature we all learned in second grade. If you attack people they will become defensive and seek out that which they feel provides them protection. While all of this goes on no attention is paid to the corporate-driven domination of the globe that continues unabated. The fundamental rights of all of us are being quickly extinguished and the cycle of disaster is getting shorter and the stakes larger as the American system of empire descends to chaos. We are in a race between evolution and extinction and we are not winning, and there is no “safe space” that will allow us to ignore that.
Each of us needs to remember why we are involved in the cause of social justice and human advancement. A belief in the basic dignity of all people. A belief that a better world is not only possible, but within reach. None of this should be about blind adherence to anyone’s dogma. Isn’t this about making real and immediate improvements to the lives of those around us every day? Isn’t it actually about opening people’s minds and hearts to move closer to a society where all are respected and valued. Not for their potential monetary value but for the fact of their being. Where national, sexual, religious, racial and any other identity markers are distantly second to our shared human identity. Isn’t it about recognizing that the well being of anyone of us depends fundamentally and directly on the well being of us all. Because if this in any way reflects your beliefs then you have the not only the right, but a clear and present duty to reject the continued domination of the Progressive side of the spectrum by this totalitarian force.
They only have the power we give them.
In part 2 I will try and analyze how we got here.