Liberals, conservatives and the Jordan Peterson thesis

Why Liberals are always wrong about everything but cannot see the error of their ways nor even accept that there are other opinions, is a constant frustration for the right-thinking man.

Jordan Peterson provides the answer, in part, in a number of his online videos.  You might want to sit down for this:  they are not wrong as such but seeing the world through different eyes.  This has implications for how we consider the choice of our political leaders, but more fundamentally how we treat our neighbours in a fractious society.

Peterson suggests the difference between “liberals” and “conservatives” may even have a biological element, which would be eye-opening; biologically determined socio-political views would take some swallowing.  His thesis needs serious consideration.

I am not a psychologist and am not the great Hobbes himself, so a take a great deal on trust from Hobbes, Smith and Peterson. I want to say “essentially, Peterson is not talking about our political parties but about…” but I here in my voice echoes of Cathy Newman saying “So what you are saying is…” and getting it wrong every time.   I have no right to reinterpret his words, but I can say what I think in accepting them.

The thrust of Peterson’s thesis is that liberals and conservatives have come to their positions not so much from different axiom and reasoning, but from having very different personality types. It is even possible, Peterson suggests, that part of that difference is inherent in our biology rather than learned.  (It would be a radical change in our usual view if we found that socio-political views are genetically determined.)

In essence:

  • Liberals have a personality trait of “openness,” which is to say that they have an affinity for abstraction and aesthetics
  • Conservatives have a trait of “conscientiousness” but not creativity.

Putting it as bluntly as Peterson does suggests two a human race cut in two, but it is obviously not that and it is instead a sliding scale between two extremes. Perhaps social expectations cause any individual to gravitate to one side of the divide and identify himself or herself there, deserting the centre.

(Incidentally, it is not at all a male-female split:  each sex exists in strength on both sides; otherwise there would be a shortage of conservative brides for conservative men and vice versa:  a conservative will prefer to marry a conservative and a liberals to shack up with a liberal. If there is a genetic element, this would sharpen it.)

It is natural to lack respect for someone who obviously has the wrong approach to life.  However if that is because they see the world through different eyes, and theirs is not a wrong view but a different view, then we are committing an injustice.

Naturally conservatives see conscientiousness as key to reliability and trustworthiness, and naturally liberals see conservatives as repressed and dull.  We cannot live without each other though.  The world does not work without conscientious people to keep it running, and it runs into the ground unless there are open-minded, creative people to find the new ideas to keep it renewed.

In politics we need both, but we tend to have small-c conservatives in dominance. Liberal-minded and conservative-minded voters alike value reliability and trustworthiness, and a lack of surprises, in those entrusted with government, so this dominance by those of conservative-temperament in all main parties is to be expected.

Sometimes we need a different approach, and liberal-temperament rulers.  Whenever the system of government becomes moribund, a new, creative approach is needed. Whenever there is a crisis which the normal way of doing things cannot solve, then we need an original mind which thrills to take risks.  It may be a disaster or it may be a roaring success, depending on the individual.  Benjamin Disraeli, David Lloyd-George, Randolph Church, Winston Churchill – they achieved through creativity and abandoning timidity.

I have got all the way through so far without mentioning Brexit; here is a situation where a tunnel-visioned approach has brought an impasse, and it needs someone who can step back outside the tunnel and fix it a new way.

Books

How would I answer last night’s leadership questions?

If I were answering, which I never will, the questions put to the leadership candidates on the Beeb last night, I might be as blandly complaisant as we heard, or perhaps, because I am seeking no favours and need take no responsibility for my actions, I might say what I think, to some extent.

Q: If you become PM, you will have no mandate from the public. When will you do the right thing and call an election?

I do not intend to hand over to a Marxist nutcase when there is no constitutional need. If I said it was shocking for Gordon Brown not to call an election, that is something you are meant to say when in opposition and I would have been shocked if Comrade Corbyn had not said the same this time.

Cal it hypocrisy if you will, but the Greek ὑπόκρισις just means ‘play-acting’, and that is parliamentary politics in a nutshell.

Q: Would you commit to getting net carbon emissions down to zero by 2025?

Define ‘net zero’.  If it is a real reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, that is an achievement, but if it is an accounting exercise achieved by buying papal indulgences in the form of ‘carbon credits’ then it is useless, in fact worse than useless as the emissions are not actually falling.

I want to get carbon dioxide emissions down rapidly because it is a waste of resources as much as anything, but unless there is consumer choice and freedom to innovate, it is not happening.

In the meantime do not trip over your own rhetoric:  you may call this an urgent issue for today and call upon science, but that science tells us that even if all the nations stop venting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, it will still take two hundred years to make any difference to the greenhouse effect and the temperatures would keep rising, so if we are at a crucial point, we have already lost.

Q: I’m the imam of a mosque. I see the impact of Islamophobia. Do you accept words have consequences?

A single phrase may be lost in the wind, and a poor joke is no more damaging than that and you can ignore it.  However a constant flow of conspiracy theories and anti-facts, like the hatred-laden anti-Semitic conspiracy theories I have seen from Momentum and even certain imams, will normalise the ideas behind them.

Silence has consequences too: greater harmful consequences come from a lack of words. If we cease to speak as we find, for fear of offence or retribution, then the speaker loses, the hearer loses and all of society clams up and becomes moribund.  Furthermore, the silence does not stop the ideas behind the words – bringing them into the open is the best way to provide context, dialogue and a development of ideas.

You should not be easily offended by words. You should be aghast by lack of words and I would rather see an increase in public rudeness than a decrease in exchange of ideas.

Q: [To Hunt] And you have endorsed President Trump retweeting comments from Katie Hopkins.

No one is an enemy and no one is all to the bad.  You must not turn your disgust at a series of crass comments into a personal hatred.  Trump and Hopkins often say stupid things or things just to provoke, but that does not mean you must disagree with everything they say – if Katie Hopkins says she enjoys listening to jazz, it is safe to agree with her and that is no endorsement of her provocateuse remarks.

Q: I have fostered more than 100 children. What would you do to reverse cuts that have affected children?

What cuts?  Be specific about the money you want to take from my pocket as a taxpayer. There has actually been an increase in funds in many areas, but those who allocate them might have made poor choices.  I would rather support fosterers like you to access facilities than pay wasteful local bureaucracies, so I can look at the system but however high I get, the decisions are made by groundlings. If we raise taxes to pave the streets of social services with gold, they will waste it, as you know, and we will have driven more families into poverty.

Q: I used to vote Tory, but now vote for the Brexit party. What is your plan to lift the tax burden on the working classes?

We must cut taxes for all, and not just the poorest.  A shop assistant or a shelf-stacker or a machinist or a B&B owner, or a hairdresser or any one of numerous jobs rely on one thing: customers.  If we do not cut taxes across the board, including the taxes of richer people, customers stop spending and those jobs shrink and there is no profit from which to pay wages.

Q: How would you solve the Irish border issue?

We will not impose a hard border.  Everyone will be free to come and go across it.  If the EU want to build a border, we cannot stop them, but it would be foolish to do so, and we will not reciprocate.  I want a free trade agreement with the EU in any case, which does away with customs duties and checks, and to recognise EU standards, as they should recognise ours.

If the governing powers of the European Union refuses free trade, we will be forced to look at tracking electronically cargoes from outside Ireland, but if we do not have that infrastructure in place in time, that is the Treasury’s loss but will not hinder the open border. 

There is no closure of the border unless the EU close it on their captive side.

Q: My husband is in the property business. Under no deal, he could lose his job. Why are you even contemplating no deal?

I do not want ‘no deal’ but how would that affect a property business anyway?  Conservatives are not going to stop foreign investors, whether there is a deal or not.  We don’t stop non-EU investors now so why should we stop EU citizens alone in the world?  It would be worse to have a bad deal than no deal or to be stuck in the declining economy of Continental Europe when the world is much bigger.

Q: Would you definitely leave before the end of 2019?

Yes, and on or before Reformation Day, 31 October with no further delays at all. Next?

Q: As a lifelong Tory voter, I voted for the Brexit party at the European elections. Can you guarantee that you will get your Brexit plan through the Commons by 31 October?

If the deal does not go through, we go out without a deal.  I cannot guarantee that the Commons collectively will act in the national interest – Corbyn’s clique in Labour are set against the national interest in all things anyway – but we are out on or before that date with or without a deal.

It is not enough to “believe in the bin” as someone put it, but that approach shows a lack of imagination:  you do not delay putting the rubbish out because it does not fit all in one:  you use your loaf and take it to the council dump.  It goes.

However, Brexit Day is not the end date for discussions.  If there is no withdrawal agreement by that date, then we withdraw, and there will be a post-withdrawal agreement, which does not need Parliament’s approval.  Perhaps if the blockers in the Commons see that, they will be more prepared to have positive engagement: so far they have been content just to throw things to make vain political capital while damaging the nation’s interest. I would welcome positive engagement, but if it is not to be, the Commons will be bypassed, legally, in order to ensure that there is a deal.

Well,

I think that is enough to ensure that I could never get anywhere in national politics.

Five try to squeeze through one door

How did that happen – just one knocked out?  We were due to be down to three at this point.

All this has shown the quality of men and women the Conservatives in Parliament have to offer.  It is bizarre to see those who are friends and colleagues fighting it out in a balletic way so as not to land unforgivable blows on one who may be the winner they have to beg for a job.

Now we are facing a larger debate at the BBC (where, as Fay has pointed out, conservatives are rarely seen).

It may mean we have to hear the bin-bag joke again (look; you take the extra bags to the dump – you don’t give up or beg Brussels for more time to dispose of the things. Never mind, it was a great speech on hedgehogs.) My question is where ministers now have a safe fence to sit on, now that there are hedgehogs on the previous perch, which is to say Rory Stewart going turbo and laying into Boris, exposing his supporters to the reflected ignominy.

I’ll listen to what happens on Auntie tonight, and wait for the members to to vote for Boris.

Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have – 2

In an earlier article I looked at the way that social radicals look to project “the power that the enemy thinks you have”, with a look at threats of boycott and the Twitterstorm.  I came to a grim conclusion that a few activists pretending to be a mass movement will succeed again and again unless business groups like chambers of commerce can give mutual support, practical and moral, to members who are targeted.

I later came across a useful comment by Jordan Peterson in answer to an audience question on being personally targeted:  if you have done nothing wrong, do not apologise – then wait two weeks and it will have gone away.  That is good advice to an individual who attracts the hatred of on-line activists, but a prime target, such as an influential company or institution, may not be allowed to rest after so short a time.

The determined campaign starts with Alinsky’s rule number one (“Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have”) and then employs his remaining tricks.  It is pretended power though that is frightening to the target.

In open debate, the mechanics are different from those on anonymous social media.  In open debate real faces are displayed and so the same malice that is applied to the opponent can be directed at the activist.  Here then some research is needed before approaching the debate.

First, is the use of statistics and statistical generalisations:  if an activist asserts that 10% of the population are in the group he insists be favoured, then correct them by reference to genuine statistics (but beware of a trap; even if it is less than 2%, and dependent on changes during the respondent’s life, that does not mean they are ignorable). Break their broad category down to challenge the legitimacy of treating all people in that activist-defined group the same way, or if it is a conglomerate of classifications put together to boost the statistics, make distinctions between them. If an activist claims that the majority of the population agree with them, which is a claim of democratic authority, then show them opinion polls that demonstrate the opposite, or if they really do have a majority, ask if it is permissible to disagree and persuade people to change their minds, or point out that the majority usually support hanging, so are they in favour too?

Secondly, and crucially, outflank the accusation of “hate” coming your way by showing up their own “hate-speech”; they might not think of it as such, but spitting venom at opponents, or at men generally, or at those with certain political ideas, or at classes of society, is “hate-speech” like any other.

Thirdly, personalise it in order to challenge the authority or veracity of your opponent:  what qualifications and experience do they have? (Be careful with that though: they may have more experience with self-selected people in their generalised classification system than you.)  Track their writings and tweets before the encounter: should someone who has declared masculinity to be “toxic” be entrusted with the welfare and the very manhood of vulnerable boys, whom presumably they want to emasculate?  If a socialist denies that the government starving Venezuela is really socialist, find their own statements praising Venezuela’s socialist experiment, and other times when commentators have changed their tune in this way as every successive socialist states falls int starvation.

Opposing some radical activists should be like shooting fish in a barrel: they have no science on their side, no genuine statistics, their literature may be full of false statements and their typical personal histories are a psychiatrist’s dream.  However those activists keep winning, by insults and instilling fear.  That is a lesson not to assume you can prevail just by being right.

This suggests an alternative approach: be on their side, to a certain extent because presumably both you and they assert a desire to benefit mankind or some section of it.  Do not compromise even an inch, but lead them to a common ground, then launch an attack from that common ground.  (Ben Shapiro does this brilliantly.)  So, you say you want X, but you are causing Y, so to achieve X you would need to do Z:  you mean well but you do ill.  Do you believe it is acceptable for someone to disagree with you even where you have a fact wrong?  Should not any ideology be based on true statements and therefore be improved by challenging questionable statements?  If a speaker can only defend his or her arguments with threats or name-calling, they are not rational arguments and can be disregarded:  can you now say something rational I can consider?

This is a lot of research to be done, and easier for activists without full time jobs and responsibilities, so you are at once on the back-foot.

It is hard to take control of the conversation because you may be the polite one, and even if you are not, the aim should be to appear to be. You must emerge as the calm and rational one in spite of all provocation, but nice guys finish last.  If you do manage to take control somehow, do not rest there but establish your own ground.  Alinsky’s first rule is still there:  possess the power that the enemy thinks you have.

You must not be the isolated sandbank around which the incoming tide washes, dry for now but bypassed and to be washed away: you must be the sea.

Chuka who chucked ChUK chuckles and swallows the bird

The great Chuka Umunna national tour of politics continues. Labour – TIGgers – ChUKers – RA – New TIG – now playing in the Liberal Democrats, and each gig less successful than the last. We have to ask: where will his tour take him next, and isn’t it time to hang up his guitar and retire?

Fresh out of Labour he formed a new band, The Independent Group, and within two days killed it stone dead. The dying band renamed itself after him as ChUK – ‘Change UK: keep the status quo’, then Remain Alliance, and even its logo was crossing itself out. After destroying his new party, he created a new TIG, chucking ChUK just s it was taking on yet another name (don’t ask me – it could change again before the weekend is over). The newer band trashed, its a flit to see what he can do to the LibDems.

They took him in, readers – they actually took him in. Vince Cable swallowed the poison and is happy with it. The Chuka ex-ChUk Chuckle Brothers are grinning like Cheshire cats in publicity photos.

He is just in time to enter the contest for the LibDem leadership, but he is out of luck: under the current party rules he is ineligibility as he is not called Jo Swinson.

When the LibDems crash and burn and he looks for another stop on his nationwide tour, will he come for the Conservatives? Could he be diverted to the SNP?