In Toronto, Canada, two professors are having a very public row. One is a professor of Clinical Psychology and the other a professor of Physics. If changes in the law take place in a way that is anticipated, one of them may end up in jail.
They don’t even know each other. And you might thank that because it is taking place in Canada, we can all relax, because it could never happen here; except that many of the changes so far that have taken place in Canada, one of the most socially progressive cultures in the Western World, are copied elsewhere.
This was the country that first removed ‘mother and father’ from birth certificates on the grounds that if gay and lesbian parents could not constitute a mother and father together, and so feel discriminated against, then the term should be abolished altogether.
Once again the spat is about resisting the steady progress of neo-Marxism in its quest to undo the biological categories of gender and replace them with social constructs.
Actually, that’s not altogether what Jordan Peterson, the Professor of Clinical Psychology objects to.
What has happened is that another professor, A.W. Pete, a professor of Physics has described himself as a ‘non-binary person’. That is, whatever he was born as, and whatever his present genital configuration may be , or x and y chromosome make up is, he doesn’t see himself as either a man or a woman.
Professor Peterson, is fine with that. He just wants Professor A.W. Pete to be happy. But the problem is that Professor A.W. Pete is insisting that everyone call him not him or her, but ‘they’, as a personal pronoun -despite the fact that he is not claiming to suffer multiple personality disorder, and there is only one of him.
You might think that a Professor of Physics would feel strongly about a single mathematical entity (him) being described as a multiple mathematical entity (not him), but he doesn’t. Being described as a non-binary person means more to him than getting the maths right.
In fact A.W. Pete says he won’t only not feel happy until Jordan Peterson refers to him as ‘they’, he says he feels abused because Jordan won’t.
Jordan says that while he wants A.W. to be happy, and he will refrain as much as he can from calling him he or she, he won’t be forced to call A.W. ‘they’; on the grounds that it is not true.
If there is anything pleasing in this story, and not much is, it might simply be the paradox that for once a psychologist wants to get the numbers and science right, and a physicist is willing to give human experience a slightly bigger platform than statistics.
But not only is there not much pleasing in this story but it’s about to get a lot worse.
The Ontario Government is passing a controversial bill called ‘C-16’. And if that doesn’t sound very threatening, don’t be fooled, it is. In fact it could end up by being the legislation that gets Jordan sent to jail.
Not because he thinks that 1 + zero remains one, and singular, rather than plural, but because by refusing A.W.’s insistence that he be referred to in the non-binary plural as ‘they’, Jordan will be deemed to be guilty of – yes – you guessed it – a HATE CRIME.
C-16 expands the Canadian Bill of Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to add gender identity and gender expression to the prohibited grounds of non-discrimination.
So what that will mean if and when it passes, is that if you ‘miscall’ a non-binary person who self identifies as ‘they’, ‘he or she’ – you will be deemed guilty of a hate crime by the Canadian Courts and suffer the consequences as a criminal, and now, social outcast.
Prof. Jordan Petersen is deeply troubled by this, but also by some of the things that underlie the issue as well. Not only does he not want to be fired from his job and sent to prison for not calling A.W. ‘they’, but he objects profoundly to the Government forcing him to say things that are palpably not ‘true’.
He is also very familiar with the emergence of state totalitarianism historically, and says, that this is just how totalitarianism starts. The Government moves from prohibiting certain forms of speech to forcing citizens to say things against their will.
As a psychologist he is also of the view that the only way people get to think and monitor their thinking is by allowing them to talking out loud freely. This is how people get to change their mind as they inter-react with others; and where that doesn’t happen, suppression, he believes, usually leads to violence.
He laments that no one will speak out against this ‘Cultural Marxism’, because anyone who does so risks the media mob turning on them accusing them of bigotry; and speaking out achieves so little anyway.
Perhaps all comes down to how much truth matters, who decides what the truth is going to be, and what price we are willing to pay to keep it real.
Increasingly I see what George Orwell meant when he wrote ““In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”