The Deeply Illiberal Nature of Modern Feminism

The writer Sally Howard appeared on ITV’s  This Morning to explain to two darts girls why it is a good thing they have lost their jobs. Not only were their jobs ‘demeaning broadly to women’, but their imminent unemployment is ‘necessary’ for social change. This is a version of feminism that is more concerned with ideology than with genuine benefit to women.

Where have we heard before the idea that the lives of individuals are a justifiable sacrifice in order to achieve a better society? Whilst modern feminism is a far cry from some of the appallingly oppressive ideologies of the Twentieth Century, it is as well to be aware of the intellectual antecedents of a movement. It might give some clues as to where we might end up if we continue to indulge some very bad ideas. Some of those ideologies explicitly placed the ideal society of the future before the suffering and misery of ordinary people whose sole crime was to exist in the present.

Feminism in the beginning grew out of the Enlightenment understanding of human liberty. The kind of feminism that can continue to improve the lives of women (and men) around the world is one that remains true to those ideas of individual liberty and equal respect under the law. However, a very different strain of feminism has grown, and its roots lie in a philosophy that is utopian and in the end misanthropic and misogynistic.

For the modern feminists, any woman that fails to adopt the radical view that sees oppressive male patriarchy lurking in every part of our culture is suffering from “false consciousness”,  and is no more than an ignorant victim of an oppressive system. When Simone de Beauvoir commented on whether women should have the choice to stay at home and raise their children if that is what they chose, her view was:

“No, we don’t believe that any woman should have this choice. No woman should be authorized to stay at home to raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.”

The presumption here is that too many women will choose what more enlightened beings regard as immoral, and that the correction is to be made by “re-socialising”. Remind you of Orwell’s 1984? Contemporary “gender feminists” argue for a “feminist reconstruction of self and society  [that] must go far beyond anything now contemplated in the theory or politics of the mainstream women’s movement.”

And the reason of course is that “If individual desires and interests are socially constructed…, the ultimate authority of individual judgment comes into question. Perhaps people may be mistaken about truth, morality or even their own interests; perhaps they may be systematically self-deceived.” Ultimate authority must lie instead with a vanguard that has the insight to unmask all those self deceptions. This is a chillingly totalitarian dogma.

Feminism as a movement concerned with winning equal rights and respect both under the law and in culture more generally is something that still has a vital role to play. In Western societies there is still an under-valuing of roles traditionally occupied by women. In other parts of the world, women still suffer appalling levels of abuse and discrimination and are cut off from educational opportunities. On these however the gender feminists are sadly all too silent.

We don’t need less feminism. We need more. But we need less of the ideologically driven and over-privileged first world variety.


The Guardian may be seriously damaging your mind – whether you read it or not

The Guardian Newspaper is the go-to source of news and opinion for a wide swathe of UK leaders and opinion formers. From university academics and public sector managers to institutions such as the BBC, the Guardian is the newspaper of choice. So the Guardian has a reach and influence far beyond its meagre 150,000 circulation. For some it is the only newspaper and for all, it is an echo chamber of liberal, progressive, right-on politically correct views.

Everything it reports and everything it comments on has a clear aim of sustaining this world view. For example, you may not have seen much reporting (anywhere) on what is going on in Iran with the protests and it is not only the Guardian that is guilty of this. However, what reporting there has been in the Guardian has promoted the view that these protests are about the economy. Why does this matter? The reality is that the protests are also very much about religion which for the Guardian is off-limits. I have posted previously a link to Maryam Namazie’s video report. She is an Iranian, ex-Muslim, atheist, and socialist. But even with the right political flavour, the views of Namazie are beyond the pale for the Guardian. (She also has the honour of being no-platformed at UK universities).

This week someone called Jordan Peterson has been lecturing in the UK. He is a Canadian clinical psychologist and professor of psychology and has become notorious because of his opposition in Canada to a law legislating to enforce speech relating to transgender pronouns. However, what has caught the attention of millions of followers is his teaching on what could be termed “the meaning of life” and how to live well. His new book is 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. A number of reviews have appeared including the one in the Guardian.

The review begins by remarking on Peterson’s “hectoring advice” which sets the tone for the entire article. He has “contentious views on gender, political correctness, good and evil”, no doubt contentious for a Guardian readership that has convinced itself that no-one other than the morally degenerate, bigots, and deplorables (with credit to Hillary) could possibly think otherwise. This is clearly a problem for the Guardian. Peterson appears as an intellectual, one of the in-crowd, but he isn’t. The answer must be that he is a fake, far from precise in his speech, and whose foundational concepts slide around until they lose meaning. The opponents set up by Peterson are “straw men” and his use of intellectual history is “highly tendentious”.

The big problem for the Guardian is that this is nonsense. Channel 4 News put up one of their brightest and best, Cathy Newman, to interview Peterson for a full half hour. All respect to Channel 4, but they may have underestimated what they were up against. Here we found straw men, but they were being put up by Newman. Each time they were effectively but graciously refuted by Peterson. The debate (a better description than interview) was feisty and utterly engaging. Peterson has an uncannily quick mind, an all consuming commitment to truth, a scientists grasp of his facts, and an ability to see right through the presuppositions of his interviewer. The coup de grace came 20 minutes in on the subject of censorship at which point Newman was speechless for a very long few seconds. Peterson closed it with “gotcha” which is exactly what it was. I have full respect for Newman to keep going so long, but she was up against an intellectual giant, and she was armed only with the intellectually incoherent dogmas of postmodern liberalism.

Whether this becomes a moment of cognitive dissonance and consequent learning I somewhat doubt. However, it may be one of those watershed moments. The armour of postmodern liberalism has been tested and found wanting.

If the Guardian is seriously damaging your mind, there are things you can do. Get out of the echo chamber. Find out what people you disagree with actually think. Read non-progressive newspapers (sadly TV leaves little choice). And maybe listen to what Peterson has to say. His ideas might just save our culture from self annihilation. And save you.


“Shithole” Countries – some thoughts

I apologise for the language, it is not my own and I have never used the term. However,  President Trump has introduced it in the context of immigration.  I offer here some thoughts.

Is “Shithole Countries” foul language?


Is it racist to call countries “shitholes”?

Not in and of itself.  If we take racism as the belief in the superiority of one race over another then the use of these words does not prove racism. We might argue that it betrays some sense of cultural superiority. We might see a belief in cultural superiority as immoral, but it is not the same as racism. If we take racism as discrimination and prejudice towards people based on their race or ethnicity then we would need to prove that the discrimination was on the grounds of race and ethnicity.

Is Trump a racist?

Some say yes, some say no. He might be, but that is not proven by his “shithole” comment. Unfortunately the term racism has become debased and is used as a catch all ad-hominem attack. If racism is redefined as a belief in limits to immigration and a sensitivity to the rights of existing populations and their cultures then every time Trump is accused of racism will strengthen his support amongst the white working class.

Are any countries really “shitholes”?

It depends what we mean by “shithole”, but there are certainly countries that suffer from rampant corruption,  poor governance,  impoverished economy,  inadequate infrastructure,  human rights abuses, censorship, nepotism, failing law and order and lack of opportunity. I wonder if you have lived in such a country? I did for four years as an educator.  They are not countries that the typical tourist wants to spend their holiday. They are not countries that nationals are queuing up to return to if they have managed to emigrate. And they are countries where many nationals will be far more scathing than Trump, and the target of their disaffection is mostly with their government. The more thoughtful and honest amongst them will also be scathing of their own culture and will recognise that they need to change.

Are some cultures better than others?

You might say no, and that even to suggest such a thing is to be morally debased. My question then is “where would you choose to live given a completely free choice?”. The message of the millions of recent migrants is that they would choose the West.  Does that mean that Western culture is better than theirs in some important respects? Even though we might not want to admit it, this is in truth The implication. Of course not every aspect of Western culture is superior, to suggest such would be arrogant nonsense. However, there is a way of life we have inherited that is deeply attractive to people from other cultures.  In every culture there are characteristics that are objectionable, and there are characteristics that are admirable. However, it is clear that there are some cultures that have not managed to produce societies that reflect values such as freedom and human dignity irrespective of class, colour, gender, or sexual orientation. In this sense and in these respects they could be described as inferior.

The unwillingness to criticise other cultures may seem generous but it could also be seen as a pernicious form of racism. This is the racism of low expectations. It is a racism that refuses to stand for the rights of, for example, women in non-Western cultures on the basis that this is their culture. This lies behind the astounding disinterest of most feminists with womens rights in Islamic cultures and the hostility towards any women that do speak out. Evidence the treatment of Maryam Namazie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, both from Muslim cultures, both having suffered male abuse, but with very different political views.

Are Trump supporters and Brexit supporters opposed to all immigration?

A minority undoubtedly are. These are however at the extreme fringe.

Is it racist to believe in limits to immigration?

No. I do not believe even the proponents of completely open borders and the end of nation states would support a level of immigration that would lead to the replacement of existing populations. There is therefore an implicit acceptance that there is an appropriate limit to the level of immigration. The issue is over where we set that limit, and over the kind of immigration we accept. A certain level of immigration is healthy for a society in that it introduces fresh blood (meant literally), new ideas and a challenge to existing ways. There are economic benefits in bringing trade and new workers. However, it is not hard to argue that massive immigration has profoundly negative economic and social effects.

There is also the question of the rights of an existing population. This is both difficult and interesting. All of us live where we do because our ancestors migrated and oftentimes conquered, pillaged and destroyed. There is no nation on earth of which this is not the case. The best that can be offered is that the migration and probable genocide are lost in the mists of time. However, that is no justification and the moral consensus of the modern world is that no population should be forcibly removed, suffer genocide, or be subject to invasion. No one would argue that Uganda should accept the immigration of millions of Chinese on the basis that they have plenty of land. Nor would anyone suggest that Pakistan is too brown and needs the influx of millions of white Europeans. A few Chinese in Uganda, and a few Europeans in Pakistan are undoubtedly seen as beneficial but mass immigration would be unacceptable.

However, the same moral stance is not sustained when it comes to immigration into the West. It is worth considering why this should be. One possible reason is our colonial guilt. I’ll return to this later.

Is it racist to choose the kind of immigrants we allow?

The instant response to this is that it is certainly racist to profile immigrants on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity. This is entirely correct if we are talking about small numbers of asylum seekers who face persecution or death in their country of origin. To do otherwise would be a clear moral failure and a denial of who we are.

When we consider significant levels of immigration into a host culture we face a different set of questions. Large groups will inevitably bring their culture and norms of behaviour. They will inevitably form into ghettoes because of the entirely human preference for being with people like you. There is a much lower likelihood of integration. This brings challenges to both host culture and immigrant culture. The large Muslim communities in Britain bring a very different set of beliefs and practices and in particular around the status of women. Is it right that British women have the status of possessions of their husband? That their testimony is considered less than that of man? That they should accept their husbands having other wives? We may or may not wish to comment or criticise this kind of culture as it is found in the context of Bangladesh itself, but the issue is a very different one when we are thinking about Bangladeshi culture in the context of Britain. It is not whether one culture is better than another. It is how two cultures that are so different can co-exist in a single legal and political structure. This is not a question of whether Muslims per se can integrate into Western society, many clearly have done so. It is a question of the viability of two radically different cultures existing within a single political entity.

Whether we agree with them or not, this is precisely the reason that Eastern European countries such as Poland and Hungary are resisting immigration from Muslim cultures. Before condemning these countries and others in Eastern Europe as racist or immoral we would do well to hear the way they understand their own history and culture, and in particular their experience of the cultural invasion of Communism, and even further back than that the Islamic advances under the Ottomans that is certainly a factor in Hungarian sensibilities.

Should we accept mass immigration as penance for colonialism?

This is to address the issue of white guilt. There were without doubt some very bad and arguable evil things done by Western nations in the colonial era. That is not to be disputed. It is however naive and historically inaccurate to see it as one sided. It is also to put ideology before truth. There were some also some seriously good benefits to colonialism. A reading of history from different viewpoints will bring some balance to this question.

An assertion often made is that the West built its wealth on the fruits of colonialism. This is a fallacy. Some colonialists profited massively, these were the colonial entrepreneurs. Economic data demonstrates quite clearly however that the working populations and the economies of colonial powers were impoverished by colonialism. Whenever colonies we were added the nation became poorer. When colonies were divested we became wealthier. This is not the accepted narrative but it is based on economic facts that can be verified. The narrative however comes in useful to support the ideology of Western guilt. Should we let truth get in the way?

Should we regard “Shithole Countries” as acceptable political terminology?

No, but it’s not the most offensive thing that has been said or done in the Oval Office. Of those things of which we are aware I would rate Clinton’s exploitation of Monica Lewinsky as more offensive, both to the office of president and to the role of women in general.

Do we need more debate on the issues raised?

Absolutely. We have a polarisation of political and moral opinion that whilst not entirely created by social media is undoubtedly worsened by the ease of hideous comment and the existence of echo chambers in which people bolster their existing prejudices. There is a massive ignorance of what other people think. From Clinton’s “deplorables” to “bigoted Brexiteers” and “traitorious Remoaners” we have an almost total breakdown of common human understanding. Many that voted Remain commented that they did not know a single person that voted Leave. And vice versa.

The premiss I want to make is that whatever someone thinks or believes, they must have some very good reasons that make sense to them. As Atticus Finch said in To Kill A Mockingbird, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” It’s not an easy thing to do and we may find our views challenged but is also the most courageous affirmation of our common humanity.


A response to questions about the Christianity of Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist, cultural critic, and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He has recently gained some notoriety as a result of his stance on free speech and trans-gender pronouns in Canada. However it is his thought in general that is of greater interest and significance. His Maps of Meaning published in 1999 is an attempt to grapple with the human condition from the perspective of the psychological significance of narrative, myth, literature and religion. Continue reading “A response to questions about the Christianity of Jordan Peterson”

Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four and Hate Speech

I’ve just finished George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, a dystopian vision of a totalitarian society. There are many connections that could be developed between Orwell’s portrayal and contemporary politics. I was struck however by the central role the language “Newspeak” plays in the story. We’re all familiar with the deceptive reversals of meanings employed by oppressive regimes, as in the democracy of the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”. However, more insidious than straightforward deception is the subversion of thought itself. Continue reading “Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four and Hate Speech”

Is The Liberal-Left Really Anti-Fascist?

Despite the fact that some commentators on the left themselves recognise that parallels to Nazism and Fascism are overwrought, hardly a day goes by without some link being made between populism, Brexit, concerns over immigration, or conservative views in general and the fascism of Nazi Germany. To make such a connection is extreme and deranged but it derives from a mindset that cannot conceive any view other than its own as being morally acceptable.

What are the roots of this mindset? Continue reading “Is The Liberal-Left Really Anti-Fascist?”