Friday, November 4, 2016

Modest Proposal: University of Toronto offers Honorary Doctorate in Common Sense to Professor Jordan Peterson

Too many days, these days, we wake up thinking we have descended into the upside-down world of Alice in Wonderland. The people being paid to protect us are shooting and killing innocent young black men, because they “believe” the innocent victim is armed and dangerous, sometimes even armed with ‘skittles’. Some nine states in the U.S. will vote on ballot options that would make “recreational” marijuana legal, when everyone knows that it is harmful to the brains of both expecting mothers and their fetuses. The men and women holding responsible leadership positions in corporations, like Wells Fargo, for example, send orders down the “line” to their robotic pawns, to sell new bank accounts to customers, without even letting those customers they have new bank accounts, just to satisfy the order to “meet quota” in sales projections. Sure, 5000+ have been fired, as well as the CEO, and there is a new advertising campaign, promising a “new commitment” to our customers but the absurdity of the original situation does not automatically evaporate with the lost careers.

And in the rarified atmosphere of both the Canadian government and the University of Toronto, (full disclosure, I graduated from that once illustrious institution in another life) the highly reimbursed cabinet ministers and administrative mucky-mucks at the hallowed halls of “UT” are fully engaged in what has to be the most idiotic, hair-splitting, politically perfectionistic, and fully anal exercise of the ridiculous.

The issue of civil rights, particularly the rights of the LGBT community with respect to the pronoun each person selects as the one to be used when addressing the individual, is now consuming the kind of time allotment worthy of Obama’s attention to the campaign against ISIS. I guess, if one looks down the telescope the wrong way long enough, one can and does conjure the most potentially explosive political firestorm the world has ever seen.

All large organizations have been paying untold obeisance, even fawning obeisance, to their cadre of lawyers and accountants, in deference to the avoidance of legal cases against their institutions and more particularly to their personal carers, for more decades than warranted. These legal/accounting drones have been flying under the radar of public scrutiny, designing the forms, writing the contracts, directing the traffic in psychiatric hospitals and wards, for example, and setting the foundations of policy and practice, as if they and they alone owned the sole access to the highest and the best and the most ethical way of doing things imaginable. Channelling “wisdom” however, is not the gift of law school graduates, nor of accounting programs, nor is it the special purview of law school professors, or senior accountant partners.

“Rules” as in the highway traffic acts that keep us driving on opposite sides of the road, for our own safety, are definitely essential, and greatly appreciated. And, for similar purposes of assuring some degree of fairness, tax codes, for example, provide benchmarks that give a degree of confidence that if I make X dollars, the income tax rate will be the same for me as for the next person who also makes the same X dollars. Similarly, if my home is invaded, I expect some level of seriousness from the police and the courts to seek out and to provide evidence that will result in some degree of punishment, sanctions, on the perpetrators. And it is true that such an incident will invade my sense of security, and my sense of privacy.

Similarly, within large organizations, there are policy and practice guidelines, that provide those in positions of responsibility some confidence that they will not be putting out fires every minute of every day. Some ways of doing things may actually make some sense from a safety perspective, or from an efficiency perspective, or even from a professional perspective. Hence, new inroads into the use of derogatory language,  or of excessive expressions of anger have been somewhat normalized in many organizations, provided the context is acknowledged.

And here is where the rubber meets the road. Imposing standards that would be appropriate in one setting may not have even a modicum of relevance in others. Expressions of anger, for example, in a male hockey dressing room, would be and should be much more tolerated, without personal insult or injury to a person’s dignity, than in a hospital patient’s room. And, of course, the degree of political (lobbying) pressure that is brought to the ethics and moral “police” will have some influence on if and when restrictions on human behaviour are recommended, and then imposed, and “policed” (monitored) with the inevitable “sanctions” for crossing the new line of acceptable deportment.

So, what pronouns, depicting a member of the LGBT community, are acceptable, normal, worthy of consideration, beyond the “baked in the cake” he, she, him her, they, them and their corresponding possessive forms? Do we have to “invent” or “create” new combinations of letters for each person of the LGBT community, in order to satisfy some outlandish request, or even demand, for “special” treatment?
A psychology professor at UT, for one, has refused to learn and then to memorize the variants expected by both the LGBT community and then “expected” and “enforced” by people whose pay grade far exceeds both his and mine. And, for his courage, determination, pragmatism and vision, he has been subjected to letters of discipline, angry public protests from students, and a ton of support from outside the university community.

Please consider this piece an integral component of the latter support.

People in positions of responsibility are more than the suits in the office of that executive position in that organization. They represent what we used to consider
(without having even to express the perspective) social and thought leadership. They hold those positions, especially in an institution of higher learning, but also in all other colleges and schools, hospitals, churches, and especially governments, as a matter of trust not only for their specific organization, but also for the wider “public good”. And if they bow as sycophants to the tiniest breeze of political pressure, they will give voice and permission to the most anal of political pressures, thereby transforming a culture from one capable and willing to see the “big” picture and relate to it, but also to know when the finest details matter.

“Covering Your Ass” has for too long been a staple in the quiver of all bureaucrats, and especially of those ambitious one’s whose careers depend on their demonstration of “dependability”…..defined in the most restrictive terms. “Sucking up” not only to the normal expected parameters of a job description but also to the particular “idiosyncracies” of  a supervisor, in order to pave the way to promotion, is one of the more established modus operandi’s of the ambitious.

And we have some “factories” located throughout the North American continent that seem to be producing such human models, at a very high rate of production aided and abetted by those same universities with which we began here.

Compliance, following orders, top-down hierarchical power structures have been around for centuries in armies, the church, and many governmental agencies. So the attitudes and  behaviour of the sycophant have been burned into our consciousness. And, on top of that structure came the feminist revolution which, if it did not spawn “zero tolerance” certainly gave the initiative a heavy thrust forward, another illegitimate, illogical and also supremely unenforceable move to rid the world of whatever was its specific target (as if such purification were even achieveable). And so, here we are today, witnessing another chapter in the saga of the interminable march toward something so specious as to be unworthy of the best minds of our time….human perfection.

There is a significant difference between striving for the “perfect union” knowing full well that such a goal is merely aspirational and human perfection, including the eradication of specific behaviour. Remember that “banned book” list that was supposed to keep people from reading salacious literature; it predictably and unceremoniously backfired, as common sense knew it would. Not only did it not prevent readers, it attracted them like flies to sugar! Similarly, prohibition, another of those “anal” perfectionistic social and political goals of the most religiously fundamental, and those who had read scripture only on a literal level and meaning, backfired and generated mega-sales of black demon rum, under the counter and out of sight of the “authorities” who could have told the sanctimonious that their efforts did not comply with human or any other kind of nature.

And now, under intense scrutiny and criticism from the administration at the University of Toronto, (undoubtedly all or most proudly wearing their doctorates in their specific academic specialty) a tenured psychology professor, Jordan Peterson, has faced and will continue to face criticism, perhaps even threats, and who knows if he will even hold onto his professorship.He refuses to buy in to the university’s expectation that he learn and memorize the specific pronoun selected by each his students from the LGBT community, and use those pronouns whenever he addresses those students. And, what’s more, a considerable number of students have confronted the “heroic” professor protesting his refusal.

Peterson has, in effect, drawn his own line in the sand of the vernacular, that portion of speech in which pronouns, (words used to substitute for nouns) are to be used. “Zie,” and “zher,” or any of another dozen words have been proposed as acceptable. “Gender unicorn” has been selected by Alberta teachers are their proposal for these occasions in which pronouns acceptable to the LGBT community are required.

Not incidentally, today is Common Sense Day, on which everyone, including those in the ivory towers in Hart House, or whichever building this species of administrators is currently encaged, needs to come out of their rarified and obviously oxygen-depleted atmosphere, breathe the air in the quadrangle, or along Bloor or St. George Streets, take out their cell phones and take some photos of the sunlight shining on the “real world” and contemplate the absurdity of their position.

Laws that are without merit, after all, are not laws needing to be observed, complied with nor endorsed. And this notion applies not only to laws passed by legitimate legislatures; it also applies to the kind of regulations that have spanked, wrecked the reputations of thousands of men in the last three or four decades, as emasculated men (in positions of authority) bowed to other equally specious lobbies from straight women, who were so over-protective of their sisters that they successfully created policies and practices that rendered all men as violent perpetrators of sexual abuse, and thereby robbed the very equality so demanded by women from those same women who were are, and will continue to be more than capable of making their own decisions in personal relationships.

Nanny Administrations, whether in universities, churches, governments, hospitals or in corporate structures, are still myopic, mis-guided, infantilizing Super-Ego’s for their respective organizations, and in their pursuit of their own “perfection” in their performance of their roles they have made significant contributions to the erosion, even depletion, of public trust from the very institutions they “run”. When “common sense” has left the building, or worse, never was permitted entry, and the anality of the perfectionists, (regardless of their ideological church) takes over, the whole system of “public good” falls apart. And so it should.

Jordon Peterson should not only be relieved of the considerable political, professional, (non)-ethical pressure under which he currently gasps for real air; he should be offered a honorary doctorate in Common Sense for his contribution to the health and wellness of the culture.

Sorry, to all those in the LGBT community, who will undoubtedly dub me prejudiced. Sorry, again, but you are wrong on both counts!

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