“Traditionalist conservatism.” That’s a term I have invented. It is intended to embrace the “fiscal” conservatives and the “social” conservatives, and to put them both in the same tent because that’s the only way they can get and stay elected.
They certainly share one thing. Both types are understandably suspicious of all revolutions, and they have good reason. The three pre-eminent revolutions of the last century– the Marxist in Russia, the Maoist in China, and the Hitlerist in Germany — all turned out to be the most bloody and catastrophic events in human history. Their victims total in the hundreds of millions. Even the mention of the word “revolution” provokes a spontaneous response from the traditionalists: “No more, thank you. We’ve had our fill of that.”
But could there not be such a thing as a “conservative revolution?” Many would say, certainly not. After all, the goal of the conservative is, surely, to conserve– meaning to sustain in authority those rules and principles upon which our society is built. But the goal of the revolutionary is to dismantle and displace many of those very rules and principles. So how could there be such a thing as a “conservative revolution?’
However, suppose our society had departed so far from its foundational values and supplanted them with a new and plainly unworkable order. Only some kind of revolution could restore the traditional. Would such a counter movement not have to be political? I raise that question because I suspect that the seeds of this very thing are being planted right now under our noses, and ironically the person chiefly causing this would probably be among the first to deny it is happening and the first to oppose it if it did.
I’m referring to Dr. Jordan Peterson, the University of Toronto professor who gained instant hero status after announcing he intended to defy a U of T order to all faculty members. Under the new human rights law, everything they published must observe the use of non-sexist pronouns. Dr. Peterson saw this for what it is: an attempt to legislate the use of language, something unprecedented in the democracies, he said. He would therefore refused to obey the instruction.
In the consequent clash, those sickened by the insidious and endlessly spreading code of Political Correctness began searching for further information on “this Peterson guy” — a man who seemed to be exhibiting shocking evidence of common sense, something ever more lacking in the hallowed halls of academe. In response, Peterson began taping his lectures and running them on YouTube.
The results were astounding. It had long been said that the audience attention span for video and news programming was two to five minutes. Anything longer and the viewers would drift away. The Peterson lectures ran for an hour or more. They nonetheless began attracting an audience of hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands. Meanwhile, the current Peterson book, “Twelve Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos,” was selling, by one estimate, at the rate of 10,000 copes per week. Amazon was listing it as No. 2 in America, the New York Times as No. 4. At the same time, donations in support of Dr. Peterson through Patreon totaled $1,000 in August of 2016, $14,000 in January of 20 17, and $80,000 in May of 2018.
The reaction of Peterson’s host of critics to all this was one of fear and horror. This man Peterson must be stopped, they agreed. Sharp challenges followed from the giants of the Left, particularly from feminists. In program after program, they lined up to take him on face to face. This proved a costly error. Their long established technique — to misrepresent an adversary’s views one after the other, then push on, giving him no chance to respond–stopped working. Peterson corrected the misstatements succinctly and effectively as they occurred. The effect was to render the attack incompetent and the attacker close to moronic. Meanwhile, the size of the audience soared..
The professor had other skills. Though insistent when necessary, he was courteous, especially to female adversaries. Improbable as this may sound, he obviously charmed them. Perhaps that’s why they pretty much let two of his main points stand. They were:
- That while he was wholly in support of programs that offered equal job opportunities for all contenders, he was fiercely against the imposition of equalized results. The best qualified candidate should get the job. To give it to someone because they were black, female, an immigrant, or somehow handicapped was patently unjust and reduced the quality of the work, whatever it was. There must be no equality of outcomes, he contended..
- Though virtually all journalists and most of his adversaries, assumed that his contentions were ultimately political, he did not consider himself involved in politics. As a clinical psychologist, he stood for the individual, he said, not for the group, whether it be the oppressed black group, or or the oppressed female group, or the inevitably misunderstood trans-gendered group.
He could not, however, unfailingly preserve this dispassion when he saw, as a clinical psychologist, what Political Correctness was doing to young white males. They were being denounced by their society as arrogant representatives of the “patriarchate,” heedless oppressors of women, implicit sexual abusers if not actively rapists. Such despicable people were not wanted, so it seemed, anywhere.
Small wonder that young males saw Peterson as their champion and appeared in abundance wherever he spoke in public. They were particularly moved by his persistent stream of advice — stand up straight, know what you’re talking about, do not tell lies, keep promises, undertake and fulfill responsibilities, make your bed, and look to learn from other people. Some of them know a lot more than you know about a lot more things..
No one had ever addressed them like this before. In fact they had scarcely ever known a full-grown man. They had been raised by their mother, and educated almost entirely by women teachers. Peterson came to them as though raising a blind on a dark room and for the first time in their lives letting in the sun.
As a clinical psychologist, he well knows many of these men as his patients. He once described their plight with tears running down his face. He was fully aware of something else. Societies, which produce a population of discouraged young men without hope, can be on a path to very big trouble. Witness Germany in the 1930s. That’s where the insanity of Political Correctness could unknowingly be taking us right now. Between the lines of Peterson’s book, one can easily discern this warning.
But where, one wonders, is Christianity in all this. So many of Peterson’s twelve “rules” are compatible with, if not derived directly from, Christianity. Does he himself believe there is a God? No, comes his reply, he does not. Though often, he admits, he actively “fears” that there may in fact be One.
Ted Byfield was founder and publisher of Alberta Report news magazine, general editor of Alberta in the Twentieth Century, a 12-volume history of the province, and general editor of The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years, a 12-volume history of Christianity. His column on education appears in The Christians.com, a web journal. He has aslo authored three little books on modern pedagogy: Why History Matters, The Revolution Nobody Covered and most recently The Time is Now. You can order copies here.