In response to Jane Kelly: Professor Peterson and a rare outbreak of common sense at the Oxford Union, Peter Evans wrote:
Peterson is hard to fault with his argument about the primacy of the sovereignty of the free individual, and the duties to others (and oneself) that accompany that freedom. It’s blown a gaping hole through the grievance-Left’s ideological edifice, and they despise him for it. The invariably oppressive ‘power structures’ the embittered zealots of the grievance Left hallucinate around them are, I believe, their way of repudiating the necessity for taking one’s place in a mutually constructed competence hierarchy.
Their grievance isn’t with pervasive oppression, because in the West it doesn’t exist. It’s with the inescapable need to ‘bear the burden of being’, as Peterson perspicuously puts it – a burden that can only be evaded at the price of interminable and unassuageable hatred for a world that refuses to conform to one’s narcissistic need for sycophantic affirmation, indolence and self-indulgence. It’s not for nothing that the foundational figure of Western civilisation is a man who was falsely accused, tortured, nailed to a cross and left to die: He bore the burden of being with valour, and in His example has comforted those plunged into the cruel wildnerness of earthly hell for two thousand years.
Human life is riddled with tragedy, suffering, loss, and perhaps worst of all, human malevolence. That we have achieved a society characterised by liberty under the democratic rule of law, not the dictatorship of some tinpot thug, individual merit, not tribal allegiance, the presumption of innocence, not the show trial and the nocturnal deportation to some sordid gulag, is a miracle, and certainly not the default of the rest of the world beyond the West.
The grievance Left always ignore this: in comparison to what regime is the West a corrupt racist, sexist, homophobic tyranny? Zimbabwe? North Korea? Saudi Arabia? Rwanda? Ethiopia? China?
The only way this characterisation of the West can be made to work is by comparing it to an as yet unrealised, spectral Utopia that exists only in the wishful, infantile fantasies of the contemporary Victim Left, who want a delusional freedom unmoored from mutual duties – the surest way to achieve a brutal free-for-all in which the most aggressive and greedy are free to plunder, loot and enslave the rest of us.
If we use our freedoms to engage in bovine, self-centred enjoyments and ignore our ongoing duties to make the world a more habitable, more hospitable and civilised place in whatever small way we can, we not only betray those who died in bequeathing us these liberties, but to those who need them in the present and to the as yet unborn, who will not have them in the future unless we guard them and remain vigilant against their attrition by ‘progressives’ and other authoritarian fundamentalists.
This one man has done more to promote and resuscitate the cause of liberty and free speech than any politician, any virtue-signalling luvvie, any Women’s Studies/Ethnic Studies/Queer Studies academic fascist, any think tank, any ‘activist’. And he was prepared to risk his career in taking his stand. For that he has my unconditional gratitude and respect.
More importantly, he has the unconditional gratitude of my young-adult sons, and millions of young people of all colours, sexual orientations and even political leanings because they have been starved of the message that to live their lives honourably and meaningfully, they must bear their burdens forthrightly, stoically and uncompromisingly, and achieve what they’re capable of by assuming responsibility for their futures.