Conservative and liberal. Right wing and left wing. I teach these ideas to Year 13 students. They are useful. A tool that is helpful for thinking about how people see the world differently. On the other hand they can entrap people. If I think of someone as conservative I am less likely to listen and more likely to jeer. I’m trying to listen to people I disagree with more. Of course some people – on both sides of that left-right continuum – are opinionated half wits; neither informed nor perceptive.
Here is David Seymour at the meat club at Auckland Uni.
Which is clearly offensive to someone like me on the so-called left.
After this photo David Seymour went on Radio New Zealand and said things that didn’t make sense. The two issues this photo raised, according to him, were: (1) should people at uni be able to form clubs to celebrate meat, and (2) should politicians be able to accept invitations to hang out with student clubs at campus? The answer to that is: “that’s not the issue dipstick”. The issue is that you are wearing a sexist T-shirt.
David told us that there is also a T-shirt with a man on it. This is what that looks like:
Which makes the female T-shirt worse. Men are strong and women are ready for sex. “got meat?” for the male means muscle, or maybe a big penis. “got meat?” on the female version is not about power. It’s about submission. I guess I feel like both T-shirts are for men to wear.
Well, he was slayed on Radio New Zealand by Suzie Ferguson to which he responded later:
- Parroting a sexist tweet? This is the “sexist” tweet he is referring to:
2. Blindsided? Not in the interview I heard, and – as I said – the male T-shirt makes his position worse as in: more sexist.
So David Seymour is an arrogant man, with an inflated sense of his own intelligence, who seems to either not understand how he has been offensive or views being offensive as a way to gain media attention and publicity.
Jordan Peterson was in a fairly combative interview on TV in the UK recently. Because Jordan Peterson is an older white man I think the interviewer, Catherine Newman, was already cross with him. Jordan said a number of things that were quite challenging but – I think – frighteningly true. Catherine Newman’s response was to continually misrepresent what he said. It was so frequent and persistent I began to doubt her integrity. Then her intelligence.
Catherine: Does it bother you that audience is predominantly male? Isn’t that divisive?
Divisive? Like Oprah was divisive with all her female fans?
Jordan: Women want men who are competent and powerful. And I don’t mean power in that they can exert tyrannical control over others. That’s not power; that’s just corruption…. I think there are a substantial minority of women who settle for [incompetent men who don’t grow up]. It’s bad for them. They’re very unhappy. It’s also bad for their partners although their partners get the advantage of not having to take any responsibility.
Catherine: …Maybe that’s how women want their relationships.
What? Jordan has just said something very perceptive, and painful and true (I think). A lot of men are weak. They don’t take responsibility. Their partners tolerate them. Sometimes barely. How is that good for either person? Catherine, in order to attack Jordan’s statement has ended up saying: maybe woman want to be in shit relationships?
The interview progresses like this. Catherine finds everything Jordan says astonishingly offensive and continually tries to trap him by mis-characterising what he has actually said. The section on the pay gap is particularly painful. Jordan is mostly right as anyone who has thought about the issue must know. The pay gap is about so many things and requires so many interventions into so many areas that a simplistic argument will never serve to bring real change. Catherine will not accept this. “It as simple as this one fact” she says over and over again. It isn’t.
I suppose what surprises me most in the two examples of David and Catherine is that they both misrepresent their “foes”. David’s “sexist tweet”, and “blindsided” are a corollary to Catherine’s continual restating of Jordan’s views incorrectly. Instead of dealing with what happened or what was said both people reinvent reality to allow them to be right and vindicated. It’s awful to listen to or watch.
Perhaps one reason it is awful because I know I do it. When I am actually challenged to defend a position I often can’t really defend it logically. I am being intellectually lazy, and if I am challenged too much I tend not to back down and listen, but get angry and stubborn and look for what I think my antagonist is really saying (you know, if they would just drop their mask). Then I begin to characterise them and suggest objectionable things that they might think based on my own generalising and stereotypes.
As a society it seems like we’ve been encouraged for quite some time now to be combative, to see compromise as losing, and the other side as an enemy. I don’t like it in society or in myself. I need more people I disagree with who are rational and reasonable and know why they think what they think. I don’t need to argue with them; just to listen to them.