Jordan Peterson has resigned his tenured position at the University of Toronto. Peterson provides an explanation of his decision in this long article in Canada’s National Post.
I will not excerpt: I strongly recommend you read it in full.
I concur 100 percent with Peterson, especially in his dissection of modern academia in its current diseased–and probably fatally diseased–state.
I often say that I am glad I am getting old, and on the downslope of a long academic career. I can’t imagine beginning an academic career today.
Indeed, I can’t imagine that I would choose to embark on one–or that I would even be given the opportunity, given my various disqualifications (most of which are utterly out of my control).
It’s been a great run, but the devil take the hindmost. (And he is doing so, as Peterson describes.)
Peterson’s diagnosis that the rot extends far beyond academia–and to the corporate world in particular–is also spot on.It is indeed a dreary picture. What stands out most is the endemic dishonesty.
Or more accurately, the assertive belief that honesty and truth are fictions, and the war on anyone who dissents from this smelly orthodoxy. We live in an Orwellian world, and academia and corporations are on the cutting edge of it.
The friend who alerted me to Peterson’s article asked me how will this all play out? How can we live in a world built on lies? How will we defeat it?
I responded that the best model (best in the sense of most accurate, not most desirable) is life in the USSR or the post-War Soviet Bloc.
A life in which an official line is vigorously–indeed, viciously–enforced and that independent thought is relentlessly suppressed.
A life in which many ordinary people cooperate with–often gleefully–with authorities to point out and punish wrongthink.
In such a world, people develop split personalities. Preference falsification is rampant.
People realize they are being lied to incessantly in matters large and small. They also realize that pointing out the lies draws brutal retaliation.
Loss of jobs. Loss of friends. Cancellation. Social death. Or worse.
So they repeat the official mantras in public, or remain mulishly silent, and hate themselves in private for doing it. At most they communicate their recognition of the absurdity through indirect forms of humor.
They limit honesty only to the most trusted.
And that is one of the most devastating effects. The need to be extremely guarded atomizes society: who can you trust, actually?
Very few. And betrayal inevitably occurs, because the relentless pressure of the system incentivizes it.
Perhaps the best description of this dystopia is Vaclav Havel’s 1978 essay The Power of the Powerless.
Havel described how oppressive systems are morally corrupting, and force those who dissent perforce construct inner personal spheres of honesty and truth and outer spheres of dissimulation.True believers and opportunistic lackeys enforce the party line: out of self-preservation the intellectually honest give superficial assent, but privately–usually very privately–dissent.
Knowledge that the tall stalks fall to the scythe leads all but the bravest to lay low. And all the time the honest wonder how many others share their disgust.
And they keep wondering because the entire system is optimized to make it impossible to know. Silence begets ignorance begets silence.
It is a grim world. A world antithetical to humanity and human development.
The only reason for optimism is that eventually the internal contradictions of a system built on lies become so obvious that everyone knows that everyone knows that everyone knows … that the system has failed.
The mechanism of preference falsification breaks down, and mass dissidence spontaneously breaks out.
A system of lies cannot live forever.