“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” Daniel J. Boorstin
(Ottawa, October 8, 2016) Dr. Peterson at the University of Toronto is feeling attacked these days because of his hour long classroom presentation last week on his own personal libertarian ideology – but I can still empathize with him. I can understand how he feels because my ten year old transgender child, Charlie, feels the same frustration – and also knows public censure and feeling misunderstood.
My kid (and me, her dad and sister) spend our free time speaking with adults about the limits of labels, linguistically and clinically, and we don’t even get paid for it. Tenure is so limiting. Our presentation is also an hour long, is guaranteed to challenge preconceived notions about sex and gender, and is supported by solid scientific references to current research from different faculties of study. We are willing to travel to Toronto to have that essential debate with Professor Peterson, as he recently asked for on CBC’s As It Happens. He stated in that interview that ‘some people are pushing things too far in one direction’ by being inclusive, but for many educators in Ontario the word for that is progress.
Would Dr. Peterson find it easier to respect the preferred pronoun of our designated debate team leader, Charlie’s friend and the sponsor of Bill C-16, Justice Minister Jody Wilson Raybould? Would the good doctor also accept the knowledge earned by a whole lot of really upset mama and papa bears who expect better from educators in Ontario? Be careful what you wish for professor, as debate involves many voices.
Here’s the thing – while Dr. Peterson is willing to go down in flames defending his right to be disrespectful based on ancient and limiting social constructions (once used, often erroneously, to categorize and understand biology) he is no different than the Pope.
They are both stuck in the dark ages of dogma and denunciation without solid research behind them. They think themselves infallible, without knowing how much they are missing, whether it is the latest biological research (Sex redefined. The idea of two sexes is simplistic. Biologists now think there is a wider spectrum than that. Claire Ainsworth, 18 February 2015, http://www.nature.com/news/sex-redefined-1.16943, Hopkins faculty disavow ‘troubling’ report on gender and sexuality, Chris Beyrer, Robert W. Blum, Tonia C. Poteat, September 28, 2016.http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-lgbtq-hopkins-20160928-story.html) or the customary use of ‘they’ as a singular pronoun (since Shakespeare’s time). Both have decided to use their white ‘male’ privilege to ignore the evidence, and incite contempt and hatred for an innocent group of people, including millions of suffering children. They both think our kids have some sort of mental illness, and they are blind to their gifts of Grace. They both choose to disrespect others, simply because they can – not realizing there is no moral virtue in denying or condemning the identity of others. Pope or Professor – they aren’t willing to be changed by learning more. The legal issue the Professor uses: ‘freedom to disrespect others’ and the slogans used by the Pope: ‘epoch of sin’ and ‘nuclear bomb’ are symptoms of a much bigger problem facing humanity: the ‘illusion of knowledge’.
The university experience is about learning two important lessons: first, to be humbled by the realisation that we know nothing – there is so much yet to learn. Second, as Dr. Martin Luther King observed, to understand that “laws aren’t made to change the hearts of men, but to restrain the heartless” – just as the ancient Mosaic/Hammurabic Codes intended.
Unfortunately, there are too many unfeeling people in influential places, who can’t see that imposing their strict binary ideology is oppressive, and equivalent to incitement of contempt and hatred. Their aggression has the consequence of increasing the likelihood of murder and assault of innocent transgender and gender fluid people of all ages. Not only is that unethical, it is offensive to propagate such hateful opinions. Wilful ignorance does not serve the cause of peace, order, or good government, nor does it fill empty church pews and universities with thinking people.
Perhaps these two community leaders haven’t yet learned those essential kindergarten lessons: to get respect – you must give it; to be infallible – you must be willing to be wrong; and to keep your freedoms, you must share them with others. Keeping a ‘modicum of peace’ as the Professor suggests, involves a social contract – such as addressing people as they wish to be addressed. It is simply a matter of common courtesy.
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
“It may be true that the law can’t make a man love me, but it can restrain him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important also.” Dr. Martin Luther King