Individualism sets us free: Part one

ACT party Human Rights Spokesman
Stephen Berry

Photo supplied to Whaleoil. ACT candidate Stephen Berry on the microphone. Whaleoil writer and editor of the Rightminds blog Dieuwe de Boer to the left

I will be in the audience at Jordan Peterson?s first show on Monday night. Over the second half of 2018, New Zealand experienced significant cultural debates about free speech. This was as a result of a series of visits by controversial speakers and Dr Don Brash having his permission to speak at Massey University withdrawn. At the time of writing this (Sunday), I?ve been somewhat surprised by the comparative calm.

Auckland Peace Action attacked Peterson?s visit through the media in a farcical press release which led to their humiliation during an interview by Sean Plunket the following day. Tamaki Anti-Fascist Action has run a barely-noticed poster campaign taking some of Professor Peterson?s quotes out of context to distort his message. This is a significantly smaller effort by the radical left than previously. Social media comment sections appear to be overwhelmingly positive in favour of Jordan Peterson. Has the political environment matured in the last six months or is the left pacing itself for what will be a longer campaign?

Jordan Peterson is a refreshing global phenomenon. His messages of personal responsibility, individualism and free speech are a welcome antidote to the self-victimising narrative peddled by the regressive left through universities, thuggish threats and even parliament.

Peterson?s core philosophy can be somewhat negative in its assessment of life as suffering. It?s true that the default condition for humanity is starvation and poverty. Life is difficult and for some it is brutal. Every one of us will find life especially tough at some time. It?s often not fair and isn?t necessarily your fault. That doesn?t change the solution to reducing your suffering. It requires you to shoulder the load and take responsibility for improving your situation. This is easier with the support of friends and family but it is impossible without you. Getting angry, bitter and resentful may be justified but it doesn?t help.

Compare this blunt, honest presentation to the nihilistic far-left. They put the blame for their perceived problems on capitalism, men, whites, the cis-gendered and alleged patriarchal oppression to create a self-cultivated victim identity their self-esteem depends on. The truth is that Western countries are the most prosperous societies to have ever existed. They are not perfect, but poverty is at an historic low and food has never been more abundant. The opportunity to make your own life better is available to more people than ever, with more possibilities than ever.

The message Peterson shares ? the one I am most passionate and optimistic about ? is the cultural battle between individualism and collectivism. Politics at its very foundations can be defined by the philosophical clash between those who consider the individual sovereign and those that place individual interests secondary to a larger group.

The language has changed somewhat over the last couple of decades. Political correctness is a term rendered bland by its excessive application; identity politics, social justice or postmodern neo-Marxism are terms now more commonly applied in the debate. I?ve been a dedicated individualist for as long as I?ve been interested in politics, partly as a result of being openly gay and recognising first-hand the nonsense that the accompanying group identity labels bring.

Probably as a consequence of the legalisation of homosexuality being the result of action by left-aligned groups, politically-motivated gay people appear to be overwhelmingly aligned to the left. More fabulously unique than individualistic, gay people become the ?rainbow community? by default. This results in self-appointed LGBT activists speaking for LGBT people as a whole, as if all gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people think the same. How ironic that I find that concept more offensive than the perpetually outraged activists themselves.

That?s just the one aspect of identity politics (or identitarianism as extreme-right collectivists call themselves) that made me aware of the failure in logic required to accept collectivist ideas. It is applied to every category of ethnicity, sex, gender identity and body shape you can imagine. Categories are still being imagined and applied on an infinite scale. There is no such thing as a woman?s voice, a Maori view, or a lesbian representative. They?re all deceptive sleights of hand for the same idea: collectivism.

To be continued…