“Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief” – Jordan B. Peterson (1999)


It is very likely, however, that [the revolutionary hero] will be viewed with fear and even hatred, as a consequence of his “contamination with the unknown” – particularly if those “left behind” are unaware of the threat that motivated his original journey. His contamination is nothing to be taken lightly, besides.

If the exploratory figure has in fact derived a new mode of adaptation or representation, necessary for the continued success and survival of the group, substantial social change is inevitable. This process of change will throw those completely identified with the group into the realm of chaos, against their will.

 
 
“Free Women, Free Men: Sex, Gender, Feminism” – Camille Paglia (2017)


History moves in cycles. The plague of political correctness and assaults on free speech that erupted in the 1980s and were beaten back in the 1990s have returned with a vengeance. In the United States, the universities as well as the mainstream media are currently patrolled by well-meaning but ruthless thought police, as dogmatic in their views as agents of the Spanish Inquisition. We are plunged once again into an ethical chaos where intolerance masquerades as tolerance and where individual liberty is crushed by the tyranny of the group.

… The liberal versus conservative dichotomy, dating from the split between left and right following the French Revolution, is hopelessly outmoded for our far more complex era of expansive technology and global politics. A bitter polarization of liberal and conservative has become so extreme in both the Americas and Europe that it sometimes resembles mental illness, severed from the common sense realities of everyday life.

The tyrannical attitude maintains society in homogeneity, and rigid predictability, but dooms it to eventual collapse. This arrogant traditionalism, masquerading as moral virtue, is merely unexpressed fear of leaving the beaten path, of forging the new trail – the entirely comprehensible but nonetheless unforgivable shrinking from destiny, as a consequence of lack of faith in personal ability and precisely equivalent fear of the unknown. The inevitable result of such failure is restriction of meaning – by definition, as meaning exists on the border between the known and the unknown.

Repression of personal experience – which is failure to update action and representation in the face of an anomalous occurrence – means damming up the river of life; means existence on the barren plain, in the paralyzed kingdom, in the eternal drought.

 
 

Our understanding of sexuality, a paradigmatic theme and indeed obsession of modern culture, has been clouded by its current politicization. Sex and gender have been redefined by ill-informed academic theorists as superficial, fictive phenomena produced by oppressive social forces, disconnected from biology. This hallucination has sowed confusion among young people and seriously damaged feminism.

A gender theory without reference to biology is absurd on its face.

But as a proponent of dynamic free will, I certainly do not subscribe to a wholesale biological determinism. As I wrote on the very first page of Sexual Personae, “Sexuality and eroticism are the intricate intersection of nature and culture.” Furthermore, my key idea is that art itself is a line drawn against nature .

It is personal experience, anathema to the fascist, eternally superseding group categorization and the interpretations of the dead – personal experience that is novel and endlessly refreshing.

The security of predictable society provides an antidote to fear, but a too-rigid society ensures its own eventual destruction. The future brings with it the unknown; inflexibility and unwillingness to change therefore bring the certainty of extinction. Adaptive behavior is created and/or transformed by those driven to resolve the tension inevitably existing between dynamic personal experience and society – driven to resolve the tension between what they know to be true and what history claims.

Re-adaptation, during times of crisis, does not necessarily constitute simple addition to the body of historical knowledge – although that is heroic endeavor as well. Full readaptation may necessitate revolutionary measures, partial or complete reincarnation – dissolution to constituent elements, and systemic reorganization. Such reorganization alters the meaning of experience, and therefore, the mythology of history and being.

If resolution is not reached in time of crisis, mental illness (for the individual) or cultural degeneration (for the society) threatens. This “mental illness” (failure of culture, failure of heroism) is return to domination by the unknown – in mythological terms, expressed as involuntary incest (destructive union) with the Terrible Mother.

 
 

The vicious attacks on Sexual Personae by academic and establishment feminists (who in most cases had plainly not bothered to read it) will stand, I submit, as an indictment of the sorry process by which important political movements can undermine themselves through the blind insularity of their ruling coteries.

Blow-by-blow chronicles of my public clashes with leading feminists and their acolytes, including documentation of their outlandish libels against me and my work, can be found in my two essay collections, Sex, Art, and American Culture (1992) and Vamps & Tramps (1994).

Sexual Personae was reasonably well-received by most reviewers. It was my piece on Madonna in The New York Times later in 1990 that made me instantly notorious… in 2010, The New York Times featured this piece as one of its most significant and influential op-eds in the 40 years since it had invented that now standard form.

What caused a storm was first, my open attack on the normally protected feminist establishment and second, my closing sally, “Madonna is the future of feminism,” which was widely ridiculed as preposterous. But that prophecy would come true in the rise and resounding victory of long-silenced pro-sex feminism in the 1990s.

Furthermore, my cheeky use of slang, which was debated by the editorial board, broke long-standing rules of decorum at The New York Times and opened the way for later writers like Maureen Dowd. Finally, the piece started a stampede for op-eds among humanities professors, who had previously considered writing for newspapers beneath their dignity. It was mainly historians, economists, and political scientists who had been doing op-eds before.

The human mind increasingly manifests the capacity to upset itself – to produce revelations, so to speak, that knock gaping holes in the previously-sufficient adaptive and protective social and intrapsychic structures. The ever-expanding human capacity for abstraction has enabled us – as a species, and as individuals – to produce self-models that include the temporal boundaries of existence.

We have become able to imagine our own deaths, and the deaths of those we love, and to make a link between mortal fragility and every risk we encounter. Emergence of such capacity – which re-occurs with the maturation of every new human being – introduces the most intractable anomaly imaginable into the developmental course of every life.

Myth represents the ever-recurring appearance of this representational ability – this emergent “selfconsciousness,” the heritable sin of Adam – as incorporation of the “forbidden fruit,” development of knowledge of good and evil, and consequent expulsion from paradise. This appearance is an event of “cosmic significance,” driving the separation of heaven and earth, making human experience something “eternally fallen,” something ever in need of redemption.

 
 

Erosion of liberals’ fidelity to free speech can be partly traced to the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (following the landmark 1964 act) which imposed federal penalties for crimes committed because of “race, color, religion or national origin.”

The demarcation of certain groups for special protection, later extended to gender and sexual orientation, split them from the general populace by defining them as permanent victims, burdened by an inescapable past.

I strongly oppose the categories of “hate speech” and “hate crimes” that arose from that law and others throughout North America and Europe. The laudable attempt to make reparation for past injustice unfortunately created segregated zones of new privilege and drew government into curbing the exercise of free speech.

As I argued in Vamps & Tramps, government has no right to intrude into or speculate about the thinking or motivation of any citizen, except during the sentencing phase after criminal conviction.

The freedom to hate must be as protected as the freedom to love. It is only when hate crosses over into action that the law may properly intervene. Without complete freedom to explore the piercing extremes of human emotion, we will never have great art again.

Many kings are tyrants, or moral decadents, because they are people – and many people are tyrants, or moral decadents. We cannot say “never again” as a consequence of the memory of the Holocaust, because we do not understand the Holocaust – and it is impossible to remember what has not been understood. We do not understand the Holocaust, because we do not comprehend ourselves. Human beings, very much like ourselves, produced the moral catastrophes of the Second World War (and of Stalin’s Soviet Union, and of Pol Pot’s Cambodia …).

“Never forget” means “know thyself” – means recognize and understand that evil twin, that mortal enemy, who is part and parcel of every individual. The heroic tendency – the archetypal savior – is an eternal spirit, which is to say, a central and permanent aspect of human being. The same is true, precisely, of the “adversarial” tendency: the capacity for endless denial, and the desire to make everything suffer for the outrage of its existence, is an ineradicable intrapsychic element of the individual.

 
 

Feminism must end its sex war, which is stunting the maturation of both girls and boys. Upper-middle-class career women in the Americas and Europe blame men for their unhappiness. But the real cause is systemic. In the shift from the agrarian to the industrial and now technological era, women have lost the daylong companionship and solidarity they once enjoyed with other women when they ruled the private sphere.

In a new world where men and women share the same ambitions and workplace, perhaps a mutual incompatibility or creative tension between the sexes may have to be tolerated. But what is indisputable is that women do not gain by weakening men. An enlightened feminism, animated by a courageous code of personal responsibility, can only be built upon a wary alliance of strong women and strong men.