I’ve had it with the Conservatives. For me, and I know I’m not the only one, the final straw was the announcement at the weekend that the Equalities Minister Justine Greening wants to change the law so that people are free to specify their gender on their birth certificate regardless of medical opinion. What were they thinking, Greening and the various senior party bods who supported this decision, including, apparently, the Prime Minister? Actually, I think we can guess. They were thinking: ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn. His young followers seem to like this LBGBLT — how do the initials go again? — malarkey so perhaps we’d better get with it too.’ And: ‘Nasty party detox. Just like gay marriage did, this will help rid us of all those ghastly reactionary grassroots supporters who are ruining our image.’ And: ‘Compassion. We need to show compassion to oppressed minorities because that’s the kind thing to do.’
If you want to see the ‘kindness’ fallacy kicked into touch, I recommend you google Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychology professor at the University of Toronto who has become the voice of the resistance to the extreme political end of the trans-gender movement. Have a look, for example, at the debate he had with a fellow Toronto professor, A.W. Peet, over his uncompromising stance on ‘non-binary’ pronouns.
Peet — who would probably prefer to be known by the pronoun ‘zie’, because although he/she/it goes by the name of Amanda, ‘zie’ identifies as ‘non-binary’ — was trying to make the case that of course we should address people by whatever weird pronouns make them feel comfortable. To do otherwise, Peet claimed, wasn’t just laziness on Peterson’s part (why didn’t he keep a list of his friends’ and colleagues’ preferred pronouns in his iPhone, like any decent person would?) but also an act of unkindness.
I felt for Peterson as this charge was laid against him because I’ve experienced it so many times myself — usually on BBC political programmes where the only reason you’ve been invited on is so that the viewers can be shown again just how vilely heartless conservatives are. It’s one of those ‘when did you stop beating your wife?’ questions that’s impossible to refute because the more you deny it the guiltier you look. But Peterson was more than up to the challenge. ‘Kindness is the excuse social justice warriors use when they want to exercise control over what other people think and say,’ he said, before going on to challenge the implied argument that ‘kindness’ is always a good and necessary thing. Sometimes, he pointed out, it’s necessary to be unkind in the shorter term in order to achieve greater, longer-term benefits — as when, for instance, you punish a beloved child in order to encourage better behaviour. He said: ‘The highest possible value is truth. Higher than kindness.’
He’s right, of course, but it’s not something you often hear said in these times of near-universal relativism. It’s precisely this rejection of truth which I find so shocking and unforgivable in the Conservatives’ new stated position on gender identity. Sure, the party has promoted many dubious — and probably unconservative — ideas in recent years, from wind farms to HS2. But with each one, as with the similarly divisive gay marriage issue, it would have been quite possible to make a half-credible case for its being the right and conservative thing to do.
This new position on transgender issues is different: it’s manifestly the wrong thing to do and it’s manifestly unconservative. The fact that senior echelons of the party can even countenance such stupidity suggests to me that the Conservatives are now so ideologically enfeebled, so burdened with over-promoted no-talents, so out of touch with where ordinary, real people are, that they are quite beyond the point of redemption.
Let me explain briefly why. One of the main pillars of conservatism is empiricism. It’s what separates us from the woolly idealism of the left and it is often used as a stick to beat us with. We are told that, like Mr Gradgrind, all we want is facts and that we don’t care about feelings. But of course we care: we just happen to be guided by our observation of what works, and what historically has worked, rather than defying tradition and custom and human nature in order to try to build some New Jerusalem. Margaret Thatcher was quite right to say ‘the facts of life are conservative’.
And Peterson was quite right to posit that truth is our highest calling — without truth how we can discern the good from the bad, the valuable from the worthless? How can we apply any meaningful cost–benefit analysis to government policy if we have no handle on reality?
There are, needless to say, lots of other practical reasons why allowing people legally to decide their own gender is a terrible idea: the destructive effect on women’s sport; the constraints it will inevitably place on the freedom of speech of the many of us who, quite rightly, think this is an SJW bridge too far; the mind-warping effects it’s going to have on the impressionable children who no doubt are going to be exposed to this post-modern guff as part of their ‘education’.
But the worst thing of all, as far as I can see, is that it capriciously, irresponsibly and unnecessarily rejects one of the most basic truths of nature: that there are men and there are women; that we are identifiably different. For me this is one of those pivotal moments in the decline of western civilisation. The barbarians are at the gate and here’s Justine Greening pushing the doors wide open: ‘C’mon in guys, gals —or however you want to define yourselves! The city is all yours. Or is that zirs?’