A Cheek for a Cheek

It is a trying time to be a Christian these days, even in America.

Stand up for your culture—and if you happen to be white—you are going to be called racist.

Stand up for your tradition—and whether you are a woman or a man—you are going to be called sexist.

Stand up for your faith—this holds for Jews, too—and you are going to be called phobic.

Stand up for your civilization, and you are going to be called names.

Here are a few of the names that certain of my colleagues in academia have called me and my writing over the past two years: racist, white supremacist, Nazi sympathizer, ill-informed, disrespectful, racially-inflammatory, bully, snarky, asshole, vile.

Thus far, the name-calling has happened only at a distance, not in person, typically in venues (e.g. Twitter or Facebook) where I cannot hear or see it, whether because I am not tagged in the posts or because I am blocked from seeing certain accounts. But my colleagues know that I know that they are talking about me—some 1500 of them around the country made sure to sign the Open Letter to my divisional dean—so my guess is that they want the blows to land. They want me to feel the hate.

What would Jesus say?
Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. —Matthew 5:39
Are you fucking kidding me? Turn the other cheek? They started it! All I did was write a blog post giving “three cheers for white men”—those “dead, white European males” whom everyone loves to hate—for three ideals that benefit all women in Western civilization, and forever after, I get to be the poster monster for “white supremacy” in medieval studies? Or “cluelessness about critical race theory,” if you prefer.

(And yes, quodshe, I do think that this whole thing is personal, precisely because it is political. Isn’t everything political supposed to be personal these days?)

What would Milo say?
Risus et bellum. Laughter and war. Because nothing stings our foes, foreign and domestic, more than our hearty laughter at their lies and nonsense. And also because nothing will better remind us what we’re fighting for than the laughter of Chesterton, of Chaucer and of Shakespeare, and of course the God who inspired them all.
I am thinking about all of this afresh after watching the interview that Cathy Newman did with Jordan Peterson last week over on Channel 4. I’m sure you’ve seen it. It was Cathy vs. MILO Round Two.

(Go watch that one if you missed it last year; Newman’s facial expression at the end is priceless.)

“Doesn’t it bother you that your audience is predominantly male?” Newman challenges Peterson a few minutes into the interview. “Isn’t that a bit divisive?” As if it were wrong for young men to take heart from the lessons that Peterson would teach them about sorting themselves out and growing the hell up.

Over and over again, Newman tries to make it—whatever it is—Peterson’s fault: “So you’re saying...” “So you’re saying...” “So you’re saying...”—constantly caricaturing and straw-manning his actual position. (My favorite, in response to his explanation about how it was not the patriarchy, but evolutionary developments as old as lobsters that invented social hierarchies: “So you’re saying that we should organize our societies along the lines of the lobsters?”) “Aren’t you just whipping people up to a state of anger?” she concludes. “Divisions between women and men. You’re stirring things up.”

Slap, slap, slap, slap, slap. You can see Peterson reeling against the repeated slaps, even as he maintains his calm. At one point, Peterson caught Newman sufficiently off guard and—horror of horrors!—she smiled. But you all know how it ends: Peterson is now being accused of harassment, exactly as Newman suggested he should.

Been there, done that, as the kids say. (If you haven’t been following, go here.)

Is there any way out of this trap?

James Delingpole suggests what I suspect many are hoping: that “ultimately [the SJWs] are going to lose this war because their arguments aren’t strong enough. Their warped, smoke-and-mirrors philosophy has no logical or factual foundation. In the war between critical thinking and critical theory, critical thinking is always going to win… eventually.”

But you know that isn’t the case. Peterson made perfectly logical arguments, which if Newman were playing fair, she could have heard, perhaps even have been surprised or encouraged by. But that is not what she wants, and it is not what her supporters want. They want Peterson destroyed, his arguments laid waste, and his spirit broken.

As Our Lord said:
Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
I know, that sounds like, “Lie down and take it. Roll over on your back, show them your vitals, and let them savage you.”

But I don’t think Our Lord means that. I think he means: Don’t be lobsters. When someone challenges you, stand up straight, put your shoulders back, take a deep breath, and take the hit. Do not apologize for being in the fray.

Here is what Peterson actually said. Not that we should—in Newman’s words—“organize our societies along the lines of the lobsters.” Rather, that we should recognize our responses to challenges in status as something deeply ingrained in us, so deep that it goes back millions of years in our evolution as a species, back even to the time when there were just proto-lobsters. In Peterson’s words:
There’s this idea that hierarchical structures are a sociological construct of the Western patriarchy. And that is so untrue that it’s almost unbelievable. I use the lobster as an example: We diverged from lobsters evolutionarily about 350 million years ago. And lobsters exist in hierarchies. They have a nervous system attuned to the hierarchy. And that nervous system runs on serotonin just like ours. The nervous system of the lobster and the human being is so similar that anti-depressants work on lobsters. And it’s part of my attempt to demonstrate that the idea of hierarchy has absolutely nothing to do with sociocultural construction, which it doesn’t.... 
I’m saying it is inevitable that there will be continuities in the way that animals and human beings organize their structures. It’s absolutely inevitable, and there is one-third of a billion years of evolutionary history behind that … It’s a long time. You have a mechanism in your brain that runs on serotonin that’s similar to the lobster mechanism that tracks your status—and the higher your status, the better your emotions are regulated. So as your serotonin levels increase you feel more positive emotion and less negative emotion.
What happens when someone slaps you? He or she challenges your status. (As Peterson points out, women don’t usually go for physical violence; our slaps go straight for your ego.) What will your immediate response be? To try to defend your status, of course. To strike back. To humiliate the one who struck you. To play gotcha.

Guess what? It doesn’t work, as Peterson confesses he realized soon after. Here’s the thing: If you respond IN ANY WAY AT ALL so as to preserve your status you have accepted the game. You have fallen into the trap.

Your opponents are testing you to see if you will accept the way that they see you, as beneath them and worthy of contempt. They want you to submit to their judgment of you. Striking you is a test of faith: do you believe them, their characterization of you as deserving to be hit? Or do you trust God?

It will be hard. Your entire being will be on alert, deep down in your lobster-self. Your serotonin levels will be plummeting. You will want to do everything—anything—you can to recover your sense of self. Do not take the bait. Turn the other cheek. Your status does not depend on them.

What does it depend on? God. The Maker of heaven and earth—and of lobsters and human beings. The God who made human beings—but not lobsters—capable not only of reason, but of laughter.

As Notker the Stammerer (d. 1022), monk of St. Gall, once put it: “Man is the animal rational, mortal, and capable of laughter.”

Do you see now why Milo’s motto is “Laughter and war”? What else would it be, given that he is Christian and believes in God?

Newman, again: “So you’re saying like the lobsters, we’re hard-wired as men and women to do certain things, to sort of run along tram lines, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Yes! Be a human being, for God‘s sake. Fuck your lobster feelings, use your reason, and LAUGH! 

And watch your enemies melt away... like butter on a lobster tail.

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