There was a time when I found Jonathan Haidt a bit of a drip partly because, to my ears, he sounded a bit sissy-ish but mainly because he often clashed with the man who was at that time my intellectual hero, Sam Harris. I still have a lot of time for Sam Harris but my views align less and less with his as time goes on. I find him both very honest and intelligent, a great combination, but these days he is too much of a progressive, too averse to the conservative way of seeing the world for me to consider him a reliable guide.
Haidt, on the other hand, has has gone the other way. Either he has become less drippy or my own views have moved into line with his. I now spend a lot of time watching his videos online and find myself nodding along to pretty much everything he says. He seems to be one of those rare people who can see things from both sides and is willing to admit to a change of heart, something more likely for him since he actually listens to opposing views.
Anyway, I was just watching him talk about various things with Nick Clegg. (The person who uploaded the video to Youtube had, thank the Lord, edited out all of Clegg’s contributions. I suppose this goes against Haidt’s main insight that it is precisely those we disagree with that we ought to listen to but hey, it wasn’t me who edited Clegg out and let’s face it, he is a bit annoying.) Haidt did such a good job in the space of just 5½ minutes of describing how people like me, parochial nationalists with authoritarian personalities, feel about immigration and why we feel that way, that I felt compelled to learn how to cut out a segment from a Youtube video, upload it and then link to it.
In a nutshell, Haidt says that some nations implement free market policies which leads to an incredible increase in wealth for everyone, especially the successful. A generation down the line people become more interested in women’s rights, gay rights, animal rights and human rights. This is great because the world gets both richer and kinder. That is Step One.
In Step Two people from poor countries become very attracted to these economically rich, rights-protecting nations that compare very favourably to their own crappy, corrupt countries that are mired in poverty. These immigrants are welcomed by the university-educated globalists who live in the cities of the First World. These sophisticates adhere to John Lennon’s vision of a world without borders and religions. They encourage the new immigrants to come but discourage them from assimilating because that would be to privilege one culture over another. The globalists see borders as arbitrary lines drawn on a map and look down on those who take pride in their country.
Mass immigration leads to Step Three, where a violent emotional reaction is triggered in the non-university-educated, non-city-dwelling, knuckle-dragging nationalists who feel their whole world is under threat. They worry that the moral order is unravelling. These people have a natural penchant for stability and civil order while progressive liberals prefer creativity and novelty.
It seems that both types are needed to make a good society. Liberals are needed to move things forward while conservatives are needed to give stability and order to the whole thing. However, since the 1960’s liberalism has been on the front foot and the voices of cultural conservatives have been largely ignored. In academia as a whole (scientists, engineers etc.) the ratio of those identifying as politically left is 5 to 1, up from 2 to 1 as recently as the 1990’s. And in the social sciences the ratio is 17 to 1. Here is how teachers voted in this month’s election. The BBC too is generally staffed by liberals.
It seemed to most of us that things would carry on this way until the heat death of the universe, with schools teaching the glories of diversity, multiculturalism and immigration as well as the shameful histories of Britain and America, while the BBC pushed the same agenda on TV. Once liberals were in charge of the schools then the game was pretty much up for conservatives. Just as young Soviets were indoctrinated into righteousness of Communism, North Koreans into loving their Dear Leader and Germans into despising the Jews, so young westerners have been indoctrinated into the progressive liberalism of their educators. Unlike credulous conservatives who tended to swallow a whole bundle of nasty beliefs fed to them by the Daily Mail, liberals carefully thought each issue through for themselves with scrupulous neutrality – and then came to precisely the same conclusions as their teachers, the BBC and all their friends. There looked like no way of stopping this juggernaut.
Then out of the blue came Brexit, Trump and the anti-mass immigration parties of Europe which are always described as ‘far-right’. After all, who but a Nazi could be against mass immigration? This was a glimmer of hope for the people who felt we had been flirting with societal breakdown for a while. Unfortunately in the last few months this appears to have been a false dawn with Trump doing none of the things he promised, Marine Le Pen losing the French election by a large margin and UKIP being crushed in the recent British election. There is even talk of a ‘soft Brexit’ as described here by Nick Timothy:
There has long been talk of a choice between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ forms of Brexit, with the latter requiring membership of the EU’s single market. Since that would involve accepting the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, vast annual membership payments to the EU, and the continuation of free movement rules, people who voted to leave the European Union might wonder whether advocates of a ‘soft’ departure really do understand that Brexit means Brexit.
In this way the Remainers would end up having their way after all, despite losing the referendum. Anyway, here is Jonathan Haidt discussing steps one, two and three.