There was a time when I found Jonathan Haidt a bit of a drip, partly because to me he sounded a bit sissy-ish but also because he often clashed with my then 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 by. I find him both very honest and very intelligent, a great combination, but these days he is too much of a progressive, too averse to the conservative way of thinking for me to consider him an ally.
Haidt, on the other hand, has gone the other way. After finishing writing his last book he told his wife that he could no longer call himself a lefty but had become a centrist. 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 beings who can see things from both sides and is willing to admit to a change of heart, something that becomes more likely when you genuinely listen to opposing views.
I was just watching him talk about this and that with Nick Clegg. (The person who uploaded the video to Youtube had, thank the Lord, edited out all of Nick 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 be honest, 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, that I felt compelled to actually learn how to edit out a segment from a Youtube video, upload it and then link to it. Here it is.
In a nutshell, Haidt says that some nations implement free market policies which lead 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 with their own crappy, corrupt countries that are mired in poverty. These immigrants are welcomed by the university-educated globalists who live in big First World cities. 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 racist (or culturist). The globalists see borders as arbitrary lines drawn on a map and look down on those who have a sense of pride in their country.
Mass immigration leads to Step Three, where a violent emotional reaction is triggered in the non-university-educated, small town 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 priotitise 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. Since the 1960’s progressive liberalism has been on the front foot and the voices of cultural conservatives have been marginalised. In academia as a whole (including 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 now 17 to 1 in favour of the left. Here is how teachers voted in this month’s UK election.
It looked to most of us as if things were going to 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 allegedly 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 cultural conservatives. Just as young Soviets were indoctrinated into the wonders of Communism, North Koreans brain-washed into loving their Dear Leader and 1930’s Germans were persuaded to despise the Jews, so young westerners have been indoctrinated into the progressive liberalism, AKA cultural Marxism, of their educators. There looked no way of stopping this juggernaut.
Then out of the blue came Brexit, Trump and the so called ‘far-right’ anti-mass immigration parties of Europe. This was a glimmer of hope for the people who felt we were flirting with societal chaos. 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, despite having lost the referendum.
Still, at least Jonathan Haidt is drawing attention to the political imbalance in academia. And he is one of the few from the left who can see ‘a point’ to conservatism and conservatives.