The so-called Jewish Question has always made me twitchy as a dormouse on cleaning day. Jews are over-represented in some important areas of our cultural and economic life – this is simple reality – and they tend to be hated wherever they go. Historically, Jews have a long, painful past of getting kicked out of every nation that allows them to (temporarily) flourish. The Holocaust is just one chink in a long chain of expulsion, persecution, attempted annihilation.
The children of Abraham have not had an easy go.
It’s tempting to ask if such persecution is justified. Is there some legitimate reason everyone hates the Jews? Even Gypsies hate Jews! Have Jews earned this spectacular, bloody odium? Is there something about Jewish culture and ways of being that encourage them to behave in ways that make everyone else despise and want to kill them? Or do they get stuck in a repeat cycle that always ends up with the same end?
Jordan Peterson gets asked this question frequently enough to prompt him to post a response to the Jewish Question.
The players of identity politics on the far right continue ever-so-pathologically to beat the anti-Semitic drum, pointing to the over-representation of Jews in positions of authority, competence and influence (including revolutionary movements). I’m called upon–sometimes publicly, sometimes on social media platforms–to comment on such matters, and criticized when I hesitate to do so (although God only knows why I would hesitate 🙂
I’ll give you the tl;dr, but I highly encourage you to go and read the full statement yourself., Peterson links to articles at the Economist and Newsweek that are both worth reading, too. In a nutshell, Peterson notes that Jewish IQ is higher than the norm, and smart people are going to be over-represented in occupations that require intelligence. Peterson then links IQ to openness to experience, and then further links openness to political liberalism. I’m pretty sure he means classical liberalism in this sense, with a high value placed on personal freedom and the right to self-determination, which is the opposite of political liberalism in its current form. The entire State of Israel defies modern political liberalism – they are as right wing as you can probably get at the level of statehood without descending into genocide.
The Jewish Question aside, though, what struck me was that the conspiracy theory that underwrites and explains Jewish influence is virtually identical to the patriarchy theory that underwrites and explains modern feminism, assuming that Peterson is right and there is no conspiracy.
Jews are at the top of the influence hierarchy because they are smarter than the rest of us, and Jews work collectively to advance human accomplishments for the benefit of everyone, not just other Jews. Everyone benefits from Jewish ingenuity, ability and work. There is no Jewish conspiracy. It just looks that way.
Men are at the top of the influence hierarchy because they are smarter than women, and men work collectively to advance human accomplishments for the benefit of everyone, not just other men. Everyone benefits from male ingenuity, ability and work. There is no patriarchy. It just looks that way.
Let’s go back to Peterson and look at why he thinks people enjoy the Jewish conspiracy, from a psychological perspective. Once you have a victim and a perpetrator, conspiracy theories are as dangerous as they are easy:
First, psychologically speaking: why do the reactionary conspiracy theorists even bother? This is a straightforward matter. If you’re misguided enough to play identity politics, whether on the left or the right, then you require a victim and a perpetrator. Otherwise you can’t play the game.
Once you determine to play, however, you benefit in a number of ways.
You can claim responsibility for the accomplishments of your group you feel racially/ethnically akin to without actually having to accomplish anything yourself.
You can identify with the hypothetical victimization of that group and feel sorry for yourself and pleased at your compassion simultaneously.
Another unearned victory. You simplify your world radically, as well.
All the problems you face now have a cause, and a single one, so you can dispense with the unpleasant difficulty of thinking things through in detail.
Furthermore, and most reprehensibly: you now have someone to hate (and, what’s worse, with a good conscience) so your unrecognized resentment and cowardly and incompetent failure to deal with the world forthrightly can find a target, and you can feel morally superior in your consequent persecution.
Isn’t this exactly true for feminism, too?
The patriarchy, envisioned by feminists, is a conspiracy theory on par with the best conspiracy theories in recorded history. If you can wrap your head around that idea, but still can’t accept that the Jewish Question might be in the same category, why not?
Give me your reasons.
I genuinely want to know.
Lots of love,