English LingQ Podcast #10: Cancel Culture with Steve Kaufmann

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Steve Kaufmann had his own run in with cancel culture on Twitter recently. Check out the latest episode of the English LingQ Podcast to find out what happened and what Steve thinks of cancel culture.

Elle: Hi everyone.

And welcome to the English LingQ podcast with me, Elle.

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So today I am joined again, but Steve Kaufmann, Steve, how are you?

Steve: I’m fine, Elle.

How are you?

Elle: I’m good.

Thank you.

I’m good.

I thought a really kind of controversial topic and relevant one that we could chat about today is this whole idea of cancel culture.

Steve: Right, well I think it’s a good, sorry.

It’s a good topic because I think it’s… some people like to shy away from controversial subjects, but I think a lot of people have different opinions on it.

So to that extent, maybe a lot of people will find this conversation.

Interesting.

And if something is interesting, then, uh, a, you’re more likely to listen, b, it’s good for your language learning because you’re engaged, you know?

Elle: Yeah, yeah.

For sure.

It’s a, I guess a relatively new term cancel culture.

Um, I’ll just define it.

Um, I mean, it’s pretty self-explanatory I suppose, but so cancel culture is this idea that any person in the public sphere makes a mistake, present or past, it seems a lot of, a lot of times something that a person has done in… way in the past is, is, uh, scrutinized.

And that person is canceled.

So they are no longer, um, popular, people don’t want to associate with them.

They may get dropped from labels or deals, all kinds of things.

So, um, you’ve had some maybe experienced lately with cancel culture on Twitter.

Tell us about that.

Steve: Well, I mean, I think, uh, well, in, in my case, uh, I said something which a lot of people didn’t agree with.

And then there was this great flurry of activity and they sort of egg their friends and everyone else to come on my Twitter feed and, and attack me.

Uh, which is fine.

I, I think fundamentally the, I think the biggest problem sort of that underlines or underlies.

In other words, that the core problem is this idea that we can’t disagree with each other.

So, I mean, obviously if in your past behavior you did something very bad.

Uh, you robbed a bank or whatever, uh, then, uh, you know, and that’s normally not the case.

It normally has to do with, uh, you know, sexual harassment or something like that.

And, uh, so people may not want to associate with you because they consider you a person of, you know, questionable morals or something.

Which is fine, which is fine.

If, if I, uh, if I know of someone who behaved in a way that I consider to be immoral, even in the past, and I may not want to associate with them.

So that doesn’t bother me.

What bothers me is when canceled culture is used to say, this person says something that I don’t agree with.

And because they have a position that I don’t agree with, therefore we should all gang up on him or her, or flood their Twitter feed with all kinds of attacks.

Uh, or we won’t let that person, say that person is a professor at a university,

uh, that person therefore should be fired.

Uh, or someone is coming to give a talk and we don’t agree with our position, therefore we should all boycot and demonstrate.

In other words, shouting people down, basically.

And, and I think this is a fundamental problem in our society.

Is this basic intolerance for disagreement.

Why can’t you just disagree and explain why you think you’re right and the other person can explain why they think they’re right.

Like we needn’t cancel each other out.

Let’s listen to each other instead.

Elle: Hmm.

I agree for sure.

Uh, out of interest, what was the article?

That it was a news article that you’d commented on that some people didn’t

like…

Steve: Well yeah, there was, there was a news article that said that university students in Saskatchewan, which is a province in Canada for those who are not from Canada, uh, that they were, uh, eating more unhealthy food and drinking more alcohol because of the, uh, restrictions the, uh, as a result of COVID.

And, uh, I just expressed, I felt that this, you know, I didn’t have tremendous sympathy for them and maybe I was wrong, but I just felt that in our society, when we consider all the people who are suffering from COVID: older people in long-term care homes, their family, that can’t see them.

A lot of these people are dying without seeing their families.

You’ve got people who have lost their jobs and in some cases it could be a single mum, the sole supporter of the family, whatever, compared to all of these people, uh, a student at university, uh, is, is not someone who, you know, it attracts a lot of sympathy from me.

They should, in my view, uh, they’re at university, most of which is paid for by the government.

Uh, they’re presumably they’re surrounded by books.

They can get online, they can communicate with their friends online.

In fact, if you’re living in Saskatchewan, you can get out.

There’s lots… i, in fact, Googled on the internet, there’s lots of cross country ski trails in both Regina and Saskatoon, which are the major cities where the universities are.

Get out, get fit, get, uh, like I have this, um, uh, high intensity interval training app.

Every morning, seven minutes puts me through my paces.

Like, you’re young, you have your whole life ahead of you.

Uh, older people may not have that many years ahead of them and they’re facing a far worse situation.

So I didn’t express much sympathy for these students.

Well, bunch of students came at me.

I was at home and stuff like that.

Elle: Right then it turns into, you know, I read of course, I”m part of the LingQ team, part of the marketing team,

so I read some of the Tweets and a lot of it, then you find turns into an us versus them.

So in your case, it was, you know, you’re a boomer.

You don’t understand the…

Steve: yeah, well, that’s, that’s the other thing is, is that the part of the… cancel culture began with the people who feel they are quote “progressive”.

Okay.

So if I have a position that’s quote “progressive”, you’re not allowed to disagree with it, and it’s very progressive to be gay, black, you know, anything that’s considered historically sort of victims.

And of course they were, and perhaps still are victims of discrimination and, uh, fewer opportunities and all of this is true, but that doesn’t mean that someone who like me I’m like I had it on a number of occasions.

If I get into a little disagreement, then I’m just an old white, you know, and I won’t use the term.

So like, what’s wrong with being old, old, white male that’s bad, like right away.

If you’re old white male, then that means that you’re basically not to be listened to.

Well, um, I don’t know nothing wrong with being old.

Uh, you’ve certainly experienced a lot more of the world than a younger person has.

Um, I think there’s an excessive obsession with race in everything.

Uh, I don’t think whites are better or worse than any other group of people.

And so I think the, the biggest part of this cancel culture has come from the universities where certain quote, “progressive” views are the only ones that are considered acceptable.

And anyone who challenges these views is bad.

So yeah, I’m not in favor of that.

Elle: Hmm.

That makes me think of a controversial Canadian that, um, I would love to hear her opinion on actually.

Um, so Jordan Peterson, I’m sure you’re aware of Jordan Peterson.

Um, so yeah, he’s a. Go ahead.

No, go ahead.

What do you think of him?

Steve: Well, when he first appeared on the scene, I saw him in an interview with this woman on the BBC, I think, and he was very good.

Like he’s a good debater and, uh, whatever she seemed to say, he was able to answer.

And, um, you know, he, he, I guess he first got some notoriety when he refused to use these new pronouns that some university, you know, officials at the university of Toronto decided you can’t go, he or she, you have to use some of these artificially invented pronouns.

And he was opposed to that.

And I agreed with him, uh, you know, we have our language.

I mean, where are you going to stop?

You know, uh, in French they have gender for, you know, la table or whatever.

Like, so now we can’t have that.

We can’t have a female table.

It’s gotta be, you know, neuter table or something.

It’s just silly.

It affects so few people, so we’re going to force everybody.

And I must say I’m very allergic when I see, anywhere, you know, somebody gives their name.

I’m Steve and my pronouns are he and him.

That’s just ridiculous.

In my opinion, it’s ridiculous.

It may come to be that that becomes accepted and the norm, whatever, but people are quite entitled to push back against this.

Uh, I don’t agree.

I don’t want to use, I will not use those pronouns.

Sorry.

Uh, however, the more exposure Peterson got, the more, it became evident that he was a bit of a kook.

Uh, and, uh, I’m not sure he’s totally psychologically balanced.

Elle: He’s had some issues lately, I’ve read.

Steve: Some issues.

And he also was, you know, there is this, you know, within say Western society, because,

because of sort of old white male is being challenged.

So then there’s this pushback, which is to suggest that everything good in the world came from old white males.

Like the European Christian, all this stuff is good.

We have, you know, provided these wonderful values and Western sort of civilization and stuff like that, which is actually very myopic, because everything that we have in the world,

or which is part of Western civilization is sort of an accumulation of influences.

You know, technological influences from China, influences through the middle East.

I’m, now I’m learning Persian, Arabic.

And you read about how developed even central Asia, which we not consider a bit of a backwater economically,,

at least they were far more advanced.

Uh, because they were sitting there sort of on the crossroads of, you know, China influences from China and India.

You know, our mathematics, our science, our are so-called, you know, they, they love to talk about Judeo Christian values because, you know, whereas the values that underpin our society in the West are not Judaeo-Christian they’re in fact pagan, because it was the Greeks and the Romans that gave us our laws gave us, you know, the first

efforts at democracy, which didn’t include everyone in society, but there was this idea that you can have, uh, you know, uh, democratic, although limited suffrage, uh, system.

And so much of everything that we have is that it’s an amalgamation of influences from all over the world.

And this process is continuing.

So Jordan Peterson, he got up on his high horse about how wonderful, you know, the sort of, uh, you know, the white man’s burden kind of thing.

So there was more, the more I heard him speak the less I was impressed, but the first time I heard him speak challenging, sort of these, um, you know, conventional sort of attack it’s about, uh, uh, you know, protecting, you know, women are being unfairly…

he was making the point that in many professions where you have fewer women than men it’s because women are less interested in those professions.

I can’t remember all the arguments, but there were a lot of arguments like that.

And, and undoubtedly, historically, women have been disadvantaged.

So it’s, it’s a good thing that, uh, women are, I was saying, no, me too,

I want to, you know, learn mathematics or whatever.

And I certainly agree that, uh, women prime ministers, presidents can be as good, but they’re not necessarily better either.

They’re just made, should be there and have their equal opportunity and, and people should be open-minded to, to choosing, you know, either one or the other more based… and this gets back to this whole idea of even race.

You shouldn’t vote for someone like, and we have this in Canada that Chinese member of parliament says vote for me because I’m Chinese, uh, or you know, diversity.

So we must have X number of, uh, people of all different origins in the cabinet to reflect, uh, you know, the racial makeup of our society.

And I don’t agree with that at all.

I think you should just choose… but even in saying that there are people who would want to cancel me right away for saying.

Elle: Hm.

Yeah.

Oh for sure.

Steve: Yeah.

And in my companies, but in selling lumber, we have always had employees who were gay, uh quote “of color”, whatever that means.

I’m not sure what that means because the variations of color within every group can vary.

But people who are, could be identified as racial minorities, we’ve always had immigrants.

We’ve had everything.

And never did I hire someone because I wanted to have a diverse workforce.

That was never a consideration.

And we’ve had Sikhs.

We’ve had you name it.

I, we, and anyone working in our organization and I think most employers hire based on, can this person do the job?

Be they male, female, gay, Sikh, Chinese, African.

We just hired a programmer in Ghana.

Uh, to work, you know, uh, remotely, but on our project at LingQ.

We’re looking for the best people.

I think most people are.

So I think, uh, the, the, the sort of push for diversity and, and people of color, and we must do this and must do that.

That’s fine.

Have that position, but then don’t cancel out someone who pushes back and says, well, actually I don’t believe in hiring based on diversity.

I believe in hiring based on competence.

That’s something that’s a legitimate position.

Your position is you should hire based on diversity.

That’s fine.

You can, I’m not going to cancel you out because that’s what you think, but you shouldn’t cancel me out because I have a different perspective.

Elle: Fair enough.

That’s a very good point, actually.

Well, thank you, Steve.

I think we’re just about at time here.

This is, that was pretty interesting.

I hope that you don’t get cancelled for this.

Steve: Well, I hope we stir up some controversy.

Controversy is good.

Disagreement is good.

Elle: It is.

Steve: Rarely do you persuade the other person of your point of view.

However, you’re forced to think about why you think what you think, you have to listen to, what the other person has to say.

That person has to listen to you.

You may not move them.

They’re forced to justify their position.

So discussion, debate is good.

Elle: Yeah, exactly.

Exactly.

Excellent.

Well, thank you so much, Steve.

Um, I’m sure we’ll chat again.

Thank you for joining me and bye.

Steve: Bye-bye.

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