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In Conversation with Barbara Kay (Part One)

May 8, 2018

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 17.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Thirteen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: May 8, 2018

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2018

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 8,921

ISSN 2369-6885

In Conversation with Barbara Kay

Abstract

An interview with Barbara Kay. She discusses: her origin story; later Hebrew studies; cultural trends, and Jewish upbringing and culture; raising children; Canada, identity politics, and multiculturalism; pitting one group against another by accident; integration; Academia and its problems; policy, evidence, and rapidity of change; narcissism, culture, and identity; the “Hollywood pathology”; Monty Python and Noam Chomsky; moral grandstanding; sexual misconduct and being upright compared to being kept upright; information siloes; and social media.

Keywords: Academia, Barbara Kay, columnist, Hollywood, Jewish, journalist, Judaism, multiculturalism, Noam Chomsky, sexual misconduct.

In Conversation with Barbara Kay: Columnist and Journalist, National Post (Part One)[1],[2],[3],[4]

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Let us start at the beginning like a superhero origin story.

Barbara Kay: [Laughing].

Jacobsen: What was family upbringing and background, e.g. geography, culture, language, religion, or lack thereof?

Kay: I grew up in Toronto. My father was a first generation Canadian from an immigrant Polish family. He was born here, but some of his older brothers and sisters were not. He grew up very poor. He established himself as a young man as dynamic and entrepreneurial. He was a salesman and had his own factory.

By the time I grew up, we were living in upper-middle class, very fortunate surroundings in Forest Hill village, which is known as a [Laughing] very privileged enclave. That is where I grew up. I am Jewish. I grew up surrounded by my cultural and religious peers in that enclave. I went through the Forest Hill Public School System.

It was unusual in Toronto. In that, the school had a mostly Jewish population. People like myself: middle-class Jewish kids. Although Forest Hill, itself was not particularly Jewish as a neighbourhood. It was just that most of the non-Jewish kids went to the private schools.

We had the public-school systems [Laughing] to ourselves. It was a terrific environment to grow up in because we were all the children of striving, upwardly mobile parents who had a very strong work and self-improvement ethic.

We were well-disciplined children. We had very good teachers. In those days, the Forest Hill system was not part of the whole Metro system. They could hire their own teachers. If I recall, they paid higher. I know that in high school several of my teachers had master’s degrees, even a few with PhDs.

It was a good education. We had an incredible outcomes rate, in terms of how many people graduated and wrote the provincial exams and did very well. A very high, unusually so, number of our graduates went on to university.

I went to university from 1960-64. My undergraduate years, in those days, I believe that only about 8% of the population went to university. Of those 8%, perhaps only a quarter of those may have been women, if that.

From my high school, many girls, went on to university. Pretty well all the boys went. So, I had a very unusual education in that respect, but it did not seem unusual to me. I am the middle child of three girls. We were all expected to go to university, and did.

Nobody I knew had parents who didn’t expect their sons at least to go to university, and many their daughters as well. In that sense, I had an extremely privileged education and cultural background. I would say feminist before its time in a certain way: some ways yes and some ways no. I do not know how much detail you want me to get into about the culture in the broader sense [Laughing].

Culturally speaking, it was kind of an unusual situation. We girls were very much encouraged to exercise our intelligence in the widest possible framework. We were lauded and approved and, in every way, encouraged to go on to higher education in, well, whatever we wanted to do.

At the same time, we got a double message: Get an education, but also “Find somebody young, get married, settle down, have a family.” The most important cultural value that my parents espoused, and so did everybody else I knew, was family.

A stable family was the highest value. At the same time, educational status, maybe, it was not the education itself that they valued and maybe it was the status that came with it, but, in some sense, it was a contradictory message.

I was not encouraged to have a career, but the education was encouraged for me. I took up a subject that really interested me, even though it was unlikely to provide me a career. So, my first choice was Classical Studies with an English option.

Latin with an English option was the name of the course. It was an Honors course at the University of Toronto. I majored in Latin. Could you choose a more useless subject? [Laughing]

Jacobsen: [Laughing] Unless, you want to enter the theological disciplines.

Kay: Yes, exactly, [Laughing] I was not intending to enter Theology. I did Latin. I had a wonderful high school Latin teacher. She inspired me. For two years, I was in Classical Studies with English Literature, then I transferred fully into English Literature. I loved novels. I loved to read novels.

I had no idea what I was going to do with that degree. I was subliminally looking around. I was dating guys thinking, “Is this the guy I am going to marry? Is that the guy?” Because I figured I would be married by the time I graduated; otherwise, that would be quite embarrassing [Laughing]. I was figuring “Wow, I am getting old. This better happen.” And also I had this degree in English Literature.

I was not planning to go into higher studies, but I got a very coveted fellowship: the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. I applied for that on a lark. Somebody dared me to, so I did and got it. That paid for my higher education. It paid for a master’s degree at any university in North America.

It paid full tuition plus living expenses. So, I was accepted wherever I applied. I was accepted at Stanford, University of Chicago, and all these wonderful places. But I got engaged, so I ended up going to McGill for my master’s degree because my husband was getting his Master of Business Administration at McGill. So, naturally, the choice was made for me.

That was my upbringing.

Jacobsen: Also, you did not choose graduate to specialize in Hebrew or Aramaic along with the Latin [Laughing].

Kay: No, I did not, but I did go to Hebrew school when I was young – after school Hebrew school twice a week and Sunday mornings. So, I did have a grounding in Hebrew as well, which, by the way, later in life, served me well when I did go back to Jewish Studies at McGill and did take up Hebrew Studies, so I would be more competent.

2. Jacobsen: What inspired that move back into education for Hebrew Studies later in life?

Kay: I got very involved – I had never been estranged from religious life. We had a typical upbringing. My parents had come from very religious families. My mother was from Detroit. Her family was more modern Orthodox for their day. My father’s family was extremely Orthodox and very much in the old-fashioned sense. His father had a beard.

My grandfather in Montreal never actually learned English. So, all the 9 children – my father was the youngest of 9 children – stayed very attached to Jewish life, but they all became integrated into Canadian society. So, instead of Orthodox, they were all members of conservative shuls – synagogues – as were we.

I went through a religious phase in high school. I wanted to be more Orthodox. I had a boyfriend who was very Orthodox. For several years, I was immersed in reading about Judaism and Jewish history. I had a penchant. Religious life is important. It has a very strong effect on our culture, whether we are religious or not.

Then I drifted away from practicing observant Judaism. But I always remained attached to my religion in a cultural sense. When we had children in Montreal, we joined a more liberal synagogue. I was always very interested in Judaism as a civilization.

I stayed very interested, and became very Zionist. I was motivated to go back to Jewish Studies because I knew that I wanted to go to Israel. I had never been there. I wanted to go with my family. I wanted to speak Hebrew when I got there.

Jacobsen: [Laughing] Show-off.

Kay: Ya! I put in the time. When I got there, I could carry on a modest conversation in Hebrew. That is all gone now. It is dormant. But I can read Hebrew for liturgical purposes. It is fine.

3. Jacobsen: I note some trends in the cultural background provided by you. The work ethic and the value in education, especially higher education, as well as the emphasis on family and children in addition to the religious traditions that encapsulate those.

When I think about the cultures that value family and marriage, those are the ones that last a long time, whether Navajo, Hopi, Chinese, or Jewish cultures – even with the changes in geography and time. There is a certain wisdom in the tradition that you were brought up in terms of building that long-term culture.

Something, that you did not necessarily state, but I note in conversation with others. It is the deep ties between and amongst generations within that culture. So, the elders, the middle-aged, and the young have a mutual respect. The elders in terms of having a long-term knowledge about the world.

The middle-aged in terms of likely being more involved in things in that culture. The young in terms of having a fresh perspective on things. Those are deep ties important for long-standing cultures to persist.

Kay: I do think my background stands for what you are talking about. It is a strong strain. I think a normative strain in Jewish culture. There are other, perhaps, marginalized types of Jewish backgrounds. Some come from the anti-establishment, Jewish culture of the Bundhists that came from Europe. They were very anti-religion.

But they were very pro-Jewish culture. They were very immersed in “Yiddishkeit”: Yiddish literature and all that. Many were part of the Communist Party. They were very active in the communist movement. That is the movement that David Horowitz was involved in, in his youth. The radical leftist who became the radical rightist [Laughing].

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Kay: The Red Diaper, that was a whole strain of Jewish culture. We were not that. We were the bourgeois, the broad path. That, yes, family is very important. My parents’ generation, there was a huge break. Their parents were European Jews. There was a break with those traditions in the sense that they wanted very badly to integrate into American and Canadian society.

The ties to my grandparents’ generation were much more tenuous for me. My children had a strong relationship with their grandparents. I did not. One came from a European world that was well lost in the Holocaust. He got out well before that. But that whole way of life that he practiced: that is gone.

My more modern grandparents in Detroit? I just did not see them enough to form strong bonds. But in the next generations, it is very, very different. Something like the Chinese and Indians. They have strong family bonds and strong mothers. Our role models, I would say Jewish mothers are very powerful in their homes.

Even in my mother’s generation where it was not usual for a mother to work, they were still extremely powerful figures in the home. They were active in the community. They were involved in fundraising, Jewish culture, or book clubs. They themselves were also striving for higher education or school. Many were trying to get their degrees.

When I was, for instance, raising my children, I was very happy to be an at-home mother. I still think that the luckiest children have their mothers at home. I am not saying that they become better people. They are usually happy children.

Because that is what children want. I wanted that too. I wanted that for myself. I did not want anyone else raising my children. But most of my friends, it was the same. Every single one of my friends – once the kids were in school full-time – ended up doing something very interesting, went back to school and became psychologists, or opened a book store, or started a clothing line, or got seriously into volunteer fund-raising at a professional level, or whatever.

I do not know any that simply sat around at home. This Feminist Mystique idea, that women were sitting around in their suburban homes drinking because they had no purpose in life. I did not see any of that. That was supposed to be my generation.

People like me or a little older than me. I do not know any Jewish woman who felt that sense of “What am I doing in my life? I have no purpose.” Nothing like that. They were all doing interesting things, even if they were not making a lot of money.

Although, some of them did [Laughing]. They are in real estate or something. The push to succeed, I know Jewish women who made homemaking a tremendous art. Being able to invite 20 people over for Sabbath dinner and say, “Yes, I did it all myself and cooked everything.”

For several women I know, this is a point of tremendous pride. I see nothing wrong with that. To be able to do and create a home where this type of hospitality is the norm, his is an amazing thing. Their children turn out to be socially well-adjusted.

They love the home life of warmth and the circle of community, where you feel that you are part of something larger than the nuclear family. This is a gift that you give children. I was never like that. In that, [Laughing] I never enjoyed having 16 people over at the drop of a hat.

But I did enjoy having my children as part of something larger than themselves.

4. Jacobsen: It shows up in most of the research for decades, too. Children in two-parent households tend to do better. If both parents are encouraged into education, as they were encouraged and allowed with the subtext of mother as an essential role for the woman, then the children also do better than others too.

In terms of the social development, you can have a bunch of gifted kids with IQs 130+. If they are social train wrecks, that intelligence will not get them as far as they would otherwise.

Kay: An environment where curiosity is encouraged and satisfied is good, where you are encouraged to push the envelope. One thing about Jewish families – not sure about Chinese or Indian families, it is very verbal and a very combative atmosphere, sometimes.

We argue a lot. Jews argue a lot. They hone their critical skills by testing each others’ arguments. It is sometimes an unruly atmosphere, very forthright and candid. It is very hyper-alert.

I am making it sound very positive. Sometimes, it is very negative. Jews are more neurotic, more anxious, more aggressive verbally, and very social, but in an intense way. That is often not very relaxing for other people.

I remember when I was young. Most of my friends were Jewish. When I had a non-Jewish friend, I wanted to cultivate her. I was fascinated by non-Jewish kids. They seemed very exotic. I am talking about WASP kids, who to other WASP kids are the least interesting people they know.

I would go to their homes and feel a peacefulness there, which I would not feel at my own home because there was a tension there. It was the same for most of the homes of the people that I knew; I had non-Jewish friends, who I found exotic.

I found that there was not this constant sense of striving, which I find among Jews. A kind of subliminal anxiety about missing something, missing a chance to not miss out on anything. It is also – my own interpretation – that you are always looking for social cues from others to make sure you are fitting into the group.

I am talking about integrated Jews like myself, who are very keen and very intent on fitting into the larger society. Looking back, I was not aware of myself as feeling so very different or so very much less sure of myself, culturally.

Now, I realize. We were all very unsure and trying very hard to feel both natural and feel accepted, and feel like we were fitting into something bigger, and often wondering if we were ‘making the grade.’

There was a cultural push-pull all the time. Always, always, we were looking for that subliminal sense: “are they anti-Semitic? Are they anti-Semitic?” You do not ask. I was never made the ‘butt’ of some joke.  People were not saying anything nasty to me.

You knew. Jews became good at reading facial expressions, tones of voice, because we all have our radar out and our antennae are always very Woody Allen.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Kay: He is an exaggeration, but he taps into that kind of nervousness that my generation felt. Obviously, it is less in my kids’ generation.

Jacobsen: It sounds like perennial existential angst.

Kay: It is! It is an angst. It is something we all have until we were old enough, until I was old enough to examine myself. We did not have identity politics at that time. The whole ethos then was “be grateful you are here and fit in! Do not ask for special consideration. In fact, prove that you’re worthy, prove that you are worthy by being worthier than everyone else.”

That was the whole educational thing and the striving and overachieving. That you want to be so good, not just good enough, so that your place was assured at the table. It is ironic when I see all this identity politics stuff, when I see people who expect entitlements, but do not expect to have to in any way pay a price for those entitlements.

In fact, you get special consideration because you are not the heritage Canadian or heritage American. You deserve that special consideration because you have been disadvantaged in the past or because of racialization. All these different things.

I look back and say, “Wait a minute, I had a 2,000-year history of persecution. But it would never occur to my parents, or to me, to say, ‘Because of what happened in the past to my people, I, therefore, should get some affirmative action or some kind of…’ No, no, just do not put obstacles in our paths. If you do not put obstacles in our path, you will see. Give us a chance. We will perform for you.”

We are a very performative people. (I do not like the word ingratiate.)

Jacobsen: [Laughing] We have the angst to prove it.

Kay: We have the angst to prove it. I am living proof [Laughing].

5. Jacobsen: With identity politics as a more modern phenomenon, it seems to come, in some cases for simplistic shorthand, out of good intent. On the other hand, in more and more cases, it seems to come from, not necessarily bad intent but, good intentions gone too far leading to negative consequences for more people than would be preferable because everything balances within a multicultural, pluralistic, democratic society such as Canada.

Kay: Multiculturalism is, I think, one of those good intentions philosophies that is rather pernicious and very self-defeating for a nation. It is an experiment that has never happened before. Most nations in the world, until very recently, had nation and culture as the same.

Most nations came out of ethnicity. So, democratic countries that are based on a creed, in a common belief system, rather than race or ethnicity. This is still very much an experimental form of national cohesion.

It is wonderful and good. That was the country that my grandparents came to, which was a country that believed in everybody contributing to and adopting the same principles and adapting. In many cases, it was shedding certain parts of your culture that did not fit into the mainstream idea of what this culture was about.

I thought, “That’s fair. That’s fair.” This is a country that my grandparents came to for more opportunity and freedom. There is a price to be paid for that, to a certain extent, culturally. If you are going to all fit in and be together, it makes sense that in the public forum that there is a certain harmony and unity.

You build up trust when everybody in the public forum knows the rules and knows social cues, and knows the basic values and the basic principles. That sounds like a good arrangement.

Multiculturalism is basically saying, “First of all, we think of you as a member of the group rather than an individual Canadian. We ask nothing of you in terms of adopting our values or our principles. Just be yourselves and be what you are. Here are your rights, we are not asking you to make any changes at all. Certain cultural extremes we have to resist, yes, but it has to be pretty extreme before our government springs into action to do anything about it.”

I think it is a bad experiment. I don’t think it works. We have had 3 or 4 heads of state in Europe say, publically, ‘Multiculturalism is a failure.’ I have no resentment that my family was told, “Adapt, start looking like we do, start acting a lot like we do, you will fit in.”

That is what we did. I do not think anyone regrets it. I am perfectly happy not to be speaking Yiddish instead of English [Laughing]. If I were living the life of my grandfather when we came here, I would be living in a little ghetto and very fearful and very much uninterested in what went on outside of my little neighbourhood.

I do not think that is great. I am not saying most people do not integrate after a generation or two. That should be the rule. That should be the expectation.

6. Jacobsen: Singapore took that model. Lee Kuan Yew made an explicit intrusion in public life. People, depending on what flat they were in, had to live in pre-segmented society. You live with this proportion of this ethnicity, this religion, and so on.

So, everyone got some relative exposure. Canada, as per the common ‘mosaic’ analogy, amounts to that. It has that fragmentation within its own borders. Cultures self-segregate, that does not help cohesion.

Kay: It sets one group against another, because the idea is that there is something almost holy about everyone else’s culture but our own. Our prime minister said, “Canada has no culture.” He said, “We are post-national/post-cultural.”

Anyways, he basically said that we do not have our own culture and are a collection of other people’s cultures. I think this is undermines national unity to take that view. I’m not a big fan, as you can see, of multiculturalism.

I like cultures that perpetuate what is best of what they came with. My children got a good Jewish education. Their children got a good Jewish education. But I do not expect that to be subsidized or catered to by the government.

Anyways, I think the old model – the ‘melting pot’ – was better.

7. Jacobsen: You noticed the nuance there with respect to family background. On the one hand, they kept much of their culture. However, they gave up parts of their culture to self-integrate into the larger culture.

It seems similar to having English as the main public language. It allows you to not only access the nation but also the international community as well.

Kay: It is interesting. Other cultures should influence our culture. Once you have many immigrants coming, and I love the idea of immigrants coming, it will inevitably change the society, but it should happen in an organic way.

I was in New York with a friend. I was talking about some TV shows. I was talking about New York City. I said, “New York is such a Jewish city, certainly in its entertainment. You do not even know in a TV show, like Seinfeld, who was Jewish. Did you know Elaine was not Jewish, for instance?”

They said, “Really?” I said, “No, Elaine Benes was not Jewish. George Costanza, I wasn’t even sure. Was he Italian? Was he Jewish?” [Laughing]

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Kay: “Kramer could have been anything” [Laughing]. But the thing is the sensibility because New York has so many Jews there. It developed a Jewish sensibility and sense of humor. It happened organically because there are so many. But it is a very American city as well.

But it isn’t like Cincinnati or Salt Lake City. Every city achieves its own character. Toronto is now very multicultural. When I grew up, it was so WASP, so WASP. It is multicultural, but in a good way in the sense of everybody mixing it up organically.

That part is good. I like that. What I do not like is the ideology around it, I do not like what is happening in the universities. I do not like the self-hatred, the guilt, the excessive guilt. This anti-whiteness, this whole colonial thing is very exaggerated. The shame at “our” imperialist past. It wasn’t mine [Laughing].

This is a very unhealthy part of our society.

8. Jacobsen: I want to use this to segue into the university system. Academia, to use passive language, has problems. How is that for a vague, passive statement?

Kay: Academia has big problems. The problems of academia are very much seeping into the institutional life beyond academia. We are well beyond academia now. Academia has had problems for decades and decades. All of the people that created those problems have graduated students who are bringing those problems into their jobs and careers, and creating all of the problems in our institutional life.

You do not need me to elaborate on all the origins of this, because Jordan Peterson can do it a lot better [Laughing]: feminism, identity politics, intersectionality, and so on. It has well shut down the kind of freewheeling life of intellectual discovery that I was privileged to enjoy at the University of Toronto in the 1960s.

Because, at that time, the universities were expanding. There was a lot of money for great professors. We had prestigious professors from England and America. There was no politics in the teaching. To me, it was what a university is supposed to be. I feel a sense of privilege in having been a part of that, the Golden Age of higher education.

But I am sure that you have had many interviews with people who have gone into the academic rot that we are living with now.

9. Jacobsen: It comes inside of and outside of the academic institutions. I find that as a common story. Over time, I notice the similar phenomena of one set or sub-set having legitimate good intents while another set having legitimate bad intents leading to bad consequences by its very nature.

It amounts to an ideological movement in that one sub-set. A very active sub-set, one thing that should make people suspicious, in general, is the fact that the empirical research moves slowly. The empirical research should inform the policies and, therefore, the political climate should be informed by it.

Of course, personalities happen, historical inertia, influence how politics ‘plays out.’ However, the empirical world moves much more slowly. If something moves fast in policy, I would have my antennae up because the empirical research doesn’t move that fast.

If someone is trying to move something hard and fast in policy, I would remain suspicious because it is probably coming from an ideological position regardless of the empirical support for it.

Kay: Yes, I agree with you. I think we have seen some policies come into play over the last 5 years or so with, say, the trans activist movement. I have never seen policies move so fast in my life. It has been such a whirlwind of activism.

It is like a machine. Suddenly, we have gone from barely understanding the nature of what this is, gender dysphoria, to all the sudden we have laws in place that do not allow parents to take their child to a psychologist or a psychiatrist.

You have laws in place that insist that a child’s parents do not have a say if the child takes hormones or puberty blockers. In British Columbia, you have this program called SOGI being taught in the schools, SOGI 123. It is not based in science or research at all.

It is based totally an ideology. I think it is an extremely harmful program for children – to basically ask them to deny themselves, to deny their own biological reality. To teach them that they cannot trust their own sense of who they are or link it to their own biology – insisting that they recognize gender as something that is floating around and totally fungible.

I am so shocked by the rapidity with which this movement has installed itself in pedagogical hierarchies and the social services. I have a friend who is an endocrinologist, a real scientist. He said, “If somebody comes to me and asks for puberty blockers, for a kid, I cannot say, ‘Maybe, you should get a psychiatric evaluation before you go forward with this.’ I could lose my job over that.”
Pediatricians and endocrinologists have their hands really tied. He said this is really bizarre because 5 years ago he could, but now he can’t. I think that if I had a child being infected by this social contagion, which is what it is, I would feel that I was in a Kafkaesque nightmare.

Many parents probably feel this way. In fact, they do. I have talked to many parents. They feel as though their child has been body-snatched. They are being indoctrinated into a very pernicious ideology that seeks to normalize something that is highly abnormal.

That is rare and abnormal. To banalize it, and to make it something on a spectrum that everybody is on, it is just a matter of choice. That your body is irrelevant to your sense of identity, which is an amazing thing to be teaching children.

Children should be taught to be comfortable in their bodies. All – not all we have – we are is our bodies. To be saying, “Your body is irrelevant to your true identity.” To tell a child that, it is like saying, “Your mother and father seem to be your mother and father, but in reality they might be total strangers.”

I think it is so destabilizing and could be so traumatic for a child, frightening. These are the people that are suddenly the authorities in our schools. It is like “Who do the children belong to?” They belong to the state in terms of gender. Sex and gender are such an obsession in our society.

I feel a little Kafkaesque myself [Laughing], having grown up in a society in which sex is one part of your life; it is not your whole life. There are other things out there besides your sexuality and your gender issues. Today, it is as if there is nothing else.

That and your race, of course, that’s it! That is who you are.

10. Jacobsen: Christina Hoff Sommers had a great statement, which was almost a throwaway statement. She is from AEI. She is part of what I call the “three angels” from AEI: Dr. Sally Satel, Caroline Kitchens, and Christina Hoff Sommers.

It was a throwaway comment, but an astute statement. She noted the kinds of self-absorption involved in some of these movements. It is tough at times to have the discussion. It is inflammatory to a lot of people.

That is one protection against any kind of critical examination. Also, the mushing together, like a bunch of hot potatoes, of the phrases, the terminologies, the definitions. For instance, I can make this a little bit more concrete.

If you look at the cases of sexual orientation, people will consider this physiological-sexual arousal towards the opposite sex, same sex, or both, akin to one’s general identity. So, let’s have the child consider themselves a purple dragon, the mushing together of that general identity.

This large abstract world set of concepts gets mushed together with something more well-defined such as physiological arousal for men, women, or both.

Kay: It is a culture of narcissism. Christopher Lash called it a “Therapy Culture,” or was that Theodore Reik? We are living in a culture that is so self-absorbed and so consumed with this idea of identity. That is the only thing that matters in life.

Sometimes, I feel like I want to say, “Do you have any idea the kind of suffering that has gone on in history? You have to be living in a golden bubble to think that this is the most important thing in life: who you are attracted to, how much you are attracted, how you feel today, if you feel more boy or girl, and all that stuff. Do these people have no sense of history and how narcissistic they are?”

Have you seen the series Transparent? I am watching it. I am amazed by it. It is a very well-written, very well-acted production. The production value and everything is great. Every single character, except one who is a rabbi, thinks all day, every day, about sex, gender, and how they look, how they present, who they are attracted to, kinky sex, traditional sex, and sex with husbands, without husbands.

A wife leaves a husband because she has a sexual encounter with a lesbian. She leaves a husband and two children the same day that she was kissed, without a plan. The whole point of the series seems to be to absolutely normalize this as perfectly fine.

This is the way people are. This is all they think about. All they want to think about and we should be sympathetic to this. I find it a very unsettling world, particularly since it has gotten such adulatory reviews. People are swooning over this series.

I am riveted by it. It is riveting. It is worth seeing because it is riveting for the acting and intelligence of the scripts, but it is a very scary series because it captures so accurately the narcissism of our culture. It is quite shocking.

Jacobsen: That seems like a particular Hollywood pathology.

Kay: It doesn’t have a Hollywood vibe to it. In the sense that, it is far more intelligent than a typical Hollywood movie. It does present some of the dark side too. It is not an advertisement for being trans. It shows you the dark side of this culture.

It shows you the dark side of lesbian culture. So, it is very fair in many ways. It is very harsh, in some ways, the view of these worlds, but the one thing it does seem to say, and to say with no judgment, is that people who are consumed with sex all the time are, basically, sympathetic people and represent a slice of normal middle-class life in its own way.

It is also supposed to be – and I also started watching because it is very Jewish – about a Jewish family. Some say it is “the most Jewish show on television.” I say, “No, no, I don’t think so” [Laughing].

Yes, they are noticeably Jewish in their social presentation and verbal animation, very Jewish, in their outward appearance. They do have a lot of activities that revolve around Jewish life, but no. For one thing, there is this total lack of modesty. This total lack of respect for a certain physical decency I associate with being Jewish. The whole thing to me, or at least in the Judaism I was brought up in, is shrieking the opposite.

What it is, it is the cultural appropriation of Judaism to serve the ideology of progressivism. What it is, it has taken a Jewish form as a vessel for progressive content and has said, “This is a Jewish family.” But it isn’t. It is a progressive family that is exploiting the Jewish tropes for entertainment and ideological purposes.

11. Jacobsen: That is more what I meant by the shorthand of “Hollywood pathology.” You can’t have an award show. You must make a self-congratulatory, social activist award show.

Kay: Right, right.

Jacobsen: Most people are for many of the more moderate claims of social activism. We should try to help people in worse circumstances in your neighbourhood. Things like this. It is the false presentation of a pseudo-norm as the norm, which bothers many people.

Kay: By the way, to use this word, “norm,” is very subversive, you realize that.

Jacobsen: [Laughing] Same with “virtue.”

Kay: I learned long ago. I always thought “norm” was something quantitative. In other words, if 95% of a population has dark eyes and hair, then you would say, “The norm in this country is dark hair and eyes.” I wouldn’t expect the 5% of people who have blue eyes to be calling me “blue-eye-o-phobic.”

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Kay: [Laughing] But really, the use of the word norm in the old says. If someone said, “Is he gay?” You would say, “No, he is normal.” You could never say that now. So, norms are a bad word because we accept the idea of fluidity, of all boundaries being collapsed so that there are no norms.

I think Jordan Peterson is right to say that this is a way to take power away, because a norm has power. In the sense that, the norm is what is the default. You have to take power away from white people because this is the norm.

Power has to go somewhere. So, if you take it away from one group, then another group is going to get it. That is okay with the ideologues.

The norm is socially speaking and culturally speaking bourgeois and middle-class home and family. All this is the norm. This is what ideologues hate. Their activism is about undermining the whole idea of normal.

That way, if everything is so fluid, it does take your power away. The ground shifts under your feet, then you are not sure of anything. The pronouns became such a huge issue because it stripped the idea that there is a norm for the language.

Language is – or should be – dependable and reliable. “They” is the plural of “he” or “she.” It is unnerving and meant to be unnerving.

I keep referring to Jordan Peterson because I feel he is so famous for articulating so many of the inchoate emotions, the anxiety and angst, that we are all feeling as we see what we thought were dependable cultural norms being deliberately collapsed.

The idea is to make people who thought they were normal feel in a sense abnormal because there is no normal anymore. Then to question your identity, to question everything, especially the family unit because the family unit is the one thing that the state knows they cannot truly fight, people are loyal to their families and not to the state.

So, the less family life there is then the more the state can intrude on the individual’s life. This is where this utopianism comes into play. Ideologies that are anti-family have a utopian view of the world. It is perfectible. But to get to this perfectible state, they have to mess a lot of people’s lives up.

We cannot have institutions that guard their own privacy. Their own standards. Their own values. These are enemies of the state. We are certainly rambling! [Laughing]

12. Jacobsen: This is good. You made me think. With regards to the prior statements as well as the “Hollywood pathology,” I am reminded of two things. One, a clip from Life of Brian of Monty Python. Another one, a statement by Noam Chomsky about the French pathology.

With regards to the former point, I note the scene where one of the characters. They are sitting in a coliseum or a stadium of the time. One of them says, “I want to be a woman.” John Cleese says, “You can’t be a woman.”

This begins to rise in tension and as the conversation develops. One of them says, “I want to have a baby.” John Cleese says, “You can’t have a baby. You don’t have a womb!”

Kay: [Laughing].

Of course, the male who feels like a woman begins to cry. Plus, we add technology on top of it, medical technology. We have medical technology to do, apparently, relatively precise surgery to cut up physical appearance in some way.

People will make those kinds of statements as the male that felt like the woman cried, more boldly. That is the first point. I love that scene. To the professor Chomsky point, with regards to the French pathology, he noted that with postmodernists in that area.

Jacques, Lacan, Foucault…

Kay: Derrida, Foucault, and all that gang.

Jacobsen: Yes, all that gang, that amounts to a French pathology with complete deconstructionism. Even those people do not believe their own claims about there being no facts, as Chomsky has noted elsewhere, they step out of the room and expect to step on something solid.

Kay: Sure, they think everything is relative except their own statements. Their own statements are settled science, but there is no truth except our own truth. It is very circular and makes no sense.

13. Jacobsen: Yes, it is the same as the parody of sophisticated theological thought. One asks, “How do we know God is real?” The other responds, “Well, it says so in the Bible.” The first asks, “How do you know God wrote the Bible?” The other again responds, “It says so in the Bible.” This kind of stuff.

Kay: Yes! Very circular.

Jacobsen: It is a self-parody in many ways. Between that scene from the Life of Brian from Monty Python and the statement of professor Noam Chomsky, who has been quite a vociferous critic of postmodernism whenever or wherever forms it may arise in, they relate a little bit to what I call the “Hollywood pathology” as well.

If you look at the moral grandstanding, the self-aggrandizement, of Hollywood at large, not all but writ large, the general culture is a form of – some use the term “virtue signalling” but – saying, “I am a moral exemplar because I state our liberal Hollywood cultural truisms.”

Kay: Yes, I think it is about talking the talk. I find that the Hollywood people – the people like Justin Trudeau –  they think that voicing a sentiment is a form of activism. They think that they have done something when they say, “I believe in this,” or, “This is wrong,” or, “Racism is wrong.”

Then they step down from the stage and feel as if they have done something. They have not done anything. Hollywood, often, is behind the times.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Kay: They do not start really getting on a bandwagon until it has become quite accepted in the general population. Hollywood can be quite craven. Hollywood stopped having Islamist villains when they got threats to stop. They did. They caved into Muslim demand.

China too. I forget what China’s demand [Laughing] was. But I remember seeing Rob Reiner discuss it with Tucker Carlson. It is so courageous, but when China said, “Stop doing whatever it was doing, they stopped.” I wish the Hollywood award shows would go back to simply celebrating their art and drama.

It is sickening having to listen to these people spout off one after the other about their values and principles. That very few of them do anything at all to make the world a better place.

14. Jacobsen: Many people will agree with the values stated by them. But I think one came up with the recent and ongoing sexual misconduct scandals.

Kay: Yes!

Jacobsen: Many will proclaim certain values. But the problem seems to me a lot of people know about it, for one. But I think a prerequisite to being moral is to be moral. Hollywood people, for a large portion, are being kept upright.

They made statements about sexual misconduct being bad. Then the sexual misconduct allegations came out with hundreds of them for dozens of men. Then they had the gall to have that award ceremony where they spoke out about those things.

It is good to speak out about these things if you are at the same time backing it up beforehand with actions. But it is after the fact. So, they were being kept upright rather than being upright to begin with.

Kay: Look at all the people who have no problem working with Roman Polanski., who is a convicted rapist, everybody knows about that. That is no secret. But people want to make movies. They think he makes pretty good movies, so they will work with him.

Actresses will work with him. There is a tremendous amount of hypocrisy in this. The “Hollywood casting couch”? There is a reason that phrase has been in use for so many decades. It is a quid pro quo.

I am sure there are very few people like Harvey Weinstein – I mean who are as gross as he is. But I am also sure there are plenty of men who have some influence in show business who will offer opportunities for beautiful young women in exchange for sex. I think a lot of that sex is given very willingly as a transactional thing, where both are in cahoots.

Now, that is all looked at as sexual misconduct. When you extract sex for an opportunity, that is considered sexual misconduct. But to the women who get the advantage, who get the part in the movie, or who get the step up in the career, why is it sexual misconduct if you get something out of it?

The same people would say that prostitution is a perfectly legitimate occupation if somebody wants to do it. If they want to sell their body for money, selling your body for a part in a movie, how is that different?

So, it is up to you. If that is the only way to get it, you have a choice to make: how badly do you want that part in that movie? How badly do you want that opportunity? It is a buyer’s market in Hollywood. Everybody knows it. You better be selling something special if you want to make the grade.

If you have some special talent, you may make it anyways. It is a compromised town. It really is. So, I agree with you. The hypocrisy is really pretty sickening.

Jacobsen: Maybe, the moral grandstanding comes out of a certain existential angst.

Kay: These are dramatic people full of self-love. They are narcissistic people. They trade in image, and brand. Most are afraid of not being a part of the pack. Nobody wants to be shunned in Hollywood. It is jumping on that bandwagon. I think a lot of them are not overly intelligent people.

I think these are people who mostly have one thing on their mind. Not many of them sit around reading The New Republic or The National Review. So, they do not know a lot about politics, but they do know what to say that is politically correct. They say it.

They get a podium to say it. They get this wave of warmth and love what is easy to say. So, why shouldn’t they say it?

15. Jacobsen: Many people distrust Fox News. I think that is a fair statement. Fewer people distrust some of the comedic reporting…

Kay: …Yes…

Jacobsen: …coming out of some of the late-night shows. Some of the late-night shows have taken on that guise. Some might claim otherwise. But my observation is that the comedy is part of it, of course, but, sometimes, it is pushing a particular political narrative at the same time.

Kay: Yes, I do not know what the statistics are, but it is quite a large number of people say they get their news by watching Bill Maher and Jimmy Kimmel and all of these late-night guys. They don’t watch regular news anymore. The numbers have gone down.

Jacobsen: They don’t read the other side either.

Kay: They are not big readers.

16. Jacobsen: I think there was a Twitter analysis of people’s habits. They inferred habits. When they looked at it, people that identified as conservative and liberal self-segregated for the most part.

Kay: For sure, we are all in our siloes. I am guilty of it. There is only a certain amount of time. A certain amount of YouTube videos, and Twitter information, and so on, that you can follow at a time. I think I am going get the stuff I need to see. I am watching the YouTube of people who I have interest in.

I have no interest in watching liberal or progressive. I take that in by osmosis. So, I look for content that will be helpful for me in framing my own perspective. For absolute or objective news, I want objective sources. But you can still get objective news at The Wall Street Journal.

You can read a conservative opinion newspaper and still get the objective news on the news page for that. But Twitter is addictive. Don’t you find?

Jacobsen: Actually, I do not have a profile.

Kay: Really?!

17. Jacobsen: Yes, I have one for the journal. I have some social media for it, but I only got them because I was pressured into doing it. If I publish an article, I retweet it or spread it on Facebook. If I can’t find the email for the person that I want to interview, I will reach out to them on Facebook.

But I do not use them for what they were intended to be used for.

Kay: You are lucky if you are not. I do find Twitter to be quite addictive. I do spend an inordinate amount of time on it. I keep saying, “I am going to just see my notifications.” But on the way there, you get hooked by articles.

A couple of people that I follow and really like, they put out a lot of stuff. They point to articles that are really good or useful for me professionally. I have to say that if I were young today. I would very much doubt if I would have gone into English Literature because I would not have had time to read books.

I am so grateful in a way because I lived in a time before all of this. Because I got to read a lot of the world’s great literature. I do not think I would have been able to if I grew up with all this social media, like all the kids I see with their heads in their phones.

I would be very busy and back-and-forth. I was always solitary in my time, but I was not lonely because I was always reading. It is a very different world, very different.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Columnist and Journalist, National Post.

[2] Individual Publication Date: May 8, 2018 at http://www.in-sightjournal.com/kay; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2018 at https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

[3] B.A., University of Toronto; M.A., McGill University.

[4] Image Credit: Barbara Kay.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. In Conversation with Barbara Kay: Columnist and Journalist, National Post (Part One) [Online].May 2018; 17(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/kay.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2018, May 8). In Conversation with Barbara Kay: Columnist and Journalist, National Post (Part One)Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/kay.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. In Conversation with Barbara Kay: Columnist and Journalist, National Post (Part One). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A, May. 2018. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/kay>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2018. “In Conversation with Barbara Kay: Columnist and Journalist, National Post (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/kay.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “In Conversation with Barbara Kay: Columnist and Journalist, National Post (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A (May 2018). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/kay.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2018, ‘In Conversation with Barbara Kay: Columnist and Journalist, National Post (Part One)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 17.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/kay>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2018, ‘In Conversation with Barbara Kay: Columnist and Journalist, National Post (Part One)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 17.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/kay.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “In Conversation with Barbara Kay: Columnist and Journalist, National Post (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 17.A (2018):May. 2018. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/kay>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. In Conversation with Barbara Kay: Columnist and Journalist, National Post (Part One) [Internet]. (2018, May; 17(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/kay.

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In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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