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The two 'fatal flaws lurking in American leftist politics': a humble attempt to help Jordan Peterson with his challenge

By Izzy Kalman - posted Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Fatal Flaw One: erasing the line between objective and subjective harm

There are two basic categories of negative acts: 1) those that cause objective harm, and 2) those that cause subjective harm. Of course, an act can cause a combination of both, but it's important to recognize the distinction.

Objective harm is the result of an act that if you do it to me and I get hurt, you are the one who hurt me. Obvious examples are theft, assault, arson, rape and murder. Less obvious examples are denying me civil rights, such as the vote, equal public education, opportunity for employment, freedom of movement, and access to residence and health care.


Subjective harm is the result of an act that if you do it to me and I get hurt, Iam the one who hurt me. These are acts that hurt my feelings or that I find offensive. The classic example is an insult. If you insult me and I feel upset, I really upset myself.

Most of the acts that cause subjective harm are verbal. My attitude towards what you say to me determines how much pain it will cause me.

However, there are words that can cause objective harm. Examples are yelling fire in a crowded theater, slander and libel (which can destroy people's careers and social life) and incitement to violence.

The acts that are universally considered crimes by all civilized societies are the ones that cause objective harm. The proper job of a government is to protect its population from objective harm and to punish those who inflict it. A government cannot protect people from subjective harm because our feelings are not in its control. And when a government does treat acts of subjective harm as crimes, it makes everything worse. It increases both subjective harm and objective harm.

Imagine what life would be like if I call the police on you whenever you hurt my feelings? Would you admit guilt? No! You will vehemently defend yourself from the charges and try to blame me. Would you like me better? You will hate me, and will probably look for an opportunity to do something worse to get revenge against me. You will also hate the judge and the government for being so unfair to you. Your anti-social feelings will grow.

But this is precisely what the left has done. It has erased the boundary between objective and subjective harm. It treats offending people like it's the ultimate act of evil. It has declared the traditional slogan, "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me," to be a lie, and replaced its conclusion with, "but words can scar me forever/can kill me." The revised slogan teaches that insulting me should cause me more pain and damage than breaking my arm.


The social sciences have become dominated by left wing ideology. That's why some psychologists are using neuroscience to justify the erasure of the boundary between objective and subjective harm. They point to the fact that when we feel offended, brain cells are activated. This thereby "proves" that the harm is objective and that the utterers of the offensive words are as guilty of hurting us as if they hit us with a baseball bat. These psychologists ignore the fact that all feelings have corresponding brain activity, but that the pain generated by words is a result of the way our mind processes them. Wittingly or unwittingly, these psychologists reject the basic premises of therapy and wisdom.

The nature of the civil rights movement

The left sees its political activism as a fluid continuation of the civil rights movement of the previous century.

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This article was first published in Psychology Today.

[Author's Addendum. Please note: This not an anti-left or pro-right article. Society needs both a right and left wing for a healthy balance. This article is for the benefit of everyone, regardless of political orientation. The ideas presented here, though simple, are not widely known, but should be.]

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About the Author

Izzy Kalman is the author and creator of the website and a critic of the anti-bully movement.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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