10 Things I Learned From Jordan Peterson
From Marxism to Personal Responsibility in 7,000 Words
Over the past year and a half I have transformed from an avowed militant-Marxist with a penchant for writing violent-uprising-fantasy poetry into a moderate “Classical Liberal.” It all began with an attack.
I was kicked several times, my beer was forcefully turned over in my hand, and I was threatened with death, in-person, by a group of women who recognized me at a bar in Highland Park. They took issue with the name of a contemporary art gallery I had operated for two years called Egyptian Art & Antiques. It was the name of the previous occupant’s business and an intentional throw: we showed only contemporary artists, no antiques.
I knew they were wrong to threaten to kill me for the name of my tiny 200-square-foot unprofitable gallery, but I had no cognitive system to rely upon so as not to drift into fear, sadness, and depression. These were people who had 1-star reviewed Egyptian Art & Antique’s Facebook page en masse a few months prior to the attack, but who would not respond to any e-mails, direct messages, or even my attempts at LinkedIn mail. Nonetheless, they somehow recognized me on a quiet date at a bar, despite the fact that I was wearing a baseball cap. They were employees of the city arts department and some of them had Getty Images of them on red carpets at fancy art events. Didn’t they know that I was just a poor young guy working a shitty retail job in order to host my own events and pretend towards the social capital they had? In my two years of hosting exhibitions, I had never come close to making a profit.
There was a light undertone of antisemitism, “Why not Judaica art and antiques?” asked one Facebook reviewer who had never visited, as though a several-thousand-years-dead religion’s flavor and imagery were exactly equivalent to a living religion’s contemporary ones. I could tell from their hate-filled rhetoric that these were people operating from the illogical playbook of the Sophists of ancient-Greece — but I didn’t even have a name for them at the time. It was only some time after my partner and I agreed to delete the Facebook page in response, that I first heard the term “Social Justice Warrior” or “SJW.” Somehow I had attended university, and lived in Angeles and New York, without ever fully experiencing this rising wing of the Left.
Ultimately the drama over changing the name of the gallery and my panicking created a rift between myself and my partner. I was afraid of being associated with it and I was worried someone would show up to attack me while I was alone in the gallery during open hours at night, or that they would show up picketing during an opening and we would be labeled permanently as culture-colonizers and racists. I had invested thousands of dollars in the project and I could barely sleep. I knew something was wrong with the actions of the people who had attacked me, but I had no idea how to express or verbalize it.
So that was the starting point. I could not fathom how these Social Justice Warriors, who were so rabidly offended by my very slight appropriation of a thousands-of-years-dead culture (without any malice on my part), and who on the surface seemed to simultaneously profess all of the same principles and values I had based my own life upon, would also threaten to end my life. After all, what kind of monster could be against “social justice”? I believed I had at the foremost a concern for the welfare of the under-represented and downtrodden, and for me that would always be my conception of “the Poor.” Later I came to find that the SJW-conception of the underrepresented is centered almost entirely upon current trends in conceptions of power, based only on the very recent historical past, with no acknowledgement of how such things have constantly shifted historically in different regions and within different cultures.
My grandfather on my mother’s side, along with his parents, were extremely active members of the American Communist Party in the Boyle Heights community of Los Angeles from the 1920s through the 1980s (until their deaths, may they rest in peace). They were occasionally arrested and jailed for it. I strongly identified with their legacy. My roommates can attest to the fact that I had a five-foot poster of Vladimir Lenin above my bed throughout college. I defined myself foremost by my hatred toward the perceived oppressors of my class, which is to say I vehemently loathed anyone who possessed a lot of money. I went to a few Communist meetings at UCLA and I read the Invisible Committee’s “Coming Insurrection” (eventually I would learn it was written by the idle children of wealthy French citizens). I marched in several protests. I slaved at horrible big-box retail jobs after school for years despite having a (Humanities) degree from a top-ten University, and even a top-GPA in my class. Whenever I could afford to, I hosted little pop-up art events at random spaces, until I finally got a salaried retail position which provided enough income for myself and a fellow employee to start our own permanent art gallery space — which for years had been my dream. On some level however, in the back of my brain, the art gallery was only a cover, I thought, and hopefully a means to amass enough capital to buy weapons, build a militia, and enact terrible vengeance upon the wealthy — to someday strike with misanthropic hate against all the people who had more than me.
So again, after the attack, cracks of doubt in my worldview had set in. At the same time, I was trying to understand like most Liberals were (I was a hardcore Bernie Sanders supporter) how Donald Trump could have just become the President. In light of this, when I saw someone left-leaning mention Jordan Peterson as a reasonably-moderate Conservative who makes sense, I decided to give him a quick look — and I haven’t looked back.
Dr. Peterson is a clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He was launched into public consciousness in late 2016 when he became a subject of ire to the “Social Justice Community” for standing up to the policing of speech by the Canadian Federal Government. Despite his protestations, Canadian Bill C-16, which restricts speech by enforcing the mandatory use of preferred gender-pronouns, was made law. To be clear, Peterson has to date never been asked by a student to call them by a preferred pronoun, and he has stated that if he were to be asked, he would do his best to comply with such a request — that is to say that his issue was exclusively with the government enforcing compelled-speech. Already, the provisions of Bill C-16 are starting to be tested, most recently and notoriously with the Lindsay Shepherd affair, which I will discuss again later.
I am always open to being challenged. I have since gotten much more from Dr. Peterson than I ever thought I could. It has gradually changed my worldview and my life. I estimate that I have listened to several hundred hours of his public YouTube videos, spending nearly every waking hour (while not at work) listening to him, even watching entire courses twice. I have also been gradually working my way through entry-level classics from his reading list (that I had previously avoided or ignored), such as 1984 and The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell, Demons by Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Beyond Good and Evil by Friederich Nietzsche. I have decided to write a kind of summary for people who are looking for a simple primer to help them get the gist of what Dr. Peterson is about, beyond all of the hysteria (well, maybe with a least a bit of the hysteria). Below I provide a list of ten major lessons from Peterson’s recorded material which I believe have great bearing for our time and which may even hopefully work to strengthen the Left where it has weakened itself.
Seeing Peterson’s own experience as he was attacked by SJWs who threatened his livelihood, by people who were using the same kind of sophist non-logical rhetoric as those persons who had attacked me, and seeing him survive it all and even thrive, struck a deep chord. I was like a child entranced by a phenomenon they can scarcely comprehend but know they must learn to, in order to survive, in just the same way Peterson talks about his son watching and re-watching the whale sinking in Pinocchio, inexplicably, hundreds of times, over and over. For the bulk of last year I was transfixed by the figure of Dr. Jordan B Peterson.
It should be noted that Peterson recently published a book “12 Rules For Life,” and there have been several other take-downs of him and his new work. A few days ago The Guardian released a kind of listicle-takedown/review of Peterson’s new book titled “12 Rules for Life by Jordan B Peterson review — a self-help book from a culture warrior: The psychologist and internet celebrity with contentious views on gender, political correctness, good and evil, offers hectoring advice on how to live.” The article is arguably more about Peterson than his “hectoring advice.” The problem generally seems to be more with Peterson’s tone than his words — in fact the chief criticism I have heard from my almost exclusively Liberal friends and family is that they “don’t like the way he sounds.” This reviewer also takes issue with his tone and “language” — an unfortunate reason to disregard anyone’s message — and regrettably this review is so sloppy that it even ultimately attacks Peterson by positing that he ought to refer to Eric Harris as an “incarnation of Satan” rather than as the (twisted) human being he truly was.
This list of top ten lessons will summarize his online oeuvre that I have spent so many waking hours of the last year with. I hope they are helpful and comprehensible and that they inspire you to seek further exposure with his work.
Lesson 1: All people are monsters (or at least, they have one inside of them)
I think this is the number one lesson to learn from Peterson’s “Maps of Meaning” lecture series, which I have listened to twice in full.
If you take away nothing else, then you should know this: that within each of us is the potential to commit acts of great evil or be complicit in them, and that innocence is not the same as goodness, and we cannot know we are good until we do the right thing when the evil choice is easier.
German human beings for example, in the 1930s and 40s, were not unique in their capacity for complicity in the genocide enacted by the Nazi regime, nor were the Turks unique in their action toward the Armenians during the first World War, nor were the Soviets to each other as they sent millions into Gulag-slavery. Each of us has the capacity for great evil within us, and just because we have not yet committed or enabled an act of extraordinary evil, it does not mean we will not in the future, unless we strengthen ourselves and prepare to stand up to the evil within us and without. Peterson frequently cites examples from the book, “Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland” by Christopher R. Browning, an account of how a regular group of normal, middle-aged German police officers gradually succumbed to group pressures and morality and became responsible for the atrocious extermination of thousands of Polish Jews in 1942. The same phenomenon of collectivist-twisting of morality led to mass suffering and death for millions of Soviet Citizens who were executed or shipped to forced-labor camps. To quote that great chronicler of the Gulag-system, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, on this very subject, from his book “The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956”:
“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil.
Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.”
Eric Harris of Columbine massacre-infamy, and Adolf Hitler, are far more terrifying precisely because they were profoundly twisted human beings, and not monsters of a different species with a unique mental-makeup. We human beings all share in the same cognition, with all of its potential for formulating acts of great kindness or horrific terror. Hitler gave the majority of German people what they wanted at that time. But there is clearly a difference between moral cowardice (complicity in mass murder, for example) and the outright intent to commit mass murder. There is a warning, frequently repeated by Peterson, to “Beware the Weak Man”. A weak man is by definition of no utility to anyone, and so he gradually grows to become bitter and resentful toward others. His failures fester in a desire for wrathful vengeance against exactly those people and things who are least deserving of scorn, particularly the innocent, and those who have worked harder and appear to be more outwardly successful than himself. To Eric Harris these were his peers, and to Adolf Hitler it was the Allied Powers of WWI and of course also the entire Jewish people.
It doesn’t take long to develop this mindset, just spend some time, “Brooding on your specific misfortune,” and you’ll get there, says Peterson in specific reference to serial killer Carl Panzram, who bludgeoned young boys to death and confessed to raping over 1,000 male victims over his short and bloody career. How much more realistic and terrifying that any one of us could potentially be susceptible to this bitter and toxic worldview as a result of failure and a realization of our own lack of usefulness! Evil, as Solzhenitsyn so beautifully explains, does not come principally from without. Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering the premise of this article, the antidote for these unhinged persons is to listen to Peterson’s message, as described in the next lesson, to “Grow the hell up!”, and accept personal responsibility.
Lesson 2: The first step to changing the world positively is Personal Responsibility (Clean Your Room)
At this point, I think this lesson is Peterson’s most meme-able: any attempts at “improving the world” first must begin with getting your own life in order, and to do something about that, you need a plan. As far as planning goes, Peterson of course recommends his own “Self Authoring Suite” and “Future Authoring Program”, which can be taken online and currently costs $14.99 as of the publication of this article. The program basically involves writing about your ideal future-self from the perspective of your having done everything right, and also writing down the future-self you are afraid of becoming if you don’t take the actions you know you need to in order to progress positively. By doing this, you create an ideal for yourself to strive toward and a counter-ideal to run from. I’ve taken it personally and I think it offers great benefit — and it would probably help to take it repeatedly. There is also a “Past Authoring Program” to determine how you got in your current situation, I suppose.
As far as, “clean your room” goes, Peterson’s most repeated and yet semi-reluctant catch-phrase, it’s apparent that in order to get where you want to go, it helps to have a plan to get there. Any steps you can take to generate and enact that plan, even if they are at first only small baby steps, are immensely helpful — and to come up with a plan you must be able to think, and to think, you ought to have a clean room! Thus, Peterson suggests you begin fixing the world by getting your own house in order, both literally and proverbially.
And the inverse of all of this is that, if one doesn’t clean up their act and take personal responsibility, they begin to place the blame for their failure on others, and when we blame others or become covetous of them, we become corrupt and loathsome individuals and full of destructive wrath — like Cain from the Hebrew Bible who slew his brother Abel for the audacity of being a successful and model person. It goes without saying that it is a dark thing to kill your ideal.
When you claim victim-status, as many Social Justice Warriors do, you can similarly and swiftly be carried to the same logical ends as Carl Panzram who said of the human race, “I wish you all had one neck and that I had my hands on it.” Whether it be Antifa violence or the violence of Charlottesville, pathological and ideological persons are just waiting for their violent responses to be the correct and valid responses so that they may release their inner wrath. The titular “demons” who carry away a group of young men to murder their fellows in Dostoevsky’s novel “Demons”, are not in fact exterior beings, it is an ideology which has run rampant within them and led them astray.
Whether or not your lot in life is entirely your fault, and there are of course so many things we cannot control, it is still helpful and useful for us to have the wisdom to accept our own situation, so as to avoid the toxic embitterment I expanded on in the previous lesson. Which directly leads me to the next Lesson…
Lesson 3: Equity (Equality of Outcome) is evil and tyranny; Fairness and Equality of Opportunity must instead be the goal
As a Marxist, this was an extremely difficult pill to swallow. Throughout all of my younger years I wanted so badly to blame others (namely anyone with more in their bank account than my family, that is to say anyone I deemed “rich”, for oppressing me and my entire class (and of course the class(es) below me). Throughout my teens and the first-half of my twenties, I wanted to storm the homes of everyone with money and string them upside down — I was so angry that I could scarce look at anyone in a luxury vehicle without fantasizing about their demise, which is frankly a bit problematic in Los Angeles.
Peterson frequently expresses that when we say that “Communism hasn’t worked in the past because it hasn’t been done properly!” (an extremely common refrain, in my experience), what we are really saying is that, “If I was in charge, I would do things the right way!”. Of course Communism has actually been tried, earnestly and repeatedly, dozens of times and all over the world, by educated persons with good intentions. The people with good convictions are invariably corrupted or killed by someone stronger and more ruthless without those convictions. Pol Pot went to school for three years in Paris, joined the French Communist Party, read Rousseau, and loved going to the cinema. It sounded like a fair and just idea to make the previously-rich of Cambodian society into field laborers (my pre-Peterson self would have readily agreed), but pretty soon, those persons are treated as no better than slave-chattel and you end up with atrocities like the Killing Fields.
In addition to the above example, Peterson frequently cites the Kulaks in Soviet Russia, whose only crime was to become freed from serfdom in 1861, and then accumulate enough wealth before the Russian Revolution of 1917, so that they might own a few cows, a small plot of land, and could hire a hand or two to help their families harvest their crops. For that, Lenin branded them as “bloodsuckers, vampires, plunderers of the people and profiteers, who fatten on famine” and it was ordered that they be murdered, or if they were lucky, deported into permanent slavery in the Gulag. What was the result of this program of de-Kulakization? Millions died from mass-starvation in the Ukraine — the obvious outcome of killing off the most productive, capable, and knowledgeable farmers. You can see a pattern here, and in fact Dostoevsky ingeniously predicted the outcome of the Russian Revolution over 40 years before it materialized.
This is my new belief: that Total Equity devolves into Total Slavery (save for the Communist ruling class). In contrast, we citizens in our capitalist society are given intrinsic (inalienable) rights, respect, and power as individuals, precisely because we have the potential as individuals to achieve/earn unlimited wealth — which is also power, and this unlimited potential for power is what forces the state to provide us with what we take for granted as basic human dignities and protections. A person who, as is the case in a Communist society, is permanently worth exactly the same as every other person, who is of course worth the same as themselves, and where such will fundamentally always be the case — each person in that case is ultimately worth nothing. Power, or at least our potential to attain it, is the basis of the respect we are granted by our government and fellow citizens.
The answer is not Equity or Equality of Outcome, it is Equality of Opportunity and Fairness to All. We have to try as hard as we can to give people the best shot we can give them — but as soon as we start punishing people for their status, we have stepped upon a slippery slope toward great injustice.
Lesson 4: Happiness is not a virtue or an end-goal for life
I think few will argue that there is not a very prevalent cultural-cult of chasing Happiness in this era. Happiness, or the feeling of being “happy”, is simply not a good life goal — it is of course, nice while it’s happening, but it is also inherently temporary, and the decisions we make while we are happy are usually not the best long-term decisions — just think about how you behave while you are drunk: while we are happy our focus is short term.
Life is tragic, difficult, and challenging — but that is the whole point — taking responsibility for one’s own actions and fighting for what you believe, will ultimately lead to a far more fulfilling existence than chasing the brain chemicals associated with happiness.
In The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell questions the motives, methods, and even the appearances of the Utopian Socialists he associated himself with (sometimes begrudgingly). But it is again perhaps Dostoevsky who sums up the fatal flaw of Utopianism in his novella Notes From the Underground when the narrator concludes in a quote often referred to (and paraphrased) by Peterson:
“Does not man, perhaps, love something besides well-being? Perhaps he is just as fond of suffering? Perhaps suffering is just as great a benefit to him as well-being? Man is sometimes extraordinarily, passionately, in love with suffering, and that is a fact. There is no need to appeal to universal history to prove that; only ask yourself, if you are a man and have lived at all. As far as my personal opinion is concerned, to care only for well-being seems to me positively ill-bred. Whether it’s good or bad, it is sometimes very pleasant, too, to smash things.”
Aldous Huxley paints a wonderful and painstaking picture of a dreadful entirely-happy Utopian society in his novel Brave New World. No one is unhappy, but we quickly see the horror of a world in which everyone is either too stupid (handicapped by chemicals in the test-tube, where all people are born) or numb from narcotics (soma) to give a damn about pretty much anything — but at least everyone is having a great time.
We must know deep-down that happiness (which is always fleeting) simply cannot stand up to the tragedy of life and the evil we know we must face. Instead, we should be useful and embrace the fact that we are monsters and use our abilities for good — that will give us fulfillment, rather than just happiness. Fear of breaking the rules does not make us good. Most of what we consider morality is merely obedient cowardice, and the reality about being an obedient coward is that you can easily be turned from there into an agent of malevolence.
Lesson 5: Life has meaning because we act as though it does
This is pretty simple and it of course goes against the prevalence of nihilism in the West. According to Peterson, it doesn’t matter for practical purposes whether or not there is a “meaning” to life, because pretty much all of us are doing all of the things we need to in order not to die and in order to make good lives for ourselves and to reproduce. On a certain level, the near-universal avoidance of pain on the part of living things is almost enough in and of itself to give life meaning. Therefore, I guess you could say the meaning of life is really a moot point and not something to get hung-up on. Simply taking personal responsibility and trying to make your own life better is what Peterson believes, based in large part upon his clinical practice, will fundamentally increase the richness and depth of your life — and adding a value system to that can only help. What more can you ask for?
Well, of course, some people do want EVERYTHING — and there is a secret desire on the part of many Marxists who come to their beliefs from the same wrathful perspective of a person brooding over their having been wrongfully mistreated by fate — that they want every single person to have exactly the same amount of everything as everyone else or no one can have anything at all (except perhaps death).
Peterson suggests that we instead orient ourselves or (aim up, if you will) toward our highest potential and set the goal of achieving the highest possible good — because that seems to be the best thing we can do in our lives to increase our fulfillment, and really, why not?
Lesson 6: The concept of the Western Patriarchy is a modern construction and a myth
A new myth has arisen based upon an incomplete and facile view of human history, which for many people today has come to explain the pattern and existence of all inequality. The destruction of this facile modern-myth will be a bitter pill for nearly everyone I seem to meet on a daily basis, as it seems to be always on the tip of everyone’s tongue in explaining every case of inequality. However, I must beg to differ — the straight line of hierarchy does not come from an old white man — it comes from a ten-legged creature (and of course it probably comes from even earlier invertebrates).
Hierarchical structures (and the Patriarchy in particular) are not a construct of the white “Western World.” That concept scarcely makes any sense, but as an aside, I feel compelled to mention that the Biblical Patriarchs who are the basis of so much of contemporary “Western” ideology were actually probably from Babylon in modern day Iraq and not particularly fair-skinned at all. In fact, Peterson gives an example of a red-shelled early ancestor of ours called the lobster, an animal who happens to still exist, and who happens to have always lived (so far as we can tell) in societies with dominance hierarchies and has done so since before trees existed on the Earth. The point here is not that hierarchies don’t exist, but that we cannot pretend hundreds of millions of years of evolutionary history are not built into us — our very brains are built upon the same structures as our decapod-forebears. We have mechanisms, just like lobsters have, built into our brains, that track our status and it is futile to suddenly pretend that these structures do not exist. Serotonin makes lobsters bigger after winning a dominance-dispute and controls their nervous system in an extraordinarily similar ways to how our nervous system functions.
“Your biological nature sets the rules of the game,” says Peterson, “But within the game you have a lot of leeway.” He gives the example of chess — there are clearly defined rules, but we do have a lot of leeway as to how we can act within them. That said, we cannot simply wish away the rules of a biological game that has been unfolding for millennia.
The pay gap does in fact exist — on average women make less money than men — but it does not exist solely because of prejudice against the female gender as most simplistic narratives would have you believe. Multivariate analysis shows in large part that there are many other contributing factors, such as women on average being higher in personality trait Agreeableness and not asking for enough raises (which accounts for about 5% of the gap, according to Peterson). In the recent Channel 4 interview I have embedded in the following lesson, Peterson cites 18 different factors for the pay-differential, of which prejudice against the female gender is just one of many reasons for the difference in pay. Taking an aggregate study of average pay without looking at individual factors (such as women taking jobs which require fewer hours) and then legislating based upon that alone, is a sure-fire way to ensure unfairness and injustice.
Women may not be the majority of Fortune 100 CEOs, but in certain other fields like medicine, education, social work, tax preparation, accounting, public relations, and psychology, to name just a few, women dominate. Peterson speculates that women do not become CEOs of major corporations for many reasons, not least of which is the sheer time investment required, and of course, again there is the fact that most women tend to not be as heavy in personality-trait Disagreeableness as men are. Of course, Google employee James Damore was recently fired for the above sort of talk, in his admittedly engineer-autistic style, penned as an internal Google-memo.
It would be wonderful to eliminate the gender-pay gap — and hopefully it will be eliminated… but it should be done in measured order, and not be based on the principles of Equality of Outcome. Fair treatment, which of course is not the easy-answer many of us would like, again, must be the goal. Prejudice is of course, as always, completely unacceptable.
The average IQ for men and women is roughly the same. But there are personality differences that explain why a blue bicycle helmet is less expensive than a pink bicycle helmet even though women dominate the marketplace, making roughly 80% of buying decisions — something that does matter quite a lot in capitalism.
Human history is messy and complex. One of the ethnic backgrounds of a person who was my principal attacker when I was physically assaulted called my use of ancient Egyptian culture “colonization,” forgetting that her own ethnic group (which I will refrain from naming) actually repeatedly conquered, colonized, and destroyed Egyptian civilization several times over the last three thousand years, most recently in the 7th Century of the Common Era — something that none of my ancestors ever actually had a part in. The “Patriarchy” is a myth, at least as it is portrayed as a historical constant, by the radical-Left.
Lesson 7: Identity Politics and Toxic Tribalism are generating unhelpful divisiveness in our culture
In this recent and controversial interview, Peterson is harangued ideologically by the reporter who repeatedly attempts to trap him with “gotcha”-questions. The Channel 4 News reporter is so ideologically-possessed (perhaps if only for the sake of ratings), that when Peterson ultimately avoids falling for her traps, and points out the contradictions in her ideological arguments, she becomes speechless.
If you engage in argument with someone who is possessed by what Carl Jung would call “animus-possession”, their goal is to engage you in an argument, and if you engage them on the terms they have defined, you will lose as soon as you engage in the argument. What is actually happening is not a conversation or a true argument (the highest form of which is for two persons to work together to earnestly ascertain the truth), but “a dominance hierarchy dispute with an ideological overlay.” Social Justice Warriors are trained with intellectual-sophistry to trap opponents in pretty-sounding arguments, employing methods no different than those employed by the Athenian Sophists, where the aim for orators was chiefly to win arguments — not to attempt to reach the truth, as was Socrates’ goal. The idea is not that reasonable persons should never speak to Social Justice Warriors, or even that such persons are not worth speaking to. You should speak to them, but you must be very careful not to let them define the terms of the argument on their own ideological grounds — because those grounds are based on ideas of relative truth.
I will provide an example of how Channel 4 reporter Cathy Newman attempts to trap Peterson in a dominance dispute with an ideological-overlay, rather than having a real debate or conversation, in the following transcription:
NEWMAN: The pay-gap [sic] between men and women, that exists!
PETERSON: Yeah but there’s multiple reasons for that. One of them is gender but it’s not the only reason. Like if you’re a social scientist worth your salt, you never do a uni-variate analysis. Like you say, ‘Women in aggregate are paid less than men,’ well, okay: you break it down by age, you break it down by occupation, we break it down by interest, we break it down by personality.
NEWMAN: You’re saying basically it doesn’t matter if women aren’t getting to the top — because that’s what’s skewing that gender pay gap, isn’t it? You’re saying, ‘Well, that’s just a fact of life.’ You’re just not simply going to get to the top.
PETERSON: No I’m saying it doesn’t matter either. I’m saying there are multiple reasons for it.
NEWMAN: Why should women put up with those reasons? Why should they be content…
PETERSON: Why should women put up with it? I’m not saying that they should put up with it. I’m saying that the claim that the wage gap between men and women is only due to sex discrimination [sic] is wrong. And it is wrong. There’s no doubt about that. The multivariate analysis have been done.
NEWMAN: You keep talking about multivariate analysis. That nine percent pay gap exists. That’s a gap between men and women. I’m not saying why it exists, but it exists. Now if you’re a woman, that seems pretty unfair.
PETERSON: You have to say why it exists.
NEWMAN: But do you agree that it’s unfair?
PETERSON: Not necessarily.
NEWMAN: But if you’re a woman and you’re getting paid 9% less than a man, that’s unfair isn’t it?
PETERSON: It depends on why it’s happening.
Peterson goes on to provide an example, that people with personality trait agreeableness (man or woman) tend to get paid less for the same job — and that at present, women tend to be more agreeable than men — and that is only one of many variables which rationally explain the pay-gap.
Neo-Marxist Postmodernists (as Peterson defines them) who are engaged in Identity Politics do not actually believe in truth with a big ‘T’ or truth with a little ‘t’ — they only actually believe in Power, and their goal is to attain Power by any means necessary. Combined with the victim-mentality, this is the sort of deadly combination of will and philosophy of power-by-any-means-necessary, which repeatedly led to mass-murder in the 20th Century. We can concede to Postmodernists that there are unlimited truths (or at least perspectives on the truth), but we cannot concede that all of them are equal. Some ideas are biologically viable and some ideas are not (don’t run across the interstate, for example).
Peterson is not a malicious character or a troll, or at least not any more so than the average person is. “Peace is the highest form of victory — it’s not predatory-victory — It’s peace. Because anyone who has any sort of sense, who has any wisdom, regards peace as the goal. It’s the peace of armed opponents who respect one another.” Peterson is a Christian, and his deity (although he doesn’t like to talk about his own personal belief), is quoted in the New Testament as saying “The meek shall inherit the earth.” Meek, however, is a serious mistranslation from the original Greek. The original word means something closer to “power under control” — and it is more typically used to refer to a wild horse that has been tamed and is now a useful beast, or a warrior who checks his impetuosity and leaves his sword sheathed against his opponent. In other words, this is exactly what we have been saying all along: Those who are powerful and who can also control their power, without abusing or mishandling it, will be the ones who ultimately succeed.
Lesson 8: Science alone is not enough to save us
This in my experience, is one of the hardest lessons for people to accept today, particularly for those who believe they think scientifically. Of course, as Peterson frequently reminds us, most of us don’t think at all like a real scientist should, that is to say, entirely impartially and without looking for answers that validate our opinions… but we definitely do seem to take for granted that we are rationally employing the Scientific Method in our thinking, all the time. Of course, that isn’t true, and the Scientific Method has been around for only a tiny blip in the grand scheme of human history. Before we developed our scientific-perspective (only a few hundred years ago at most), people thought differently about the world. Our ancestors however were not at all stupid — and our cognition has not changed dramatically in the last hundred thousand years. The ancients had a solution to coping with the cognitive difficulty of living, and we can detect some traces of it in the format of the modern novel. Again, so many people today hate to admit it, but: A story can have truth and utility and not be “literally” or factually true. We know, for example, that the cartoon sketches in South Park are not actually human beings, as they only barely resemble actual human beings at all. They are “false” human beings. However, these characters are capable of imputing human meaning that we all understand in spite of this. Their being more-accurately (or “truly”) drawn, would not make them any more or less able to impute that meaning.
Pulling from sources as diverse as the Mesopotamian creation myth, the Hebrew Bible, the Egyptian story of Horus, the story of Siddhartha, and Pinocchio, Peterson explains the social usefulness of understanding hero stories and foundational mythos. There is clearly a function that religious traditions have in a society, or else we simply would not have them, and successful societies without them would have survived. But no society without examples of religious belief have survived.
An example of a useful function of religion? To again use a Judeo-Christian example, if every human is created “in the image of the creator”, then we can together quickly move beyond questions such as “Why shouldn’t we sacrifice human infants to Moloch?” and focus on solving more refined societal-issues. But critically it is important to note, and this is a main disagreement between Peterson and the New Atheists (such as Sam Harris), is that you cannot determine “an ought from an is.” That is to say, just because something is the case, does not have any inherent connection to or bearing upon how you should act — and never the twain shall meet. This is the function of religion and this is why authors like Dostoevsky made their life’s work grappling with it, in a world in which the Creator had been so recently pronounced as dead and finished (by Nietzsche). As Solzhenitsyn suggested, religion attempts to help us cope with and suppress the evil inside every one of us.
We complete the Hero’s Journey by venturing into the Underworld (the unknown) and while we’re there, if we’re successful, we save our father (it could be Geppetto, or it could be your Society), and then we come back home to share what we have achieved. By doing this, we help to balance the perpetually battling forces of tyrannical order and consuming chaos. Religious narratives tend to highlight this transformational process, through which we better ourselves and repair our societies, and which provide us with ideal-archetypes we can emulate in our own journeys. Peterson believes we all must undertake this journey to have complete and fulfilled lives.
Lesson 9: On the Left and the Right, we must not lose the “scientific high ground” in exchange for political expediency
Just as the Right has lost the “scientific high ground” with its stance on climate change, the Left is quickly losing it with its stance on the nonexistence of biological gender. And, increasingly, the Left is ideologically opposed and intolerant toward all contrary debate whatsoever. Following a second wave of PC-culture, the Left also increasingly stands behind “safe spaces” and the right to protection from exposure to opposing viewpoints. This was the case in the previously aforementioned Lindsay Shepherd affair, when a teaching assistant was reprimanded and threatened for showing a debate from a Canadian public television program (which happened to feature Peterson) in her classroom. This behavior has given the Right the ability to pose as the champion of free speech — clearly not an ideal situation for non-totalitarian Leftists.
Beyond the political ramifications, all of this is also socially dangerous of course because once again, not discussing ideas causes them to fester poisonously in dark lairs. Gradually, people with fringe-ideas are marginalized and feel that their only recourse to expression is to take violent action. That is why the ACLU fought and prevailed in allowing the Nazis to march in 1978 in Skokie, Illinois.
Lesson 10: Tell the Truth; be honest and forthright
In order to be able to think you have to be able to risk being offensive. And if you can’t think you can’t solve the issues your society is facing. Therefore, freedom of speech must trump someone’s right not to be offended — for the health and well-being of society — otherwise, ideas will fester in darkness and people will ultimately manifest the violent wrath they have been brooding over internally.
Peterson got in trouble for saying he would not use compelled speech enforced by the federal government. He received threats from his employer. He stood his ground.
Jordan Peterson has not made me a conservative so much as he has made me a moderate who is more at peace with himself and the relatively good and fair place that we live in (at least as compared to the standard in countries across the only inhabited planet that we know of), in spite of the many obvious examples of great economic injustice which still of course distress me to this day. I am not against social programs, I am not by any means “Alt-Right”, but I have managed to temper my wrath against my imagined oppressors and have achieved greater inner peace.
The issues we face are complicated and it is not particularly useful to simplify them — especially when simplification aggressively pits groups of people against one another. I again feel motivated to live my life and not live in fear of the people who threaten me.
Here is a link to Peterson’s YouTube account so you can go off and make up your own mind about what he has to offer you or the world — I know that in my case, I am profoundly more at peace with my lot in life, thanks to the philosophy I have gained from Peterson.