Canadian author, psychologist, and intellectual Jordan Peterson has an interesting way of overcoming your self-doubt and anxiety: run right into it. Or, rather, write right into it.
Canadian author, psychologist, and intellectual Jordan Peterson has an interesting way of overcoming your self-doubt and anxiety: run right into it. Or, rather, write right into it. Jordan's latest book is 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.
Jordan Peterson is one of the most controversial public figures in recent years. Here's a recap of some of his ideas.
I used to know this guy who liked to talk about Egypt. Five minutes in you’d think, “This dude’s dropping knowledge.” Ten minutes later you’d be searching for the threads. At the hour mark, realizing you haven’t said one word during his screed about freemasons, pyramids, and the Bush administration, you’d desperately seek any possible exit.
Knowledge is worthless without practical application; it becomes, in the words of Alan Watts, a display of “spiritual one-upmanship.” Not that Jordan Peterson doesn’t offer great practical advice. Flipping through my copy of 12 Rules For Life, I’ve found a number of profound sentences. The problem is the path getting there. The threads are often frayed.
Then there's the question of temperament. Watching Peterson react to criticism reminds me of aspiring yogis posting long spiritual quotes underneath pictures of themselves posturing. If you challenge a single word they crumble in disbelief. Their fortress of words locks them in rather than opening them up. Amid their garbled messaging about freedom from ego they’ve actually wrapped themselves so tightly in it they can’t breathe—which is, of course, the basis of yoga.
This was displayed by Peterson when the writer Pankaj Mishra criticized the Canadian professor. Peterson replied by calling Mishra “arrogant” and “racist,” and, after a few moments of Zen reflection, said he’d happily slap him. In his book, Peterson writes, “Have some humility. Have some courage.” He later warns not to “over-estimate your self-knowledge.” Yet he seems to excuse himself from this simple wisdom.
Below are five of Peterson’s more controversial ideas. Some of his sentiments are strong. Sometimes, however, the path to arrival makes you wonder where he was trying to get to in the first place.
White privilege doesn’t exist
There was plenty of deserved blowback when Forbes dubbed Kylie Jenner “self-made.” The environment you’re raised in has a profound effect on both your psychology and opportunities in life. I’m not quite sure how this is even a debatable issue, but in Peterson’s world, it is. White privilege, according to him, doesn’t exist.
After listing numerous categories—health, wealth, age, economic status, and so on—he calls race and ethnicity “post-modernist.” He criticizes one woman's views on white privilege, discussing how her paper was not peer-reviewed or subjected to critical scrutiny. His own scrutiny transforms “white privilege” into “majority privilege.” In China, the Chinese are the dominant race; the culture is built to suit them. And so in America, or Canada, since whites happen to be the majority, the culture is designed to suit them. Whoever the culture is built for is by default privileged; otherwise, the construction would not have been worth it in the first place.
Fair enough. Our gods always look like us. But for someone so insistent about context, it’s baffling that he overlooked the fact that this experiment of democracy is rooted in the idea of a level playing field. Sure, it’s mostly lip service, but still aspirational. Peterson claims that Marxists and post-Modernists (who, according to him, strive to attain the ideals of Marxism) oppress us, yet Peterson’s inability to consider empathy is the true driver of regression. He’s right that we white men don’t have to apologize for every sin of our ancestors. Yet to think those sins did not rig the game on the soil we occupy is absurd, semantics aside. True, factor analysis is important. Looking outside of your window might prove a little more relevant in this regard, however.
The Left and identity politics
Peterson uses William Buckley and, more recently, Ben Shapiro as examples of conservative thinkers who have defined clear political boundaries: racial superiority is not an option. The fringe Right does not represent conservative values (though that line is rather blurred in America right now). The problem, Peterson continues, is that the Left doesn’t know its boundaries. There is no box stating, “you’ve gone too far.”
Peterson is correct: liberalism is destroying itself. One fitting example is the “Abolish ICE” movement now being towed by 2020 presidential hopefuls. What’s happening on the US-Mexican border is frightening and tragic, at least to those of us who care about human rights. But the agency is responsible for much more than these incidents. The knee-jerk reaction of destroying an agency due to one horrific incident is foolish.
Another example is the backlash Matt Damon received last year when he said, “There’s a difference between patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation.” The actor even qualified it by stating that both should be confronted. His original sentiment is so obvious that debating it seems ludicrous—exactly Peterson’s point. The willful unconcern for coherence is dangerous, yet many liberals don’t seem to be taking it seriously.
On the existence of God
Sam Harris has pointed out that the word “atheism” doesn’t appear in his debut book, The End of Faith. That didn’t stop the public from labeling him such. Anyone so vociferously attacking the Bible must not believe in God. But as Peterson points out, such a binary choice is unfair—you either believe in God or not—because the terms are rarely defined. “Belief” and “God” are such generic terms attempting to derive meaning is nearly impossible. That said, Peterson’s explanation of Christ’s spirit living on, for example, is one of the best arguments for a realistic faith I’ve come across. Like David Brooks in The Road to Character, Peterson strips away metaphysics to uncover something valuable in religious literature, without turning to blind faith.
Gay parents raising children
Peterson begins this by declaring the “devil is in the details,” then cites the fact that kids in a family with a father do better than single-parent families. (Speaking of details, interesting that he doesn’t state “families with a mother.”) “I believe quite firmly,” he continues, “that the nuclear family is the smallest, viable human unit—father, mother, child.” If you fragment it below that, you end up paying, he continues. He cites Warren Farrell and Jaak Panksepp’s affective neuroscience. He discusses rough-and-tumble play (based on Panksepp’s incredible work on rats and the PLAY system.) Fathers and children push each other’s limits to “find out where they are.” If juvenile male rats don’t tussle you can treat it with Ritalin and…wait, was the question?
Three-and-a-half minutes into this four-and-a-half minute video he finally gets to the “gay family,” for the first time recalling that yes, women are parents too. Treating gay families in a post-modernist fashion is gerrymandering questions without facing moral responsibilities and—look, here’s the continual problem with Peterson. Many children come from broken homes. Often it’s the father; sometimes it’s the mother. We have to consider that maybe it’s simply hard to research long-term data on gay families because it’s only been about two decades since homosexuals were broadly accepted.
There are plenty of politicians that would gladly overturn gay marriage and homosexual couples adopting children. Peterson misses the most basic, primary, and humane element of this entire conversation: two people in love can do incredible things, including raising children, regardless of gender. Without that love, everything crumbles. The absurdity of the question is only surpassed by the inanity of the response.
“Why are women coming forward now, about events that happened 15 or 20 years ago?” is the question Peterson is asked. Peterson replies:
There’s been an adolescent insistence since the early sixties that sexual behavior can be rule-free. Now a lot of that was generated as a consequence of the birth control pill, because that was a biological revolution. All of a sudden women can control their reproductive function, in principle...What does that make women? Because now they’re a new biological entity. And so, it’s wide open. What are women now? We don’t know.
He continues along this line, for another minute, finally asking where one draws the line between sexual invitation and harassment. If that question needs to be asked, I’m not sure why he’s even pontificating on the topic. Just because you don’t know what a woman is doesn’t mean they don’t. But that might be too much for this fragile ego to handle.
Do you really want to win an argument, or do you want to find mutual ground and understanding?
Do you really want to win an argument, or do you want to find mutual ground and understanding? Canadian psychologist and author Jordan Peterson feels that in most cases it's the latter. It might take some getting used to, he posits, as acquiescence by its very nature means admitting that you're wrong in some way. Jordan's latest book is 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.
What is liberal America's big, and possibly fatal, mistake? Failing to recognize its own extremists.
What is political extremism? Professor of psychology Jordan Peterson points out that America knows what right-wing radicalism looks like: The doctrine of racial superiority is where conservatives have drawn the line. "What’s interesting is that on the conservative side of the spectrum we’ve figured out how to box-in the radicals and say, 'No, you’re outside the domain of acceptable opinion,'" says Peterson. But where's that line for the Left? There is no universal marker of what extreme liberalism looks like, which is devastating to the ideology itself but also to political discourse as a whole. Fortunately, Peterson is happy to suggest such a marker: "The doctrine of equality of outcome. It seems to me that that’s where people who are thoughtful on the Left should draw the line, and say no. Equality of opportunity? [That's] not only fair enough, but laudable. But equality of outcome…? It’s like: 'No, you’ve crossed the line. We’re not going there with you.'" Peterson argues that it's the ethical responsibility of left-leaning people to identify liberal extremism and distinguish themselves from it the same way conservatives distance themselves from the doctrine of racial superiority. Failing to recognize such extremism may be liberalism's fatal flaw. Jordan Peterson is the author of 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.
A new study says there are two main categories of politically correct people – PC egalitarian and PC authoritarian.
The idea of political correctness is ubiquitous, lurking beneath virtually all of public conversation. Even people who strongly oppose it are just as aware, if not more so, of its presence and ever-changing boundaries. Still, the question that remains largely unanswered is: Who exactly are the politically correct?
Peterson and Brophy created a 192-item survey that measured PC-related language, beliefs and emotional sensitivity. The survey was completed by 332 participants, who also responded to questionnaires that measured personality, IQ, and disgust sensitivity.
The researchers found a few common threads among the politically correct. People who agreed with the statement “It is important for me to be politically correct” were likely to be non-White females who reported high levels of compassion. And, according to the survey, they were also likely to be particularly sensitive to offensive subject matter.
Beyond that, Peterson and Brophy suggest politically correct people fall into two main groups: PC Authoritarianism and PC Egalitarianism. Here’s how they distinguish the two, in part:
One of the most interesting things about the findings is the personality overlap between PC Authoritarians and right-wing authoritarians. Scott Barry Kaufman, scientific director of the Imagination Institute and a researcher and lecturer in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, explains:
A common finding in the psychological literature is a positive association between conservative belief and sensitivity to disgust. In the current study, contamination disgust and the order and traditionalism dimension were all related, suggesting a greater similarity between PC-Authoritarians and Right-Wing authoritarians than either side would probably like to admit!
Also, another interesting similarity is the higher levels of a diagnosed anxiety or mood disorder found among PC-Authoritarians. Both PC-Authoritarians and Right-Wing Authoritarians tend to show a heightened fear response to both social and personal threats, with the strongest fear response being towards instances of social difference.
Authoritarianism on both sides of the political spectrum is commonly associated with an outlook that perceives the world to be a threatening place. The researchers suggest this outlook might explain why PC Authoritarians feel a need to protect themselves and others from material they consider offensive. Peterson also thinks high levels of compassion can lead to authoritarian stances.
Compassion is widely understood to be an evolutionary adaptation that facilitates the mother-child bond. For instance, a mother bear feels compassion for her cubs because, for them, the outside world is full of threats from which she’s compelled to protect them. This type of compassion serves a clear purpose. But what happens when people with high levels of compassion try to map this trait onto larger society, not just onto family members? Peterson elaborates on this idea in the video below:
Check out some of the questions listed on the survey below:
Rate your level of agreement with the following statements:
The quality of social services available to this country’s citizens has remained the same, despite refugees/immigrants entering.
Refugees/Immigrants are as entitled to subsidized housing or subsidized utilities (water, electricity) as this country’s “poor” citizens are.
The values and beliefs of refugees/immigrants regarding family issues and socializing children are basically quite similar to that of citizens of this country.
2. Biological-Cultural Based Differences (.60) (PC-Egalitarians rank those as rooted in culture)
Rate the degree you think each of the following facts is a biological or cultural phenomenon:
Women are on average more agreeable and nurturing than men.
Men have better spatial ability than women.
On average, individuals who identify as “white” score higher than those of African ancestry on IQ tests.
3. Societal Injustice (.59)
Rate the degree you think each of the following facts is evidence of an unjust system:
Only 5% of the Fortune 500 companies have women as CEOs.
There have been no Black prime ministers in Canada or the UK, and the United States has only had one Black president.
Only 8% of registered nurses in the United States are male.
Do you believe the works in these categories should be screened for offensive, racist, sexist, or otherwise discriminatory language and/or ideas?
2. Coddling (.65)
Rate your level of agreement with the following statements:
Universities should be required to provide safe spaces for lectures/events discussing potentially sensitive/unsettling material.
Students should be allowed to request a safe space when material on campus makes them uncomfortable.
Businesses should be required to provide safe spaces for employees.
3. Patriarchy Censorship (.60)
Rate your level of agreement with the following statements:
Feathered headdresses should be banned from music festivals.
White people should not wear their hair in cornrows or afros because it is cultural appropriation.
White musical artists winning awards for reggae, rap, hip-hop, and jazz, is exploitation and appropriation of Black cultural art forms.