Jordan Peterson: six reasons that explain his rise

Jordan Peterson: six reasons that explain his rise, by Janet Albrechtsen.

One way to explain this rise of a man who has been described as a cowboy psychologist and an egghead who gives practical advice is that he drives many on the left bonkers. …

Reason 1. Peterson reckons that listening is good for our soul and even better for human progress. Sounds banal, but in an age when campus outrage and an angry mob mentality have seeped into our broader culture, listening to those we disagree with is a truly revolutionary message.

The University of Toronto psychology professor is old school. He gathers information and builds knowledge the Socratic way, by listening and testing ideas. That’s how he developed a fascination with why totalitarian regimes murdered millions in the quest for utopia. He’s suspicious of ideology, dogma and the doctrinaire. Ideology is dangerous, he says, because it’s too certain about things and doesn’t allow for dissent.

Moral relativism is equally dangerous because it makes no judgments and is blind to the greatness of Western civilisation. Human beings need a moral compass. The demise of religion has left a vacuum, and it has been filled by rigid ideologues and nihilistic moral relativists. Well-timed, given so many millennials are bunkering down with socialism or moral relativism. …

Reason 2. Peterson believes in free speech. He’s worried about the illiberal direction of modernity, not just on campus. … Peterson baulked at being told by the state to use the pronoun “ze” for transgender people. He said if someone asked him to use it for them, he’s a polite guy and he’d do it. But when the state tells you what to say, the state has crossed the line into forced speech.

Reason 3. Peterson is a force because he’s also damn good at getting his message across. He uses our most important stories, drawing from history, psychology, neuroscience, mythology, poetry and the Bible to explain his thinking. …

Reason 4. Peterson is secretly feared by utopians on the left. Life is full of unexpected and unavoidable suffering, he says. We get sick, we get betrayed, we lose jobs and friends and a sense of order. Get used to it. Deal with it.

This starting premise is where he departs so spectacularly from cultural Marxists. The utopian imaginings of socialism and communism created great suffering. So stop dreaming, Peterson says, accept that life can be hard. Accept, too, that each of us is capable of being monstrous and marvellous in all our human complexity. And make choices about that. Accept individual responsibility. …

Reason 5. Get your own house in order before you start lecturing others or presuming to know how to fix other problems. Peterson’s message is a direct challenge to two particularly rank strains of modernity: victimhood and virtue-signalling. Both are cop-outs. Much harder, and more important, says Peterson, is to fix what you can at home because if we all did this there would be fewer victims and less misery in the world.

Reason 6. Men need to grow the hell up, he says. A whiny guy who blames others for his poor life choices is of no use to himself, no use to women, no use to children and no use to a world that has prospered from those who take responsibility. A boy who never grows up can’t possibly deal with the periods of chaos we all must face. And parents shouldn’t bother children when they’re skateboarding, meaning let them take risks so they can manage them as adults.

hat-tip Stephen Neil, Scott of the Pacific