I am a little late to talk about Jordan Peterson, but he does not seem like he is going anywhere and his popularity is growing. I have been analyzing him for months now, and he most definitely poses a challenge to liberals. Here are just a few thoughts I have.
On Liking Jordan Peterson
If you like Jordan Peterson, then this means that you are more concerned about “getting ahead” than “getting along”. This is my conclusion after listening to him for about a year now. Since he is a religious conservative, can we conclude that he is not friendly to the interests of minorities, the poor, and the LBGTQA+ community? I do not think that he denies that gender differences exist nor that LBGTQA+’s interests have been unfairly represented if at all in our culture**, but he believes that we should not subvert categorization. He talks about how there is variation in personalities and temperaments within sexes. For example, a female can vary in her masculinity-femininity to the point of appearing “masculine”. But this is the exception and not the rule, so we should not be too concerned about this. In other words, we have no need to recategorize or cater to their interests.
On the other hand, if we are more concerned about competing and being successful, then Peterson does have some good advice. He believes that we need to be articulate to fight this “war”, which is what life is to him. Being articulate is our weapon and means for becoming formidable. If we are not strong, then we are weak. And who wants to be weak. It is hard to argue with these types of arguments if we are concerned about striving and status. He does seem to be a genuinely compassionate*** person. Most people within the field of clinical psychology are. Despite how knowledgeable he is on religious matters and his ability to relate biblical truths to our everyday struggles, he is nevertheless mistaken on the big issues. I am curious what take others have on Peterson.
I know many on ftb have written about him, but I haven’t had the chance to read them. I will do some searching and get updated.
What Does Peterson Challenge?
There are a few challenges that he poses. If we are interested in status striving, like being successful in this world, then his advice is not that bad. So one challenge would be to like him enough to listen to his advice. Another challenge is that he legitimizes the conservative worldview. People believe that he, like a typical pundit, is uncovering the veneer that hides the truth. There are also a lot of people that don’t like the “woke*” culture, and he offers an alternative. These are not his only appeal though. A lot of people strive to achieve a certain status in life and have been blocked, for whatever reasons. Peterson whacks them over the head with a sense of urgency that speaks to them. Hey, “you have to be tough in this world and that means being a realist, formidable, dogged, and smart.” In other words, self-interested. Many will be persuaded by this kind of talk, liberals and conservatives because it appeals to the “tough guy/gal/them” in all of us. We all have this side in us because we all need to compete and survive.
The core of liberalism, however, is about empathy or putting oneself in the shoes of another. Everything Peterson is about is the exact opposite. Of course, he will claim that empathy is still utilized in his teachings, but he calls this “tough love”. We are preparing our children to be “warriors” not “snowflakes”, and we won’t let people take advantage of us. Take a look at what “formidable” means. If we break it down, it boils down to intimidating others. This implies that we must be “better” than others. We no longer intimidate people by our physical strength but by our capabilities and accomplishments, i.e., our status and prestige. To me, this is a realist approach that works well for our capitalistic and overly competitive society, but it is only reinforcing a culture of self-interest.
If everyone believes and practices this stuff, then this only increases competition and ups the ante. Think it through. There will be inevitable losers to the game. A person-to-person face-off, which is what he is acknowledging and promoting, cannot have two winners. Either one defers and submits to the other with inferiority or dominates with superiority. Where is the empathy and assistance to these people? Put aside his refusal to help or acknowledge the oppressed with any empathy, my personal opinion is that his approach is too aggressive and his references to the Bible annoy me. But that is exactly why most people like him.
* This of course is a dysphemism for having a heightened concern about others that most had little concern for in the past.
** I am not one-hundred percent positive on this one.
*** Is his compassion feigned or real is anyone’s guess. But his compassion is exclusive to those “hardworking” folks that are trying to compete in this world.
- a year’s worth of listening to him on Facebook and Instagram.