Trending author opens up about his opinions
January 31, 2019
Jordan Peterson believes the notions of “white privilege,” “the patriarchy” and “toxic masculinity” are despicable.
He blames universities for corrupting students with ideas such as nihilism, resentment and moral relativism.
“There aren’t power hungry massage therapists in the world,” Peterson said to a laughing audience. “The idea that you will move up in your hierarchy by exercising psychopathic power, I think that’s insane.”
About 3,000 people arrived at the City National Civic in San Jose on Jan. 22, eager to listen to Peterson discuss his 2018 book “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos,” a distillation of ancient wisdom into a dozen rules for readers to follow.
In the past two years, Peterson has captured the world’s attention—building an immense network of ardent followers and dissenters alike.
With more than 1 million YouTube subscribers and an international bestseller book, Peterson has become a leading figure of the “intellectual dark web,” joining the ranks of neuroscientist Sam Harris and conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro.
Peterson is a polarizing figure. The psychology professor from the University of Toronto rose to fame when he publicly opposed Canada’s C-16 Bill, a government legislation prohibiting discrimination of gender identity and expression while extending hate speech provisions to transgendered people.
He considered the law a violation of free speech.
Since then, Peterson has been called a transphobe, alt-right and white supremacist.
But Peterson has struck the public’s imagination. He says he draws from psychological research and biblical texts to criticize postmodernism, political correctness and identity politics.
He advises people to take responsibilities for their lives—beginning with something as simple as making their beds every morning.
Speaking to the crowd, Peterson observed a growing uncertainty in our ethics of how to behave as postmodern philosophy gains traction in today’s society.
“The post-modernist claims there is an infinite number of ways of looking at the world,” Peterson said. “They believe that there isn’t a way of looking at the world that is better than the other.”
On the contrary, Peterson believes there are indeed proper ways to act in the world.
He cited the work of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel prize-winning Russian novelist. Solzhenitsyn views the Nuremberg trials, in which 12 Nazis were sentenced to death for crimes against humanity, as among the most important events in the 20th century.
“The trials showed some acts were wrong regardless of the culture and moral structure within which you were raised,” Peterson said. “That made what the Nazis did wrong by any reasonable standard. Now you don’t have to believe that. But if you don’t, that puts you in an awkward position with regards to the Holocaust.”
Peterson explained that humans have developed codes of ethics to build civilized societies.
These ethics are embedded in a hierarchy of competence instead of power.
“One of the claims that’s tearing our culture apart is that our hierarchy is an oppressive patriarchy,” Peterson said. “I think that’s pathetically absurd in the case of humans because that isn’t even the case in animals.”
Exploring the research of ethologists (scientists who study natural behaviors of animals), Peterson emphasized the emerging ethic of animals that govern their hierarchies.
For example, chimpanzees must be cooperative as a tyrannical chimpanzee cannot sustain its rule.
The dominant rat must let the smaller rat win 30 percent of the time so that the little rat continues to play with him.
“We don’t usually think about how power dynamic works in this way,” said Santa Clara junior Alex Weiskopf. “Peterson uses the analogies of animals to show that even the strongest animals have to be good partners.”
Peterson hypothesized that if postmodernists were correct, our society would be dysfunctional.
“Yet, this isn’t how things work. Their business is predicated on their skill as a workman,” Peterson said. “That’s why, by and large, our society is peaceful. You are all sitting here peacefully, not engaging in a power struggle even though there is a hierarchical arrangement of seats.”
Peterson believes postmodern thinking has made us “ungrateful” and that we have been too critical, blinding ourselves from our functioning society.
After all, he explained, society has made great strides in increasing the standard of living: infant and maternal mortality rates have decreased and extreme poverty has declined by 50 percent since 2000.
“This enrages me about [the modern] university—its intellectual and moral laziness, its resentful and victimization postmodern doctrine. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the history of humanity is a bloody nightmare. We have made a lot of progress in a short time when we are trying not to die painfully young.”
Peterson condemned those who are overly critical of the world as he believed that to change the world, we must first improve ourselves before criticizing the entirety of history. Peterson outlined this in his sixth rule.
“It is not obvious that you can do any better and you probably haven’t, maybe you could try,” Peterson said. “And if you did manage to do so then maybe you have the right to stand up as a more global critic. But until then, you should get your house in order before you criticize the world.”
In closing, Peterson laid out rule seven: “Do what is meaningful, not what is expedient.”
He advised the audience to live with a sense of meaning by acting in ways that are good for themselves, their families and communities.
“Take care of yourself, so you don’t die,” Peterson said. “Take care of your family, so they don’t suffer unduly. There is something to our civilized society that is valuable and integral. That’s a much better story than a nihilist, moral relativist story. Don’t criticize the world to death and leave nothing but ashes.”