According to Jordan Peterson, a Canadian clinical psychologist, professor and author of 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote for Chaos, if we want more security and less tyranny in our society we should ask ourselves the question of what is our moral duty to secure that. Unless otherwise stated, all the ideas of this posting belong to Professor Peterson, being taken from one of his YouTube lectures.
As shown by Peterson, human society has its own set of values, but each of which are valid in determined circumstances. Human society also has opposing camps of articulators arguing for predetermined subsets of values, and because of this, it is necessary that there is a dialogue between them. Society’s target is always moving because time does not stand still. This means that the target is always moving. In other words, the problems keep changing, which is also another reason why the dialogue between the opposing camps of articulators, is essential.
The two camps of articulators that exist today are usually labeled the left and the right. To Peterson, the problem that stands on the way of communication between opposing camps of articulators – or the left and the right – is that people perceive things differently due to proclivity and home and education circumstances. The left believes that in the idea that you have a moral imperative to be a radical activist. The right believes in the idea of a moral imperative to be useful. They are two different things.
If you are a drop out, you are probably a looser. The probability is that you are useless, lazy, arrogant and resentful. There are losers who think they are saints and saints who think they are losers. If you are a looser who think you are a saint, then you will cause an awful lot of trouble to society. Many people from the 60s generation like to imagine themselves as the admirable rebel. However, lurking under the revolutionary façade is an inability to face responsibility. Baseline predictions and actuarial tables show this. The fact is that the admirable rebels of the 60s generation have been a pernicious influence on the university, especially the humanities, whose influence have been deteriorating since then.
A functional society has more security and less tyranny. Human societies have dominance hierarchies and many types of animals also have dominance hierarchies, which are behaviors selected for adding survival. Dominance hierarchies in human societies have been under attack accused of being tyrannies. However, there is a difference between the dominance hierarchies in human and other animals in the fact that the dominance hierarchies in humans are based on competence. Dominance hierarchies based on competence are not the same as hierarchies based on arbitrary power, such as the kind of power based purely on economic terms, which is actually a tyranny. The more functional the society, the more its power hierarchy is based on competence in relation to what society deems as actually valuable. It is difficult to meet those criteria perfectly but it needs to be a process in that direction. The number one predictor of success in a society is intelligence. Shouldn’t it be right that smart people occupy more positions of complexity in a society? Good hierarchies provide security but a degenerated hierarchy is a tyranny. If we want more security and less tyranny, the question we all should ask is what is our moral duty?
Whether this is good or bad depends on the way the individual is. If you self-discipline yourself, aim high and achieve the high standards, then it is likely that you will feel comfortable with such high standards. If you have something that stand on the way of your progress, you will perceive a tyrannical element in high standards, and see them as unfair. People who think that way tend to have the ‘adversarial personality’.
The existence of two or more camps of articulators is not the biggest problem of society. The biggest problem of society is the radical elements that exist in them. An example is the ideologues of egalitarianism and equity on the left and the right, who are incapable of realizing that there are differences in rank between people and that this is not such a terrible thing.
Non ideologues also have a problem, when they stay away from the debates that take place in the public sphere, especially when things go well for them and there is no discomfort in their professional lives. The discomfort of Jordan Peterson started in 2017 when he took a stand against Bill C-16 in Canada, which, if passed (and it has passed) will put people under the threat of legal punishment if they refuse to use certain words, namely new pronouns created to accommodate LGBTs. Because of that, Peterson became the scourge of the radical left for two things. Peterson himself stated that he was not against using a gender-neutral pronoun if he believes that a request to do so has merit, but that he was against a law compelling people to do so, for it would trample the more important right of fee speech.
Although Peterson became the scourge of the radical left by his opposition to Bill C-16 in Canada, he also became endeared by the students of moderate political views in Canada, United States and all the English-speaking countries. He began to be invited to give talks at various universities in Canada and elsewhere.
In many occasions, Jordan presence on campus attracted protests from students who chanted abused at him. On Friday 16 March 2018 Jordan went to McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario (Canada), invited buy a group of students, where he was going to participate in a debate of free speech and political correctness alongside with three professors from the same university. However, the three participants backed out of the arrangement due to the students’ opposition. Peterson attended to the hall anyway and started to talk, but no one could hear him because of the noise the protesters were making, chanting, clanging cowbells and blowing air horns. Eventually, Peterson retreated outside the hall, where he continued speaking while standing on a bench, and the event gained space in the national and international media.
According to Jordan, in 2017 his own job at the University of Toronto was threatened, causing great anxiety to him and his family. Last July, he announced his plans to launch a website that would help students and parents identify and avoid ‘corrupt’ courses with ‘postmodern content’. Within five years, he hoped, this would starve ‘postmodern neo-Marxist cult classes’ into oblivion. Jordan’s lectures and debates with other people are produced without special lighting and makeup. It is estimated that over 40 million people have listened to these.
All the hatred towards Jordan have caused a growth in the respect for his intellectual prowess. The hate and the love for him have helped to put his 2018 book 12 Rules for Life in the bestseller list. The economist Tyler Cowen, of George Mason University, who placed Jordan among the top five public intellectuals of the Western world (Tyler Cowen January 23, 2018 at 12:45 am in Current Affairs Education Philosophy). His opinion was echoed by David Brooks, of The New York Times, who referred to Peterson as “the most influential public intellectual in the Western world right now.” The American essayist and critic Camille Paglia anointed him “the most important and influential Canadian thinker since Marshall McLuhan”. The British journalist Melanie Phillips wrote that Jordan is “a kind of secular prophet … in an era of lobotomized conformism”.
As Peterson has articulated many times in his lectures, Postmodernism has a pernicious influence in society. In my view, Postmodernism has been allowed to encroach the universities of the West because the academics who enjoy the comfort of secure academic posts do not feel compelled to take a stand against it. I also believe that things are even worse in the fringes of the West, such as in my native Brazil. In my book of essays called O homem razoável (The Reasonable Man; 2016) one of the essays deals specifically with Postmodernism. This book is available on paper on Amazon.com (USA) and in Kindle edition in other Amazon sites. On my next post I will publish a transcription I made of Peterson’s talk on Postmodernism
Jo Pires-O`Brien is the editor of PortVitoria, a magazine for the Iberian culture.