Luke Kinsella writes:
The rapid ascendancy of Dr Jordan Peterson from psychology professor to intellectual rock star begs the question: What’s his secret?
Peterson’s Wikipedia page is here. They note his videos have had tens of millions of views. He is a greatly effective critic of authoritarian political correctness.
His secret? After watching several hours of his lectures, I think I’ve figured it out. It can be summarised in a single word: responsibility.
Dr Peterson’s message is a hard one to hear: “Life is suffering.” Hardship is inevitable and life will always find some way to make you resentful. But don’t complain about it, because that’ll make it worse. Instead, find some reason to make life worth it, despite that suffering.
Something terrible happens to you. Should you be angry? Bitter? Resentful? Well, you could be. And you’d probably have every right to be. But is that the answer?
Maybe the answer is to find enough meaning in your life to bear your suffering, to carry it with you. Find a reason to keep going. Responsibility, he claims, is that reason. Being responsible for something or someone is what gives life meaning.
So if you’re going to have some responsibility, and if people are going to rely on you, you should strive to be the best person you can be. Start by improving yourself. Fix what’s wrong with you because you’re not perfect.
So don’t blame society for everything.
My generation rarely hears this. It’s not that we think we’re perfect — though narcissism is on the rise. We’re just rarely told to improve in such harsh terms. Instead, we’re told we’re special and that we should feel good about ourselves, no matter what. We get prizes for coming in last. We’re the “self-esteem generation”, so it’s always somebody else’s fault.
Dr Peterson’s saying the exact opposite: You’re not perfect, so stop blaming other people for your problems and take responsibility for yourself. Get your act together — you’ve got things to do. Aspire to a greater version of you.
“Why should you feel good about who you are? You should feel good about who you could be,” he said. And we actually like that message. It allows us to take responsibility for ourselves and it gives us a goal to strive toward. It gives us direction.
Dr Peterson isn’t in the “self-help” business, he’s in the “self-improvement” business. Rule number one in his book is: “Stand up straight with your shoulders back.” Rule six: “Set your house in perfect order before you criticise the world.”
He writes: “Start with yourself. What good are you? Get yourself together so that when your father dies you’re not whining away in a corner and you can help plan the funeral. And you can stand up solidly so people can rely on you. That’s better. Don’t be a damn victim.”
The antidote of the legions of professional victims.
He’s preaching strength and resilience during a time when victimhood is the primary means of gaining status and respect. Sociologists call this “victimhood culture”, and many argue that we’re currently living in one. In victimhood cultures, respect is given to those who publicise their oppression, victimisation and, ultimately, their lack of responsibility over their lives.
Victimhood is, after all, antithetical to responsibility. A victim is someone who isn’t responsible for their state of affairs. Dr Peterson’s response: “Life is an existential catastrophe and a tragedy.” We’re all victims in life. You’re not owed anything because you’re a victim. That’s not the answer.
The only way to overcome victimhood is to attend to your responsibilities and return to the genuine meaning in your life. Don’t reward someone for being a victim, reward them for adopting responsibility amid victimhood. Reward them for not acting like a victim despite being one. Admiration always beats pity.
Be great to have him come speak in New Zealand. Of course no university campus would dare allow him to speak, but I am sure there are other institutions that still like free speech.
You might be asking: Why young men though? Why aren’t young women flocking to him to the same degree as young men?
Well, he attracts a lot of young men on the peripheries of society. Young men who aren’t particularly successful and spend a lot of time on the internet, but have been told they’re the beneficiaries of an oppressive patriarchal system which bestows upon them “male privilege” — their ticket to success that somehow isn’t working.
“We’re so stupid. We’re alienating young men. We’re telling them they’re patriarchal oppressors, denizens of rape culture and tyrants-in-waiting. It’s awful … It makes me sad, deeply,” he said in an interview with the BBC.
Dr Peterson treats young men like individuals.
Rather than be one of our Ministers who tells men they need to start resigning their roles.