Jordan Peterson - Not Quite A Hero

Jordan Peterson Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life at Oxford Literary Festival April 2nd 2023

    When it was announced that Dr Jordan Peterson was going to be promoting his latest book, Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life, in the Oxford Literary Festival, petulant woke warriors at the Daily Information news-sheet refused to advertise the entire festival, as a protest against him. Some students denounced him and demanded he be banned. They did this, of course, just to reassure us that a society run on their principles would be free and progressive.

      Their attempt at “no-platforming” did not stop Peterson talking at the Sheldonian yesterday to a crowd of 700 many of whom cheered, and shouted “We love you!”

     The interviewer started by asking Dr Peterson what it is like to be subjected to a campaign of bullying and censorship for five years. He has been denied a Cambridge fellowship because of a backlash by intolerant academics, subjected to abuse and threats, “mistakenly” pursued by the Ontario tax board, and had about thirteen lawsuits brought against him by his professional body. He has at the same time sold millions of books and has millions of followers on the internet.

     The stress of relentless persecution has given Dr Peterson a breakdown, during which he became dependent on anti-depressive drugs and had to go into rehabilitation to recover. Yet, he continues to write, to lecture, and to be beloved by a generation of young men who find that he validates their own quest for meaning in life, a meaning that is not synonymous with approval by trendy gurus or conformity to “woke” notions of political correctness. Some of these young men stood up and thanked him publicly at this event. 

     Peterson is familiar with all the strains of 20th and 21st century philosophical thought, from Nietzsche to Sartre. He causes outrage by talking about moral virtues, rules, order - not rules and order imposed by governments or shrill activists but chosen by individuals seeking wisdom and a way to personal happiness. He talks about how he has been sustained by his lasting, successful marriage to a wonderful woman. He even talks about – heavens above! - conscience, which he says is “the voice of implicit unity”, evolved biologically to remind us that life is part of a collective existence. He says we need to find a partnership embedded in a family which is embedded in a community. In his new book he includes some reflections on the Sermon on the Mount. No wonder people want to shoot him.

     Peterson is categorized as a conservative and calls himself a traditionalist, but there are contradictions and weaknesses in his stance. He says that one rule of life is “tell the truth” and remarked at one point that “subjectively defined identity is preposterous”. However, when the interviewer asked him about placating the transcult by using “preferred pronouns” he said he usually addresses a transgender person in “whatever manner they think fit” so as to “abide by social convention”. What a feeble climb-down! What a cowardly compromise! It was laughable to hear the interviewer, Andrew Billen,  referring to Bradley a.k.a. “Chelsea” Manning as “she” and to hear Peterson going along with this. If Peterson hasn’t got the guts to say “Trans-women are men”, “Trans-women are frauds” and “Trans-women are cheats in sport” then he is not the hero that all these young men are looking for.

     Let’s parse this. When he says “social convention” whose social convention? The rules that a handful of lobbyists made five minutes ago, or the rules that all human societies have made since language was invented, acknowledging objective biological reality? If someone says they are Napoleon, would he address them as “Your Imperial Majesty” because that is the manner they think fit? If a grown man says he is a baby – as an increasing number of woke lunatics now do – would Peterson humour him by keeping him in a cot, changing his nappies and feeding him on goo?

     Well, I wouldn’t and I don’t and I never will. Morality needs courage and Peterson hasn’t got quite enough. By calling trans-identifying men “she” and “her” he is siding with the cult that brutally murdered six people in a Nashville school last week and uses mob violence to silence the peaceful meetings of the brave and crusading Standing For Women organisation wherever it goes. That is shameful. He is siding with a movement that leads thousands of young people into disastrous body-modification and horrific, unnecessary surgery. He says he is concerned about women leaving it too late to have children – why isn’t he concerned about children being trapped and tricked into a dangerous, anti-scientific ideology that sterilizes them?

     Courtesy and social convention should not in my view be dictated by drag queens, many with a criminal or very unsavoury background, who parody and travesty women in an insulting manner, and publicly attack us. And maybe I can just mention that at the event another woman complimented me on my suffragette scarf,  recognizing what it stood for. 

     It is significant that young men today are looking for better moral guides and deeper thinkers than they will find among the blue-haired brigade. They are quite right to do so. But while they are better off reading Peterson than many alternatives, he is still not the hero they take him for.