Saturday, January 27, 2018
Who’s Afraid of Jordan Peterson?
By Peggy Noonan
When I speak with young people beginning their careers I often tell them that in spite of the apparent formidableness of the adults around them—their mastery of office systems, their professional accomplishments, their sheer ability to last—almost everyone begins every day just trying to keep up their morale. Everyone’s trying to be hopeful about themselves and the world. People are more confused, even defeated by life, than they let on; many people—most—have times when they feel they’ve lost the plot, the thread. So go forward with appropriate compassion.
This flashed through my mind when I saw the interview this week between British television journalist Cathy Newman and clinical psychologist and social philosopher Jordan Peterson. It burned through the internet, in part because she was
remarkably hostile and badgering: “What gives you the right to say that?” “You’re making vast generalizations.” He seemed mildly taken aback, then rallied and wouldn’t be pushed around. It was also interesting because she, the fiery, flame-haired aggressor, was so boring—her thinking reflected all the predictable, force-fed assumptions—while he, saying nothing revolutionary or even particularly fiery, was so interesting. When it was over, you wanted to hear more from him and less from her.
I wondered when I first read the headlines: What could a grown-up, seemingly stable professor (former associate professor of psychology at Harvard, full professor for 20 years at the University of Toronto) stand for that would make a journalist want to annihilate him on live TV—or, failing that, to diminish him or make him into a figure of fun?
He must have defied some orthodoxy. He must think the wrong things. He must be a heretic. Heretics must be burned.
I had not known of his work. The interview was to promote his second book, “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.” Mr. Peterson is called “controversial” because he has been critical, as an academic, of various forms of the rising authoritarianism of the moment—from identity politics to cultural appropriation to white privilege and postmodern feminism. He has refused to address or refer to transgendered people by the pronouns “zhe” and “zher.” He has opposed governmental edicts in his native Canada that aim, perhaps honestly, at inclusion, but in practice limit views, thoughts and speech.
This is unusual in a professor but not yet illegal, so I bought his book to encourage him.
In it he offers advice, much but not all of it based on decades of seeing patients as a psychologist, on the big eternal question: How to Live.
He is of the tough school: Know life’s limits, see and analyze your own, build on what you’ve got and can create.
And be brave. Everything else is boring and won’t work.
Deeper in, you understand the reasons he might be targeted for annihilation. First, he is an intellectual who shows a warm, scholarly respect for the stories and insights into human behavior—into the meaning of things—in the Old and New Testaments. (He’d like more attention paid to the Old.) Their stories exist for a reason, he says, and have lasted for a reason: They are powerful indicators of reality, and their great figures point to pathways.
Read the rest here.
at 12:01 AM