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Jordan B. Peterson, Live In Concert
The good doctor talks Genesis, Exodus, genocide, WEF, civics, and the theory of everything.
“I had to unfollow him on Twitter.”
The man behind me in line, wearing just a sweater in the freezing cold, is giddy at the thought of hearing the brilliant mind of Jordan B. Peterson. But even he thinks the one-time University of Toronto professor, turned Intellectual Dark Web philosopher, turned Joe Rogan sidekick, turned online propagandist was getting to be a bit much on Elon Musk’s pet project. His friends were nodding enthusiastically.
We trudge ahead in line as the arena staff shepherd Peterson’s disciples out of the snow and through the metal detectors.
Peterson’s rockstar return to Ottawa capped off a fitting and meteoric rise for the profoundly weird man.
It was on the University of Toronto campus, in 2016, Peterson first took a stand: Against the crushing weight of gender pronouns.
“Reasonable people,” he screamed, stalking back-and-forth, his shoulders hunched. “Can discuss and debate what those [free speech] restrictions should be. “But we can’t debate the fact that putting restrictions on free speech is something dangerous beyond comprehension.”
To that point, he was a little-known academic whose work elicited few reviews. The few he got described his Christian-tinted philosophy as overly complex. Maybe inscrutable. But his sudden political fervour was very simple: A legislative plan to extend long-existing human rights protections to trans people was a dangerous precedent. “It's the first time I've seen in our legislative history where people are attempting to make us speak their language,” he yelled. In effect, he was convinced that he would be forced, under threat of jail, to use one’s proper pronouns. “I studied totalitarianism for four decades and I know how it starts.”
Some students heckled him. More were enamoured with him: “Stop this nonsense,” one student yells at the crowd. “He’s brilliant!”
It was politicians in Ottawa who first took those arguments seriously. He was invited to the House of Commons to repeat his bombastic warnings about the rudimentary bill that had support from every major legal, health, and psychiatric body. While, in Toronto, he vowed that his fight was “only nominally about sexual politics,” by the time he showed up to Parliament, he railed that it was inappropriate to teach anything on sexuality and gender in school. He waved around a “reprehensible” cartoon of The Gender Unicorn. I watched Peterson testify that day, thinking: “This guy is onto something.”
Not that he had a point about the bill. He didn’t. Five years on, the legislation has not silenced transphobes or mandated gender pronouns in the workplace. Five years on, transphobia is alive and well, and the state is not using its power to cow them — rightfully so.
What I saw back then was Peterson’s remarkable gravitational pull. A political ideologue for the apathetic. A philosopher for people with no time for philosophy. A fluent teacher of grievance for those with little reason to be aggrieved.
His rise to prominence was as weird as his philosophy. After becoming a hero to the nascent alt-right, he disappeared from the limelight. He, his wife, and his daughter all fell gravely ill. He wound up addicted to benzodiazepine, which he tried to kick cold turkey (and with help from ketamine.) He was hospitalized, only to be whisked away by his daughter to Moscow for procedures "regarded as too dangerous in North America.” It didn’t take, and he wound up hospitalized in Serbia. It was, again, weird.
By October, 2020, he was back in Toronto, and mostly recovered — thanks in large part, he told his fans, to his daughter’s all-meat diet. “Beef and salt and water. That’s it. And I never cheat. Ever. Not even a little bit,” he told Rogan, one of his most ardent boosters and perhaps the epitome of a Jordan B. Peterson fan.
Since his recovery, timed perfectly with the worst of the pandemic that kept us cooped up and shack-whacky, Peterson has become a self-help guru for disaffected young men, an unapologetically religious figure in a culture with fewer and fewer of them, and the intellectual guide for a reactionary backlash.
He was scooped up by The Daily Wire, arguably the most successful and impactful right-wing online media outlets in the world right now. Peterson brags that, of the Wire’s million paying subscribers, 600,000 had watched his lengthy and detailed series of lectures on the Book of Exodus.
Despite his massive status, coverage of Peterson rarely engages with the substance of what makes him so popular. It’s often enough to take a clip from one of his Rogan interviews and declare him a misogynist, enough said. That superficial takedown is not lost on his followers, who see coverage of Peterson as proof positive of a media conspiracy.
And, no wonder. Peterson talks in sentences that could fill a page. His philosophy is sweeping, complex, and often incoherent. His charm and appeal is tough to understand without listening to a lot of it.
With all that in mind, I shelled out $90 to get half-decent seats for Peterson’s speaking engagement at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa this week. This dispatch is a partial transcript from his lecture and ensuing Q&A (very, very lightly edited) with an attempt to understand and explain Peterson’s appeal.
This week, on Bug-eyed and Shameless: Frontrow (ok, nosebleed) seats to the Jordan B. Peterson roadshow.
Subscribe now. It’s cheaper than going to see Jordan B. Peterson.
Buying my ticket, I purposefully bought the loneliest empty seat I could find. I wanted to be surrounded on all sides by a mass of Jordan B. Peterson stans.
Once I was there, listening to the generally passable folk stylings of a 20-something opening act playing folk standards on his acoustic guitar, I ogled at my fellow JBPaniacs. And I was surprised at what I saw.
The 5,000-plus crowd was not a swamp of neckbeard basement dwellers: That’s a convenient caricature for us to imagine. In fact, I would peg the gender breakdown as 60/40 male/female. I’d guess one-in-ten, maybe slightly more, were non-white. There were plenty of young men — many wearing full suits, as though they were heading to a Minions premiere — but plenty of women, families, older people. In front of me was a woman and her baby. Next to me were two college students.
Once the opening act finally ended, Peterson’s wife, Tammy, swept onto the stage. She thanked her son — the guitar-player, I learned, was Julian, the scion — and moved into a brief opening act of her own.
She introduced the first rule from Peterson’s new book Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life. It’s a surprising one, considering the source: “Do not carelessly denigrate social institutions, or creative achievement.” She explained how she had, through her adult life, denigrated the church, and how she drifted away from creativity. Since falling ill, and being given a year to live by a doctor, she explained renewing her faith in god and art again. It was a short intro that would not have been out of place inside a chapel. But, with that, she introduced her husband.
In the days leading up to the event, headlines blared that activists and politicians wanted the event cancelled. That wasn’t lost on Peterson. He opened by thanking all the racists and misogynists for trekking out to hear his spiel.
You got a pretty sad lot of protesters here. I'd been told for weeks that 36 organizations were appalled out of their shells by the mere spectre of the possibility of my appearance. Between them all they couldn't scrounge up one person to wave a placard.
As we wade deeper into this journey, put yourself in the skin of someone in the audience — maybe someone who enjoyed 12 Rules for Life, but isn’t keen on Peterson’s politics. Imagine the gears turning in their head as they experience the mismatch between the calls to cancel this nearly-sold-out event and what’s actually being said onstage.
With a brief dig at the woke death squads done, Peterson launched into what he really wanted to talk about: Genesis and Exodus. For his entire career, Peterson has basically used the Bible as a fractal: Zooming in, zooming in, zooming in, hoping to find some deeper meaning by universalizing every sentence fragment in the good book. He has waxed philosophical, and ad nauseam, on the first sentence of Genesis.
The thing about really, really old stories, especially the first couple of stories in Genesis — the story of creation, the story of Adam and Eve, of Cain and Abel, of Noah, of the Tower of Babel, particularly those stories — they are unbelievably ancient. And they're insanely deep, connected as they are to all the other biblical stories and, then, connected through that to almost the entire corpus of Western literature. That gives them tremendous depth and reach. Memorable as they are — and, why memorable? The answer to that question is, well, has anyone forgotten? And that's true for, likely, tens of thousands of years. The reason that they're memorable is because, over that span of time, everything that wasn't memorable, was forgotten. You can think of those stories as maximally adapted to the human memory. So that's the interesting way to think about it, right? Because if the stories are maximally adapted to the human memory, then they're deeply reflective of the structure of human perception and cognition, because otherwise, they wouldn't be adapted to our memory.
A lot of Peterson’s philosophy is simultaneously pedestrian and wildly unfounded. It’s a weird combo. The idea that the Bible has survived up to today (putting aside its role in three of the world’s dominant religions) because it serves as a moral guidebook for humanity is a fairly bog standard humanist view of history. At the same time, the idea that there is something innate inside the human brain that makes the Bible fit is psychobabble. Stare at the logic for a second and the only way it fits is to assume there is something innately spiritual inside the Bible that makes it constant and eternal. In other words: We have remembered the story of Noah and his ark, and not an excellent recipe for chicken gumbo, because that’s how god programmed us. Anything lost — by fire, flood, famine, or ransacking — wasn’t good enough to survive.
One of the things that interests me about Peterson is that, before his star turn, he wasn’t just some egghead: He was a practicing psychologist. He talked about it a bit:
One of the things I learned was that, if I started to become less than compelled by what my clients were telling me — regardless of their level of, say, intellectual capability, or achievement — the reason that I wasn't deeply engaged in the process was because I wasn’t listening hard enough. People are unbelievably interesting if you can listen to them enough. Because people are very strange creatures. And if they start telling you the truth, god help you. That's extremely interesting.
He goes on to delve into the theory of psychologist Carl Rogers and takes some hard turns in the process.
His clinical theory, which is hypothetically secular, is really a secularized version of Christian strategy of redemption or philosophy of redemption. Because it is predicated on the idea that dia-logos is redemptive, and that's predicated on the idea that honest communication facilitates spiritual or psychological development, that's predicated on the idea that the truth will set you free, right? So there's a hierarchy of philosophical presumption. And that's predicated on the idea of the divine word, and the divine word is predicated on the idea that love is an attitude and truth is a spoken relationship with the world, which produces the cosmos — the society that's habitable and good. And that's pretty much as far down as human beings can go. That's sort of rock bottom right there.
The more you listen to Peterson, the more you understand how he can take a single sentence and turn it into hours of lectures. It’s like he’s getting paid by the word. That whole tangent — which went on for a lot longer than I can reproduce here — can really be distilled to “talking, and being honest, is good.” But, by zooming in to that thought on the molecular level, he builds a bridge between the idea that truth is innately good, and that Christianity demands truth, and therefore one is inexorably linked to the other.
Imagine arguing that Wagyu beef is predicated on the idea that meat is inherent to hunger, and that is, in turn, predicated on the idea that meat must be sourced from a cow, which is really a form of the Wendy’s rhetorical question “where’s the beef?” Therefore Wagyu is a pure expression of Wendy’s.
There’s a lot of this in Peterson’s lecture. If you frame enough sentences as questions, you can really go to some bizarre places.
People ask themselves all the time: ‘Are the biblical stories true? And what is truth?’ That's a complicated question. Just like ‘what is real?’ is a complicated question. Objects are real. Pain is real. I think pain is more real than objects. You certainly act like that. Pain is subjective. Is the subjective real? Well, depends on what you mean by real. You'll certainly act like it is. And so just exactly what the real is, that's a complicated question, and just exactly what it means for something to be true, that's by no means self evident. I would say, of the Exodus story, that: It was always true. It's true now and will always be true. And that's a very strange category of truth…
That goes on for awhile. What is ‘awhile’? Awhile is subjective. But ‘awhile’ can feel longer than eternity when you’re listening to Jordan B. Peterson.
Nestled in a long diatribe about spirits (“If you’re angry, the spirit of anger guides you. If you’re hungry, the spirit of hunger guides you”) Peterson did strike to the heart of his self-help empire.
Well, why is that a spirit? It's an abstract pattern of perception and motivation that manifests itself as a personality. It's not unique to you. They'll still be anger long after you're gone. There was anger long before you showed up. It's got an element of the eternal about it, and it can inhabit you and control you, so to speak. And so that's a spirit. And it isn't obvious that the spirit of anger, any more than the spirit of hunger or the spirit of lust, is the appropriate stellar guiding spirit. Right? Is that the best you can do? The answer to that is: No. And if you only abide by the spirit of anger, then things aren't going to go very well for you. People aren't going to want to be around you, and you're not even going to be want to be around yourself. So there has to be some amalgamation of primordial spirits into something resembling a unity. That's actually your unified ego. Which hopefully develops and becomes more sophisticated across time and that unified ego is the spirit.
Boil this down to its very essence, and Peterson is saying “be in control of your emotions.” That’s perfectly good advice that more people probably need to internalize. But, again, so much of it is cloaked in this idea that there’s something innate and godly about all of these feelings — it’s also what underpins Peterson’s constant argument that dominance, and masculinity, is not just natural but evolutionarily necessary.
It’s a theme Peterson loves. In 12 Rules for Life, he asks his students to consider the humble lobster. The crustacean tends to form itself into hierarchies: The most powerful lobsters sit on top of the pecking (pinching?) order, the weakest at the bottom. “The idea of hierarchy has absolutely nothing to with socio-cultural construction,” he explained. Nevermind that it’s based on some faulty biology: The lobster became a symbol of the virile young man who was being toppled from his perch in a way that defies nature.
But, for Peterson, that hierarchy isn’t just physical or biological. It’s spiritual.
Modern people think that faith is the willingness to believe in preposterous propositions. But, really, what faith is the willingness to act courageously in relationship to a set of principles. And one principle might be, well, you know, if you cleaned up your room and told the truth, as matter of course, then maybe your life would straighten itself out.
Here, the two college-age guys sitting next to me punched each other on the shoulders, nodded enthusiastically, and leaned in.
We don't know the upper bounds of that. And you know perfectly well if you conduct your relationships, even with yourself, in the spirit of truth, they're much more likely to be fruitful over some reasonable amount of time. Now, that might mean you have to run headlong into some problems that you have to forthrightly confront. But I don't think there's anyone who's really deeply convinced, in the dark recesses of their soul, that lying and scheming is actually the best way forward. Even though you might doubt that on the political front—
This is where the laugher begins.
—especially in this country.
The crowd applauds.
It actually pains me to say that to some degree, because I've traveled to a lot of countries in the last couple of years. And I can tell you that our reputation as a nation on the international front is going to require a lot of polishing up before it ever attains anywhere near the status it once had. So and I don't think Canadians are know just how much contempt our current leadership is held in around the world. So that's not good. Anyways.
Through Peterson’s 45-minute lecture, politics very rarely came up. Little asides like this, however, lit the crowd on fire. Worth considering that Peterson’s international relationships are not sterling: He is tight with increasingly-authoritarian Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, for example.
I found myself constantly thinking about that rule that Tammy introduced earlier in the evening — “do not carelessly denigrate social institutions, or creative achievement.” It’s not hard to imagine that, when he wrote that, Peterson wasn’t thinking about the media, which he frequently attacks; major scientific and expert bodies, whom he undermines; or universities, which he writes off as corrupt to the core. He was thinking about himself.
Peterson launched into a story about being disinvited to deliver his multi-part lecture on Exodus at Cambridge University, thanks to the same kind of activism that tried to get him blocked from doing his shtick at the home of the Ottawa Senators.
The purported reason for that was that, when I was in New Zealand, I had my photograph taken with this gentleman, who was an audience member, who was wearing a t-shirt that was critical of Islam, of radical Islam. Apparently the fact that I had a photograph taken with him was an indication of my utter unacceptability to organize this biblical seminar at the Cambridge School of Divinity, despite the fact that I was invited there. And I found out later that was just a pretext. They had decided to not invite me because the few people who organized this cancelling cartel didn't like what I was saying, mostly because I have their number, that's for sure.
Peterson is right, and he’s wrong. Cambridge did use the t-shirt — which read “I'm a proud Islamaphobe” — as a flimsy pretext to dump him. But they didn’t disinvite him because he “had their number.” The backlash formed inside the school of divinity, no doubt, because Peterson has said some unbelievably stupid things about Islam. He once asked whether “feminists avoid criticizing Islam because they unconsciously long for masculine dominance?” He went on a diatribe about Mohammed being a “warlord.” He rejected the idea that Islamophobia is a thing. The t-shirt was just a convenient example.
Cambridge helped feed into the idea that they were carelessly denigrating creative achievement by uninviting him. Peterson carelessly denigrated a social institution in response.
Plenty of Peterson’s talk amounted to an ad for his Daily Wire show. While Cambridge may not want a 10 hour lecture series on Exodus, the right-wing media outlet certainly does. Peterson explained how the Wire flew out those Cambridge professors, who had originally invited him, to Miami to shoot the series (“I got to let their hair down and jet ski around on the Miami ocean.”) He also has a documentary coming out, filmed in Newfoundland and Labrador, featuring the only man who could beat him in a random word generation contest: Rex Murphy. (“The man is a walking poet.”)
I went to Peterson’s vaudeville act not to write some scathing takedown, nor to write apologia for hypocrite who teaches humanity and humility and behaves with neither. I went to try and get a handle on his actual philosophy. In that respect, I’m not entirely ill-equipped. I did my first year program at the University of King’s College in Halifax — the same school where Julian Peterson studied. It runs a great books program, the kind that Peterson and others like him often fetishize. To this point, 30 minutes in, Peterson’s diatribe sounded like one of my papers on Saint Thomas Aquinas, cultured in a petri dish and left to grow for 30 years.
Just as my eyes were unfocusing, Peterson started playing the hits:
Now there's an idea in Exodus that the highest unity of spirit, that's Yahweh, is —and you’ve gotta think about this, you want to think about whether you agree with this — is the spirit that proclaims the tyrant is wrong. Now, you might say: ‘That’s self-evident.’ No, it wasn't self evident to the Romans. It's not self evident to tyrants. The only reason that it might be self evident to you is because you're actually possessed by the spirit that defines that as self evident. And the only reason that you're possessed by that spirit at all is because you're the product of a Judeo-Christian culture, with the heavy Greek and Roman influence, that figured out 3,000 years ago that the highest spirit that might orient you is the same personality that calls you to object to tyranny.
This is really just Hegelian karaoke. But he’s modernizing it in a really particular way, and you’ll see how in a second. He argues that the only pathway to objecting to tyranny — and, he goes on, to opposing slavery, to bringing order to chaos, and to finding justice — is via the spirit that has been driven through the scripture. Peterson may say that non-believers and other religions can embody that spirit, but he also argues, in essence, that Christianity invented it.
We have whole societies that will collapse into the grip of totalitarian certainty, and it's complete bloody hell, and they won’t let go. Exodus actually provides an answer to that. And it's the right answer, which is: Out of tyranny, into the desert. It is not at all obvious that the desert is an improvement. What happens is when the Israelites find themselves out in the desert, they immediately start pining for the tyranny and erecting all sorts of false idols and squawking and bitching and complaining and fighting amongst each other. Because they have the habits of slaves, trying to erect a new pharaoh. It’s exactly the same sort of things that we do now. Then they have to wrestle with how to establish proper order. And that's a big question. How do you establish proper order? Because tyrannic Pharaoh does doesn't cut it. W. E. F. Right?
Not missing a beat, the crowd erupted into applause.
The crowd, hanging on his every word, listened to the good doctor explain how every one of them is imbued with the spirit of Moses, armed with a mission to fight tyranny. How they must slay the chaos in their own life in order to bring order to the whole world. And how their fellow slaves could, in conjunction with the tyrants, ruin it all. And, by the way: The World Economic Forum.
It’s The Phenomenology of Spirit married with The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
He goes on to explain that the structures of man — cities, courts, governments, international organizations — all trace themselves back to that effort, in the desert, to bring order to the chaos. He traces that right down to the family unit.
With a cheery “anyway!” Peterson goes on to explain that his Exodus lecture series hopes to provide “ennobling vision that can guide us into the future and fortify us against anxiety, provide us with genuine hope and unite us psychologically and socially, so that we don't make too big a hash of things as we progress into what could be an infinitely abundant future,” deep breath. “And so that's the plan, man.”
If you’ve made it this far, first off: Congratulations. You’ve successfully graduated from Jordan B. Peterson’s Word Soup Seminar. You also may be thinking, like I was, “that’s a lot less political than I was expecting.” Well, strap in. Because Peterson’s big finale was his Q&A.
Tammy came back out to read audience-submitted questions. The first? “How can we teachers push against woke-ism in primary and sec-” the rest of the question was drowned out in a sea of applause and cheers.
Prepare yourself, Peterson warned, “you're gonna have to take your blows to push back against enforced and mandatory idol worship, let’s say, but that's a lot easier battle than losing control of your own soul.” I guess that means no more Gold Calf Story Hour.
Start talking to parents, because what you'll find as a teacher is that 85% of parents agree with you — or 90%, 95% — especially when it comes to the propriety of 144 Quadruple D giant breasted trans teachers teaching shop, for example, there are really very few people who think that that's a good idea. Although they seem to exist, perversely enough — and I mean that with the precise meaning of that term. So and then you know, strap yourself in because you're in for quite an adventure if you decide to go up against Moloch.
Flooring the gas pedal, Peterson manages to fit in the idea that the vast majority of parents are anti-trans, that trans people can be boiled down to one individual, and that any effort to advocate for trans youth is akin to the Canaanite demon of child sacrifice.
It’s been a long road from Peterson’s insistence that his opposition to transgender rights was about free speech and not, in fact, about “sexual politics.” Where we stand today, Peterson is openly endorsing the idea that “transgender ideology” should not just be discouraged but outlawed. Censored. Banned. Criminalized. In that respect, he’s clearly taking some cues from his friend Viktor Orbán. Long gone is the fear that undue restrictions on free speech could drive us into totalitarianism.
Asked a question about the rights of unvaccinated people, Peterson largely ignored the prompt and continued to rant about civic responsibility.
Here's a question: Why are only the most insane people in charge of school boards? The answer is: Because all of the sane people have abdicated their responsibility. So here's the rule. This is an iron rule: Every bit of civic responsibility abdicated will be taken up by tyrants and used against you. That is 100% certain. […] If you don't take on a civic job that nobody really wants — school board membership is a good one. […] If you don't do it, someone narcissistic and crazy will. And, as you can see, then you'll have 144 Quadruple D trans shop teachers, exposing their giant nipples to high school students. How did we get here? It's like, well, it's cuz you're sitting on your hands boys and girls. That's why.
After listening to Peterson talk at length, I have come to a position that I am incredibly confident in: He doesn’t know very much about politics, policy, or current affairs.
During his lecture, Peterson was firing off round after round of references, asides, and allusions to philosophers, academics, and published material. When pushed to talking about politics, his remarks turned to complete pablum. His helpful caricature of one transgender teacher in Ontario was one of very few clues that he even knows what year it is.
At the same time, Peterson had primed the audience for these moments. He told his audience that they, the assembled masses in the Canadian Tire Centre, were host to the spirits of justice, intellect, and freedom. He warned of the barbarians at the gates. The godless, ahistorical demons were hoping to tear down order and install chaos.
It is one part Christian supremacy, the idea that the Western interpretation of the Bible offers salvation; it’s one part traditional moralism, the idea that society only functions with the building blocks of two-parent homes; and it’s one part his own paranoia, a fear that evil players and internationalist ne’er-do-wells are plotting to upend this perfect world.
It was the final question that really set things off the rails. His wife read the audience prompt: “How do you feel about MAID [Medical Assistance in Dying] expanding to mental illness?”
Peterson began with his personal experience and seemed to come to the very edge of empathy. His voice wavering, he described the pain and difficulty of his persistent medical problems. “I'd be a liar if I said that there weren’t times where, if there would have been a button that would have just shut me off, I would have pushed it.” He explained that the Peterson clan had done exactly that to the family dog.
But he's a dog, you know? He wasn’t grandma. As Nietzsche said: ‘You haven't lived long if you haven't seen that the compassionate hand sometimes kills.’ There's something to that. You’ve got to ask yourself how much agony you would be willing to watch someone go through before you might give them a hand. But that doesn't mean that that responsibility should be taken up by the government
Let me briefly say that there is plenty to be angry about, when it comes to Canada’s medical assistance in dying regime. Incompetent policy-making has created a regime that is simultaneously too restrictive while also lacking adequate safeguards. Some people in extraordinary pain, without hope of recovery, cannot access the program. Some people, whose pain is more a consequence of poverty than illness, have been able to end their lives. MAID is being recommended, because there’s a recognition that existing care isn’t adequate. It’s a genuine public policy crisis. But one thing we can say about the system is that it is not euthanasia. The state is not killing anyone who has not repeatedly, consistently, and pointedly consented.
Peterson’s remarks on medical assistance in dying paint a picture of a state preying on the weak. And he veered into exactly where you would expect: Nazi Germany.
Allowing the state to make decisions about who should live and who should die — you don't know what kind of monster you're likely to conjure up. I don't know how many of you know this, go look it up for yourself, but before the Nazis started their extermination program, before they started the Holocaust, they started with a public health campaign. The Nazis came to power, partly, promising to clean up the country of disease. And they did. They produced universal treatments for tuberculosis, they upped the standards of hygiene in German hospitals. Then they went to the factories and started cleaning them up. And they used Zyklon B. They used it in factories to get rid of the insects and the rats. […] The Nazis basically said that they said: ‘Jesus, you know, if you guys went into those back wards [of psychiatric hospitals], you'd think death is preferable. And, plus, it's not like it's cheap to keep those people alive in their desperate suffering.’ […] Away the Germans went and cleaned up the asylums. Then, well, then the disabled were next on the list, because it turned out they were kind of expensive, too, and inconvenient. You're gonna be expensive and inconvenient at some point, too. You're probably that already.
Peterson goes into a tangent about how most people in their lives experience depression, intoning that the Trudeau government is keen to open the door to murdering anyone, particularly conservatives, who ring up the death panels. This, despite the fact that depression is not grounds to apply for medical assistance in dying.
Are you so sure that you wouldn't have called up the friendly Trudeau Government and have them give ya a hand, just at that point? I think it's 30,000 people we've already managed to dispense with in this country. As I said, Canada's international reputation is in tatters. And we're just getting going. Now, you might ask yourself, how did we handle this before medically assisted death? And the answer is, physicians and family members bore the burden on their own conscience, and it was not uncommon. But it wasn't publicly discussed. Let's say that. At some point, you decided to take grandpa off his heart medication, or maybe, great-grandma's got Alzheimer's disease and she’s in excruciating pain, and the physician provides a little more opiate than is strictly necessary. Everybody just takes that burden on themselves. Very, very carefully and cautiously and it's the family, to the degree that anybody has the right to make a decision, it's the family that has the right and the responsibility.
In other words: Let’s go back to an era where we just let people suffer until which time the family swoops in and murders them, risking prosecution, instead of letting the person make plans, with the help of a doctor, to end their own life.
Perfect, no notes. A master of public policy.
I don't trust the people who can’t get your passport in two weeks to decide whether or not grandma gets to live.
And here we come to an end of Jordan B. Peterson’s magical mystery tour.
He did a quick bow, left the stage, and the house lights came up. I looked around for a cue about how the crowd felt. They were energized. “I could have listened to another two hours,” I heard one young woman say. Others buzzed about the fine form he was in.
The energy in the room, especially as he called them to their civic duty, was measurable.
After two hours amongst them, I can say safely say that I think even less of Peterson than I did walking in — a low bar to limbo under. And yet I better understand the appeal. He appeals to Christians, without a doubt, who desperately want a modern philosopher compatible with their faith. In that respect, he’s a rarity. He is a winner for young men who want a voice confirming their place at the top of the food chain, and who provides an intellectual basis for how they can hustle to reclaim that spot without ever having to reckon with the negative traits of learned masculinity. King of the lobsters. He’s a winner for people who want a theory that explains everything: All the wisdom of a great books program, without having to read any of the great books. And he’s an academic underpinning for people who hate trans people.
Reducing him to a meat-addled doofus who sounds smart while sitting next to Joe Rogan is an easy bit of shorthand, which I’m guilty of scribbling, but it robs us of understanding exactly why and how he’s caught fire.
He’s right about one thing: We should not carelessly denigrate social institutions, or creative achievement. In his case, our denigration should be very careful.
Below the paywall, a few more choice Jordan B. Peterson quotes about Ron DeSantis, millennials, changing the country, and Cheetos and pornography.
Florida is trying to ban critical race theory. […] The concern I have about that is how do you ban something you can’t define? It's like trying to nail jello to the wall. You might be able to stop people from having a Drag Queen Story Hour, let's say, and perhaps that should be stopped and perhaps not. Perhaps stupidity should just play itself out. You never know. Right? Because things that can't last, won’t. Although they can do a lot of damage in the meantime, the problem with the banning approach is that it easily degenerates into a censorship.
He’s right, of course. But he’s also a raging hypocrite. Just days after his talk, he endorsed Trump’s call to enact a federal ban on any trans-affirming healthcare, and severely restricting all trans people from existing.
You entice millennials forward, like young people have always been enticed, and that's by telling a compelling story. And I think that's within our grasp. Because I think we now understand, consciously, way more of what a story is than we ever did. And we also understand way more about what makes it compelling and also why. It’s a remarkable theological, philosophical and scientific convergence about to occur on exactly that front. It's quite remarkable to watch. So we can tell a better story.
This is one thing that the far-right — of which Peterson is an on-again-off-again member — has failed to understand for a long time. Yes, paranoid conspiracy theories can motivate a tremendous number of people. But you can, generally, only get that mass of people to oppose. At most, you can get them rallying around an individual, like Trump. But grievance-based politics only gets you so far. Peterson is certainly guilty of those things, but part of what makes him so incredibly successful is his ability to couch his brand of traditional conservatism in a positive and progressive story. Fighting to preserve social hierarchies — ones that have disadvantaged women, Queer people, minorities — because an active of justice and morality, instead of self-interest. Consider Jesus. Consider Moses. Consider the lobster.
The spirit of our institutions is about is viable. The manifestation is corrupting, but the spirit is viable. And so, if we wanted to, all of us, if we decided it was important, we could take on the responsibility of our civic duty. There's enough people in this hall tonight to completely change the country. Like if every single person here [applause] I'm not suggesting you do this because, you know, your lives are complex — I don't know maybe you're already up to here with obligations — but if every single one of you decided to flat out, to do your civic duty, the whole country would be a different place in 10 years. Because 5000 people, that's a lot of people, and at the same time, it's not that many people. So that's a good solution.
Like I said: Peterson doesn’t know anything about politics or governance. His advice for the crowd was:
Run for school board
Get involved in a political party
On Cheetos, pornography, and love:
Get the hell out of your comfort zone there, buddy, and take on the snakes. And you might say: ‘Well, I’d rather lay here and eat Cheetos and watch pornography.’ Actually, you wouldn’t rather do that, because one of the propositions that's embedded in the narrative of Abraham, which happens to be right. We're built for romance and adventure, not for comfort. You're gonna find the meaning of your life and adventure. And if you have an adversary voluntarily accepted, you've got yourself in adventure. And if you have an adversary, voluntarily accepted, if it's a pretty big adversary, well, then maybe you'll grow the hell up and get tougher. Well, you fight it.
I hope you enjoy this bizarre descend into the chaotic anti-chaos of Jordan B. Peterson. Until next week.