Politics and Psychology Meet in the Canadian Doctor’s Diagnosis of the Madness Sweeping Universities in the West
The video above is a part of the precursor discussion to what I have found to be the most interesting interview of or with Jordan Peterson yet undertaken. I found this interview uniquely interesting because the interlocutor attempted an impassioned yet reasonable critique of Peterson’s ideology and the resistance it has spawned. This is rarely the case; and in so doing, it arrives at – but does not engage – the central premise of Peterson’s critique of the student movements that have gained such disruptive power over the last five years.
Usually the interviewer is a fan, and fellow luminary of the so-called “Intellectual Dark Web”, or – like Cathy Newman of the BBC – an irrational opponent who won’t let lack of comprehension stand in the way of an appalled sense of certainty. This divide has been dominant since the very moment of Peterson’s rise to international acclaim and condemnation, in the original UT protests and counter-protests.
My first exposure to Peterson was from these protests, in the form of an exchange between him and one protestor who asked if he was willing to disavow both violence and the support of neo-nazis. Of course he readily was, but this did nothing in the slightest to satisfy the woman who accosted him, phone in hand.
What really struck me, was when Peterson commented that his opposition to fascism would be clearly evident to anyone who watched the hundreds of hours of class lectures that populated his YouTube channel. The woman replied that she’d already watched “all” of his videos. Given how clearly she loathed him, this claim was hard to find credible. Few of us really have the stomach to engage deep listening to people we despise, let alone the genuine will. My guess is that she was like the most of us, and hadn’t actually watched even a single video to any substantial extent.
So it seemed to me that her claim to complete familiarity was a lie. More than just a lie, though, it seemed to me to something approaching a delusion. She believed she knew exactly who he was alright, and she wasn’t going to be roped into even giving his bullshit the time of day.
Of course lots of people go to protests without any clear sense of quite what they’re in favor of or opposing. In fact, that’s the fundamental point that the included pre-interview touches on but, somewhat maddeningly, does not engage. That being: Peterson’s view the the radical protesters he opposes – and who in turn oppose him – are by and large incapable of acting as genuine agents of the social causes they imagine themselves to be agitating in service of. This, because they aren’t sufficiently ordered on a personal level to truly comprehend and join with those purposes in behavioral fact.
As Peterson sees it, the social justice movement coming to dominate academia – and by means of academia in conjunction with social media, the society at large – is inherently flawed; and so, if given power, bound to pave the road to a 21st Century version of the 20th Century’s totalitarian hells. This movement is lead by theorists who destroyed their integrity through excessive theorizing – to such a point that they triumphantly departed from reality, drunk on a hubristic nihilism for which the only reality was power.
As Robert Anton Wilson put it, as part of the friendly, irreverent, post-Beat, LSD-infused San Franciscan Enlightenment of the late 60’s and 70’s: Reality is whatever you can get away with. Peterson contends that a generation of academics took that idea all too seriously, and that these misguided teachers are selling their students an intoxicating illusion of collective guilt and potential redemption. It’s a sort of secular Christianity, in which that intersectional demographic furthest from “Straight White Western Male” best approximates the Christ that the Empires of the Western World sacrificed for its sins. This sacrifice, in fact, is the Alpha and Omega of sin.
Anyway, this pre-interview, as I’ve been saying, gets right up and touches on Peterson’s central objection to the fundamental premise of the Social Just Warrior: the idea that most any teenager is truly capable of aligning with and serving the Universe’s Moral Arc, so long as they follow along with the Catechism of Correctness.
Let’s say Peterson even agrees to some extent with Social Justice aims – which his youthful past as a volunteer for Canada’s Socialest Party suggests he does. He is nonetheless like the proverbial old Maine Yankee saying, “You can’t get there from here.”
He goes on to add, though, that those who are selling young people not only of the possibility of their behaving as true agents of social justice, but on their absolute moral obligation to do so, are by this insistence testifying to the corruption of their own doctrine. For what kind of teacher whips those who can’t even walk to run? Peterson is, in short, accusing them of that fundamental Western political crime: demagoguery.
That Peterson, as a follower of Jung, would feel this way will come as no surprise to anyone versed in Jung’s psychology. Ego inflation is, in this system, a symptom of childhood gone wrong. Childhood hyperextended. In this view, the Post-Modern Nanny State is the Oedipal Mother writ large. To encourage young people to ego inflation will only thrust them into a titanic struggle with their own disowned and projected shadow.
Those of us might get an instant grasp on this figure in saying that the inflated ego trapped in a titanic struggle with its own disowned and projected shadow is like America under George W Bush invading the Middle East so as to ‘bring democracy and freedom’. In a nutshell: your typical Social Justice Warrior, in Peterson’s view, is like an unelected Administration involved in building a Secret National Security State invading another country to bring democracy.
I don’t know that he’s ever made that analogy, but he should.