With the exception of Donald Trump, is there another person in the English-speaking world subject to more harsh critiques than Jordan Peterson? Not that I’m aware. Peterson’s meteoric rise to prominence has come with something close to an equal descent into infamy, which is as much a statement of the polarized nature of our times as it is Peterson’s polarizing personality.
Though an admirer of Dr Peterson, and a follower on both YouTube and Twitter, I make a point of reading these critiques. Like almost everyone else, at the very least, Peterson is flawed. He manifests a brittle temper in moments that is connected to an apocalyptic sense of, as he was quoted in a private conversation as saying, the world being “five minutes before midnight.”
This sense of imminent doom is perfectly acceptable, and even regarded as a sign of particular piety within this cultural moment. You’re just supposed to associate this animating anxiety with human carbon emissions and the rise of Donald Trump. The problem with Peterson, from the perspective of the Cultural Establishment, is that his animating anxiety is driven by an idea that the Academic Left will cause a collapse of the social order, by finally succeeding in raising an Entirely Delusional Generation.
[Author’s Note: I’m capitalizing certain descriptors with the idea that these constitute fundamental actors within Peterson’s Narrative, even if he doesn’t exactly use the same terms. It’s my map, of his; or my reading, of his map.]
In Peterson’s view, the Social Justice Warrior is the ill-conceived love child of a delusional sense of self and an excessively naive ideology. This naivety is excessive in two ways:
First, it is largely ignorant of scientific and historical knowledge. Second, it is morally hyper-idealistic. This dyad is mutually reinforcing, as ignorance of historical knowledge prolongs moral hyper-idealism, and moral hyper-idealism prolongs an ignorance of historical knowledge. These are people who will not only refuse to look through the telescope, but who will feel good about themselves for doing so.
That Shit’s Crazy
The delusional approach to being an individual forms the linchpin of Peterson’s critique. Of course he has many times stated that the ‘compelled speech’ element of Bill C16 was a transgression of the norms of English Common Law, and the bridge too far for him personally, Peterson’s disagreement with the Social Justice Left runs deeper, to the issue of what it is that constitutes the decent treatment of individuals, and especially children – a difference that itself runs deeper to a disagreement over the basic nature of identity. For Peterson, identity is a thing negotiated with others on an individual level, according to already established social games. By contrast, on the Social Justice Left, identity is a thing deeply felt and sacrosanct in its self-conception. The deconstruction of all forms of traditional authority left this felt sense as the only power left standing.
As a Protestant Christian, Peterson believes in exactly this same sacrosanct self-conception. He just limits it within a secular and scientific world order, which is what he means by a Hierarchy of Competence, and Western Society. Peterson believes that this hierarchy provides a practical ‘best of all possible worlds’, relative to every other one that we know of, which the sacrosanct self-conception (i.e. the Logos) enters into an evolutionary, co-creative, relationship with. This is the relationship Peterson sees embodied in, for example, the myth of Osiris, Isis, Horus and Set.
He sees the Social Justice Left as dangerous exactly because they are using mob rule to try to, in effect, Storm Heaven and rewrite the social game in their own, mythologically and historically ignorant, and hence disastrously authoritarian, image. They are like Charlie X, from the first episodes of Star Trek, who holds the Enterprise hostage to his combination of absolute power and immature sexual ego.
The Social Justice Left, in Peterson’s view, is a bringer of cultural apocalypse exactly because an immature approach to individual identity that achieves social power will necessarily manifest hell on Earth.
Bringer of the Dawn
In short, Peterson contends that pan-sexuality will not save immature collectivists from becoming oppressive authoritarians who, in attempting to fix society by rewriting human nature completely, fuck the whole thing up.
It don’t matter what your pronoun is, brah. And if you want to get people to use your words, you’ve got to make your words good, rather than trying to indoctrinate and mandate the unintelligible.
The Social Justice Left, on the other hand, contends that there is no hierarchy of competence. The whole thing is built on the rotten foundations of stereotypical gender identities enforced by violence.
This idea of Rot At The Foundations (RATFucked) is consistent across Domains Of Authority (DOA) on the Social Justice Left. Sexual relationships, and therefore basic social identity creation and performance, is ratfucked because of violently enforced gender roles. Economic relationships are ratfucked because of slavery, Jim Crow, and imperialistic exploitation. Even the scores on IQ tests are ratfucked because the effects of historical oppression cannot be adequately figured in.
This idea that some system is ratfucked is incredibly compelling, as it offers a secret power over any system of cultural authority. Whatever the system, somewhere in its history it emerged from the slime. By calling out that original dirt, the legitimacy of the whole enterprise might be denied.
So, we’ve got to update the idea that Charlie X provides an image of Jordan Peterson’s view of the Social Justice Left. Charlie is too overtly self-interested. He’s more the Social Justice Left’s view of the Fragile White Boy, the failsons. Boys who have not been red-pilled so much as red-pillowed.
On the Left and the Right, the breakdown into identitarian groups, is an attempt to achieve social power. Group identities give group coherence, and such coherence is social power.
As a Status Quo Warrior, Jordan Peterson sees himself as fighting the siren song of identity politics, but he is certainly not entirely free of this same tune, as evidenced by his ill-conceived attempt to initiate a movement to sap school systems espousing the triumvirate of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion of students and funds. Clearly, he sees some pretty grim writing on the wall; but, again, how many of us don’t, and are those people simply Clueless As Fuck?