Peterson's book is interesting, if not original. Where he loses the plot, though, is on gender relationsby Sameer Rahim / February 18, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
Jordan Peterson interviewed on Channel 4 news. Photo: YouTube screengrab Jordan Peterson is a phenomenon. The Canadian psychologist’s YouTube lectures, which urge their viewers (mostly men) to lead more meaningful lives, are watched by millions. His combative interview with Channel 4 News presenter Cathy Newman went viral. And now 12 Rules for Life—a kind of libertarian self-help book—has taken the top spot on Amazon in the US. Peterson has become notorious for taking apart liberal pieties—from feminism to political correctness. He has little time for minority group identities or complaints about unfair discrimination. Often cited by his fans on the alt-right, he vehemently disavows their support. His book initially strikes a more conciliatory tone. He offers sensible advice on child-rearing—don’t give the blighters everything they want—and the value of honesty. He tells political campaigners to look at the darkness in their own hearts before complaining about injustice. (That we can try to do both doesn’t appear to be an option.) A committed Christian, Peterson uses Biblical stories to prove that life is suffering. He quotes the greatest hits from Dostoevsky and Nietzsche. All this is interesting, if not original. Where he loses the plot, though, is on gender relations. He believes the excessive feminisation—the chaos of his book’s subtitle—has turned men against their true selves. Men “have to toughen up.” Women also want this, keen as they are, in his unfortunate phrase, for “someone to grapple with.” Only then can humanity fulfil its naturally “competitive, aggressive, domineering” instincts. Peterson’s brand of macho mysticism is exhausting and at points not a little scary. “Boys’ interests tilt towards things; girls’ interests tilt towards people,” he declares boldly. But what of the male poets—Milton, Yeats—he quotes admiringly throughout? Surely they exhibited the kind of forgiving empathy that this book, and Peterson’s followers, could do with a whole lot more of.