“But again, this aside, Jordan Peterson’s lessons of personal responsibility and taking charge of one’s life are actually helping people, which brings me to my friend, Fred.”
n a November 17th Merion West article, Conrad Hamilton and Matt McManus announced their plans to release a book entitled Myth and Mayhem: A Leftist Critique of Jordan Peterson, which they assert will be the first comprehensive, book-length takedown of the Canadian psychologist-turned-public-intellectual. What is noteworthy about this book is that it will be written by four authors who have respective expertise in the areas of feminism, philosophy, Marxism, and the principles of argumentation. The purpose of this joint venture is to, in the words of Hamilton and McManus, “confront Peterson on his own terms—to eschew tawdry criticism and ad hominem attacks and instead get to the nucleus of his thought” in their attempt to beat the “anti- woke, truth telling patriarch act” out of Peterson’s persona.
After reading about this upcoming book project, I sought to learn more about Jordan Peterson—beyond simply his stances on political correctness, gender neutral pronouns, and the like. As such on November 19th, I attended a screening of The Rise Of Jordan Peterson, a new documentary about Peterson’s life, at my alma mater, Columbia University. The film was directed by Patricia Marcoccia and produced by her husband, Maziar Ghaderi. Although the two Toronto-based filmmakers lean “left of center” politically, fortunately, this did not factor into their film-making decisions. The film, instead, “thoughtfully explores the ways in which Peterson has been both celebrated and reviled.”
One of the most important points in the film, in my view, belongs, though, to the “celebrated” camp; it’s also in line with many comments that Hamilton and McManus received regarding their new book project. The point, in effect, is: ‘Enough high-minded academic critiques. Jordan Peterson is actually helping people.’ This was also what one commenter named Will was getting at when he wrote beneath Hamilton and McManus’ book preview, “I am a municipal maintanence [sic] worker in Toronto. Jordan Petetsons’ [sic] lectures and writing have been a major factor in my journey to stop making excuses for myself, finding sobriety and getting my finances in order.”
Similarly, in Marcoccia and Ghaderi’s film, a high school student named Connor describes how Peterson’s methods taught him, “how to act in the world.” Another, Matthew, suggests that Peterson helped him to “rekindle his faith in religion” and gave him, “the courage to stand up for his conservative and libertarian beliefs in the classroom.” Even so, many theaters have decided to pass on the film because of widespread criticism of Jordan Peterson, which, of course, primarily comes from the Left. For many of his critics, Peterson’s views on the importance of family, traditional gender roles, and an uncompromising commitment to free speech are unpalatable.
But again, this aside, Jordan Peterson’s lessons of personal responsibility and taking charge of one’s life are actually helping people, which brings me to my friend, Fred. Fred is a well-respected bassist and music business entrepreneur whose wife is suffering from frontal lobe dementia. Fred described to me learning about Jordan Peterson, by chance, through a random Internet search and discovering that Peterson’s mother-in-law was suffering from the same condition as his wife. From there, he stumbled upon a Youtube video where Peterson describes how his father-in-law dutifully and lovingly cared for his wife throughout her illness. In an incredibly powerful moment in this video, Peterson advises anyone suffering through great adversity to: “…stand up straight and fully face the darkness, and what you discover is at the darkest part is the brightest light.” Peterson breaks down momentarily as he says this and starts to cry, and so did my friend Fred as he listened. From that moment on, Fred tells me, he realized that he was not alone—and that it was possible that he would not only survive his darkest hour but might even be able to grow from the experience. For Fred, of all of Peterson’s advice, the Jungian axiom “that which you most need will be found where you least want to look” was most transformative in his life. Matt McManus might say that insights such as these are nothing more than a, “Schopenhauerian- Nietzschean trope.” Dismiss advice Peterson’s advice all you’d like with big words, but for the countless people that Dr. Peterson has helped, from my friend Fred on down, these words have been nothing short of transformative.
However, if he hopes to convince Jordan Peterson’s supporters of the “acute limitations of [Peterson’s] thinking,” he is going to have to explain Peterson’s track record of helping those in need—from Will in Toronto, to the young men featured in Marcoccia and Ghaderi’s film to my own friend, Fred.
Matt McManus brings considerable academic firepower to important debates. He is one of Merion West’s most prolific writers, and I enjoy reading his opinion pieces, even when I disagree with him. However, if he hopes to convince Jordan Peterson’s supporters of the “acute limitations of [Peterson’s] thinking,” he is going to have to explain Peterson’s track record of helping those in need—from Will in Toronto, to the young men featured in Marcoccia and Ghaderi’s film to my own friend, Fred. For academics who want to criticize Peterson with high-minded references and ivory tower abstractions, they would be wise to remember that many of these ideas fall apart in the complex world in which we actually live, a world where people are actually suffering. And some of these people are finding tremendous consolation in the words and advice of Dr. Jordan Peterson.
Tony D. Senatore graduated from Columbia University in 2017, at the age of 55. He is a well-known bassist and musician.
24 thoughts on “The Best Argument For Jordan Peterson: My Friend, Fred”
Well said, anyone can be criticized but not everyone’s advice is practical or effective. Personally, a year and a half after finding JP and my life is quite a bit better, my mental health has improved, my marriage was never bad but is even better now, I’m physically maybe in better shape then I have ever been, and most importantly I am doing more to help out the people in my life then ever before. I took messages from his book of finding meaning through accepting traditional responsibilities, looking inward first before outward when encountering a problem, trying to reduce the suffering around me when possible, and being disciplined in my daily life/self care. Id also point out I remain politically unchanged, a moderate through and through and regularly seek out opinions contrary to my own, I don’t feel JP has had any radicalizing effect on me. JP has his flaws and deserves to be criticized, as does anyone, and I know his writing has been misused by some due in part to those flaws, but it seems to me the vast majority of those reading JP are making positive improvements to their lives and in the lives of the people around them. This is why I think his book is pushing almost 6k reviews on amazon, almost all of which are positive. Truth isn’t a popularity contest to be sure, but to me and many others the proof is the pudding so to speak.
Agree, Well said. Dr. Peterson has helped me and so many others. No author can convince me that this man is not doing good in the world. Do I agree with each and every point Dr. Peterson makes? No. But, 98% of what is says about personal responsibility, facing suffering as nobly as possible and living a truthful life are dead on.
Thanks for spelling it out so well. Most of us dont care about nature of abstract discourse or philosophical theory. We want a secure path to walk down that can withstand the pressure of real life.
Dr. Peterson is such a source of inspiration for so many across the world. His words and teachings have inspired and have helped me resolve personal demons as well. He is so kind, thoughtful and compassionate. I am honored that I have had opportunities to work with him and have conversations with him. I consider him a mentor. I pray God gives him a long life because too many people are suffering and his words are needed to help those lost souls. I am one of those people who will never tire of Dr. Peterson and no author, writer or academic in this world can convince me otherwise no matter how many books he or she writes.
A heart felt composition of eloquence Sarina. I concur wholeheartedly.
Cool anecdote. Too bad Jordan Peterson is a grifter making bank off of stupid people who need a father figure to tell them not to piss their pants when the going gets tough. As far as I can tell, the issue isn’t with whether or not he is helping people with his warmed over bullshit. The problem is 1) isolating responsibility in the individual when structural changes require going beyond the remit of the private individual is itself irresponsible. 2) Using the cause of free speech as a Trojan horse for smugling in capitalist propaganda, anti-Marxist nazi conspiracy theories, and other questionable views on gender, race, sexuality, religion and secularism, poverty, illness, even crackpot diets, is very clearly the motte-and-bailey strategy of the alt-right.
Don’t pretend like Peterson phenomena is reducible to his humble role as a spiritual healer. A more sinister brew of reactionary bullshit is hiding behind this front.
Everything that was said in the previous comment was incorrect, and anyone who read it is now worse off for having done so. Starting with predictable ad hominem attacks on Dr. Peterson and his audience, following with willful mischaracterizations and ironic misunderstandings of his message before resorting to obvious factual errors and ending with more ad hominem attacks reveals much about the person who makes them.
Dr. Peterson’s message is not that personal changes are a solution to world problems but instead that the problems that face us are so pervasive and of such consequence that to face them without full commitment, ability and perseverance is to understate them and demonstrate the dilettante nature of current activism. While some activists show commitment, too many vanish after graduation. While some activists have talent, ability to affect real change and the wisdom to know when is developed by first beginning with small changes to ourselves and building to greater personal, familial, community and ultimately global changes. Perseverance in the face of global crises requires more than facebook likes and hashtags. If you are going to change systems that affect billions of people in life or death reality, having a sophisticated knowledge of those systems, understanding the nature of unintended consequences, and which issues to address could, perhaps, be useful.
The author did not provide a name, which is telling because “capitalist propaganda, anti-Marxist nazi conspiracy theories etc” was not written by a person but by an ideology. There are thousands of “critics” who would make identical claims, very few of whom could explain or understand what they mean by this word salad, even fewer would be able to provide actual proof of any of it. Dr. Peterson is not a member of, nor gateway to, the alt-right. In fact, the alt-right, hatefully regard him as a “Jewish shill” who has liberated thousands of vulnerable young men from that horrendous ideology.
The author of the comment ironically proves two things: first, their inability to effectively criticize Dr. Peterson demonstrates how people should begin with problems they can actually address before attempting to confront issues they can not, and second, that this particular individual could really, really benefit from the assistance that Dr. Peterson has provided to so many.
Shut the fucc up you brainwashed wanker all you’re doing is crying about “ad homs” and then polishing Peterson’s pistol like a good little bittchmmmmm mmm ya lap it up slave
2xneg: that’s some mighty fine “reactionary bullshit” you be writing. At least you don’t come across as an angry ideologue rubber stamping your way to your rant.
Geoff R: I regret that the site allows but one uptick. Beautifully put, and I agree 100%.
I’m going to guess you haven’t consumed much Peterson beyond articles critical of him because he regularly says that people should use their lives to reduce suffering in the world, and the larger the scale the better. He suggests that before you move on to the big stuff, perhaps you should first get your own life and world in order as a dysfunctional individual is likely not in good shape to make a functional world. Its not a philosophy of atomized individual responsibility, just advice to always start with yourself. To your second point while the Alt Right certainly abuses free speech Petersons views are typically moderately conservative in nature, at least I cannot think of any that aren’t. I would agree that his criticism of the left can cross into hyperbole but to view him as Alt Right for his avowed positions, right or wrong, is to look at almost everyone to the right of Joe Liberman as a member of the alt right or an alt right tool. Your welcome to hold that opinion but I’d note most informed people do not.
You sound like a Maxist nazi bullshiter.
You have the intellectual depth of Derrida diarrhea, the spiritual understanding of a deconstructed Post Modernist potato. You know nothing of what you spew.You sound like a self loathing bourgeois. Angry at yourself for wasting your life, bitter that you aren’t a better capitalist, sad and desperately trying to satiate your thirst for personal success by putting your ideologically possessed Bolshevik der’mo mozg to use. Get a life other than your minute existence of pseudo intellectual musings on the validity of a Dr. Peterson and the people he has selflessly assisted
Dobryy den’. Naslazhdaytes’ yedoy osla.
Vain ramblings that seek only for the second to make sense of the first, you speak a privilege that reeks of Humpty-Dumptying delusions.
I don’t know anyone who’s life has been improved by Peterson’s message. About 98% of the evidence I’ve seen of his effect on people is the Reddit sub r/JBP. Based on that, his supporters are enthused by the knowledge that everything bad in society is due to the baleful influence of trannies, commies and feminists. I don’t agree with that perspective. Peterson himself reminds me of William F. Buckley’s self-description as someone standing athwart history yelling ‘Stop!’ If there’s a single social or cultural change that’s occurred in the last fifty years that doesn’t appall, disgust or terrify him, I’m not aware of it.
But making sure that young white heterosexual men feel better about themselves is certainly important. (Note: that was sarcasm).
I mean, I would not say Reddit is the best place to test a community so you may want to consider your sample size and where you gathered it. He appeals more to the conservative mind to be sure, so if you don’t hang around many of that type you likely wouldn’t encounter someone who has benefited from him. I don’t think I could change your mind on Petersons positions but I will say off the top of my heard I’ve heard him speak positively of socialized medicine in Canada and change his opinion toward the liberal/progressive side while discussing the masterpiece cake shop issue (originally for being able to deny service, after discussion against). He got tore up by the right and left for changing his mind on air if I remember right but I thought changing ones mind in the face of a superior argument to be a strength not a weakness. He’s also pro gay adoption, he mentioned his caveats while discussing it which some didn’t like but was still for it. He also said he would in fact probably use someone’s preferred pronouns if asked, though he would have to think on it (presumably because of the flack he has taken against his position on C16 and not wanting to be mistaken for caving in on it), once again taking flack for his caveats. Those are certainly all more recent social shifts, I don’t think the man is as one dimensional as you think he is. Perhaps he’s more shouting “Slow down” rather than stop, which is pretty standard for a conservative and given the amount of damage done in places by well intentioned policies not an indefensible position.
Peterson’s perspective are that often times you can do more harm than good with your “changes”. I’m not young and I’m not white. I am married and raising a family so I’ll give you that. I’m also an engineer. And i can tell you in the engineering world, no matter how much you try to plan and analyze, there will always be unintended consequences. The larger the projects, the bigger unintended sweeping changes. Takes hydroelectric dams and the ecosystems that they’ve unintentionally destroyed and the animals displaced.
Improvements to farming and the resultant build up of salts in the soil rendering it infertile.
It’s the same reason Elon Musk is paranoid about AI. You can’t understand what you don’t know.
All this is not to say don’t make progress. But make small personal changes, then try helping your family then to your friends, then to your community etc. Proceed with caution, make mistakes and learn from them.
I’m not a bit religious, but Peterson needs to understand the main thing Jesus was teaching humanity of equality Christ was teaching. If he gives away his material wealth I might take him serious. The least he could do is apologize to his daughter and set her free.
If you’d listen carefully, you’d have noticed that its not trannies, commies, and feminists per se that Peterson is criticising. He’s after extreme leftist power-hungry agitators, that strive to be leader figures in tribalizing society taking on an arbitrary oppressor-vs.-oppressed narrative to gain in personal influence and political power. In most cases, these people are willing to agitate for the “rights” of a made-of or real oppressed group, even though they are seldomly identifying with that group themselves, although they do carefully build their image to make it look so. They are usually politically ambitious young leftist party members trying at all price to get media attention and influence to build their way to a political positiion and career. They are only interested in proving they “own the subject matter of their identity group” by agitating on all levels, and to track those records to be eligible for the next political career step, moving up the political ladder. The U.S.-democrats largely function this way, since they discovered that this mechanism is merely a divide-and-conquer mechanism for instituting and growing their political power (called identity politics) It’s basically an “algorithm to get to power”, as it can be applied in all socio-political fields. Now, Post-modern constructionism theory and marxist doctrine are the perfect ideological soil for identity politics ideology. That’s why Peterson decries it as being immensely dangerous, looking back on what happened in the 20th century in Stalin’s USSR and Mao’s China. As of identity politics of the extreme right, Peterson does not take them lighter, but states that they are much more recognizable as such, as their agitators make very clear statements about their group identity and, as opposed to the extreme left flavor, are real identity group members. That’s why Peterson states “We don’t really know when the far left goes too far, whereas we clearly know when the far right goes too far”. In his opinion, because of that observation, the danger lies in the identity politics of the extreme left, while any agitation in extreme right identity politics lead to immediate loss of political and social credibility and acceptance for its agitators.
Bob, I would guess there are many things you are unaware of. Such as loving parents, friends, human contact, yourself, the works of Dr. Peterson. and a near fatal case of cranial rectosis,…….
Bonum est tibi hodie irrumator praetor
All of this hokey pokey dancing around the idea that Dr. Peterson should be judged by those he’s helped is completely irrelevant. Had he stayed within his oeuvre (use that liberally) in psychology then maybe so, but once he ventured into politics, economics, ethics, religion, etc., then he can be judged on the base less trajections of his suppositions. The assertion, “Well he’s helped a lot of deplorable folks!” is fine in the realm of self-help book signings. Holds no bearing in academia and intelligentsia. Some would argue that Nazi’s were more humane in the holocaust because at least they used gas chambers! Dr. Peterson’s life advice are convenient placebos to deeply profound questions being debated since the dawn of man. Somehow he’s got the monopoly on those answers?
Žižek is right. Jordan Peterson is only attacking problems at the individual, atomistic level. Those who slander him would better spend their time attacking those same problems, but at the social level. And if their current social policies conflict with Peterson’s ideas (which are really just basic psychology), they would do well to reexamine their underlying assumptions.
I’m not at all sure that Jordan Peterson has a stance on “gender neutral pronouns” or even gender pronouns per se.
He does however have a very strong, and important, and correct, stance on the evils of compelled speech which he espouse clearly and powerfully in the hearings on the appalling Bill C-61 legislation in Canada.
Many have glossed over or ignored, or simply misunderstood what he said, and falsely labelled him “that guy who wouldn’t use the preferred pronouns and offended a large number of students.” As he’s been forced to point out many times, that isn’t what happened at all. He’s never refused to call someone by their preferred pronouns. What he objects to – as I said earlier – is being compelled by the state to use certain words under penalty of prosecution.