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The Real Appeal of Jordan Peterson

Peterson is a man of conviction in an oasis of compromise; therefore, he is perfectly poised to fill the gap in a world crying out for certainty.”

Jordan Peterson is the intellectual renegade of our age. People are both mesmerized and repulsed by his ideas. He is adored by fans yet viciously mocked by critics. Interestingly, detractors and admirers alike seem to be unaware of his true appeal. However, Jordan Peterson is only popular because we are living in an intellectually banal era. Academic culture has become so emasculated that an uncontroversial thinker like Jordan Peterson is characterized as a revolutionary. Deep introspection will reveal that Peterson is not a revolutionary; instead, he is injecting common sense into public discourse. Unlike many of his colleagues in academia, Peterson has a realistic understanding of history and human nature. 

Contrary to past eras, the zeitgeist of the present epoch is one of dullness. Aggression of any sort is viewed as intolerable since we must ensure that marginal groups are insulated from emotional harm. Therefore, speech is tantamount to violence because, apparently, controversial ideas can be used to justify racism and sexism. Evidently, advocates of political correctness are oblivious to the fact that we have the propensity to assess outlandish ideas for ourselves. So even if a position is invoked to enable racism, we are smart enough to refute said position. Politically correct thinkers want to minimize disruption, but Peterson is reminding them that life is inherently chaotic. As such, all ideas must contend in the marketplace of ideas, even when they offend certain segments of the population. Contempt for Jordan Peterson stems from his reassertion of values reflecting a more masculine age. 

Until recently, Western culture was remarkably masculine. In academia, refusing to engage one’s opponent was simply construed as weak. The late David Landes, for example, was often ridiculed for daring to imply that Western culture was superior to all others. Despite the intensity of criticisms leveled at him, Landes confronted his opponents. Interestingly, those who disagreed with his theories—like James Blaut and Andre Gunder Frank—wrote their own tomes. Today, scholars avoid debate, preferring instead to denounce their critics as “problematic.” Soothing the egos of one’s followers on Twitter might produce a therapeutic effect, but it fails to increase the body of knowledge. Recently, for instance, two gender studies professors, Alison Howell and Melanie Richter-Montpetit, published a paper smearing securitization theory as racist. In response, Barry Buzan and Ole Wæver, two important proponents of the theory, penned a rigorous response. As expected, feminists launched a petition to cancel Buzan and Wæver, asserting that their response constitutes bullying. In other words, any interrogation of ideas expressed by women is an act of sexism perpetuated by the patriarchy. 

Consistent with his masculine spirit, Peterson has ignored such inane shibboleths. Although among intellectuals it might be quite fashionable to deny gender differences, Jordan Peterson refuses to go along. In numerous pieces, he articulates the reality of gender differences, to the chagrin of many. Insults cannot deter him from defending the truth. The tenacity of Peterson’s potent masculinity is his real strength. Despite the grumblings of critics, Peterson is not pandering to right-wing extremists; they just happen to revere him because he does not waver in defending his beliefs. The masculine spirit cares about being right, and it resists the desire to be pampered. 

Compared to truly controversial thinkers like Anthony Ludovici and Albert Jay Nock, Peterson is boring; however, measured by the standards of his time, he is a rebel.

Furthermore, in contrast to the prevailing orthodoxy, Peterson posits that equality is not a virtue. Contemporary progressives find inequality among different groups contemptible. Peterson, on the other hand, opines that, in several cases, inequality is a result of hierarchies of competence. Therefore, evidence of inequality is overwhelmingly positive because it indicates that people are rewarded for their efforts. In the long run, the productivity of the super-talented enriches society. Economist Donald J. Boudreaux citing the research of William Nordhaus masterfully illuminates this point: “Only a minuscule fraction of the social returns from technological advances over the 1948-2001 period was captured by producers, indicating that most of the benefits of technological change are passed on to consumers rather than captured by producers.”

Boudreaux also offers examples to bolster his argument: “Specifically, producers, on average, capture a mere 2.2 percent of the total benefits of their successful introduction into markets of technological advances…A handful of these entrepreneurs, like Bezos, are famous, but the vast majority are unknown. Do you know the name of the inventor of the shipping container that dramatically reduced the cost of shipping cargo? I’ll tell you: Malcom McLean—who, when he died in 2001, was worth $330 million. McLean, therefore, likely increased humanity’s collective well-being to the tune of about $15 billion, or by just about $2 for every person alive today.”

Peterson—in his wisdom—acknowledges that most of us do not envision a society in which we were all equal, considering that this environment would be the epitome of mediocrity. If we are objective, then we have no option other than to admit that average people should be thanking the talented for providing them with a superior quality of life. Clearly, the demands of radical egalitarians can only be achieved by using the force of the state to infringe individual rights. For example, years ago, the late Walter E. Williams eloquently crafted a definition of social justice to caution progressives from making excessive requests: “Let me offer you my definition of social justice: I keep what I earn and you keep what you earn. Do you disagree? Well then tell me how much of what I earn belongs to you—and why?”

Moreover, Peterson never projects present political notions onto history. Over the past few months, several historical figures have been canceled due to the inconsistency of their ideas with contemporary sensibilities. The latest example of hysteria in intellectual circles is to denounce dead figures for their opinions. Such a jaundiced perspective is indeed unfortunate. History chronicles a vivid story of brutal conquests and eccentric personalities. Great men are rarely good men, as Peterson admits. So, for example, Genghis Khan was a horrible man, yet his leadership skills were formidable. Historical characters, therefore, ought to be judged based on their ability to achieve the political goals of a particular era. 

Peterson’s realism is too bitter for the weak-willed and their fellow travelers. When genuflecting to the mob is a virtue, an iconoclast like Peterson who refuses to comprise will be deemed a revolutionary. By challenging the procrustean mentality of an unimaginative intelligentsia, Jordan Peterson displays an authentically masculine spirit, fearless in its quest for truth. Peterson is a man of conviction in an oasis of compromise; therefore, he is perfectly poised to fill the gap in a world crying out for certainty. Compared to truly controversial thinkers like Anthony Ludovici and Albert Jay Nock, Peterson is boring; however, measured by the standards of his time, he is a rebel. In short, Jordan Peterson is a masculine spirit revolting against the feminine sentimentalism of the contemporary world, and this explains his seductive appeal.

Lipton Matthews is a Jamaican writer. He has recently also contributed to Mises Wire and The Federalist. He can be reached by email at lo_matthews@yahoo.com 

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