I'm 28-year-old Canadian pursuing a clinical psychology career. I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've ever written a journalist. Your articles on Jordan Peterson fill me with a genuine feeling of relief and hope. You seem like you actually care about seeking the truth, and in this day in age, that’s a breath of fresh air. Your ability to remain clear-headed and rationale when writing about someone so often conveyed as binary––either God or the Devil––is inspiring. It must be a challenge to accurately portray this strange, painfully alluring public figure. It seems like many forget he is a human being like the rest of us.
I don't characterize myself as either a die-hard JP fan or a vehement detractor. I stumbled on one of his videos over a year ago on YouTube, well, because Big Brother knew I was struggling with social anxiety and this "just happened" to pop up as a recommended video for me. At the time, I found his style of speaking engaging and his advice uniquely practical, like he understood a certain nuance about social anxiety that no one had ever conveyed to me before. To me, this has always been indicative of someone who is not only wise but has forged that wisdom in the fires of their own pain. You feel an immediate connection. A sense of intimacy that's a little intoxicating.
I've been through countless therapists in my life and not once did any of them tell me how to talk to a group of people, or take the time to explain what it truly means to "face your fears." No one gives you a life-manual, and when a professional therapist (often one's last bastion of hope) minimizes that fact it's more than a little debilitating. Jordan has an ability to captivate you by framing your personal struggles universally. He makes you feel less alone. He applies a solution to not just to your own immediate fears, but shows you that by practising small, realistic acts of courage, you become a stronger individual.
This, in turn, might even create a better society.
He showed me that you can train yourself to become resilient in a world that often crushes you. That you can discover meaning in a life riddled with tragedy, in ways that are accessible to almost everyone. For people who cannot afford to wait for larger systemic solutions, who wouldn't want to hear that?
To some, his preachy themes and jeremiads are obvious and didactic. Does that make them any less meaningful? That common critique makes me feel frustrated, angry, and a little hurt. Maybe I don't find social situations obvious or easy to grasp, and maybe his mantra of 'speaking your truth' requires repetition because I struggle with it every day of my life. On the surface, that "obvious" critique seems weak and dismissive, as it ironically adds nothing new to the conversation and stone-walls any insightful discussion. Below the surface, it reeks of smug insecurity and hypocrisy. Especially for anyone who advocates for empathy and tolerance, it displays a conspicuous lack of basic compassion for the people he might be speaking to.
If anything, the way we discuss Jordan Peterson holds up a really ugly reflection of ourselves and perhaps that’s why I still have trouble looking away when I see his name pop up somewhere. While sometimes I learn something new, half of the time I get the feeling that Jordan himself lacks compassion, and often I'm left with the feeling like I was just lambasted by a coach.
In the end, my optimistic side hopes that at least some of us can learn something from all this. Even if it's a simple, on-going commitment to show respect to one another. I know it's possible because I've been able to do it in my own life. If I have some ability to respectfully challenge others and let others challenge me, why can't others do the same as well? Civility, as you put it. Is this not how most of us want to be treated or to treat those we say we care about? Though many of us, Peterson included, don’t appear to share the same concern. Like all of us, he can remain self-righteous when he feels verbally attacked, maliciously misrepresented or criticized in bad faith (ex. “sanctimonious prick”). My cynical side wants to believe that civility is a pipe dream.
My biggest beef with Jordan is, again, something that bothers me about most people in the here and now: relentless certainty. The underlying assumption that "it's better to be strong and wrong because the truth might make me feel weak. God forbid I don't know the answer." But even that seems to be a boring platitude. Stephen Fry’s closing comments in the Munk debate captured it perfectly for me: as a society, we don’t seem interested in engaging each other with a sense of lightness. We are adverse to the embrace of little humble uncertainty. Perhaps many people feel they can't take what Jordan says lightly because they feel in some way that their lives are at stake. He comes across as a threat to their sense of security. He creates uncertainty about one's own views, or makes sweeping statements that say something along the lines of "If we have it your way, we'll soon enter a leftist dystopia." He takes your fears about society and shoves them back in your face.
For myself, the common threads I witness through the brouhaha around Jordan apply to how we talk about any public figure. Rampant ad hominem and logical fallacies aside, most of the discussion reflects back important questions like: how much does context matter when quoting someone's views? When does it not matter? Should someone be continually held accountable for something they said that one time, even when they attempt to rearticulate it, redact it, or defend against the misrepresentation? (The Vice interview = case and point).
I'm inclined to believe that the reason many on the Left see him as an adversary is fundamentally based on felt sense over fact: once someone is guilty (or godly) in our eyes, it's hard to shake that impression. And for many, he is guilty precisely because he is idiosyncratic. If others don't agree with us, the false judgment is that we are being rejected in some way, particularly with the topic of trans rights. We might feel a slight pang of shame, and for some, our gut reaction is to lash out and displace that shame onto others, or the person we hold as responsible. Acknowledging where we went wrong would risk too much. And backing down or admitting our own falsehoods would make us feel threatened because that would mean we are wrong and him right. It might even make a person feel like they're a little like Jordan Peterson.
It's so obvious and wrong and a good portion of society appears to really struggle with cultivating some semblance of humility for the purpose of productive dialogue. We don't seem to understand that this is really the only way forward. We've succeeded as a species because of our ability to work together.
If we lose this ability, we may lose everything we have gained. If you look at almost every article written about this man down to the most asinine YouTube comment, it demonstrates that half of us crave a hero while the other half craves a villain. He's like a father figure occupying all its negative and positive connotations. Does this then mean that so many of us are blindly suffering?
If so, what is the true nature of that suffering?
Perhaps Jordan, directly or indirectly, intentionally or not, holds up a mirror to the same trite bullshit we all struggle with ourselves each day but loathe to admit, like: not being able to precisely communicate our own feelings and views while feeling judged for it, awkwardly going off on brutal tangents, looking super uncool and old-fashioned, being liked, being hated, not-wanting-to-stand-out-but-
The problem with this interpretation: you can never really prove it. From my own experience, it's only revealed when you’re at your nadir in a heap on the floor, and even then, you still have to want to know the truth in order to see it. Pain is a catalyst for change. I’m not sure the majority of us understand the kind we truly need.
Source : https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/07/readers-respond-to-jordan-peterson-in-aspen/564068/1545