The Profound Influence of Jordan Peterson
There are a lot of people who hear the name Jordan Peterson and get filled with a sense of dread and foreboding. When asked why, they usually offer up evidence of his supposed transphobia. Last year, he rose to notoriety for being the University of Toronto professor who opposed being forced to use gender neutral pronouns, and his status as a villain seems entirely predicated on a complete misunderstanding of the point he was making. It wasn’t in any way to dehumanize transgender people, but rather to call into question the problems with compelled speech, particularly with regards to a social phenomenon that isn’t as backed up by science as its proponents would have you believe.
I, too, took note of Doctor Peterson at the time, finding his arguments to be well-rounded, and although I may not agree with every nuance, I understood exactly where he was coming from and found myself in agreement. My interest in Peterson, however, would have waned if not for the wealth of information that had nothing to do with the argument of third-gender pronouns. His focus on truth, wisdom and responsibility most of all.
See, I was a veteran of self-help. I’ve read all the greats. Napolean Hill, Stephen R. Covey, Andrew Carnegie, David Deida. I took a transformative challenge in 2012 through Satyen Raja’s WarriorSage. I listened to hundreds of hours of YouTube lectures, podcasts and more. Everything I read, listened to and experienced through these sources vastly helped me improve my ability to deal with anxiety problems that had plagued me for years, particularly The Unforgettable Challenge, which showed me how apt I was at overcoming real physical, mental and emotional challenges.
But unfortunately, I had many bad habits that I could not shake despite my multiple readings of the source material.
I first took it last November, not long after I’d delved deep into Peterson’s Maps of Meaning lectures on YouTube. Peterson had a way of looking at the world that spoke volumes to me. He was the first person I’d ever known to be able to put words to thoughts I’d had for years, but had been unable to articulate. His views and his methods were new to me, and intimately refreshing.
Not long afterward, the Peterson memes started to float around my online communities. Sort yourself out, roughly speaking, and the ever-familiar bucko were the calling cards of Peterson fans both online and off. His word has spread well beyond the online sphere into my personal life. At a party I casually dropped a Peterson reference to a new friend, a lawyer, who picked up on it instantly. I met a door-to-door canvasser for a charity organization that took note of the poster I’d had printed on my wall that read Clean your room. Call order forth from chaos. Just last week my friend informed me that his girlfriend of over five years had become much more centered, and that she had a daily routine of turning on one of Peterson’s lectures while she set about her daily routines.
And furthermore, the thing that had been eluding me my entire life, the ability to really tackle my bad habits and replace them with good ones started to take hold. No longer would I roll out of bed and lazily make my way to work. Now it was a much more purposeful affair that included five or six elements of my now-daily routine. Not just that, but his advice, put into practice, showed me just how capable I really was so long as I adopted the responsibility to do so.
Some were confused by it, however. After all, I was an avowed atheist, and some had gone out of their way to dig up old interviews in which he had expressed hostility toward the atheist worldview. For what it’s worth, I had felt a little put-off by it, but that didn’t preclude me from being able to take his advice in other areas and genuinely improve the condition of my day-to-day existence. Additionally, despite how he used to express his feelings toward the atheist paradigm, I feel that he’s softened his approach somewhat. After all, I eagerly consumed all twelve of his lectures on the bible, and I came to generally understand where he was coming from and why he felt the way he did. His views on the bible as a psychological artifact of the human race with regards to western culture were a profound change from how I used to view the bible, as an archaic text written mainly by nomadic sheepherders and compiled by ancient politicians. I found his evaluations to be much closer to the truth of my experience among Christians that I know. The strawman that even I once subscribed to that Christians were all right-wing science-denying fundamentalists all but fell away.
I still can’t bring myself to believe in the resurrection, or in the existence of an all-knowing being that is guiding every action in the universe. But now I understand that there are a great many Christians in the world today that take such things as metaphors and allegories.
Recently, a number of articles and interviews were published where the authors or interviewees took exception to Peterson’s hate speech and insisted he was a far-right pundit. This has not been my experience of Peterson. Not only was there nuance to his supposed transphobic statements that completely negated any concerns for hate speech, but Peterson himself took exception to one such article and explained more about where he falls in the political world, squarely as a Classic British Liberal. The main issue in these articles and interviews is that many of them fail to see beyond their initial assumptions about his views. They’re the philosophical equivalent to a single-issue voter. He said one thing they may have disagreed with, failed to understand his reasoning for it, and took that to mean they stood against everything and anything the man had to say. An unequivocally two-dimensional view. Even I have some minor disagreements with Peterson, but admittedly they’re more a matter of semantics than any sort of visceral disagreement, and the profound effect his words have had in guiding my life this past year is palpable.
Peterson has become a phenomenon unto himself. There are reddit communities dedicated to his lectures, and at least one purely dedicated to memes. He’s inspired the growth (and success) of YouTube channels dedicated to putting his words into practice. Facebook discussion groups have sprung up and splintered off into even more unique groups dedicated to where the users fall on the political spectrum, their views on religion, and even one for creatives. Just today, I learned of a new Peterson-based social network called The Sorters Club.
If nothing else, it’s clear Peterson’s words have touched thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people. From the organic interactions I had with strangers regarding his work to the atmopshere in online communities, he’s had a profound impact on the personal lives of many people, and it’s still growing. The good he’s doing far outweighs what some people might think of his views on third gender pronouns, which are commonly misunderstood by most.
Confucius said, when a wise man points at the moon, the fool examines the finger, and that statement has seldom been more true than it has with Jordan B Peterson. I can only hope he plans to continue making waves, because Hurricane Peterson is something western culture is in dire need of these days.