Jordan Peterson – prophet of kuleana

Ed Park, MD culture wars, dr ed park, News 6 Comments

If you have access to social media, the name Jordan Peterson has probably come up. For those who have prejudged him, I offer a very interesting video clip below.

By way of introduction, Professor Peterson rose to prominence for opposing a Canadian law mandating use of alternative gender pronouns. He said this compelled speech was unjust and unprecedented. This led to a larger discussion about the social justice movement of the ideological left and what he feels are the corrosive dangers of that movement.

By way of context, some have labelled him as an “alt-right” instigator of regressive politics. Others have found him to be a voice of sanity and individual liberty and enlightenment.

Before you watch the video, I want to discuss a conversation I had today with two coworkers who was complaining about their kids and millennials in general. They noticed that they are believe young people are filled with a sense of entitlement but have no notion of responsibility. Not that it matters, but they were women. The same conclusion was mentioned two days ago during a conversation with a man at Christmas dinner.

Where did this sense of entitlement come from? Was it the participation trophies for youth sports? Was it the idea that there is no right and wrong and that what you feel justifies your outrage and fuels your politics?

Certainly, I am not advocating shaming anyone for their beliefs and their identities but there is a lot to be said for listening to this very intellectual and honest champion of what he believes to be historical and humanistic values.

As a student of history myself, I find myself mostly agreeing with Peterson. Western civilization at the moment is the very best of times. Much of the world is more tyrannical and for most of history, living conditions were such that life was much much worse as I blogged about here.

It is not that he doesn’t acknowledge male dominance; he merely states that there are many other ways to understand and view history aside from the notion that one group of humans sought to oppress another based on gender.

In the interview, the woman, who is a feminist author, manages to hold her ground against the cantankerous and rather agile Peterson. In most interviews, the attempts to attack and discredit are rather soundly rebuffed by a very clever orator with a strong sense of passion in his beliefs.

I think the zeitgeist, or sign of the times, is the apotheosis of a guy who merely states that he thinks gender is biologically determined and that people have the most to gain from thinking about their responsibilities rather than their rights.

Everywhere we turn, there is another victims rights group popping up and another absurd self-identification claim. Now people can choose to identify as a different age.

Read this blog if you don’t believe me; some men have decided that their inability to find sexual partners constitutes a human rights violation and have called themselves “incels” or involuntary celibates as you can read about in this blog. Ironically, the term was invented by a woman.

In the Hawaiian culture, the word for rights is also the word for responsibilities: kuleana. This more balanced understanding of human relations highlights the fact that relationships are reciprocal. You cannot have only rights or you end up with fragile, narcissistic, and unjust crybabies.

If you ask Jordan Peterson what fuels his popularity and mission, he clearly states that it is to help people find their responsibilities and the courage to serve. That is a message with resonance that transcends the selfish and entitled victim culture of the vociferous left.

I fear that he may be right about the decline in participation by men in the social sciences. If you already start with the axiomatic narrative that “toxic masculinity” is a valid prism to begin any conversation, then you have encouraged people to not hold true in their own power and to repress any open discourse about how other factors and narratives may be at play.

Well, here is the clip. Note where the interviewer falls into a trap of thinking Peterson is calling all women ungrateful. It evokes both a cringe and a chuckle.

If you want to hear what the man says drives is work, skip to 26 minutes, where he clearly articulates that people are at their best when they are serving other and living up to their responsibilities. This is a message that goes against the individualistic and self-righteous rhetoric of the entitled fascist left and appears to have deep resonance.

Comments 6

  1. He’s not agile. He jumps from different topic to different topic, interrupts, redirects, avoids, and doesn’t allow a debate to bloom on one topic. He constantly and aggressively interrupts. He doesn’t let his opponent finish a sentence! He seems like he thinks that if he talks most, he wins.

    Hardly a scholarly debate or a scholarly presentation of ideas.

    He’s a bad representation for men, honestly. And for his topics. There are many better. You are better.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Kerry, thank you for your comments. I appreciate that you think I am better than something you consider bad. While I don’t disagree that his style of debating is to focus on certain data and to interrupt, I interpret this as the defensive tactics of a person who has been demonized for his beliefs and accustomed to fending off rather superficial and vitriolic attacks.

      At the core, I find that I must agree with his premise. The history of how humanity has conducted itself cannot be merely understood as gender warfare that intersects with class warfare that intersects with race warfare… While the treatment of women has been and continues to be bad, there are many reasons for this and to accept the tenets of neoliberalism as axiomatic is dangerous for everyone. We should focus on what we want, not what narrative we want to subscribe to. We can and should all rise together.

      It is not a zero sum game of victim groups that the current fad of intersectionality would assert. The remedy to all the “ism” is to create a system that replaces the old paradigms. When people fall victim to the allure of victim “liberation theology”, they are intellectually, morally, and spiritually vulnerable to manipulation. Peterson merely states that we are all composed of light and shadow selves, struggling together to rise above the suffering of the human experience. I find him to be very in touch with his feminine virtues, deeply anti-facist, and consistent in his beliefs.

      We all live life to grow, love, and teach. I think his point about the prima facie existence of gender, hierarchy, and cooperation to be honest. His deep mistrust of Marxist ideologues and their quest to beat everyone into a narrative of equality of outcome at any cost is not as easily debunked as his foes would like. If you think the path forward is less freedom of thought and expression for those that you might disagree with, then there is no path towards transcendence of the historical dialectic into a better world for all.

  2. I responded in the comments below the video, but I’ll sum it up here.

    I’m surprised at you admiration for him. He does not allow the conversation to become any kind of meaningful debate of ideas. He’s a showman. He interrupts forcefully and cuts off every single sentence from the other person. And when he does, he changes the subject!

    “What about this?” “What about this?” “What about this?” He asks simply to be rude, but more maddening, never pursues or answers those questions.

    He demonstrates the sophmoric idea that he who interrupts and talks the most wins.

    Hardly a scholarly examination of complex ideas.

    How dissapointing that you think that is an example of an “agile orator”.

  3. I’ve never seen him before but I really liked him.
    Thanks, Dr. Park for putting this interesting discussion forward!

  4. Dr. Park,

    I appreciate and understand your response!

    One of my professors in college always stressed “the medium is the message” to instill in us that the way something is communicated is just as important as what is communicated. In this is another great example in the huge bonus that we not all alike! For me personally, I much prefer the exploration and debate of ideas presented in your style than in Mr. Pettersen’s style.

    In any instance, I continue to follow and enjoy your writings and videos. Keep going, and I’ll keep reading.

    Many Thanks!
    K. Hebert

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