Jordan Peterson: Clean Your Room but Not Your Language

When I was in my late teens, I began watching Jordan Peterson. This was a bit before his more well-known interviews with Cathy Newman and the likes, but he was on the rise. His messages struck a chord with me and as I entered my gap year, I bought a copy of 12 Rules for Life before a trek to Machu Picchu. Cringey comments about how I found myself on my gap yah aside, Peterson’s work came at the right time. I was past the height of teenage angst and melodramatic nihilism but I hadn’t quite stepped into the adult world or really figured out what was next after a lifetime spent in the education system. Then along comes Jordan Peterson and his words seemed a refreshing break from the emotive and disparaging political commentators like TheYoungTurks and Sargon of Akkad that I’d watched when I first started getting into politics. I felt empowered and optimistic about the world and what I could do in it. Moreover, he seemed to sit at the crossroads of a number of my interests; here was a man who could talk about self-development, literature, politics as well as Jung and archetypes within a 10-minute dialogue. I watched and read his works and I can honestly say I was better for it. I pushed my comfort zone, took more control over my life and of course, cleaned my room. 

With this being said, there are two types of self-improvement ‘mentors’. The first is the type that will rally your spirits and make you feel like you can shape the very mountains themselves. Give it a week or two however, and you realise that you’re not doing anything different, and they’ve not given you any workable suggestions. The second is the type that will give you practical steps and actionable advice and Peterson, whatever his faults may be, is undoubtedly part of the latter. The problem for this second category though is that you improve to the point where you no longer need their work. In other words, you’re too busy putting into action their suggestions that you don’t need to listen to more of what they have to say. 

This was my experience with Jordan Peterson because after a few years of not hearing much about him or his work (partly because of his poor health), I was excited to get his new book. I’ve still not finished it and despite enjoying the first few chapters, it’s not said anything I really need to hear, which is why I went back to living life. Thus, it came as a bit of a surprise when he appeared on Twitter ranting about certain celebrities. I’m not one to cancel a person for getting involved with contentious debates but it’s strikingly rare that those debates happen on Twitter and debates usually have an opponent to debate with. The next update I saw was of a YouTube video. I didn’t make it too far into the video before the harshly enunciated words and bold proclamations of ‘I would rather die than delete my tweet’ reminded me I had better things to do. 

In some ways, it was classic Jordan Peterson – fearless, articulate, precise in his speech and refusing to apologise when he didn’t feel like he’d done anything wrong. Yet in others, it seemed a far cry from the man that jokingly analysed the Jungian archetypes involved in the Lion King with his students and inspired me to slay metaphorical dragons while reminding me that this was ‘no joke’. I’ve dipped into bits of his more recent content and there’s still ideas that I like but nonetheless it seems that this iteration of Peterson seems more bent on cancelling ‘woke moralists’ than finding antidotes to Chaos. Perhaps for him, these things are one and the same. If that’s the case then I hope he finds the treasure in the dragon’s lair but as he’s a fan of Nietzsche, I can only hope he remembers that ‘when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster’. 

Between my last article on Andrew Tate and this Twitter-based saga with Jordan Peterson, I have to wonder: in a period where terms like toxic masculinity are constantly pushed forward and where pro-masculine figures seem to end up as either misogynistic or spiteful, what does positive masculinity look like?

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