The main thing Jordan Peterson concerns himself with is making order in a world that has lost it.
This is the reason the opposition to him and calling him things like fascist, was loony. They started even before he’d come out as opposing some/most of the left’s projects. Mind you, his political philosophy isn’t even particularly well integrated. He still falls for leftist lies that “inequality is very bad” eve though a) inequality is natural. Great apes have hierarchies with different privileges for each, even in the most primitive band. Well, I don’t agree with privileges for existing, but capitalism — aka the way humans function naturally — does not provide grey and mindless equality, so that’s fine. b) we don’t have the kind of corrosive inequality that results in someone starving while someone else rolls around in silks and eats nightingale’s tongues which was rather the norm throughout most of history. c) the only way to stop this “inequality” thing is to have the government redistribute, ultimately, poverty.
But it’s normal for Peterson not to have thought this through. Economics is not his jam. And this is not what he set out to do. What he set out to do is bring order out of chaos and help people make a place in the world.
Throughout most of human history, and even before that, probably, there was an order to life. You knew who you were and whom you belonged to. “Belong” is how the Portuguese say you are related to someone. “Oh, she belongs to me/I belong to her in some fashion. My second cousin married her mother.” Like many things buried in languages it gives a hint to how society functions. Recently I went through a situation where I very much wanted to break heads on behalf of one of my sons. In Portugal this would be fine. You cold be forty, but someone is treating you badly, and mom shows up in this person’s office and goes, “I’m here about my son.” No one bats an eye.
The US, for reasons of what we are — a pioneer culture that values individualism — leaves adults to solve their own problems. You don’t “Belong” to your family. You do/can get help from them out of love and care, but your problems are yours to solve.
I’m not disagreeing with this system here, mind. It has certain advantages, like not having the entire tribe look over your shoulder and call out hints for everything, from what pet you keep to what kind of house to buy, or how to cook cabbage. Or– It was just very hard to hold back the instinctive reach for the cast iron frying pan, is all.
To be fair even English culture started departing from that model around the time of Shakespeare or before. Which is why individuals had more freedom and autonomy to be and create in it.
Part of the reason the future comes from America, is that each is free to be and create, and not be told “you’re an engineer now? But none of your people are engineers.” We’re free to be innovative, break the rules, make the never-seen.
Innovation and freedom are double edged swords. In a talk Peterson says that the democrats can’t understand why we laughed at “we belong to the government” and that what we don’t understand is that desperate need to belong to anything that caused them to fasten on that, possibly the worst of masters.
It’s not so much that humans want to belong, in the sense of being slaves, and I think if the left understood that they won’t be in charge, but just told how to do, it would cool their anxiety to “belong” to government.
It’s more homey: humans want to have someone to work for, they want to have something that gives rules and shape to their world.
And this explains why the left hated Peterson, even before he was political, and why he drives them to a frenzy such that they feel the need to do daft things, like try to break into the place where he’s going to speak, carrying a garrotte.
The project of the left since the 20th century at least (and honestly, they were only continuing a prior project) has been to remove all those things that give shape to a life. The hymn to daftness and anomie, “Imagine” makes that very clear: “Nothing to kill or die for.”
The same left that jabbers incoherently about the anomie of capitalism and the lack of structure of consumerism “buying a lot of things to fill a spiritual hole” and other such twaddle, are the people who have made sure there is nothing to live for and that our lives don’t matter.
“Nothing to kill or die for” is the exact same as “nothing to live for.” And their tragic mistake is not comprehending that. Partly because they’ve made their destructive philosophy into a quasi-religion, to give themselves something to kill and die for. Hence the garrotte at Peterson’s lecture, because instinctively they feel their entire reason for existing is threatened. They just don’t get why they feel that way.
But this is why the Peterson project matters. Something to kill or die for, is something that matters beyond your life. Most humans in history had that: the tribe,the faith, the land, the king. Whatever it was, they had something that mattered to them more than their own lives and their transitory fulfillment. Enjoying yourself is not happiness. Happiness consists in having a purpose in life. Something you live for.
A course on the black plague almost convinced me (almost) that the black plague was the first unmooring of Europe. But the disconnection to the perhaps too tight bonds of the church, left Europe free to innovate. It was the second blow of all those young men who died stupidly in world war one, that left Europe adrift.
And then the Soviet agit prop of the sixties and seventies, designed to make the free world ripe for domination finished the work.
So, what do you live for? I don’t know. You’re you. I’m me.
I know what matters to me, and the things I work towards: Securing the blessings of liberty for my descendants; writing stuff that might help with that war; caring for my family; keeping my environment livable and organized; making sense of the timeless demands of Him who is beyond time, and yeah, trying to follow through in my life, because the Eternal Law is beyond human need.
All of those are things to live for, and maybe things to die for in the sense that you use your life in service of something, and die a little.
Kill? For liberty for me and mine world without end, for sure. I won’t kill someone for simply deep sixing one of my books (something for which people alive in the world today should be grateful.)
But my life has boundaries and purpose. I think all of us need boundaries and purpose. Which, again, is what Peterson is trying to bring to the world.
It is also why some of the happiest people any of us knows are not those who left themselves totally unfettered to pursue some undefined “happiness” but those who gave themselves up for something. (Who gave their lives up in order to save them you might say.) Some of those things might be transcendent and everyone will agree are vital, like saving babies, or securing medical help for the third world. Some we can see why they’re important to people, like art or religious vocations, or saving kittens, or running a store. It might not be for us, but we can see why people are willing to sacrifice all for it. And some might be silly, like making the SCA chapter REALLY good, or making crochet curtains or whatever. BUT people who give their whole lives to an endeavor that matters to them, those are usually happy.
(It’s tricky when you give your whole life to a project based on envy and malice, like the SJWs. It gives you purpose but it also corrodes your soul. Particularly since the project is ultimately “make humans into something else” that will work with the communitarian project”, which is inherently doomed to failure.)
So, choose your purpose well but choose it. What would you give your whole life to or for?
That way lies the path i the search for happiness.