12 Rules for Life
Jordan Peterson has become something of an anti-hero in modern woke culture, ostensibly through his refusal to bow to trans folks’ demands to refer to them by a series of invented pronouns according to their preference. I first became aware of him through a frankly disasterous interview he did on Sam Harris’s podcast where, to this day, I’m not certain if he was being serious or running some next-level trolling.
The followup interview was slightly more palatable, but didn’t inspire me to particularly like the guy. But he was certainly interesting.
As his rise through woke culture continued, he obviously began to raise the ire of other factions and I think this is where I became more interested in what he was talking about. He was clearly being pilloried by Faction A because he’d offended Faction B, and so he was being passed around the Fine Woke Cannibals as each attempted to extract their next meal. Only he wasn’t kowtowing to them one jot. His rebuttals of their increasingly non-senisical attacks were eloquent, well-reasoned, and even though he had a tendency to lose his temper, he never lost his point or his moral high ground.
He was, frankly, spectactular to watch as he argued with people foaming at the mouth over their own manufactured outrage.
And so I decided to have a listen to him speaking in a more staid environment - vis his self-narrated audiobook.
His “12 rules” are spawned from a collection of extended essays that he’d previously written in response to questions on the Q&A site Quora.
Some are pretty straightforward (“Stand up straight with your shoulders back”) whilst others are more esoteric (“Pet a cat when you see one on the street”) but they all serve as a means of opening up a discussion of his life and experiences and all lead to a nugget of wisdom to consider.
It’s actually pretty easy to see why people get all riled up by him. And it’s also pretty easy to see that nearly all of them would benefit from a clearer reading of the point he’s making before they spent too much effort getting lathered up about it. A fair chunk of his worldview, and of this book, is attributed to his Christian belief structure and outlook, and from that flows what can easily be misunderstood as aloof sexism and misogyny. But to conclude that he’s trying to espouse the validity of that is to miss the point entirely - his point goes deeper to the foundation of Western Civilisation, and his effort to defend certain incendiary soundbites is in service of history and human nature, not a personal desire to impose patriarchal control on the world.
I don’t share Peterson’s Christian values, but I am living in a Christian society and I was raised in a culture that is demonstrably and inexorably tied to Christianity. My atheism notwithstanding, the life I live is basically in the Christian tradition. Not through kneeling and efforts towards beatification, but through subtly ingrained ideas of sacrifice, value, good, evil, sin, and right and wrong.
Listening to his exploration and exposition of this brought me very close to abandoning the book as I worried I’d been hoodwinked into signing up to some “meaning of life” course, but my forbearance was rewarded with an insightful exploration of an interesting and broadly sensible worldview.
It’s defintely not for everyone but the point of my opening with my own rocky introduction to Peterson was to suggest that even if you think you’re not interested in what he has to say, you might surprise yourself. He’s intelligent and articulate, and whilst I can’t say I agree with everything he says and does, I can say with some certainty that he’s not preening or playing to the crowd - he was thrown to the crowd by others in search of an easy target. They’d sadly misjudged him, and now they get to reap what they’ve sown. Thankfully, the harvest is mostly lived experience, humanity, and wisdom.
But there’s probably a litany of triggers too, should you feel you need a new excuse to try to get something or someone banned. If that’s your thing.