So Jordan Peterson, the Canadian self help clinical psychologist guru, has come to the country, sold out, talked to his disciples and harrumphed his way through a few interviews and caused little or no upset, outrage or unrest. And that’s a good thing.
There were a few who before his visit seemed to be willing the country into a free speech panic. The ones who were itching for someone to stand up and try and ban Jordan. Not because they were against Jordan but because they hate the sort of people who get their knickers in a knot by people like Jordan.
That did not come to pass with the exception of a few tut-tut remarks from the peculiar people at Auckland Peace Action. Even Rachel Stewart was as welcoming as she could be by saying that when people say things you dislike then that doesn’t mean they’re the devil incarnate.
And here is the thing about Jordan Peterson. He’s bland, really. His 12 rules that have been welcomed by many sound like just the things my Dad used to say to me when I was a kid. Stand up straight, make good friends. Discipline your kids with boundaries. I like number nine: “Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don't”. Then to prove he is a fun guy he throws in a couple of wacky ones like pet a cat in the street and don’t bother kids when they’re skateboarding.
But I’m not a huge fan of the book or the man due to a couple of things. Firstly, the books and his talks are very mellifluous, which I find surprising when one of his rules is be precise in your speech. Particularly in his interview with Russell Brand, I found that some of his sentences were so convoluted that by the end of them he was contradicting himself and Russell was grinning.
The other problem I have with him is that he’s so grumpy in interviews. His fame can be traced to a couple of incendiary interviews with interviewers who were trying to disprove and vilify him which he defended well. But now he takes a wary and snappy attitude into almost every interview, particularly if he senses that the interviewer might be a lefty. This is especially so in his interview with Simon Wilson where Simon quotes him and then Jordan says he’s been taken out of context but never provides his own context leaving Simon bemused.
Many of his interviews now are not about his thoughts but the reaction to them. Which is a strange place for Jordan to be. He hates collectivism both on the left and the right, and I love that because many on the right don’t seem to recognise the collectivism they exhibit when they behave like a mob with their practised lines.
But when he defends himself against the reactions of a minority, he often makes broad collectivist statements which brands all feminists or opponents as the same, which is exactly what he preaches against.
There’s a book written by Vox Day, a right winger, called Jordanetics, criticising him and his rise to become a generation’s Philosopher King. In an interview on Breakfast this week Jordan Peterson criticised Vox as being a man dreadfully in love with his own voice. I laughed and hoped that underneath his steely facade that Jordan Peterson was laughing at the irony of his own words too.