Jordan Peterson came onto everyone’s radar a few years ago, and having both a pulse and an internet connection I became somewhat aware of him at that time. I would attend a weekly writer’s meetup back then, and at the same cafe, a few tables away from where I sat, a group would meet to discuss Peterson’s Twelve Rules for Life, and how to life by the messages there. Frankly, from what I had seen of Peterson, I had yet to be impressed so far. He had moaned about a toothless Canadian law and died on a hill of free speech. That sounded pretty much like the Donald J Trump era, and thus I can’t say I paid him all that much attention. The fact that this other group of people had a seemingly culty meet-up to discuss how to life by this person’s teaching did perk up my curiosity, so I decided to give the book a whirl.
But this isn’t any different from how I feel about all self-help books, so it didn’t give me much to go on.
The internet did a better job skewering Peterson than I could ever hope to. Listening to him speak, I often came away with the impression that he was a charlatan. And yet, Peterson still had fans. I wondered to what extent I may have been missing something. This person was a PhD from McGill university. I don’t think they just give those away at McGill. His first book, Maps of Meaning, was published back in 1999, well before Youtube, controversy, and internet fame. I figured it would be neutral of all that nonsense, and just be a dull academic book.
I wasn’t wrong, but what I found was so much god damned worse. There is nothing here anyone ever needs to read. It is pure unsubstantiated claims, in the Jungian tradition.
I hate few things more than the Jungian tradition. The book makes the claim to go into structure of people’s beliefs. It does no such thing. This is not Steven Pinker. There may be veins of meaningful thought in this book, but there are tons and tons of meaningless, pointless claims, talking about how how such-and-such abstract concept is masculine of feminine, of how it relates to some other pseudo-mytho-historic claptrap. And absolutely none of it is proven or substantiated. It is just left there for you to deal with.
It is all butressed with one silly anecdote after the other, with pretty much none of it being worth much. This guy talks about a dream his three year old daughter had. Like anyone in the fucking world should give two shits about that, or could learn something from it.
I did learn something from reading this. When asked about his political leanings, Peterson often gives a wishy-washy answer along the lines of ‘classical liberal’, which merely reaffirms his inability to play by the same rules the rest of us do. In the opening of this book, he speaks so gushingly about conservative ideas that one cannot help but feel that he is being sincere about them. While he does later speak about the necessity of liberal thought in a society, if you can read that introduction and think Peterson anything but a conservative, you are politically illiterate. Similarly, if you can get through this book and think that Peterson is anything but a closet Christian, you are illiterate on maters of religion.