Jordan Peterson’s Lunchbucket, and why people should read about him
Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life contains many points of advice which can be found much more widely, but which many young readers are evidently encountering there for the first time. Here are some:
· That it is good to stand up for yourself, and stand for something.
· That it good not to compare yourself always with others, but with who you were yesterday (however uneasily this sits with his advice to become like the lobsters with their domination “counters”).
· That it is good for kids to have limits, and for parents to establish and enforce these boundaries.
· That it is good to clean your room, literally and metaphorically.
- That we should own “the burden of vulnerability”, rather than dreaming of omnipotence.
· That it is good to be honest with yourself, including your capacities for anger and aggression, if you are to control these things.
· That you should cultivate friendships with people who will make you a better version of yourself, if you can.
If young readers take these counsels on through Peterson, then I’m not sure what the fuss is about. But there is more.
Peterson as psychoanalyst
Then there is some core psychoanalytic insight, looking right back to Freud, which is challenging when you first consider it.
For Peterson, we all do have the capacities for evil: for hatred, anger, aggression, and even to take pleasure in making others suffer. Freud called it the death drive, and saw it playing out in Europe’s enthusiastic descent into industrialized destruction in World War 1.
Like Peterson, Freud also thought the presence of this drive should teach us to be cautious about embracing utopian visions that humans could ever live together, entirely without disagreements and conflicts.
So, when we look at events like the Shoah or the Stalinist Terror, it is too easy to say that because what the Nazis did was morally inhuman, that “they weren’t like us”, not human. On two fronts, this is misleading.