I just watched this latest NBC interview with Dr. Jordan Peterson, and boy do I have a lot to say about it.
First of all, I have a lot of respect for Dr. Peterson in his easily demonstrated expertise as a clinical psychologist and a scientist. Perhaps he also has a lot of credibility in Christian theology but that I do not possess any expertise or even experience in that subject to comment.
But however when it comes to politics, as I will soon explain, the man is politically blind, either willingly or unwittingly. If its willingly, then the only conclusion can either be that he is evil or conniving and thus hiding his true intentions or thoughts behind his intellectualized rhetoric, or he is genuinely afraid to admit that he has crossed out too far from his realm of expertise and is intelligently trying to hide his missteps, or that he’s just arrogant. The first two seem unlikely, the last is plausible but not possible to confirm as I’m human, not the Creator and can’t look into people’s hearts.
If its unwittingly, then I explain this below, i.e. that this is probably a result of typical academic naivete in intellectuals specialists who cross out into realms of expertise and let their high level of intelligence and ability to think and philosophize trick them into a failure to realize their lack of expertise in the topics they are not specialized in. Intelligence is not everything. Knowledge is half the battle.
As for the interview itself, then according to Dr. Jordan Peterson, the Western World and Capitalism are not responsible for inequality. Hmm so I wonder… Whose idea was neoliberal economics, modern finance and big banking that led to the creation of massive corporate bodies, consumerism and crippling personal and corporate debt? China? Muslims? Russia? Brazil? Who controls the IMF and the WTO? Who has been controlling World Trade so far since WW2? Right. Moving on.
I do agree with one thing: social classes are an inherent feature of human society, and in fact I mentioned a month or so ago how Islam seems to acknowledge this and not try to eliminate it, rather to teach people how to live and conduct oneself ethically in a socially stratified society.
Interestingly the equality of outcome that Dr. Peterson so abhors is what Islam advocated for Muslims, so as long as they were from the pious. This is why Arab domination of Muslim lands and politics didn’t last, giving way to either Turkish or Persian domination at one time or another, whether in politics or intellectual activity. Equality of race was theoretically present, practically implemented most of the time. Whoever served Islam the most got the respect of the rest of the Muslim world.
Peterson can’t seem to accept the fact that the main reason equality and equity are failing as concepts in modern Western society is not because they are failures as theoretical constructs, but because non-colored people don’t want to relinquish their cultural and political sovereignty over the Western world.
Then Dr. Peterson refuses to concede that the majority of his listeners and supporters of what he says (i.e. not fans because only entertainers have fans apparently, and because he feels that everyone who listens to him is listening carefully and critically accepting it – surprising coming from a psychologist by the way) belong to the right. Yes. This is why organizations that have ties to the far right such as Rebel Media love Dr. Peterson.
Then he refuses to answer the question about whether he belongs to the far-right and refuses to concede that he belongs on a political spectrum or is even talking politics in the first place. He insists that what is saying is ‘deeper’. Deeper it may be, but it rises to the surface as political ideas and ideology. Dr. Peterson claims to dislike ideologues, but he is unwittingly becoming an ideologue himself, or at the very least functioning as one in society today.
And this is typical of many academics who unwittingly (and usually either due to arrogance or naivete) talk about fields of expertise other than their own. They don’t have the necessary expertise in that field (in this case politics) as a specialist would, but their expertise in their own field (in this case clinical psychology) tricks them into thinking they have expertise in the other. This is a common problem among academics, even those in the Islamic sciences. Humility or at the very least a greater sense of self-awareness are usually what stop academics from falling too deep into this trap, although given the multidisciplinary nature of most sciences (natural or social) it is a habit that is impossible to eliminate entirely.
Then there is Dr. Peterson’s cudgel against his accusers that he is aligned with the alt-right: That they are biased because of their alignment with the alt-left. Not only is this a blatant profession of guilt for being blinded by the current culture wars, it’s also not true. I for one, am not a radical leftist, nor do I appreciate them in anyway although like Dr. Peterson, I sympathize with their motives. As a Muslim, most would say my views are quite conservative and traditional, and in fact align more closely with the right or center-right side of most modern political attitudes in the West.
Then according to him, there is no evidence whatsoever that he is from the alt-right or a fascist, despite the fact that his ideas and thoughts are strongly rooted in Carl Jung, traditionalism and mysticism – all linked to Nazism in some way either as occasional philosophical sympathizers or philosophical precursors. Not to add his love or respect for New Atheists blinded by scientism, one of the determinants in Nazi attitudes towards race and their eugenics projects. Such patterns in his thought were masterfully demonstrated by Pankaj Mishra in a recent article
– which was masterfully sidestepped and left unresponded to by Dr. Jordan Peterson with his claims to being offended, complete with an insult (despite the fact that he insists tolerating offensiveness is necessary to have important conversations) on behalf of his friend, which to be honest I think is a gross misreading (intentional or otherwise) of Mishra’s intent behind that sentence. Also check out this excellent commentary on the exchange
Then lastly Western feminists don’t criticize Saudi Arabia, so they must secretly be in cahoots with Muslims. This is downright hilarious coming from someone considered to be an intellectual. Firstly it lacks an awareness of the distinct resentment that many Muslims have for many feminist ideas. If feminists were in a secret underground alliance with Muslims (and Saudi Arabia lol) as a whole, Muslims would be the first to complain. Secondly why should Western feminists concern themselves with Saudi Arabia when they perceive more immediate and important threats to women at home? Thirdly Saudi Arabia has enough of its own native feminist movement (unorganized mind you considering how political movements are banned in the autocratic minority of KSA). This is Dr. Jordan Peterson evolving from popular intellectual to conspiracy theorist in a matter of seconds.
In fact whenever Dr. Peterson speaks about Islam or Muslims he exposes his greatest weakness and most well-hidden flaw: political amateurism. The man simply does not understand Middle Eastern politics whether it’s history or its current internal problems and issues. And this begs us to ask: then on what basis has he made previous statements in the past such as allusions to poor economic conditions in Muslim countries being an indicator of cultural, moral or religious failure? And don’t get me started on the typical obsession with Saudi Arabia as some paragon of applies Islamic ethics that is typical of many amateur commentators on Islam and the Middle East.
A lot of male Muslims are falling for Dr. Peterson’s rhetoric. Most (like his non-Muslim male fans – yes I said it) are woefully unprepared to digest the academia and primary sources that feed and weave through Dr. Peterson’s thoughts. Neither have they read enough history, political theory or philosophy for themselves to decipher the ramifications and underlying foundations of what Dr. Jordan Peterson is saying.
Sadly these men are looking for a role model for what they sometimes legitimately and sometimes illegitimately perceive as a social assault on the concept of masculinity and manliness in the West. Muslims would do well to remember that our ultimate role model and source of information on what informs manhood is the example of the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم and his interactions with the opposite gender (and in their fully explored glory, not carefully handpicked angles to support their own perspectives), not the conception of manhood celebrated by Western conservatives or their liberal opponents. The manhood and relationship to the opposite gender demonstrated in the character of our beloved Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم is much more complex and wholesome than the caricatures and stereotypes that the current culture wars in the West are exporting into our minds.
UPDATE: Read this, its an excellent article echoing many of my sentiments, except its by a friend and senior colleague of Dr. Peterson’s.