Jordan Peterson

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A friend of mine sent me a critique of Jordan Peterson yesterday in response to my encouragement of her to give him a listen. Originally published in an American journal called The Star, it’s the first decent criticism of Peterson I have read.

I came by his book, Twelve Rules For Life maybe a year ago while perusing the new release tables at my favourite bookstore. I tend to be particular in my tastes, and one of the ladies that works there was trying to sell me on it.

I’m not opposed to self-help books; a teacher gave me Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People at high school and it had a profoundly positive effect on me. And besides, it’s a key tenet of intellectual discipline to reserve judgement until you’ve read something.

I had a flick through and was quickly put off; rule number one was ‘Stand up straight and pull your shoulders back.’ It’s not that I don’t think that’s a good idea, but I’d rather read something else. I bought a book of Kafka’s short stories, some letters by Rilke and left.

Later, when Eurydice Dixon was murdered, people went bananas. I heard Lisa Wilkinson on The Project say that her murder was a result of the trickle-down effect patriarchy. That was not something I was willing to take lying down. I posted a clip of her editorial and followed it with a brief rebuttal. And hey presto, my Facebook page exploded.

The most interesting commentary came from a man and a woman, both of whom are social workers engaged in working with autistic people. They took opposite views of the situation and I corresponded with both of them privately, asking them more about their ideas.

She directed me towards Clementine Ford and he directed me to Jordan Peterson.

I watched and read quite a bit of Clementine Ford and was impressed. I’d heard a lot of negative things about her, and she certainly does appear like a hate monger, but her TED talk about Australia being a rape culture was convincing. I agree with her.

I started watching and reading about Peterson and was deeply impressed. He was talking books; Dostoyevsky and Jung, I think. I found out he was a psychology professor and many of his detractors described him as a ‘poster boy for the alt right.’ I didn’t really know what that was but it sounded salacious so I continued to poke around.

More discussions of Nietzche and other interesting thinkers emerged. This really turned me on. Maybe the guy is a ratbag, but when did we last have a public intellectual talking about Nietzche and Doestoyevsky?

I watched his interview with Cathy Newman in which he asserted the gender pay gap was a myth. He skilfully defended his position and then, when she grilled him on what gave him the right to offend people, he responded that she was attacking him. And then, rather than holding it over her, followed by saying, ‘And more power to you – that’s your job.

I took this as a pretty open-and-shut defence of his values.

Reading The Star article caused me to go back and revisit another criticism of him in which he stated that enforced monogamy would create a stronger, more stable society. Upon reviewing that article, I realised that I had, in fact, read and dismissed it along with almost everything else I had read on him because it was clear that the writer had presented their article to attack and ridicule him as a person. His ideas were not engaged with, simply recounted in such a way as to defend what was clearly the writer’s opinion.

I recently watched the Netflix doco, Wild Wild Country. It tells the story of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, known to some as the Rolls-Royce guru for his ostentatious displays of wealth, which included a fleet of 25 Rolls-Royces.

It turns out that at the same time, I was reading Yoga: The Science of the Soul by Osho. It was recommended to me by my yoga teacher, Jack Farmer.

Yoga: The Science of the Soul is a stunning exegesis on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. As I read this collection of pellucid insights into one of the most inscrutable and enigmatic texts I’ve encountered, I came to discover that its author, Osho, and The Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh were actually the same man.

There is no small measure of genius in the Bikram yoga sequence. I have been practising it for the last seven years and it has allowed me to continue to participate in life the way I have enjoyed the first forty years.

Bikram himself is morally bankrupt and totally unsuitable to be regarded in any position of trust or responsibility. It seems to be a feature of being a guru.

No doubt Bikram was corrupted further by public notoriety and wealth, but you can’t take away from the genius of his yoga. So too The Bhagwan; if you read him with an open mind, you cannot deny the genius of his insights.

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