moirajmoore (moiraj) wrote,

Jordan B. Peterson’s Self-Help Book for Misanthropes

Jordan B. Peterson has recently enjoyed newfound fame by producing stuff that has his fans claiming, “He’s just saying what others don’t want to hear.” You know the sort. The sort who has figured out exactly what certain others want to hear and is able to profit from it. Pandering to the middle class, straight white Christian set is a good way to make money.

He’s a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, which is horrifying. I hope his students are well versed in critical thinking. Not long ago, he planned to create a website that would encourage people to report on university courses that were “neo-Marxist cults,” and push to have them eliminated. But he wasn’t going to wait for the results of the snooping before choosing programs that should be attacked. You won’t be surprised by his chosen targets.

"Women's studies, and all the ethnic studies and racial studies groups, man, those things have to go and the faster they go the better," he said. "It would have been better if they had never been part of the university to begin with as far as I can tell."

"Sociology, that's corrupt. Anthropology, that's corrupt. English literature, that's corrupt. Maybe the worse offenders are the faculties of education."

In that article, he warns that if the left pushes too hard, the right will wake up and commit violence. The implication that the left, by expecting civilized behaviour from everyone,(my wording) will be treated with brutality and will have asked for it. Also, he ignores the sharp increase of violence being perpetrated by the far right already. But he likes ignoring evidence.

After enormous backlash from everyone with a brain, he backed down from creating the website while whining that his freedom of speech was being violated. Apparently, he and his followers are the sort to believe that freedom of speech means no one can speak against what he’s saying.

Yes, he’s married. Misogynists marry women all the time. Yes, in the acknowledgements, he thanks women. Who have been useful to him.

This isn’t anything like the length of my review of Diane Francis’ Merger of the Century crap. I don’t have the time to chase down the source material for this book.

I originally called this post The Self-Help Book for Misogynists, and there is certainly a ton of evidence in the book pointing to his contempt for women, but, having read the whole book, I have come to the conclusion that he hates not only women, but all humans, and life in general. Peterson comes across as a resentful, bitter guy.

Again and again, he says that people who hate life, and themselves, commit suicide and/or attack others. I am in no way advocating the former, but it’s clear he’s luxuriating in the latter.

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos
For some reason, I assumed this was about addressing chaos in society. Peterson is known for railing against Canada moving away from tradition (British) and religion (Christianity.) But it’s not. It’s supposed to be about eliminating chaos within your self, by adjusting your views and your memories. Change yourself, but don’t dare try to change the status quo. Reshape who you are to accommodate everyone else.

And, of course, drive out any feminine part of your nature, if you're a man.

But stand up to bullies.
But don’t.
Dominance is good.
Except when it’s not.
Women should stand up for themselves.
But not to the point of straying from the role order has chosen for them.
If you fail to dominate others, you’re pathetic. Following the rules will enable you to dominate. (And get all the girls.)
Woman is chaos, and chaos is destructive and evil. Those things must be contained via the rules for life.

That’s the book. He tarts it up a bit through some truly special imagery and by referring to experts the average reader might have heard of, but I could easily see stuff like this on an MRA site. The rules seem to make sense, something you’d find in many self-help books, but the text that follows them twist them out of shape.

There’s a fair amount of victim-blaming.

He really likes the Old Testament, especially the bit about harshly punishing people who stray from the one true path.

Cover Your Ass statements. He has a habit of using these. He’ll spend paragraphs or even pages saying something revolting, and then throw in a single statement meant to shield himself from being criticized for the revolting stuff.

I can't decide whether he's actually that ignorant of law and history of if he's just ignoring it all because they don't support his claims.

The book is, really, a mess. Most of his experience writing involves articles, and the book reflects that, because the argument doesn't flow naturally from beginning to end. The argument is provided in chunks that don't always work together. It's not just the contradictions. He'll give a chapter a subject and then veer wildly from it, all over the place. It's like the editing process involved only spelling, punctuation, grammar, maybe some sentence structure, but not content, not making sure the argument holds together in a sensible manner.

The hilarity starts early. On page xxvi, he talks about posting a bunch of rules to life on Quora, asking for opinions about them, and brags about how awesome everyone thought he was. But that’s not the funny part.

“Nevertheless, Quora provides market research at its finest. The respondents are anonymous. They’re disinterested in the best sense. Their opinions are spontaneous and unbiased.”

He thinks anonymous respondents are naturally unbiased. That’s hilarious. There’s no such thing as an unbiased person, and the safety of anonymity just means people think they can say things they won’t say to someone face to face, and to claim that anonymous posters are somehow free of their own agenda…. This guy is a professor of psychology?

Page xxviii He likes order, while at the same time acknowledging it can be oppressive. He doesn’t like chaos, the term he applies to unexpected change. And guess what? Order is masculine, chaos is feminine. He uses the yin and yang symbol to elaborate on his point. “Order is the white, masculine serpent; Chaos, its black, feminine counterpart.” He also refers to order as security, while the unknown looms. “When everything seems lost, new order can emerge from catastrophe and chaos.”

He presents order as superior, meant to end up the victor of every struggle, while chaos is meant to be overcome, beaten. Here’s some links to discussions stating that the two sides are meant to be complementary, change constant and harmonious.

Stuff about shared cultural values promoting predictability and avoiding conflict. Later, he says you have to be prepared to engage in conflict in order to communicate and get what you want.

Page xxxii “In the West, we have been withdrawing from our tradition- religion – and even nation-centred cultures, partly to decrease the danger of group conflict. But we are increasingly falling prey to the desperation of meaninglessness, and that is no improvement at all.”

In the footnote of page xxxi, he refers to being influenced by Martin Heidegger who was, among other things, a member of the Nazi movement. Definitely the sort of person I want to follow when it comes to determining who I am and how other people should think and behave.

Rule 1: Stand Up Straight with Your Shoulders Back
Or, Lobsters Are Nothing Like Us, But They Have Hierarchies and Have Been Around for Millions of Years and That Means Rigid Hierarchies Are Part of Everything, Everywhere, for All Time

He talks about how wild animals have hierarchies. “The wiliest, strongest, healthiest and most fortunate birds occupy prime territory, and defend it. Because of this, they are more likely to attract high-quality mates, and to hatch (page 3) chicks who survive and thrive. Protection from wind, rain and predators, as well as easy access to superior food, makes for a much less stressed existence. Territory matters, and there is little difference between territorial rights and status. It is often a matter of life and death.” (page 4)

There’s something I’m not sure about on page 4, after more talk about fighting over territory.
“A defeated wolf, for example, will roll over on its back, exposing its throat to the victor, who will not then deign to tear it out. The now-dominant wolf may still require a future hunter partner, after all, even one as pathetic as his now-defeated foe.”

Does this quote suggest that he thinks wolves live in packs? Because they don’t.

Losing means you’re pathetic. You can’t be awesome but have been defeated by something even more awesome, you’re just pathetic.

Back to lobsters. A lobster that loses a fight, even if it fought aggressively, “becomes unwilling to fight further, even against another, previously defeated opponent. A vanquished competitor loses confidence, sometimes for days…. If a dominant lobster is badly (page 6) defeated, its brain basically dissolves. Then it grows a new, subordinate’s brain – one more appropriate to its new, lowly position.” (page 7)

He isn’t, at this time, suggesting this is what happens to human beings, but it's certainly the implication.

A bit about how a small majority of humans hold or create the most of all the things: finance, art, etc.

This is natural.

There is actually a section called All the Girls
“The female lobsters … identify the top guy quickly, and become irresistibly attracted to him. This is brilliant strategy, in my estimation. It’s also one used by females of many different species, including humans. Instead of undertaking the computationally difficult task of identifying the best man, the females outsource the problem to the machine-like calculations of the dominance hierarchy.” (page 9)

No, women don’t actually think. They pick the top guy according to what everyone else thinks, and target him.

The next page is actually really interesting. Going back to lobsters, Peterson portrays the female lobster as the aggressor in the sexual relationship, changing the male a la Beauty and the Beast, a reference he uses, and once he’s changed, then she sheds “her shell, making herself dangerously soft, vulnerable, and ready to mate.” (page 10) I mean, it’s creepy, but flips the stereotype of the male chasing and subduing the female.

Lobsters are relevant because they’ve been around a long time, 350 million years, and that means that “dominance hierarchies have been an essentially permanent feature of the environment to which all complex life has adapted.” (page 11)

The ability for human beings to structure their society in any way they choose isn’t a thing, I guess.

Peterson uses a quote from Mark Twain. “It’s not what we don’t know that gets us in trouble. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.” (page 12) Except Twain never said or wrote that.

The fact that he got this particular quote wrong is hysterical.

He goes on about how nature changes, that’s nothing new, and then, on page 14, a truly bizarre statement:

“If Mother Nature wasn’t so hell-bent on our destruction, it would be easier for us to exist in simple harmony with her dictates.”

He’s imposing on nature malevolent intent, such intent focused on human beings. That just boggles the mind.

And, of course, nature is feminine.

Dominance is “permanent. It’s real. The dominance hierarchy is not capitalism. It’s not communism, either, for that matter. It’s not the military-industrial complex. It’s not that patriarchy – that disposable, malleable, arbitrary cultural artefact. It’s not even human creation; not in the most profound sense. It is instead a near-eternal aspect of the environment ….” (page 14)

This guy’s book is definitely aimed at other straight men. Men seek stuff, women seek men.

There are only two positions in Peterson’s natural world. You are either top or bottom, nothing in between. If you’re the bottom, you’re a complete loser and you will die alone. Even if you have money, you won’t be able to manage it. You will spend it on drugs or you’ll be targeted by psychopaths.

Oh my god, this guy actually treats people. He has patients.

If you fake a smile, you will feel happier. A man is unlikely to know or understand that women are forced to fake smiles all the freaking time.

Your posture will determine how people treat you. Standing up straight will turn you into a hero, and the one willing to take on responsibility, and will raise your serotonin levels.

When you feel better, you can stand up to bullying. The fact that most bullies target those who don’t have the power to defend themselves, just ignore that.

Rule 2: Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible for Helping
Or, Women are Evil and Manipulate Men Through Shame and Refusing to Have Sex with Them

Bible stuff – moving on

Back to order and chaos. If I were to write the entire quote for what he thinks of these two, it would take pages. So, in an attempt to summarize:
Chaos, meaning female, is
- Ignorance
- Beyond discipline and ideas
- Foreign (which is portrayed as a negative)
- “The monster under the bed”
- “The hidden anger of your mother”
- “The sickness of your child”
- Despair, horror, betrayal
- “When your dreams die, your career collapses, or your marriage ends” (page 35)
- “Formless potential” referring to the time before Genesis, which of course represents order
- Freedom, but dreadful freedom

While order, meaning male, is
- Explored territory
- Hierarchy of a million years
- Structure
- “Tribe, religion, hearth, home and country”
- A fire and children playing in a warm, secure living room
- “The flag of the nation”
- “The value of currency”
- The floor, the plan for the day
- “It’s the greatness of tradition, the rows of desks in a school classroom, the trains that leave on time, the calendar, and the clock.”
- Civilized behaviour.
- He says order can result in tyranny, but so far hasn’t chosen to elaborate on that.
- “In the domain of order, things behave as God intended. We like to be there. Familiar environments are congenial. In order, we’re able to think about things.” (page 36)

“You’re in order, when you have a loyal friend, a trustworthy ally. (page 36) When the same person betrays you, sells you out, you move from the daytime world of clarity and light to the dark underworld of chaos, confusion, and despair.” (page 37)

He must hate women so much.

Anyway, he goes on with the most ridiculous analogies that are all about how awesome order is and how worthless and even evil chaos is.

Remember the subtitle to the book? An Antidote to Chaos. In other words, an antidote to the feminine.
Then he talks about being friendzoned.

“It is Woman as Nature who looks at half of all men and says, ‘No!” For the men, that’s a direct encounter with chaos, and it occurs with devastating force every time they are turned down for a date. … Women’s proclivity to say no, more than any other force, has shaped our evolution into the creative, industrious, upright, large-brained … creatures that we are. (Here, he is using as a reference The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature by Geoffery Miller. I can’t get a copy unless I buy it, which I’m not prepared to do for the sake of this review, but I’ve read a bunch of descriptions and reviews. According to them, one of Miller’s ideas is that men had – Have? – all the intelligence, wit, creativity, etc. Despite having none of these characteristics, women were somehow able to perceive them in certain men – Good girl! – and recognize that these traits were positive. They would have sex with those guys and the traits were handed down. So, Miller sounds like a real winner.) It is Nature as Woman who says, ‘Well, bucko, you’re good enough for a friend, but my experience of you so far has not indicated the suitability of your genetic material for continued propagation.’” (page 41)

He doesn’t address the fact that some men pretend to be friends to get into a woman’s pants, and then accuse her of being a bitch or a tease because she couldn’t read their mind. Or that some of those “friends” then respond with verbal and even physical abuse, that sometimes when a woman says no, the man rapes and/or murders her.

Using religious symbols again, Peterson says Isis of Egypt was a goddess of the underworld while skipping over the fact that she was also worshipped as a healer.

Here he contradicts himself by saying you have to have a foot in both order and chaos, to live with both, but as many times as he tries to imply there are some negatives to order and some positives to chaos, look at how he describes them. Look at the imagery. And look at the subtitle of the book. This a CYA statement.

Bible stuff that I was skimming over until I notice this sentence on page 47: “Question for parents: do you want to make your children safe, or strong?”

Um, both? Not a parent here, but why are these mutually exclusive concepts? (Having finished the book, I understand where Peterson is going with this. Mothers try to make children – more importantly, sons – safe, to their detriment, while fathers try to make their sons strong.)

The Bible stuff involves Adam and Eve. Eve eats the apple and becomes more aware, or as Peterson puts it, self-conscious.

“Now, no clear-seeing, conscious woman is going to tolerate an unawakened man. So, Eve immediately shares the fruit with Adam. That makes him self-conscious. Little has changed. Women have been making men self-conscious since the beginning of time. They do this primarily by rejecting them – but they also do it by shaming them, if men do not take responsibility. Since women bear the primary burden of reproduction, it’s no wonder. (CYA statement.) It is very hard to see how it could be otherwise. But the capacity of women to shame men and render them self-conscious is still a primal force of nature.” (page 48)

And nature goes out of its way to kill people.

There’s so much to unpack here, and I’ll miss most of it, but to the first thing that jumped to mind was this: Oh, you poor, precious baby. You get what is usually a quiet, gentle ‘no,’ and your feelings are all twisted up because she deliberately set out to hurt you.

The second thing to come to mind was what Margaret Atwood said. “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

Women are shamed for having sex, for not having sex, for wearing too little, for wearing too much, for having children too early, for having children too late, for having no children, for having too many children, for not having a career, for having a career, for being too aggressive at work, for being bossy, for not “leaning in.” Oh, and they ask to be raped.

But women have all the power because they choose who they have sex with. (Except when that option is taken from them.) How manipulative of them.

Men are shamed for not being physically strong enough, for not sleeping with enough women, for not making enough money, for expressing any emotion other than anger.

While women are guilty of joining in this form of shaming, those expectations are built by the patriarchy Peterson tried to dismiss earlier. There is absolutely no reason for either men or women to be attacked for those reasons, but they are. If Peterson referred to the fact that men also control others through shame, I missed it.

What he definitely hasn’t addressed to this point is the fact that the power of balance between men and women is wickedly skewed. There are differences of time and place, so let’s stick to Canada after imperialists grabbed control of it.

Straight white Christian men turned all of Canada into their safe space, with multiple safe spaces within. They made the government their safe space. They made religion their safe space. They made the media their safe space. They made business their safe space. They made most professions, especially those with the most power, money, and esteem, their safe space. They decided what kind of limitations on freedom of space were legitimate – don’t you dare impugn a man’s reputation – and what kind were not – denigrate people’s basic humanity all you want. In other words, they made language itself their safe space. Anyone who was not a straight white Christian male wasn’t entitled to any safe spaces, and, according to the likes of Peterson, they still aren’t.

In 1917, white women who were related to men who served in the military achieved the right to vote, but still weren’t considered “persons” under law until the Privy Council of England declared they were in 1929, reversing a Supreme Court of Canada decision the previous year that said women weren’t persons. The right to vote expanded over time, ethnicity (racism) deciding who got what rights when. The Indigenous were screwed over the longest. The right to vote wasn’t extended to everyone until 1960.

In Canada, marital rape didn’t become a crime until 1983. So much for women having the right to reject men.
I’m focusing on oppression of women here, but what can be taken away from this is, in Canada, if you weren’t a straight white Christian male, you were far lower in the hierarchy. To ignore all of that straight, white, Christian male privilege and claim women controlled men through shame and rejection …. Come on. Let’s be real, here.

He’s got some issues with snakes.

Adam and Eve became ashamed because they realized they’re naked, and Peterson claims this is because they became aware of their flaws instead of because the stuff that went into the Bible was written by a bunch of prudes.

This is just sad. Eve’s punishment is going through the agony and risk of childbirth. Peterson says Adam doesn’t get off any easier, because Adam will ….have to work hard.

Sure. Those are equivalent.

He started the chapter with, and comes back to here, why some people don’t take their meds when, if they take their dog to the vet, they’ll give the dog whatever treatment the vet prescribes. Well, he’s the psychologist, but his suggestion that the reason people don’t care for themselves is because they think they are unworthy of it doesn’t match with anyone I’ve ever met. A common reason is being unable to afford meds, so they don’t buy them or lessen the dose so the supply will last longer. People are shamed for taking meds, they’re the “lazy” approach to healthcare, especially if they’re meds for mental health. They don’t like the side effects. They flat out forget. They feel their responsibility to take care of dependents is more important than selfcare, not because they don’t feel worthy of selfcare, but because they feel they owe more to the people or animals who are dependent on them. But no, it’s because they hate themselves so much they think they deserve to be in pain.

I’m not saying there aren’t people who think they deserve to be punished – maybe for not winning all the time and being the losers Peterson would call them – but I would propose that they would not represent the majority. And I would need someone other than Peterson to convince me otherwise, someone who doesn’t show such contempt for women and those who aren’t on top.

After talking about how humans can be cruel, on page 55 Peterson states:
“Perhaps Man (me: not human) is something that should never have been. Perhaps the world should even be cleansed of all human presence, so that Being (sic) and consciousness could return to the innocent brutality of the animal. I believe that the person who claims never to have wished for such a thing has neither consulted his memory nor confronted his darkest fantasies.”

Speak for yourself, Peterson. I have never wished for the total annihilation of human beings. I think it’s a possibility, but what I wish for is that human beings get better. I think we’re capable of it. Maybe when we get past the notion that a rigid hierarchy is the only way to escape the evils of chaos.

Peterson does this a lot, claiming people don’t actually think or know what they think or know. But, fortunately, he can tell us.

Bible stuff. That’s why we’re supposed to think we’re unworthy of taking care of ourselves. We’re Fallen. We’re flawed. We have a sinful nature.

Find part two here:

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