This blog I am writing in English because of the large audiences that Jordan B Peterson accumulates in the English speaking world. He hasn´t reached Finland yet, as far as I know, but obviously Sweden though. I got the news about his appearances on YouTube from my Swedish pen pal.
Jordan B Peterson is a Canadian professor of psychology who speaks about the meaning of Life and the meaning of Suffering in much the same way as Alice Miller did in my youth.
But while Alice Miller quite frequently was classified as progressive by almost the whole of the learned world (except the Freudians who opposed her in their usual sly manner) Jordan B Peterson is almost as unanimously classified as rightwing populist, far right.
Of course one can decide that they are children of their time. In the 1980ies we wanted a progressive guru, today there is a natural space for a populist. It may be the truth, at least in some respect.
Another truth is probably that as Alice Miller wisely stuck to her field (ie psychiatry) and carefully avoided making political statements Jordan B Peterson is very generous with his own political views. Alice Miller was against one thing predominantly and that was physical abuse of children. Over and over again she demonstrated the toxic effect of abuse in child rearing with examples from the monsters of history, Hitler, Stalin et al. That was as far as her political agenda reached. Far enough if you ask me. Jordan B Peterson tells me all about his opinions on marxism, feminism, communism, egalitarianism and you name it, any kind of leftist idea gets a shovelful of disdain. Social hierarchy is very wittily explained by the lives of lobsters. Haha, you laugh. Witty guy this Peterson. It takes a while to stop and think: There is more to social hierarchy than serotonin and – come to think of it – we aren´t lobsters, eh?
These are the marks of a true populist. Witty, funny, sweeping generalisations with an underlying disdain for half of mankind. Vehemently denied, of course. Interviewer Cathy Newman of Channel 4 had no chance of getting mercy from this omniscient bulldozer. Unfortunately she made a bleak figure and had not thought through her arguments properly, either, as far as I could see.
A third truth seems to be that Jordan B Peterson´s audiences consist of men, whereas Alice Miller´s audiences consisted mainly of women (as far as I remember). Since I myself am somewhat ambivalent about both feminism and #metoo, I would like to stress the social oppression more than the oppression connected with sex, I am glad that men and boys have someone who speaks to them. And to booth: all is certainly not nonsense or populist propaganda. On the contrary: I can sympathise with much of what he says. The problem arises in the political conclusions.
For instance he says that the Western society is the best in the world. We have freedom, justice etc etc. Western people are reliable, they do what the say they do and they fulfill promises and hail other Christian virtues. Maybe he is right. But he completely forgets that that is a result of many leftist revolutions. The reason why Finland and Sweden are listed among the best countries in the world and the US is number 20 or something has to do with his much ridiculed egalitarian, leftwing policies. And Canada is constantly lauded for its progressive social system that makes it a much safer place than the US and compatible with the Nordic countries. Peterson speaks very little of his home country, maybe he isn´t aware of its wonderful reputation world wide? Maybe he thinks that it doesn´t deserve its good reputation?