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I worry about Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson is the most important public intellectual today. His only rival for pertinence and importance is Douglas Murray. By chance I was listening to Dr. Peterson’s podcast this afternoon in the car for quite a while and I had to turn him off. The ostensible subject was a Jungian interpretation of Disney’s the Lion King. But the tone of voice, the breathlessness, the apparent shouting (though he was not raising his voice): it was all wrong. It was all wrong for an enclosed space. It might have been effective in the presence of the large audience he was addressing, yet as a podcast, he entirely violated the basic rule of the radio: that you are talking into someone’s living room, that you are talking into someone’s ear.

My wife said he sounded extremely anxious. We spoke about his health problems. He seems to be a candle burning at both ends.

Just think about how Jeremy Irons would narrate a story.

Peterson, by contrast, is exhasuting to listen to.  He is like a man juggling chainsaws trying to recite the Iliad. All you hear is the ragged voice reciting the Iliad, and you cannot see him juggling the invisible chainsaws, but you can hear the effort. Jordan, please breathe deeply and do some enthogenic drugs and come to grips with your demons in a safe space. I wish you all the best and I do not want you to flame out. See Blade Runner for guidance.

 

The division within all of us

I have been reflecting on what Solzhenitsyn said about the dividing line within our hearts between good and evil.

The battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.

There is another line that goes through our hearts, that between the liberal and the conservative. I was reminded of this line by what Douglas Murray said in his conversation with Brett Weinstein. The political realm lies in a balance between reforming abuses, and the capacity to see the abuses and the need for reforms, with the ability to pay for the reforms, to adopt new ideas of justice, and to resist excessive compassion.

It is in the weakening of resistance to excessive compassion that is causing society to disintegrate, or to “deliquesce” to use a word I last saw in an issue of The Idler back in the 1980s; to disintegrate from the inside out.

It is obvious to me, as a conservative in this sense, that we have swung too far over into a land of therapeutic remediation of all previous offences against the  equal dignity. of people and cultures. The BLM  ideology, “whiteness” as a spiritual disease, the endless guilt tripping over Indian residential schools, the entire settlement of North America by white people: each and all are held to be examples of the offence that white people – as whites- have wrought against natives and Africans. It will not be long before punctuality, hard work and discipline are held to be examples of sick white culture.

Back in the 1990s I attended some weekend sessions taught by people from the Diamond Heart school of philosophical inqury. As  a discipline it  had much to recommend it, including especially its central idea that it was not a therapy: it was not trying to cure you or your condition. At some point in a session we were talking about compassion. One of the first ideas that you get in these kinds of schools is that you must first have some compassion for yourself if you are to have compassion for others. Yet our class leader immediately took up a phrase I used when I said some people need the “boot of compassion”. She agreed. Compassion is not only  open-hearted listening. It actually involves taking steps to get people off their addictive or self destrctive behaviours.ld just as well be expressed by the admonition “get a grip”.

I am suggesting that part of the problem is that it is becoming morally impossible to tell people to get a grip. A grip on reality, a grip on their addictions, a grip on their tendency to self-pity, and a grip on their inability to look themselves in the mirror and see that what needs improvng is not society but themselves.

In short, the boot of compassion is needed at all levels of discourse.

I think that most of what Jordan Peterson has been aiming at is a purposeful life. This is not the same as a the boot of compassion, but the boot of compassion is a good place to start the voyage.

 

 

 

 

 

Cleverest conversation I have yet heard

Don Hoffman says that consciousness is prior to matter, He undergoes a thorough and logical interrogation by someone who is not of his school of thought. The exchange is a model of how people should speak. Respectful, incisive, and utterly clear, these two go at it, shedding light not heat. What a treat to hear them! Hoffman never gets caught rejecting a proposition unnecessarily. He accepts that his thinking is compatible with several different outcomes, or schools of thought, but is frank about preferring one, and not others. Each person escapes arguing about stupid things and each rapidly exposes the nature and direction of his thought. They are a real pleasure to listen to.

The interlocutor suggests that, instead of there being two classes of being: matter and mind, which is the idea that constitutes dualism, consciousness might be more like a fundamental force of the universe, such as is each of gravity, electromagnetism, the strong force and the weak force. Consciousness might be, or not be, utterly fundamental. My inclination is to believe that consciousness is utterly fundamental. But my pleasure was in having to deal with someone who could make that sort of vital distinction, and force me to be more clever.