Jordan Peterson, author of 12 Rules for Life and protagonist in that infamous Cathy Newman Channel 4 interview, is doing a worldwide speaking tour.
The only problem, if you are based in Britain, is that the one event in London was booked up instantly. As I said to him, to satisfy the pent-up demand in the UK for his message, he would need 50 events all around the country and all would be sell-outs.
So I had to fly all the way to Detroit if I wanted to hear him speak some time this side of Christmas. (Detroit was also on my bucket list of destinations because I am interested in economic destruction, globalisation, ghettoisation and urban decay and Detroit is the best example of all these things – a salient warning of what could happen to London if present trends continue, although few are ready for that message yet).
Whilst there were more young men than women in the audience, I sat between two single women. One was (surprisingly) of Saudi Arabian origin. She had come for personal development, she said, to sort out the chaos in her life, starting with the mess in her apartment. All her university friends had warned her that she was coming to hear some ‘extreme Right-wing lunatic’ – such is the distortion of any rational message by the Left.
The other lady was a postgraduate student who said that all the students in her class said ‘I feel’ rather than ‘I think’. It is a subject for another post but I thought it was a pithy aphorism worth thinking about: Post fact students, post science students, only subjective feeling.
When Jordan entered the exquisite Art Deco Fillmore theatre the entire audience gave him a standing ovation for five minutes before he had even uttered a word. It was as if they had come to see their saviour, a messiah.
Jordan started to speak and continued to speak, without notes, without script, for three hours solidly to a rapt audience who hardly moved, hardly fidgeted, indeed were transfixed. No interval, no break, unbelievable intellectual and physical stamina and, at 55, he is not a young man. The talk weaved between history, biology, morality, biblical stories and personal development.
Each talk on his tour is different and this one was essentially about good and evil. What makes a person believe in an ideology and then kill? He invited us to think of Auschwitz or the Soviet Gulag. Most people think of the victims and then imagine themselves as victims but he asked us to think of ourselves as the perpetrators. He also invited us to stop reading history as the past but as autobiography.
Peterson talked in some detail about the concentration camps – that these were of course not rational, they were something much darker, the real darkness in the human soul of most of us. If they had been set up for the war effort, they would have kept the prisoners alive and extracted work from them as slaves to win the war. Instead, guards made prisoners carry 50kg sacks of wet salt across a yard and then straight back again, for torturous fun. The people were worked pointlessly to death. The camp sign at Auschwitz read ‘Work will set you free’ but it was a joke, a parody of work, a part of the torture. As Solzhenitsyn said, even in laying bricks, one can try to do it well. There is a universal necessity to work, to find meaning in life, but the guards turned it upside down.
And I thought with sadness that Peterson was not talking to the thousands of black people outside in the streets of Detroit, who had, mostly, by loss of work and bad life choices, completely lost meaning in their lives while their streets and their city had turned into chaos and a living hell as you can see here
while Mark Steyn talks about it here.
Detroit is 83 per cent black but I saw only one black man in the audience of a thousand.
There was a black, dreadlocked usher aged 25 or 30 near me who was turning around to look at Jordan in rapt attention. Afterwards I asked him if he had heard of Jordan Peterson before and he said no. I asked him if he had enjoyed it and he said it was fascinating and thanked me for asking.
Jordan went through shootings at Sandy Hook and elsewhere and into the minds of killers who want to inflict as much torture as possible – why they want to kill innocents and children. And on to Cain and Abel, revenge and hate.
But in particular, he made the point loud and clear that to succeed as a person we need to set our own lives in order, we need to obtain victory over our own chaos and malevolence. That we need to be a force for good in our own lives, our own families, our own communities and our own countries – that being a victim and blaming others for our errors will get neither ourselves nor our societies anywhere.
And finally he talked about how important men were in families and for children and that far from being patriarchal oppression, it was rich women in the West who got married and stayed married – that the rich would never voluntarily oppress themselves.
He made a number of references to Christianity and Buddhism but none to Islam. The only oblique reference to it was that all good societies had rejected polygamy and that societies which practised it were inherently unstable, not only from the woman’s point of view but because by definition, so many men, ended up without a partner for life.
I only wish he could go have gone outside and talked to some of the people I have met while taking the public bus in Detroit (always as the only white person). It is not money that much of America lacks, but it suffers a paucity of the human spirit: Nepal which is ten times poorer still has a richness of spirit, as do many very poor countries. Unfortunately the liberal Left’s solutions can never help these people. Many black cities have descended into pure hell.
I was fortunate to speak one-on-one with Jordan for a couple of minutes, by the way, and he confirmed that he is a follower of TCW! So if you’re reading this, Jordan, thanks for a wonderful evening.