This is the first part of Niall’s review of Professor Jordan Petersen’s new book, Twelve Rules, in which Niall focuses on ‘believers versus nihilists’.

In her book The Russian Orthodox Church: A Contemporary History, Jane Ellis gives a detailed account of state suppression of Christians by atheist propaganda, the KGB, Black Marias at dawn and the Gulag. Then she asks: ‘Why does the Russian Orthodox Church still exist?’ She was writing in 1986, before the collapse of communism. The question was answered in the same way that one might respond today to the young graduate who thinks that social conservatism will be banished by a new world order. The spirit lives on, despite Left-wing dogma, the Equality Act, brainwashing by the BBC and schools and the march through the institutions.

Jordan Peterson, much in the news of late, wants you to believe. He’s no evangelical Christian, but a man who sees the value of meaningfulness in our lives, which he gives the proper noun of Being. Reading his book Twelve Rules, I was greatly impressed by the foreword written by his acquaintance Norman Doidge. Rarely is a foreword so perfectly tuned to the message of the book. Doidge, a psychiatrist and author of The Brain that Changes Itself introduces the problem of a post-religious culture and the vacuous thinking of the university-educated but unenlightened younger generations.


Two ideas dominate the postmodern culture that has emerged since the 1960s. The first is moral relativism. Virtue is replaced by non-judgmental tolerance, with young people signalling their virtue on social media in pursuit of ‘likes’. This is false virtue, because it is self-serving and a mask for intolerance: the long list of hates includes British or English (but not Irish or Scottish) patriotism, suburban or country folk suspected of racism, Christians, Brexit and Tory scum. Lily Allen, for example, inveighing against a remembrance of Rorke’s Drift, or the Left-wing morons who defaced a mural of Winston Churchill with the preposterous daubing of ‘warmonger’. Virtue-signalling is really a vice.

Cultures vary in rules and customs, but relativists overlook what they share. All cultures have a need for rules and customs, and many of these rules and customs are fundamentally similar, whether in Tahiti or the Thames Valley. That’s because we are moral animals. Doidge mischievously suggests: ‘Sccccratcccch the most clever postmodern-relativist professor’s Mercedes with a key, and you will see how fast the mask of relativism and the cloak of radical tolerance come off.’

Alongside moral relativism is ideological absolutism, as displayed by the Corbyn cult. This brooks no compromise, and harbours none of the historical fact that would deter utopian illusions. We know more than enough of radical socialist regimes that restart the calendar at Year Zero, and the millions who died from starvation or persecution in the vain promise of equality. Yet Corbynites see no problem in principle, and will only grudgingly concede a problem in application.

Doidge remarks on the incompatibility of these ideas: ‘Millennials sign up for a humanities course, to study the greatest books ever written. But they’re not assigned the books; instead they are given ideological attacks on them, based on some appalling simplification. Where the relativist is filled with uncertainty, the ideologue is the very opposite. He or she is hyper-judgmental and censorious, always knows what’s wrong with others, and what to do about it.’

Perhaps the tide is turning. As a lecturer I am encouraged by a minority of students (typically not white middle-class) who reject the stifling group-think, seeing its contradictions and impracticalities for the real world. Young people are beginning to flock to Jordan Peterson, seeing him as a spiritual guide in their spiritless lives. As Doidge described, the stranglehold of cultural Marxism in enforcing a sense of victimhood has no permanence: ‘One might think that a generation that has heard endlessly, from their ideological teachers, about the rights, rights, rights that belong to them, would object to being told that they would do better to focus instead on taking responsibility. Yet this generation, many of whom were raised in small families by hyper-protective parents, on soft-surface playgrounds, and then taught in universities with “safe spaces” – schooled to be risk-averse – has among it millions who feel stultified by this underestimation of their potential resilience and who have embraced Jordan’s message that each individual has responsibility to bear. The extent of this reaction has often moved both of us to the brink of tears.’

Back to the Russian experience, and the persistence of faith and free will amidst proletarian passivity. In the decades of gloom for Christians, the candle was lit by Muscovites at the few places of worship permitted by the authorities, such as the Church of the Icon of Our Lady of the Sign. One of the worst acts of vandalism was the destruction, on Stalin’s order, of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour on the bank of the Moskva river. It was to be replaced by an enormous statue of Lenin, although this was postponed by Hitler’s invasion. After dissolution of the Soviet Union, the cathedral was rebuilt on the site. If you ever go to Moscow, be sure to visit this monument to hope and resilience. It’s a deeply affecting place, for it proudly declares the triumph of meaning over nihilism.

37 COMMENTS

  1. Just a thought in passing, that I hope is not too off topic (because it has been suggested by the article): whatever it is that becomes a fixation in your mind, and thereby guides your actions, perhaps the most important thing about it is not whether it is based on a truth, but simply what it tells everyone else about what kind of person you really are.

  2. Jordan Peterson is a cult. Since I can’t borrow a copy of this Canuck’s book(s) from my local library (because it got closed due to local authority spending cuts) I’ll have to wait until it gets remaindered and splurge a quid of my own hard-earned money on a hardcover dumped in a bargain bin at my local Ottakers or download it for free via BitTorrent or similar if anybody ever considers that such dross is worth uploading.

    • One should read a book before one dismisses it. Perhaps you are judging by its cover (as in Cathy Newman’s reactionary interview and Guardian review). Pity those who can’t face the truths told by Jordan Peterson.

      • If I can get a copy for nothing or next to nothing I will. However, Peterson is currently hawking his tome and so potted versions of the book are available gratis.

    • You’re planning to read it?! Crikey, you just might be the first lefty/detractor in history to read something to which you might disagree.
      I doth my cap to you, good sir.

    • You can of course, look at some of the YouTube videos which feature JP – he is a prolific YouTuber and there are hundreds of hours of JP – all for no charge.
      You might also come to believe that his mantra of “the individual” and smaller state and push back against the collective does indeed have merit.
      In my mind JP is a modern hero, who put his career on the line for his belief in free speech.

      • Apologies. Colonel. I’ve got an appointment to keep and haven’t the time at the moment to write anything more. I am not ignoring you so there is no need to upset yourself.

        • I think you’ve been drinking too much as well as presuming too much.

          It seems that Peterson is upsetting you.

          • Actually, no. Peterson is amusing me. Or, more accurately, beholding the way that dimmer right-wingers are grasping at his ideas much as a drowning man grasps at straws is amusing me and puzzling me. I suppose it’s a case of seeking validation and reinforcement as per a peculiar mindset from somebody considered more intelligent and accomplished.

            Obviously as far as the wordy Peterson is concerned its a case of: Never mind the quality feal the width.

    • ‘Jordan Peterson is a cult.’ Really? Why is that? You do not explain why. Are we just to accept your assertion without reason or evidence? You clearly do not have a very high opinion of our intelligence – professor. Oh wait, you aren’t a professor – unlike Jordan Peterson.

      • Since when do you have to be a professor to have an opinion? If post-graduate academic credentials were necesary to in order to like or dislike Peterson (which, although not a professor, I do possess in real life) this thread would have listed very few comments indeed.

    • Congratulations!
      You’ve just written the longest most tedious paragraph I’ve read so far this year.
      Spare me a reply as the will to live is a mere flicker..

      • Thanks. The fact that the article in in the Guardian, a notorious crypto-communist rag much despised by many uptighty righties on this very site, will of course render it taboo and impossible to read for them of course. Being an open-minded, free-thinker I will of course check it out however.

        • Open-minded, free thinker not quite so hobbled? That’s laughable.

          You’re hobbled by your own inflated ego, little man.

          • I don’t know about that, Colonel, but I am disappointed.

            My original comment, designed to provoke, deliberately mentioned BitTorrent and yet nobody has castigated me for expressing an intention to squire commercial material illegally without paying for it. I had expected to be threatened with the police, prosecuted as a bootlegger, and whatnot from the nuttiest people on this site but haven’t been.

            Now that I have pointed this out I expect some commentors to do better. Come on people! Pull you Union Jack socks up for goodness sake!

            Whatever else I am, sir, I am not weak minded enough or desperate enough to feel the need to lionise, bow, kneel before or worship, a petty, obscure and almost completely undistinguished Canadian academic, lately an author of a vapid popular potbolier that chimes with the political and societal views and prejudices of the nominaly religious and unthinking right-wing common ruck.

            That I leave to you.

          • I admit to being moderately left-of-centre, probably, but am not a member of any political party and have voted for various political parties in general elections.

            I doubt anybody will be able to find a single comment of mine on this site that is favourable to, or full of praise for, any political party, group or individual.

            In general I dislkie political parties and politicians, who, for the most part seem to be careerists more interested in their own advancement and promotion than doing a good job, being honest, keping it real and developing sensible, workable policy.

          • I am flattered you took the trouble. I can’t say I ever bother about such things as far as private citizens are concerned because our personal views are not influential and are, individually at least, unimportant… although some hereabous are vain and/or daft enough seem to think differently.

            I greet all persons reading these words as one non-entity to another! We may not be much but are much more than nothing.

  3. What’s different about Peterson is that, if you care to notice, he is living all of this recommendations. So not only has he been thinking, lecturing and writing about this stuff for decades, he is actually practicing what he preaches. He also has the courage to state the truth (crazy things, like boys and girls are different, or you have to discipline your child and yes, that may mean an occasional spanking).

    “Cult”, as someone commented below? Perhaps, insofar as people admire a person of courage and intelligence.

  4. “The spirit lives on, despite Left-wing dogma, the Equality Act,
    brainwashing by the BBC and schools and the march through the
    institutions.”

    Men are deceived in their masses, but enlightened one at a time.

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