HOW dangerous is Jordan Peterson, the right-wing professor? the Guardian asked four years ago.
Well, not dangerous enough, some of us might think. He is both gentle and stern, racked by his understanding of contemporary society, but never aggressive.
But yes, he has continued to be a threat to the complacent and unthinking Leftist and increasingly authoritarian planet the Guardian inhabits.
In his latest podcast, he exposes how – thanks to the state of contemporary education – young people’s lack of knowledge, knowing and understanding means they opt for easy answers and people to blame.
You can watch the video here.
As ever, Peterson shines light on why we are where we are today. (The second speaker is a university teacher we have not been able to identify).
Here is an edited transcript:
Peterson: People don’t know how bad it was. They don’t know how far we’ve come. They’re never taught that. They’re not taught how terrible things have become in many places in the 20th century.
Like my students in my personality class, these are smart kids at the University of Toronto. They were well-educated by comparative standards. None of them knew anything about what happened in Stalinist Soviet Union or in Maoist China or in Cambodia. No one had ever taught them.
And so I think young people, they see inequality in the world and they see some of the painful consequences of inequality, because there are painful consequences. And then they’re enticed into finding a quick source of blame that requires no thought, and also enticed into manifesting a moral virtue that is neither moral nor virtuous.
And so here we are. You know, I’ve thought for many years, decades, that whenever I walk out on the street and things aren’t on fire, I’m pretty damn thrilled at how stable and peaceful things are.
I don’t take electricity for granted. I don’t take the integrity of the supply chain for granted. I truly think these are miracles. I don’t think the fact that the default interaction between human beings in the Western world, broadly speaking, the default economic transaction, is based on trust. I don’t take that for granted.
That’s a bloody miracle. It took us – hardly any societies have ever managed that – it took us thousands, tens of thousands of years to produce that. But I think children, our children, are so badly educated by people who have no idea, they have no idea about economics, they have no idea about history. They have no idea about privation or suffering. They’re looking for easy answers and people to blame for the remaining catastrophes of the world.
Second speaker: Well, the question I love to ask my students is what would I have to pay you for you to never use your iPhone and the internet again for the remainder of your life? And I’ve never been able to get a student to do it for less than five million dollars. It’s like you have this five-million-dollar thing that you own. You’re all five millionaires because you get to walk around with these devices.
Peterson: Oh, yeah, definitely.
Second speaker: You are so prosperous, so rich compared to anybody that’s come before you. How could you not be anything other than just hyper-grateful for the life that we have?
Peterson: Well, you know, I think that one of the things we need to do about this is to start training young people to think about themselves as possessed of more possibility than they know what to do with, and then encouraged to harness that.
So say, ‘Look, you have all the food that you could have, and you have all the information that there is, you’ve got it all in front of you. Now that you have it all in front of you, what’s the most noble vision you can bring forth to make use of that possibility?’
I know in some of the research I’ve done on helping people make a vision for the future, we show pretty clearly that you can motivate students by just having them sit down for 90 minutes and develop a vision.
So you say, ‘Look at what’s in front of you. Way more than anyone has ever had in history. And some people might have a little more in front of them than you, certainly. But when you have more than you can ever use, how much do you need? And then who should you be to live up to that?’
Well, that’s our collective problem at the moment, trying to solve that, and hopefully solving it before we let bitterness and resentment and historical ignorance get the upper hand.
Because it’s kind of a battle at the moment, with our computer technology. Every single child, I would say, on the planet, but certainly in the States, where everyone has access to computational equipment, every single child should be an expert speed reader because computers could train children to automate letter phoneme (a unit of sound that can distinguish one word from another in a particular language) and word recognition perfectly, rapidly, because computers are great at maths practice.
And if the faculties of education had an ounce of integrity, they would have been working diligently on the problem of getting children over that hump. Because there’s a hump in reading comprehension, because to begin with, there is when you’re learning how to play music, you have to automate letter recognition and syllable recognition and word recognition and then phrase recognition.
So you get a phrase at a glance. As soon as you’ve got that, you can start to read for meaning. It’s no longer effortful. And then as soon as you can read for meaning, of course, it’s just as engaging as watching a movie, which people obviously don’t have to be taught to do.
And so there are all these problems that are laying out there in the world, and people have a set of problems that bug them, that they could be working on fixing. And they have all this technology to fix it.
What you want to do is figure out what you think needs to be fixed and then take all this wealth that you had put at your disposal and fix it, man. You have to hang your head in shame because you’re ruining everything. Quite the contrary. That’s actually wrong. It also is counterproductive in relationship to the stated goals of the people producing the anxiety.
Because what happens to men who are demoralised, young men who are demoralised, is that because they lose hope and then don’t put in effort and become cynical, that their relationships get fractured and they have no productive activity, and so their lives get more and more difficult and cynicism-inducing as they withdraw into this sort of nihilistic, negative Buddhism in some sense.
And then they get bitter. And then they get resentful. And then they get angry. And then look the hell out. And so, because if you push people into a corner by demoralising them about, like, the very nature of their existence itself or about existence itself, it isn’t that they’re just going to wander away quietly and disappear into the woodwork like mice. Some of them will do that, but others will turn into unbelievable monsters.
And we always throw up our hands and wave around when we see something happen, like happened in Buffalo, it’s like, ‘Well, why did that happen?’ It’s like, ‘Well, if you wanted to know, you could know. But you don’t want to know.’