I must say: you’ve entirely missed the point of Jordan Peterson. And as someone who has seen and appreciated his work for more than 20 years (I was one of his students at Harvard), I feel compelled to comment here.
Jordan Peterson’s starting point — how he begins the entire corpus of his work — is this question: “how can we effectively prevent evil from arising?” That’s his starting point, based on his observations of 20th century genocides in Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, and Maoist China. His whole body of work has been about that. And all of his work follows as an answer to that question.
And what he came to conclude is that the ONLY way to effectively prevent evil from arising is for the Individual, as individual, to adopt a Christ-like, Heroic stance of personal integrity. In other words, evil can only be prevented at the level of each individual. It can NOT and has never been prevented at the group level. It’s always and only at the level of the individual that evil and the doing of evil deeds is prevented.
He finds support and foundation for this view in Biblical mythology, which champions the individual as the locus of authority. And he says that “the invention of the individual as the locus of authority is the greatest idea we’ve ever had in our Western history.” He says that our entire legal and governing system is predicated upon this idea — that each individual is a “divine locus of consciousness.”
So, needless to say, he is adamant that ANY group level identification or policy-making at the level of the group is pernicious and regressive precisely because it thereby limits the freedom and power of the individual. He is at pains to say that ANY progress and growth we are going to make socially will only happen because of Individual Christ-like adaptation — and that our entire religious tradition tells us precisely this and that we disregard this ancient wisdom at our own peril.
And so his whole point is to say that THIS is how we will address social ills and correct social problems and prevent social evil. It will never and can never be addressed by group-think or identity-politics, which weaken and limit the individual and which thus weaken the likelihood of ever realizing sweeping social change. Sweeping socio-economic-political change will only happen when the individual, as individual, is strengthened as a unit of moral authority and personal power.
And ANY group ideology, no matter how apparently benign and socially laudatory, is thus actually contributing to the problem of evil and paving the way for evil to arise. Remember it was group think and group ideology that gave rise to Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, and Maoist China. This is why he is so quick to point out the slippery slope between ANY group identification and group-level policies and the rise of evil. He simply does not want us, as human beings, to operate at the level of group affiliation or group identity. If we do that, he says, we forfeit our individuality and we subsume our individual authority to the group, which means, by definition, we cede moral authority because again, moral authority only resides at the level of the individual.
It’s the individual, or in the case of Margaret Mead’s famous quote, a group of individuals that will effect the changes we all say that we want. But Peterson goes beyond Mead. And he cites our religious mythology as proof that even a single individual can effect massive change. And to prove his point, he often cites the cases of Nelson Mandela or Alexander Solzhenitsyn as examples of individuals who effected radical geo-political and social change. (Mandela overcoming apartheid; and Solzhenitsyn catalyzing the demise of Communist Russia).
Peterson is thus far from pessimistic and far from authoritarian. If anything, he is more like a Don Quixote tilting at windmills. He, in no uncertain terms, calls for individuals to live an utterly and completely truthful existence and to take full personal responsibility for their life choices. In contrast, a cynic of human nature would say this is impossible. But Peterson is radically optimistic about what is possible for individuals — he believes that we could and should strive to live up to the ideal of Christ.
His critique of “the Left” — which admittedly even by his own words is sometimes overwrought (he says he got very upset to see what was happening in the University and he often overreacted as a result) — is thus based entirely on the appropriate methodology to reach the desired outcome of a redeemed world. Because that IS what he wants to realize. He uses mythological language to express his own goal for the world he wants to see: he wants to see our world redeemed. And he critiques “the Left” for the use of identity politics and group ideology as the chosen *method* to realize a higher, more evolved social order. And that’s it. It’s simply a critique of method. But because he dares to critique liberal orthodoxy, he gets vilified… even by you.
My own assessment of Jordan Peterson is that the archetype he most closely resembles is that of a Bodhisattva. He has said quite plainly, for example, that “until the whole world is redeemed, we have all fallen short.” And he has quite plainly couched his own quest as that of wanting to redeem all the suffering in the world. To that end, his greatest satisfaction, he has said, is in the thousands of letters he receives from individuals who thank him for lifting them out of their own private hell.
That’s what Jordan Peterson wants. He wants to lift people out of Hell. And he wants to prevent Hell on Earth.