Jordan Peterson is back. Surviving rehab necessitated by quitting anti-depressants, itself brought about by his wife’s terminal cancer diagnosis, he has a new book coming out. Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life, is a sequel to the psychologist’s international bestseller 12 Rules for Life.
It hasn’t taken long for Peterson’s detractors to scoff. Some are questioning the need for another book: “Why do we need more rules if the original 12 worked?” When the book was announced, some of Penguin’s employees cried, urging the publisher to reverse the decision.
Most risible are the long-time Peterson opponents, characterless imbeciles to a man, who, in a stunning lack of empathy, pretend to laugh at his struggles of the past year. They accuse him of hypocrisy, and his situation is merely just desert for a career of “bigotry.”
The claim of bigotry is many kinds of nonsense, too many to list here. The story of the “self-help guru” whose life collapses, and supposedly how rich and ironic this is, is most relevant to the present. To summarize, their argument goes like this:
“Oooh, look who needs some self-help now! If he gave such good advice, why is he getting addicted to drugs? Haha, have some of that personal responsibility!”
This is surprising to anybody who’s followed, enjoyed and been inspired by Peterson’s work. It never occurred to them that the key takeaway from 12 Rules for Life was that if you followed the rules nothing bad would happen to you ever again.
Rather, following the rules gets you aligned in order to properly deal with the tragedies of life. A consistent theme in Peterson’s lectures, especially his Bible series, is that catastrophe is inevitable. Every individual has a responsibility to set her house in order so that when the calamities arrive, they can ensure that the situation isn’t as bad as it could have been.
In the case of Peterson’s troubles in the past year, it’s plain things could have been a lot worse. First of all, the reason why he got addicted to benzos in the first place was in aid of keeping himself functional, in the face of family tragedy, in order to be there for his wife and children. In case you dare underrate this, consider the alternative: Peterson succumbs to bed-ridden depression (something he has struggled with on-and-off for years) and can not be at his wife’s side as she goes through her cancer treatment, and leaves all the associated work and stress to his son and daughter. That is worse.
Peterson’s wife recovers against all odds. But the calamity doesn’t stop there. In the meantime, Peterson discovers he has an uncommon adverse side-effect from the benzos which makes his daily experience a living hell of pain and paranoia. So he has the choice then of risking going off the drug cold-turkey, or living through the side-effects as Western doctors shake their heads. Before one points and laughs at the fact of Peterson entering rehab, consider the context: a hellish dilemma with zero easy answers. The fact that he’s now off benzos and recovering well is a huge testament to his character.
Most importantly, missed by all of these haters, is that he may well have died. That is exactly what doctors told his daughter Mikhaila when they arrived at the rehab center in Moscow. “You have brought him here to die.” The fact that, with the help of his family, he actually did survive, and in the meantime actually got enough writing done to get a book out, is astonishing. How many of Peterson’s critics, faced with this impossible scenario, would have the strength to keep going?
This morning I saw an article claiming that the fundamental reason why Jordan Peterson is a phenomenon is because he has a penis and argues for traditional gender roles. Why he in particular should be selling millions of books and selling out speaking tours all around the world while nobody listens to your sexist uncle is not explained.
On the contrary, the only reason why we’re talking about Peterson at all is through his strength of character. This kind of thing can only happen if one takes one’s principles seriously. If he did not take his rules seriously, such as, Tell the Truth, he would not have been able to maintain his marriage, much less an entire family that gave him the loving support he needed to get through such an awful predicament.
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