He is so utterly wrong, it is self destroying to any western civilization. The point he is so wrong about is tribalism. He hates and condemns it. He only mentions the worst aspects of tribalism, thus showing his personal bias. His starting point was, as he himself explained several times, the study of totalitarian systems and how they got murderous to the point of self destruction or mutually assured destruction. I understand where he’s coming from and in no way do I want to minimize or excuse the worst effects of an extreme tribalist world view. Peterson says, that what the West got right is individualism. It’s a bit like saying, in order to not ‘brown’ your underwear, you must never take a shit and pee it all out. The problem, as always with ideologies, is biology, evolution ‘and stuff’.
How can you possibly deny that we are tribalistic in nature, that we evolved like that, that it’s an inevitable part of how we think and how we survived. What do you think were the chances of an individualist hunter-gatherer to a) survive and b) spread his genes? As close to Zero as it gets. Groupthink is absolutely necessary when it comes to the survival of a family, a tribe and even a loose collection of tribes who live in the same area, doing agriculture. Individualism is a luxury of very very successful societies. The strongest and smartest (because of female choice) member of a family is the father. Therefore he is the natural leader (natural patriarchy). The fathers in a tribe compete for the leadership position with strength, smarts and sociability. The same is true for a larger collection of tribes, up to a nation. If nations don’t have a father figures as leaders, they adopt mother figures, with disastrous consequences, as we can see e.g. in Germany now.
The small tribe of Romans had the good fortune that many smart, strong and sociable individuals were born to them. They managed to subdue and ‘integrate’ weaker tribes and became a world power, an empire. A lesson we should have learned is that ‘integration’ has its limits. You may be able to subdue a tribe with very different values, but it is usually impossible to truly integrate them into your own tribe. Such a construct must necessarily disintegrate, as soon as the leading tribe shows any kind of weakness. The Germanic tribes could not be integrated and finally took over multi-tribal, individualistic Rome. This lead to the return of the European and North-African tribes to their original (or slightly modified) tribal cultures. It lead to increased vulnerability of certain smaller tribes against warring, immigrating tribes. And finally it lead to the total loss of culture, wisdom, engineering etc., in Europe and a descent into the early middle (dark) ages. The Arabs at that time conserved the wisdoms of the Greece-Roman culture and later, in the Ottoman empire, recognized the weakness of the Europeans, taking more than half of the former Roman empire’s territory. Only the rediscovery of Greece-Roman culture in Europe and a reemerging European tribalism saved them from total annihilation.
The only defense against an invading tribe is your own, strong tribe. If your individuals don’t contribute to the strength of your tribe, they are a burden and a weakness. Then your tribe is doomed. Exactly that happens currently in Europe and most western states. European leaders had the desire to create a European supertribe, ignoring that this has already failed around 1.600 years ago. They used various tactics to dissolve local tribes and thought they will now all become (Roman) EU citizens. It doesn’t work. Their original goal was to end the never ending European tribal warfare, to recognize that there is not ONE dominant European tribe, that the main solution is fixed borders of tribal states and to always negotiate and trade between them. In their enthusiasm to bring about the United States of Europe, they recognized what makes tribalism impossible. The very root of tribalism is a strong family, with the father as the biologically determined leader. The scholars of the ‘Frankfurt School’ were sure that this is the lever with which they can turn societies upside down, and they were absolutely right about it. These cultural Marxists (as I will continue to call them) didn’t have the foresight to predict the utterly destructive upheaval they initiated.
Jordan Peterson got that point about marriage right. It isn’t convenient, but until now we failed to come up with anything better. The mere possibility of divorce, no matter how fair it may be, impacts the ability to form healthy families and healthy tribes. If divorce is as skewed, as it is right now in most countries, it encourages abusive behavior, thus increasing divorce rates in a self-propelling manner. It doesn’t even matter in which direction the family laws are skewed. If it’s in favor of men, women become hyper-selective and cautious. If it’s in favor of women, men opt out, become minimalists or leave their country if a divorce happens. In both cases, the divorced mother with kids will usually end up in poverty. In the second case, the divorced father will end up in poverty too. Mens rights activists over-dramatize the ‘divorce rape’, although the average working class family has no assets to speak of. Usually the family court tries to somehow distribute the scarcity of resources, as the economies of living together is dissolved with a divorce. Divorce-rape only happens to upper middle class men. The real damage is inter-generational. More than half of our kids go through a divorce as well, they often completely loose their father. Their reaction is not to become a better father themselves in the future, but to avoid becoming a father. They don’t strive for net worth, a good job and responsibility, but for pleasure and easy money.
The natural/evolutionary tribalism that is integral part of us is ethnic in nature, it can be determined based on haplogroups. The unnatural/constructed tribalism that expresses itself in today’s universities, journalism, entertainment and the political class is not based on ethnicity – it formally devalues any ethnic differences – but solely on supernatural or political belief systems. Muslims and Neo-Marxists in the West like to call others racists if they don’t accept, or at least tolerate, their belief system. It’s an easy and lazy insult, because, applied to a belief system, the insult misses the mark completely. But it hits a nerve with everyone, because we typically like our own ethnicity better than other ethnicities. It ensures to trigger guilt in everyone who’s called a racist, because we all are a tiny bit racist, including anyone who calls you that slur.
Now, how should we deal with tribalism? Ignoring it or condemning it does not work. Ethnic tribalism is part of our evolutionary being. Tribalism due to belief systems cannot be ignored anymore and condemnation doesn’t do anything but expose the existing conflict. Setting up Individualism against Tribalism (a form of collectivism) is not going to work, because non of us is just a member of a tribe or just an independent individual. On the basis of C.G. Jung’s archetypal model and Peterson’s interpretation (Maps of meaning) of the great father and mother, you may be inclined to think that only one version of the great father/mother is what you should wish for. You like the protective/nurturing part and you could live happily without the tyrannical/threatening part.
The great father
tyrannical father/authoritarian King – vs.- protective father/wise King
The great mother
terrible, threatening mother/scarce, destructive nature – vs.- promising, nurturing mother/creative, plentiful nature
But to wish for the good doesn’t make it real. We all are, by far, not as good as we like to think of ourselves. Each kid will need both parts, the tyrannical/threatening part is to bring them ‘in line’ again, in order to avoid physical danger to themselves and others in society. Analogously you can look on individualism and tribalism as two forces that need some balance. I compare tribalism with the great father and individualism with the great mother (which fails partly due to the hierarchical requirement).
Tyrannical tribalism is a fixed corset of rules and regulations which no one must violate. The price for violation can be death, expulsion, bodily harm, prison or heavy financial damage. It’s not only tyrannical towards its own people, but also towards it’s neighbors, the other tribes and nations surrounding it. It manifests in the medieval Lord knocking at your door and taking your son/husband as a soldier. It manifests in the G.W. Bushes of this world who want to force ‘democracy’ onto the middle east, whatever the costs.
Protective tribalism is the desire to conserve your way of live, an ethnic homogeneity, to make sure nothing bad happens to your tribe, to ensure that any progress actually does measurably improve things. It currently manifests in Poland and Hungary rejecting Muslim immigration.
You may wish to have protective tribalism only, but reality will force you to make use of its tyrannical aspect sometimes. What if a small minority wants to undermine your tribe and do it harm? What if they don’t listen to your convincing arguments, or are just too inept to follow simple, widely accepted rules? What if a neighboring tribe violates your territory again and again?
Threatening individualism means, do as I say or hail and brimstone be upon you. It’s saying, I personally, have been into the chaos, it has been hell, see my scars, don’t ever go there. It’s saying, I, personally have seen God/Jesus, and you better believe in him or you’ll go straight to hell. It’s saying, either you’re a socialist/Marxist or you’re the devil incarnate. It’s also Peterson saying, I have studied totalitarian systems like the Nazi regime or the Sowjet Union and if you find anything positive to say about them, like ‘Autobahn’ or ‘egalitarian education’, you’re an uneducated moron. The difference to totalitarian tribalism, where you are forced to conform to everyone else is, that you have to conform to the individual views of your superior (like your university professor, your boss, your parents). Some of the effects are a self-limiting behavior, like evading certain topics (e.g. the JQ) due to the threat of dying of a thousand cuts. Another effect is that gays come out to their parents last, and only after they have come out in their own little tribe which accepts them. The hardest blow to LGBTQxyz coming out is always their own family kicking them to the curb. Threatening individualism says: don’t fail me, because I’m better than you. Examples are Hillary Clinton, calling everyone who is not “with her” a deplorable. Another one is Angela Merkel deciding on a whim that millions of immigrants must be accepted, because she knows best, and everyone opposing her is a Nazi.
Nurturing individualism is precious, because it enables and supports all freedoms. It’s saying, you go out into the chaos with the hope to fight dragons and get the gold, but if you fail, I’ll still support you. That is what healthy personal relationships should be based on. It is a professor supporting a student who wants to develop a counter narrative, a new way to approach a problem. It is a boss encouraging his employee to find a new, unconventional solution on his own.
You may wish to have nurturing individualism only, but reality will force you to threaten individuals sometimes. Would you still support someone who makes the same errors again and again, which cause harm to you, your budget, your incline in the hierarchies? If he’s too stubborn to listen to your good advice or too inept to understand it, you may have to sack him. If your public personae is unfairly challenged you may have to sue him.
Tyrannical tribalism is mob rule, is democracy when the interests of the minority are discarded. It is in its essence non-hierarchical. A good persiflage of it is in the Monty Python stoning scene. The sad truth is that this kind of scene actually happens in strict Muslim countries.
Nurturing individualism can only exist in a broad sense in a successful tribe. It is in essence hierarchical – one is the thought leader, the nurtured gets the freedom to pursue his interests. A successful tribe is mainly protective and has to resort to tyranny only in rare, extreme cases. But individualism can also mean that some people believe in a flat earth, that glass shards don’t cut your feet when you walk over them or that you have to say a prayer before you start to eat. It doesn’t have to be rational or based on facts. This is only tolerable if your tribe is not starving, otherwise the ‘insane’ individual must be forced to work on the field to make hay. Of course nurturing individualism is supposed to lead to progress for the individual and the tribe. The borders of acceptable individualism are set by the tribe and it cannot exist without a tribe.
3 thoughts on “Where Jordan Peterson is wrong”
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I don’t think Peterson is an anarchist.
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