#20 In a Time of Fighting for Peace

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This week there's only one topic for your consideration because it's a whopper. 

1. Tolerance is an ability to listen carefully to perspectives other than your own––without immediately confirming what you already know and disregarding everything you don't like. It's incredibly hard to do and many well-intentioned people poop their pants in agitation when they listen to someone who challenges their worldview. 

I've had Jordan Peterson on my podcast/youtube/interwebs rotation for a few months now and knew that an intelligent––here, meaning, well-read, experienced, and articulate–– provocateur like him has many lessons to teach us in terms of character. They just might not be obvious. 

First, start with the evidence of his interviews, if you haven't read or listened to him yet:

Joe Rogan experience #877 on youtube. 2.7 million views. 

Joe Rogan experience #958 on youtube 2.9 million views. 

The Perilous State of the University: Peterson interviews Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind: How Good People are Divided by Religion and Politics  

These are several hours long, and worthwhile, so take your time. 

But if you really want to wince for 13 minutes for all kinds of reasons, watch this:

Students protest Peterson


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If you'd rather not watch the above interviews, The Chronicle of Higher Education last week published an in-depth overview of his life and work, "What's so Dangerous about Jordan Peterson?" so read this instead. 

Now you're prepared for what I call our character development moment, an interview with Peterson on 1.16.18 for a British television station:


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Peterson Newman Interview. It's been watched 4.5 million times in just over a week and is a (painful) 30 minutes long. 

What you'll see is Peterson being asked a question, giving his reply, and then having his words twisted by the interviewee to make it seem as though his view is offensive, hostile, or absurd, over and over again. 

The Atlantic wrote an essay in response to this interview, titled "Why Can't People Hear What Jordon Peterson is Saying?"  in which the moral of the story is"there is a way to reduce needless division over the countless disagreements that are inevitable in a pluralistic democracy: get better at accurately characterizing the views of folks with differing opinions, rather than egging them on to offer more extreme statements in interviews; or even worse, distorting their words so that existing divisions seem more intractable or impossible to tolerate than they are." 

On Thursday, David Brooks wrote an op-ed column for the New York Timestitled "The Jordan Peterson moment," first saying:

"Parents, universities and the elders of society have utterly failed to give many young men realistic and demanding practical wisdom on how to live. Peterson has filled the gap."

Followed by this analysis: "Much of Peterson’s advice sounds to me like vague exhortatory banality. Like Hobbes and Nietzsche before him, he seems to imagine an overly brutalistic universe, nearly without benevolence, beauty, attachment and love. His recipe for self-improvement is solitary, nonrelational, unemotional."

Fair enough, I suppose, since the context is an opinion column, and I've been intuiting the lack of some of the latter ingredients as a fundamental shortcoming in Peterson's work (that I've seen so far). Much more interesting, however, are the readers' comments to what Brooks wrote, which careen like a pinball from gratitude to disgust:

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The mistake intolerant people make––whether intolerant of the "left" or the "right"––is a failure to genuinely hear the other person's perspective, which allows for a facile dehumanization of the speaker, which in turn quickly leads to violence and an eye for an eye brutality. Don't do this. 

Instead: Listen. Breathe. Ask questions. Consider the evidence. Ask more questions. 

I've identified as a liberal all my life but can see some of the pathologies on the liberal left extremes, the worst of which is abusive intolerance, the very tragically ironic antithesis of equality. I think Jordan Peterson offers a necessary counterbalance to consider and debate with civility so that our best intentions don't get corrupted into fevers in which we're all fighting each other for peace. 


2. Book #2 of Beer + Book Club begins on Friday, February 2nd at 6:30pm @Radio Coffee. Join us! 

It seems like maybe character & creativity have something in common. Let's find out what.