Jordan Peterson seems to be all over the internet at the moment, at least in the corners I frequent. Among his many thoughts is the one that young people have experienced so little and are so ignorant that, despite what they themselves might believe, they are in no position to judge what is good for society, or even themselves. While just being old doesn’t guarantee wisdom, being young and inexperienced pretty much guarantees a lack of wisdom.
Aldous Huxley once suggested that though our beliefs change as we get older, we don’t necessarily get any wiser; instead we adopt beliefs appropriate to our age. Thus our mature beliefs aren’t necessarily truer than our younger beliefs, just different. Huxley might actually have claimed that our immature beliefs can sometimes be truer than our mature beliefs, thus distinguishing this idea from plain old relativism.
The idea that human knowledge never gets any nearer to the truth but merely changes is not new. Though it feels to us like we know more about the universe than did people in the Middle Ages, this could just be an illusion. Equally at the individual level, though it feels like my present self knows more than my 20-year-old self, this might be the same illusion.
However, I don’t believe this. I think both individuals and humans as a species live and learn and thus know more than their immature incarnations. Thus Richard Dawkins has a more accurate view of reality than some Stone Age caveman and my 58-year-old self is wiser than I was at 20. Looking back on the many silly things I believed I can see why I believed them; namely, because others believed them. I just absorbed the prevalent beliefs of the time and any thoughts of my own were shaped and limited by those around me. I’m not even sure it makes sense to talk about ‘thoughts of my own’ since they just seem to happen to me rather than me actively having them.
Whatever. The point is that now I have lived several more decades, have encountered many different ideas and experienced more things, my purview is wider than it once was. I therefore I agree with Jordan Peterson that some young people should spend less time mouthing off and more time listening. They haven’t experienced enough to teach us anything we haven’t already thought about many times before.
Another of Peterson’s thoughts is that the cosseted youth of today take for granted all the miracles of science and technology which render their lives so easy and comfortable. A month in a tent in Alaska would be a salutary experience for them. Modern youngsters don’t realise how weak and vulnerable they are, once stripped of the modern appurtenances that they take for granted. A month in the wild would help young people appreciate, not only their mobile phones, computers and air-conditioned houses, but also their parents, the police, the army, the justice system, the political system and all the things that make our lives better and safer. They don’t seem to understand that perfection in this world is not a possibility and that it was a a work of millennia to create our well-functioning yet imperfect societies. However, to destroy them is a much easier and quicker task. If these young people just knew enough to compare the societies they live in with those of previous ages or other places they might not be so quick to rail against the injustices they think they see, on the prompting of their cultural Marxist teachers. Basically, they lack a sense of proportion.
At present Jordan Peterson is at war with those who wish to force him to refer to transgender people as ze and Zir etc. His opponents claim it is disrespectful to refer to anyone other than by the pronoun they choose for themselves. By the same logic they should be referred to as Your Royal Highness or Your Excellence if they so desire. How you react to this madness depends on whether you sympathise with this small group of pampered, thin-skinned, self-absorbed babies or not. Jordan Peterson doesn’t.
Another furrow Peterson ploughs is his opinion that unmarried, childless moderns live arid, pointless lives and are destined to end their days alone and miserable. To this accusation I have to hold my own hand up. I grew up in an age that viewed marriage as a romantic bond and so was always on the lookout for romance rather than a healthy relationship with the plain but reliable girl next door. I just couldn’t see the point in marrying anyone you weren’t smitten with. The problem is that though I was often smitten, requited smittenness is rare: just Romeo and Juliet, Cathy and Heathcliffe and Anthony and Cleopatra. And even Romeo might have started to get on Juliet’s nerves on rainy afternoons stuck indoors; Cathy would have grown tired of Heathcliffe’s moodiness and nose-picking and Anthony would have looked at a middle-aged Cleopatra with a sinking heart, just as Brian Wilson sung, Caroline, no.
Yet now that it’s too late I do see the point which, as I see it, is simply to buy a house, stay on good terms with your wife, have children and in that way keep the ball rolling into the next generation. In doing so your life acquires meaning. By seeing yourself as merely part of an extended family that includes the dead, the living and the yet-to-be-born, you feel part of something bigger and are rarely afflicted by the feelings of anomie and atomisation that often afflict solitary modern westerners. Your role is to safely pass on the baton to the next generation.
So, I dropped the baton. Still, there’s no point worrying about that now and at least my stupid former attitude gives me some understanding of the just-as-stupid attitude of today’s SJWs and transgender activists. We are all products of our time and fertile ground for inane ideas, unless there is someone around us with a bit of wisdom and the confidence to put us right. Unfortunately young westerners often have cultural Marxists for teachers and parents who have lost all confidence in their own civilisation.