14 Mar 2018

Jordan Peterson: His 12 rules for a chaotic world

From Nine To Noon, 11:25 am on 14 March 2018

Two years ago few people knew Jordan Peterson's name. Now he's either, depending on your stance, the public intellectual de jour or the acceptable face of alt-right cultural warriors.

The clinical psychologist and University of Toronto professor made a name for himself in 2016 after posting a series of controversial YouTube videos, one of which railed against the idea the government might force him to use certain pronouns for transgender people - he called it the "neologism of politically correct authoritarians".

Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson Photo: supplied

His videos and lectures have since been seen by millions making him one of the most influential and polarising modern-day cultural critics.

His first book Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief was published in 1999, a work that examined how all cultures have created stories to grapple with, and ultimately map, the chaos into which we are thrown into at birth.

His latest is12 Rules for Life.

“The rules are things people already know to be true, but in our politically polarised and topsy-turvy relativistic times a lot of what was once self-evident needs to be properly rationalised and defended”, Peterson says.

He says the book is an attempt to “go down into the sub-structure of belief and find where the bedrock is with regards to what we might agree on.”   

All humans face three serious problems, he says.

“We have to put up with ourselves and our fragility and proclivity for malevolence and then we have to put up with other people for better or for worse … and then we have to set ourselves up against the natural world, its beauties and opportunities, but also its horrors and catastrophes, and that’s the fundamental existential landscape.”

His book is an aid in a world where we need to “constantly negotiate our peace with other people,” he says.

The rules cover such everyday problems negotiating hierachies, managing arguments and parenting.

He has strong views on parenting - or over-parenting as he puts it.   

One of his chapters is ‘Don’t Bother Children When They’re Skateboarding’.

“When they [children] are out there taking the necessary risks of life … you have to back off,”

He believes anxiety in the young is a consequence of the “rise of the Freudian devouring mother.”

“You don’t reduce the anxiety of children by making the spaces around them ever safer, all that does is highlight the dangers of the spaces outside of the safe space.”