My Obligatory Jordan Peterson Treatise
Jordan Peterson was a quiet Canadian, university professor who gained fame and wealth by refusing to adhere to a University of Toronto policy that required staff and professors to use a student’s requested pronouns. Peterson called that compelled speech and eventually resigned. Becoming the most famous member of the Intellectual Dark Web, Jordan Peterson turned this act of defiance into a new career.
As it turns out, the world, or at least some young men, were hungry for Peterson. In a world that does not serve boys and treats them like defective girls, Jordan Peterson gives many young men the direction and proxy fatherhood they need. Many boys end up being surrounded by and raised by women. Mothers are the primary caregivers, and most of their teachers are women. How is a young man supposed to learn how to be a man? Many young men have been raised without a strong father or father figure. What are modern men to do to overcome the barriers that society has set up for them?
When expanding my essay on the missing 10 million men in my new book, I came to an important conclusion about our economy and society. Our society is just broken. The current system is not serving men well. In many ways, I don't think it is serving women well either, but we are here to talk about men. Economically, little thought was given to what would happen to workers displaced by a globally competitive economy. How to help boys be successful in school has hardly entered the conversation until very recently, and great advocacy still needs to be done for men in the justice system. Even more, advocacy needs to be done for fathers, and more needs to be done for male victims of rape and domestic violence. One of the important aspects of feminism is the concept of male disposability. This all comes from a society that views people in general as disposable. We live in a society that does not prioritize the needs of people. The needs of corporations and capital are primary, and the needs of people only get met when it is a helpful by-product of those things. As long as things remain as they are, we will continue to raise lost boys and walk willingly into the arms of men like Jordan Peterson and others who sell masculinity that isn't genuine and not in step with modern economics or social desires. To fix manhood, we have to not only look inward at the individual choices of men but also outward toward the society that we all live in and answer one very important questions, "What kind of world do we want to live in?"
Men and Manhood
I agree with very little of Peterson, but I understand why he is famous. He offers answers in a world turned upside down, turned inside out, and shaken. Young men don’t have manufacturing jobs to slot themselves into. For college-educated young men, the pathways are more numerous and better defined, but often still tricky. For young men who aren’t college-bound, the future is far more complex and fraught with trouble.
There are few places where he can find dignity, respect, and pride in his profession and work. Being a practical, respected, dignified part of society is essential for men. This is an issue that is economic but also profoundly social. On the one hand, we have created a society that wants men to step up and be men but does not offer them a pathway to do that effectively.
Men face all sorts of challenges that are not typically seen in public policy debates. Divorce and Family Court still heavily favor women. Although that is just beginning to change in some jurisdictions, mileage varies by location. When it comes to domestic violence, men are presumed to be guilty even when they are the victim, and male rape survivors are not taken seriously by the police or by society. In this way, it is disadvantageous to be male.
The #metoo movement has changed a great deal of how we deal with the inappropriate sexual conduct of men as well. This is positive progress. Men taking advantage of women was never acceptable, but it was tolerated for far too long. Women are out-earning men and getting more and higher degrees than men. This has left modern dating completely broken for most men.
Women also expect more from men now. It is no longer simply good enough to have a job and a place to live. Soft skills like emotional intelligence, childcare, and emotional maturity are now a priority. Modern women do not want to be a mother to full-grown men. Men are now expected to be able to run a household as deftly as a woman. Most men are woefully unprepared for these new expectations, and many have given up on dating entirely.
Society has certainly changed its attitudes toward men.
Jordan Peterson and the Lost Boys
F. Scott Fitzgerald spilled a lot of ink writing about the lost men of the 1920s. Among the glitz, glamor, and jazz of the roaring 20s, there was a certain unease among the men of that generation. It was a generation for whom it was said, "The great wars have already been won." The Great Gatsby was a story about a lost generation of men consumed by the rising consumer culture, the breaking down of social barriers after World War I, and certain culture that grew up around the new social classes. America's longest wars are over, but the trauma left behind in 2 groups of men is very real. In the wake of all the societal stresses and pressures facing men millennial and gen z men are most lost than ever before. Jordan Peterson and others like him have stepped in to fill the gap that just working out and taking nootropics cannot fill. Jordan Peterson arrives on the scene with a book with 12 rules on how to live your life and has facts, figures, and tests on cognition and intelligence. He has "hard truths" to deliver and harsh words. He is the father that most of these men never had. He is the stern taskmaster that many men crave to whip them into line and get them to do things they would rather not do and try harder than their natural inclination.
Besides Jordan Peterson, although he is the most famous of these, there a variety of other men who are online handing out advice on how to be a better man. How to fix your financial life, fix your dating life, work out, be fitter, and be all those hardcore masculine things that society doesn't seem to find overly desirable anymore. This manhood is fearless, takes reasonable risks, is physically ready, and does not place his value or self-worth on women. Women are still important and a goal (unless you subscribe to MGTOW, which is another matter), but they are only a means to an end. These men and trying to hold guys in their 20s, 30s, and beyond put down the gaming control and keyboard and pick up a real life outside of the online world of games and forum board posts. These men tend to be conservative but not always, and they tend to be content to stand against a society in which traditional masculinity has been larger discarded in favor of a kinder, nicer, gentler man.
The appeal is a simple one: to feel like a man again. The collective emasculation of men has been the subject of books and movies for some time. Fight Club (both book and movie) is the most famous of these and is often cited as emblematic of the pressures that men face. When there are no more wars to fight, no more frontiers to conquer, and no more problems to solve, what does society do? How can a man differentiate himself in a society that doesn't seem to welcome him into any of its institutions?
As if we hadn't heard enough from Jordan Peterson, in this video from the Genetically Modified Skeptic (one of my favorite channels), we learn more about Peterson and his seeming tilt toward authoritarianism as he joins the Daily Wire family. I've written about Peterson before. He is the gift that keeps on giving and is an increasingly partisan figure who seems to be leading the charge of conservatism far beyond his edicts on how young men should and should not live their lives. This video is excellent Peterson criticism and an overview of his new direction. Maybe the Benzos helped more than we thought?
There is a Generation of Men who are Lost
Enter Jordan Peterson. Peterson, like many others, gives easy answers to increasingly complicated questions. His edicts to “make your bed” and other such “common sense” ideas on how to improve your life make it seem like changing your life is just a few easy steps away. In some ways, he is emblematic of a culture run amok. Our culture is changing its attitudes on a variety of social mores, and Peterson is pushing back on all of that and promoting a more traditional ideal.
Peterson is part of a greater project by various people to reinforce more, shall we say, traditional gender roles in society and in relationships. Peterson casually uses IQ (which isn’t a metric for anything apart from wealth) as a way to rank people. He advocates for men to “become monsters and learn to control it.” Because according to Peterson, this is what women are looking for. He offers simple solutions for young men looking for answers in a confusing world.
Young men are looking for guidance to navigate a world that has changed. Our world is no longer optimized for the success of young men of any race. It was never optimized for young minority men, but at least young white men had a chance. Now, young men face an uncertain future they don’t understand. They don’t understand how to get women, get a job, be successful, or fit into society. This has caused many young men to retreat into video games, online culture, drugs, and alcohol to cope with modernity. Peterson offers them the simple solutions of self-help to navigate this new reality.
And there are Lobsters
Some people refer to Peterson as “Lobster Daddy” because he spends a great deal of his book obsessed with analyzing human behavior through the behavior of lobsters. We all know about the lobsters in a bucket analogy. Peterson takes that one step further and uses the behavior of the delicious crustacean as a proxy of how humans can excel at life.
His analogies fall apart under any sort of scrutiny, as illustrated beautifully by the long-form videos posted by Cass Eris, but the simple fact remains that human relationships are much more complicated than anything lobsters will get up to.
Peterson’s ethos here is that we live in a world of competition. A world of constant competition, and only those who are able to compete well will be able to succeed. One of the things he misses about humans, in general, is that our success on this planet has very little to do with competition but much more to do with collaboration. But in Peterson’s world, we are all lobsters in a bucket trying to get out and willing to do whatever it takes to get on top.
He uses the lobsters in his first book to show how the world is a cruel and unforgiving place full of competition and hardship. He promotes the idea that hardship and the process of overcoming and becoming are what is important for men to feel alive and like they have accomplished something. However, this is an old idea of masculinity that simply isn't in harmony with what society wants from men now. We desire a masculinity that leads through collaboration and uses soft skills as well as hard skills at the same time. Men aren't socialized this way and Jordan Peterson is a reaction who is saying one thing in a clear voice: you don't have to do that.
Jordan Peterson and IQ
Jordan Peterson is a big believer in IQ. I've watched all his college lectures, and he goes on (ad nauseam) about IQ and how important it is for society and why having a greater IQ is correlated with greater success and anyone under 83 IQ is basically useless to society (using the US military as an example). The reality is that IQ tests are a terrible way to measure intelligence in people and an even worse way of trying to sort society. The endpoint of that line of thinking is simple eugenics. It is never a far leap from saying, "Some people are useless eaters" to "Let's kill them all." That solution always seems to come to mind first before anything else. In this video, Big Joel takes down Jordan Peterson's IQ statements and shows us the how and why of his philosophy and why Peterson is all wet (per usual).
IQ and IQ tests have a storied past. I recently wrote this piece on IQ as part of my new book in a section about racism. In online dialogue, especially from far-right thinkers and even more libertarian-minded people, the idea that IQ varies across races is still popular.
In 2000, Linda S. Gottfredson, Ph.D. wrote an opinion column in Cerebrum, a scientific publication for the Dana Foundation (an organization that focuses on intelligence and brain science), where she proposed this idea at length and lampooned people who did not take racial differences in intelligence seriously. Citing a 1994 book, “The Bell Curve,” she states, “Was getting to the truth the critics’ real concern? Or was their aim, by any means possible, to overturn the claim that differences in intelligence create a decidedly unlevel playing ﬁeld? Their strategy is ostensibly refuting the scientiﬁc case presented by The Bell Curve was to kick out at least one of the three essential legs supporting the case: that differences in intelligence are real, stubborn, and important. The evidence for all three is overwhelming; however, so critics generally conceded at least one of them (although which one varied among the critics). The result was a cacophony of conﬂicting complaints about the book’s supposed errors, but this did not stop critics from joining arms to pronounce its science dead wrong.”
There is further controversy from all quarters outside of the intelligence and brain sciences as well. There was a recent digital kerfuffle with popular artificial intelligence writer Nick Bostrum who put forth this false racial IQ idea, and while he admits that these differences “do not alter the moral value or human dignity of each person,” he still maintains that there are racial differences in IQ that are important.
However, this is a rather weak excuse. IQ tests have come under fire for being culturally biased and not using universal design principles. Meaning those who design the test for people with their cultural background and those who share that cultural background will do better than those who do not. In 2021, the National Education Association wrote a piece for NEA Today entitled “The Racist Beginnings of Standardized Testing,” talking about the racist history of standardized testing in all its forms. This is particularly important because of how high-stakes standardized testing has become normal in public schools throughout the nation with deleterious effects (see my essay on Education in this book). From the earliest days of these tests in World War I, they were used to separate soldiers based on their race.
In the article, they state, “In his essay “The Racist Origins of the SAT,” Gil Troy calls Brigham a “Pilgrim-pedigreed, eugenics-blinded bigot.” Eugenics is often defined as the science of improving a human population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics. It was developed by Francis Galton as a method of improving the human race. Only after the perversion of its doctrines by the Nazis in World War II was the theory dismissed. ‘All-American decency and idealism coexisted uncomfortably with these scientists’ equally American racism and closemindedness,’ Troy writes.”
The IQ problem continues when it has been proven that most of the IQ differences between races are a matter of culture, not a matter of innate intelligence. In a 2019 Mother Jones article, “Here’s Why the Black-White IQ Gap Is Almost Certainly Environmental,” Kevin Drum responds to a reader who asked why the difference is cultural and not innate. He focuses on the fact that Humans migrated to Europe about 40,000 years ago, and civilization began only about 10,000 years ago. That isn’t enough time for differences to bear themselves out through genetics alone. He also cites that over the 20th century, IQ points increased by 3 points a decade. Humans have not made any major genetic leaps in only a century. This has entirely to do with the environment. This includes better education, fortified foods, and an abundant food supply in developed nations. This isn’t even new. I found an essay from The Jehovah’s Witness newsletter, The Watchtower from 1977, that refuted these claims. Entitled, “Are Whites More Intelligent than Blacks?” The essay takes pages to develop the idea that intelligence is not innate, which is absurd.
What does all of this have to do with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion? What does this have to do with economics, for that matter? As long as excuses like IQ can be used to justify the inequalities between minority communities in our society, politicians and other structural forces are unaccountable for the marginalization of communities of color, particularly the African-American community. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion seek to fix this problem.
Peterson does not bother with any nuance or understand the facts and history of IQ. He continues to use this outdated metric to talk about IQ.
So, What About Jordan?
People might complain that I don’t understand Peterson or I don’t see the good parts of his philosophy. I counter the fact that I have watched hours of his recorded lectures, and I’ve read the book. I’ve watched pro-Peterson folks and anti-Peterson folks. At first, I even found Peterson appealing. As someone who is neurodivergent and was looking for answers as to why I was struggling in society, Peterson seemed to offer answers. At least, it was something I could understand and try to implement. I could understand why things were as they were and that there was no way I could come out on top. However, when I began watching the series with Cass Eris, I understood how wrong I was about the whole thing. She opened my eyes and helped me realize how little Peterson’s world was and how wrong he was about everything from a scientific perspective. In a way, she saved me.
Peterson has become even more famous for his public meltdown due to a benzodiazepine addiction and his battle with COVID-19 that took him to Russia. After a nearly two-year absence, he is back and out with a new book and back online, talking to people and trying to chart a new course. In any situation where we have significant social progress, there will always be reactionaries to that progress who attempt to reinforce the old story and the old values. My final word on Peterson is that he is one such reactionary. That’s really all; he is reinforcing the old ways and stories. History shows us that when the old stories lose their power, it is time for a new story to emerge.
An unfinished coloring book (A Short Story Collection) by Cameron Cowan
an unfinished coloring book is a collection of short stories from Cameron Cowan. These short stories explore dramatic moments in the lives of everyday people. The collection also features the exclusive release of The RKO Killer: An I.G. Farben Mystery.
The collection includes:
What happens to the employees of a diner that are being torn down to make way for a new interstate? This is their last night in The Diner.
The Swedish Connection
Two artists, one relationship failing, and a really bad bottle of alcohol. Two men talk about their lives, their hurts, and their problems over one really bad bottle of vodka that they can't stop drinking.
The Kingdom of Nordstrom
The world has ended and the air had gone sour. One drifter finds a colony of people surviving in a derelict mall in Tacoma. Will he stay in this new kingdom or will he continue to wander the highways?
America Discount World
Set in the near future, America's cultural heritage is on sale to the highest bidder. Dale has made a life selling off America's cultural heritage and when a soon-to-be-divorced reporter comes to interview him about it; a new relationship just may form.
The Classy Drug Dealer
Andrej leads a quiet life running his dry cleaning and laundrette. However, it is only a front for his real business. When the consequences of his actions walk through the door one night, Andrej is forced to sacrifice everything, even his own life.
Set amid the California housing crisis, 4 tenants in an aging building try to figure out how to survive in a world that is trying to kill poor people and preventing them from surviving and living.
The cold war is on and America is building its nuclear arsenal. Set in the years at the end of Vietnam, one man gets a job making nuclear triggers at a Colorado plant. This is his story.
What is a teenager is a bland suburb supposed to do on the weekends? In this story, two boys find a great place to party and we learn about the secret and seedy underworld of the American suburb.
Topher has just a few hours to get to the lottery office in Olympia, WA to turn in a lottery ticket that will change his life. There's only one problem: he has no way to get there. Will he make it? Can he get the money in time?
The RKO Killer
In this collection exclusive, Isaac Farben is hired by KYW radio in Chicago during the roaring 1920s to find a criminal who is making headlines for an exclusive radio interview. Farben travels with his trusty assistants Mr. and Mrs. Rustin and Anna Fowler to southern Illinois to find this man and bring him back to the radio station.