Jordan Peterson: Postmodernism: How and why it must be fought

Here’s a 12-minute YouTube video clip that I found to be well worth watching. Jordan Peterson explains the goals of postmodernism and why those goals present a danger to society. I have added a transcript of the talk below the video.

The following section is significant because it dials in to something I’ve observed but never thought to generalize it in this way.

So, the first thing that you might want to note about postmodernism is that it doesn’t have a shred of gratitude. And there’s something pathologically wrong with a person who doesn’t have any gratitude, especially when they live in what so far is the best of all possible worlds. And so, if you’re not grateful you’re driven by resentment, and resentment is about the worst emotion that you can possibly experience, apart from arrogance. Resentment, arrogance, and deceit: there’s an evil triad for you. And if you’re bitter about everything that’s happening around you, despite the fact that you’re bathed in wealth then there’s something absolutely wrong with you.

TRANSCRIPT:

I want to recommend a book first, to everyone here. It’s called “Explaining Postmodernism”, and it’s by a gentleman named Stephen Hicks. And, you need to understand postmodernism because that’s what you’re up against. And, you’re up against it far more than you know or think. And, it’s a much more well-developed and pervasive, pernicious, nihilistic, intellectually attractive doctrine than has yet come to public realization. It absolutely dominates the humanities and, increasingly, the social sciences in the universities.

And, what’s happening, you see, someone once said who, unfortunately I can’t remember; it might have been Friedrich Nietzsche, said that everybody is the unconscious exponent of a dead philosopher. And, fortunately, the postmodern philosophers, most of them are dead, so that’s a good thing. But, that doesn’t mean that their words aren’t continually being spoken by people who are following in their wake let’s say. And it not like any given person is absolutely possessed, say, by the spirit of postmodernism because often they’re not educated enough to know all the details about what it is that has them in their [it’s] grip. But if you get 20 of them together, and they’re all 5% influenced by the postmodernist ethos, you basically have the spirit of the mob that’s a mouthpiece for that particular philosophical doctrine.

And if you understand the doctrine then you understand why things are progressing the way that they’re progressing. And so I’m going to tell you a little bit about the doctrine, because it’s not optional to understand this. It’s absolutely crucial to understand this. You can’t underestimate the power of ideas, and also the power of words of course, because ideas are expressed in words. But you see, the postmodernists completely reject the structure of Western civilization—and I mean completely. So I can give you an example in one term. Jacques Derrida who’s head trickster for the post-modernist movement, regarded western culture—let’s call it the patriarchy—as phallogocentric. Okay, so “phallo” comes from phallus: “p-h-a-l-l-o”. And so that’s the insistence that what you see in Western culture is the consequence of a male-dominated, oppressive, self-serving, society.

And we might say, well, societies do tend to be self-serving and people in power do tend to act in their best interests, but a tendency is not an absolute, and that’s one of the things that needs to be considered continually. There are no shortage of flaws in the manner in which we’ve structured our society. And compared to any hypothetical utopia it’s an absolutely dismal wreck. But compared to the rest of the world, and the plight of other societies throughout the history of mankind we’re doing pretty damned well, and we should be happy to be living in the society that we’re living in.

So, the first thing that you might want to note about postmodernism is that it doesn’t have a shred of gratitude. And there’s something pathologically wrong with a person who doesn’t have any gratitude, especially when they live in what so far is the best of all possible worlds. And so, if you’re not grateful you’re driven by resentment, and resentment is about the worst emotion that you can possibly experience, apart from arrogance. Resentment, arrogance, and deceit: there’s an evil triad for you. And if you’re bitter about everything that’s happening around you, despite the fact that you’re bathed in wealth then there’s something absolutely wrong with you.

You know, the black community in the United States is the 18th wealthiest community, 18th wealthiest nation on the planet. Now that doesn’t mean there isn’t such a thing as relative poverty, and relative poverty matters; it’s an important political economic issue, and it’s very very difficult to deal with. But absolute wealth matters too, and western societies have been absolutely remarkable in their ability to generate and distribute wealth, as you can tell my just looking around and taking a brief bit of consideration for the absolute miracle that even a building like this represents.

So you have to educate yourself about postmodernism. Okay, so here’s what the postmodernists believe. They don’t believe in the individual. That’s the “logos” part. Western culture is phallogocentric. “Logo” is “logos”. That’s partly the Christian word, but it’s also partly the root word of “logic”, okay. They don’t believe in logic. They believe that logic is part of the process by which the patriarchal institutions of the west continue to dominate and to justify their dominance. They don’t believe in dialogue. The root word of dialogue is “logos” again. They don’t believe that people of good will can come to consensus through the exchange of ideas. They believe that that notion is part of the philosophical substructure and practices of the dominant culture. So the reason they don’t let people who they don’t agree with speak on campus is because they don’t agree with letting people speak. You see, it’s not part of the ethos.

Okay, so what else do they believe and not believe. They believe that since you don’t have an individual identity, your fundamental identity is group-fostered. And that means that you’re basically an exemplar of your race: hence white privilege. Or you’re an exemplar of your gender, or your sex, or your ethnicity. Or, you’re an exemplar of however you can be classified so that you are placed in the position of victim against the oppressor. Because that’s the game. And it’s a post-Marxist slight of hand, right? The old Marxist notion was that the world was a battleground between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. And that failed to have any philosophical or ethical standing, that argument, after the working the working class actually saw its standard of living massively elevated as a consequence of western corporate democracy, western free enterprise democracy, and also as a consequence of the revelations of everything terrible that had happened in every bloody country that ever dared to make equity and the Marxist/communist dogma part of their fundamental structure, right? And nothing but murderousness and oppression.

And so by the 1970s it was evident that that game was up. The postmodernist Marxists just basically pulled a slight of hand and said, “Okay if it’s not the poor against the rich, it’s the oppressed against the oppressor. We’ll just redivide the subpopulations in ways that make our bloody philosophy continue in its movement forward”. And that’s where we’re at now.

And so for the postmodernists, the world is a Hobssian (Thomas Hobbes) battleground of identity groups. They do not communicate with one another because they can’t. All there is is a struggle for power. And if you’re in the predator group, which means you’re an oppressor, then you’d better look out because you’re not exactly welcome, and neither are your ideas.

So that’s what you’re up against. I would say it’s time for conservatives to stop apologizing for being conservatives, you know. You don’t apologize to these people. That’s a big mistake. They read apology as an admission of guilt. You don’t apologize and you don’t back down. You young people that are out there who are university students, you need to take over the student unions. You need to take them back because they’re absolute snake pits, and they have been since the 1990s.

With regards to the universities, I thought at one point that the best thing to do would be to cut their funding by 25%. Let them fight amongst themselves for the remnants. Because it would force the universities to decide exactly what’s important and what isn’t.

So, I would say that the humanities and much of the social sciences has turned into a postmodern neo-Marxist playground for radicals. The scholarship is terrible. 80% of the humanities papers aren’t cited once! Once! And so what that means is they write papers for each other, and they sell them to libraries, and that’s how the publishers make their money. No one reads them but the publishers can print them because the libraries have to buy them. And they’re buying them with your tax money.

And so all of you who are sitting here are funding a postmodern, radical, neo-Marxist agenda that has its roots in the university, and your tax money is going towards that. And if you want proof of that you just go online and look at the websites, especially of disciplines like women’s studies which is pathological right to the core.

But it’s not just women’s studies, it’s all the ethnic studies groups; it’s anthropology; it’s sociology; it’s social work, and most of all, it’s education. And OISE (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education), for example, in Ontario, is perhaps, apart from the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the most dangerous institution in Canada. It should be defunded. It’s as simple as that. They don’t do the research they purport to do. They’re not interested at all in education. They’re interested in the indoctrination of people as young as they can get their hands on, so to speak.

Now we need to figure out, our society needs to figure out how to stop shunting public tax money to radical left-wing activists. If we were doing that for radical right-wing activists there would be an absolute storm. But it’s happened incrementally since the 1960s and it needs to stop. So that’s partly what the conservatives, not only conservatives, but also liberals, true liberals in the English sense, are up against. I mean what’s happened also as a consequence of this postmodern, neo-Marxist, intellectual invasion is that the center keeps moving. It’s moved way to the right now, so that if you’re a classic liberal you’ve become a conservative.

And so for all of you who are interesting in pursuing the conservative agenda, there’s a lot of classic liberals that you could be talking to. And then finally, with regards to talking to young people, you finally have something to sell to them, you know. It’s not easy to sell conservatism to young people because they want to change things, and that’s not what conservatives want to do. They want to maintain things.

Well now you’ve got something to sell to young people. You can sell them freedom of speech, and you can sell them responsibility. The left is selling them rights. You can sell them responsibility, and I can tell you because I receive many letters of the sort that Gad (Gad Saad) was talking about. Young people are absolutely starving for someone to provide them with a sense of responsibility, and say, “Look, here’s something worth living for, man!”

You know, you can find meaning in life with freedom, but freedom is a chaotic sort of meaning, right? And freedom isn’t the sort of thing that makes people happy. It’s the sort of thing that makes people troubled, because freedom expands your series of choices, and that makes you nervous and uncertain. But responsibility is another—not to say that that’s a bad thing. It’s a good thing—but it requires you, that you shoulder the responsibility of the freedom. But responsibility per se is what gives your life meaning—genuine meaning in the face of suffering.

And young people are really, they’re starving for that. I’ve been teaching young people for 30 years, and most of what I’ve been teaching them about is responsibility. It’s like you are heirs to a great tradition. It’s not perfect—obviously—but comparatively there’s nothing else like it that’s ever been produced, and it represents a tiny minority of human [politics?], most of which are run by murderous, anti-social, psychopathic thugs! And that, seriously, and so what kind of alternative is that? We’ve got this beacon of freedom, and wealth in the west that works, although it doesn’t work perfectly. And one of the responsibilities of young people is to find out what’s at the core of that—the great, great core of that, the paramount importance of the individual and the divinity of speech, man. That’s something to sell! It’s what our whole culture is predicated on. All right, well I should stop there, so thank you very much for the invitation.


[NOTE: It looks like the audio for the book is available here.]

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