Recently, I saw this video by Jordan Peterson. I thought it was one of the most important videos a person could watch today, for many reasons. I also expected that I was in the minority of people who would appreciate it, and that the primary response would be from those who have made the Russia-Ukraine conflict the latest external sacrament of their virtue signaling faith, who could be subdivided into those who have yet to care about anything Jordan Peterson has to say, and those who, until now, have latched onto his every word.
I left the tab open for a few days to let the comments accumulate, and I took a quick gander this morning. I was not disappointed.
I want to use this as a case study to highlight a few aspects of predictable human behavior with regard to enlightened people, or prophets, or wisemen, or noble and great ones, or whatever we want to call these folks.
You'll note that almost every critical comment lacks actual reasons for disagreeing with Peterson, yet fails to withhold a strong, pseudo-moralistic judgment from the writer. You'll note the frequent use of words like "disappointed," often more than once in the same comment. When there is a material cause given for the disagreement, we fail to see an actual argument, but rather they waive away a FIFTY ONE MINUTE, heavily concentrated string of thoughts with the correct statement that he said "Caspian Sea" instead of "Black Sea," or he mispronounced "Holodomor" (which, incidentally, is not in the spell check of the blogging software I'm using to write this). This is the textbook fulfillment of making a man an offender for a word, folks. If your strongest counterargument lies in such petty nitpicking, it is not a reason to disbelieve the argument, but rather a very strong reason to consider it seriously. Meanwhile, these comments come, by and large, from people who have never done anything even remotely approaching the merit of what Jordan Peterson has done, nor sacrificed what he has in doing so.
I am by no means an idolator of Jordan Peterson or anyone else. But this sort of treatment is predictable and ridiculous. It's precisely why prophets (or whatever you want to call them) have always been persecuted: because people are really, really bad at accurately judging the merits and limits of themselves and others.
Luminaries are able to engage the thin sliver that lies between how someone already is and how they are willing to be, and as long as they stay there, can gain a large following. But as they increase the value of the ideas they target, they will increasingly alienate people who are not ready to subject themselves to deeper criticism. The further afield a teacher gets from telling people what they want to hear--which is always no more than a little different than "you are great just how you are,"--they will turn on him or her in short order.
And when they do, the cowardice of those who still know something of the value of what is presented quietly look the other way.
As accurately written in Goethe's Faust:
The few who knew what might be learned,
Foolish enough to put their whole heart on show,
And reveal their feelings to the crowd below,
Mankind has always crucified and burned.
Peterson will be no different. I hope he stays his course until the end of the utility he can provide here.
The work is great, but the laborers are few.