Last week I travelled down to London to listen to, the now famous, Dr Jordan Peterson about his new book, 12 rules for life: An Antidote To Chaos. He is a 55-year-old Canadian psychologist who talks and lectures about philosophy, psychology, religion and theology online and at the University of Toronto. He is also known for his stance on confronting political correctness, commenting and criticizing the legislative act, Bill C-16, and compelled speech of gender pronouns. Peterson has found a huge audience by telling uncomfortable truths. But also tells them what should be comfortable truths too. Yet, as a previously unheard individual, I wanted to find out just what has made him so popular. For the record, he is the first person where I have voluntarily attended a multifunctional church as a venue for a lecture, so bravo.
The student tickets sold out in less than a day due to the popularity of the event and so I had to pay the full thirty pounds, but it was definitely worth the financial investment. In the hour and a half before the event, a queue had developed as people struggled to get the best seats. Those who were too late, stood at the back and a mass of people emerged to collect their prepaid signed copy of his book.
We took our seats, but what first surprised me the most was the huge diversity of the attendees; Muslims, Christians, atheists, Canadians, Americans, Germans, Australians, there were people from all backgrounds and ages. Conversations could be heard all over the room about how much everyone supported, respected and looked up to Jordan Peterson. I was amazed to speak to very like-minded people from all corners of the globe and a community of loyal supporters was very quickly established.
He was introduced by the ‘How To Academy’ representative and after entering, the audience leapt up to give a crushing waterfall of an applause that lasted for, what felt like, hours. These bursts of support continued to occur frequently during the talk. How has Jordan Peterson managed to attract over 600,000 subscribers on his youtube channel, a money making machine of $60,000 in monthly donations as well as worldwide supporters, with over 35 million views?
The answer I think is how he addresses people on a profound individual level, he is a voice for many that have been lost in the noise. This approach follows through on stage as he came on with a presence of laughter and tearful enjoyment of seeing his audience. He effortlessly progressed into speech and moved quickly around the stage, he often paces up and down while talking passionately, when he eventually reaches the climax of his point, stops abruptly, stares dead-eyed at an individual and in an angered voice says “stop lying to yourself, for god sake tell the truth, be honest with yourself and others”. He would often use a couple of people in the audience as his calling points when making profound comments to keep strong engagement.
He would often laugh and, on occasion, cry and the audience often mimicked these emotions; he has a profound ability to capture the audience. They follow his train of thought, his objectivity, his reason. They see him, want to be him and are whole-heartedly conceived that one day they will be like him. I remember looking to my right and seeing one woman’s eyes so dilated that I thought the black pupils was going to be her new set of eyes, she was that in love with him. I admit I hugely admire him, he is a voice of reason backed with years of empirical evidence and clinical knowledge that it would be foolish not to learn something from him. In my opinion, two of his best rules from his book are “set your house in perfect order before you criticise the world” and “Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.”
He tackled many of today’s issues, covering postmodernism, identity politics, political correctness, the fall of universities and Western culture and sorting yourself out. He differs from most motivational speakers; he doesn’t bring people down to make others look better. He reduces people’s misconceptions and fallacious thinking back to a solid foundation and provides tools to help restore meaning and purpose into people’s lives.
Finally, towards his end of the talk, he sat and waited, to see a queue huge of audience members waiting to sign his book. He seems more like a religious figure for most as I was in the queue for about half an hour to forty minutes. I didn’t even have his book to sign, I used my spare book, “Silence in the age of noise” by Erling Kagge as a fakery, nervous in fact, that I would be found out, I feel that I have a duty now to read that book. I got assigned my position and walked up to shake his hand, quite nervous, and started speaking with ‘heya mate’ in a more colloquial form, to say the least, I did not want to copy everybody with the rock star comment ‘I love you Dr Peterson’ So I played it cool. He gratefully talked to me for half a minute about life and signed my fakery of his new book. I asked if he could give me a piece of advice that he’s never shared, he wrote ‘keep a close eye on your strengths. I don’t know what his meaning behind this advice is, it could be that my strengths are my potential for success or alternatively my fall or hubris. I think he could be referring to the Yin and Yang of counterparts to the chaos and stability. Maybe one day he might tell me.
I left feeling the end of the adrenaline rush and one of the proudest moments to have occurred. He is by far one of the engaging, sympathetic, caring, helpful and passionate speakers I have ever heard. This what has made him so successful, his ability to be genuinely open and useful in helping people sort themselves out. He has something useful to say and people should listen even if they disagree with him.
His support In the UK has been rather in favour of him, he has, however, received a minority of mixed emotions. He has appeared on BBC Radio 4 and Channel 4 with Cathy Newman for the latter and unfortunately for Cathy, did not end very well, as her endless tactic of trying to shove altered words in Jordan Peterson’s mouth proved pointless. He sat there mostly unmoved by it, finally delivered a ‘gotcha moment’ and she sat there, dazed for a few seconds, tried recomposing and then returned for a new onslaught of questions.
Jordan Peterson has been immensely successful in the relatively short period of time that he has been on youtube. The platform has definitely made him, in part due to how he has mastered his speech. He can address and immediately engage on an individual level but also on a collectivist level. He doesn’t smear or dehumanise people but helps them see the tools they already have in their possession to improve themselves and improve society. He has been established as a guru for psychological advice and even philosophers go to him for answers, in how to live meaningful lives. All in all, it was definitely worth the eleven-hour bus journey home. I would advise buying his book for a good read, but unfortunately, I am not buying his signed doormat.
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