’12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos’ Jordan B Peterson – 11

Rule 11: Do Not Bother Children When They Are skateboarding.

The crux of this chapter may be the sentence ‘It is certain that a woman needs consciousness to be rescued, and consciousness is symbolically masculine and has been since the beginning of time.’

Not as provocative as it sounds. This chapter is about the assault on the positive masculine. Peterson observes that our society seems to have concluded that strong men are dangerous, partly because we think Western culture is a tyrannical patriarchy and that the only way you get to the top is because you mis-use power. And all the men who have the ambition to reach the top are tyrants in training, and that’s the basic attitude we have towards young men now. ‘Everything about that is pathological, inexcusable, and shameful.’

The idea that Western culture is primarily a patriarchal tyranny is historically ignorant. There are only about 30 civilised countries in the world. The rest of them are run by brutal thugs, where the corruption is spread through the entire country. ‘we’re not like that. And that’s that!’ says Peterson. Western culture is fundamentally honest. One of the best predictors of success in the Western world is conscientiousness. Conscientious people are honest, have integrity, are dutiful and do what they say they will do, and that is an accurate predictor of long term life success.

In terms of the positive masculine, Peterson says ‘I read it partly as a continuation of what Nietzsche announced back in the late 1800s as the death of God. In Western culture God is a masculine figure, and the idea that the divine masculine has been decimated, which is basically Nietzsche’s pronouncement, has filtered all the way down to masculinity itself. That is an appalling outcome. It is something that could only be desired by someone who is a true enemy of humanity.’ So this chapter is a call to encouragement, for young men to understand that their failure to participate fully in Being ‘leaves a hole that is precisely the size of their soul in the cultural landscape. ‘We need all the light we can bring to bear on the situation.’ says Peterson.

This chapter is not as odd as it may appear at first, with its statements that might sound outrageous to even a mild feminist, and its prolonged study of fairy tales and Disney movies. The religious core to ’12 Rules’ is accompanied by a solid grounding in evolutionary biology. And the idea of the divine masculine is not so unique to Western patriarchal society. In Eastern mysticism and yogic philosophy Shiva is the divine impulse, the move to order, and Shakti is the feminine chaos, similar to that discussed in this chapter with the fairy tales.

Essentially chapter 11 is a meditation on the difference between weakness and goodness; a call not to confuse the demand on young men to be soft with being good. Not to expect young men to go against the traits of their nature – ‘wakefulness, clarity of vision, tough minded independence’ – to become ineffective and as a result unattractive to women. Not to deny that women are in fact, yes, statistically, ‘tender minded, agreeable, more susceptible to anxiety and emotional pain.’ 

On this second reading, my reservations and objections of yesterday are mitigated, as far as they can be while I remain aware that the universe we have constructed is still only one version of possibilities. In the context of today’s Academic environment this is a brave chapter: ‘The spirit that interferes when boys are trying to become men is, therefore, no more friend to woman than it is to man. It will object, just as vociferously and self-righteously (“you can’t do it, it’s too dangerous”) when little girls try to stand on their own two feet. It negates consciousness. It’s antihuman, desirous of failure, jealous, resentful and destructive. No one truly on the side of humanity would ally him or herself with such a thing. No one aiming up would allow him or herself to become possessed by such a thing. And if you think tough men are dangerous, wait until you see what weak men are capable of’

Final chapter tomorrow.