Thursday, January 25, 2018

The curious star appeal of Jordan Peterson

Why are young Brits flocking to hear a psychology professor talk about morality?

Last Sunday night a capacity crowd of mainly young people packed into the Emmanuel Centre in London. Those who couldn’t find a seat stood at the back of the hall. When the speaker entered, the entire hall rose to its feet. It was his second lecture that day, the fourth across three days of sold-out London events. For an hour and a half the audience listened to a rambling, quirky, but fascinating tour of evolutionary biology, myth, religion, psychology, dictators and Dostoyevsky. Occasionally a line would get its own burst of applause. One of the loudest came after the speaker’s appeal for the sanctity of marriage and child-rearing.

Yet this was not a Christian revivalist meeting. At least not explicitly or intendedly so. It was a lecture by a 55-year-old, grey-haired, dark-browed Canadian academic who until 18 months ago was little known outside his professional field of psychology. Today, for at least one generation, Professor Jordan Peterson of the University of Toronto has become a mixture of philosopher, life-coach, educator and guru. He has the kind of passionate, youthful, pedagogical draw that the organised churches can only dream of. Anybody interested in our current culture wars, not to mention the ongoing place of religion, should head to YouTube, where his classes have been viewed by millions.

YouTube arguably made Peterson. That and an uncommon reluctance to genuflect before the hastily assembled dogmas of our time. In 2016 he made a stand against the Canadian government’s introduction of a law that aimed to make it a crime not to address people by their preferred gender pronouns (regardless of chromosomes). The issue of ‘gender pronouns’ may sound a strange springboard to international attention. But Peterson did something a decreasing number of people in our societies are willing to do: he stuck his head above the parapet. He politely but firmly objected to officials telling him or anyone else what words to use or to define for him what the meanings of words should be. There was an outcry. His classes were disrupted by often riotous protests. There were serious efforts to force him out of his university position. For a moment, it looked as though the social justice mounties might get their man. But for once it didn’t work. In fact it badly backfired. Not only did a lot more people discover a counter-cultural (or counter-counter-cultural) hero who was willing to say what almost everybody else thought. They also discovered someone with not only humanity and humour, but serious depth and substance.

Peterson was in London to promote his new book (his second) 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. This does what it says and then some, providing a practical life lesson in every chapter, each one explored through Peterson’s deep learning and insight. Chapters circle around rules such as ‘Stand up straight with your shoulders back’, ‘Make friends with people who want the best for you’ and ‘Be precise in your speech’.

Others are slightly more leftfield (‘Do not bother children when they are skateboarding’). But all get to truths which anyone with an eye to tradition will recognise: ‘Tell the truth — or, at least, don’t lie’; ‘Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)’. Although he roams across traditions and cultures, on subjects like this last one the foundations are clear.

And Peterson does not shy away from making them so. He sees the vacuum left not just by the withdrawal of the Christian tradition, but by the moral relativism and self-abnegation that have flooded across the West in its wake. Furthermore he recognises — from his experience as a practising psychologist and as a teacher — that people crave principles and certainties. He sees a generation being urged to waste their lives waving placards about imaginary problem, or problems far beyond their (or anyone’s control) and urges them instead to cut through the lies, recognise the tragic and uncomfortable position we are in as humans and consider afresh what we might actually achieve with our lives.

On Sunday he repeatedly referred back to biblical sources. Apologising that he had already given one structured talk that morning, he announced that he wanted to be more freewheeling. Criss-crossing the stage, holding his brow and engaging the audience like his own students, he asked why dragons appear as mythological beings in cultures across the planet and what the evolutionary reasons for that might be.

Going back to the time when we lived in trees and feared fire and snakes, he explored the psychological and mythical reasons why the snakiest of all snakes might have lodged itself in each culture as the representation of evil. And from there we went to Eden and the Gulag via the Judeo-Christian tradition’s discovery that even if we chase down every snake in the land we cannot fully destroy the one inside ourselves. Motes, beams and eyes were discussed in relation to his advice to a generation hooked on public displays of morality: ‘Set your house in perfect order before you criticise the world.’

The following night, in a talk that was live-streamed, he went back to a more structured — but still freewheeling — talk with frequent dashes of humour. He answered a young woman who complained that her friends didn’t listen when she spoke. He referred to the wisdom of the verse about ‘pearls before swine’. This was not in jest. It was a sincere recommendation that she should find friends who would value both her and her thoughts. Towards the end, this self-declared but far from didactic Christian mentioned in passing that ‘the central figure of western culture is Christ’. And in closing (after being asked which of his own rules he falls short of observing), he described how ‘until the entire world is redeemed, we all fall short’. Certainly, Peterson has found a huge audience by telling uncomfortable truths. But he also tells them what should be comfortable truths too.

Of course, on their own, such statements might be a turn-off to young people. But Peterson’s other qualities prevent that happening. The first is he is unafraid to investigate the highest realms of learning (including the latest discoveries in science and psychology) and to turn them to practical use. In doing so he recognises that people — particularly young people, and young men most of all — are badly in need of help.

From his teaching, speeches, writing and interviews, it is clear that Peterson has made one of the most unpopular but vital realisations of our time: that we are creating a generation of men who (especially if they don’t belong to any ‘minority’ group) are without hope, foundation or purpose. Everything in the culture insists that they are terrible: proto–rapists when they are not rapists; proto-racists when they are not racists; condemned for their ‘privilege’ even when they are failures and their every success dismissed as undeserved.

This is destined to produce societal resentment and disengagement on a generational scale. Female politicians, among others, scoff, and most men run scared or duck. Peterson is one of the very few to take this problem seriously and to help young people to navigate towards lives of meaning and purpose. On Sunday night, one young woman asked what advice Peterson would give to a student like her. He told her to ignore those professors who aimed to wither the souls of their students. Instead he urged her to use her student years to cultivate the greatest possible friendships. Many of these friendships would be with people who — as Peterson put it — were dead; people whose feet the deconstructionists and resentment-cultivators of modern academia were not worthy of touching.

This is another part of Peterson’s appeal. While he grounds his deep learning un-abashedly within the western tradition, he also shows vast respect towards (and frequently cites ideas from) innumerable other traditions. He has a truly cosmopolitan and omnivorous intellect, but one that recognises that things need grounding in a home if they are ever going to be meaningfully grasped.

Finally, as well as being funny, there is a burning sincerity to the man which only the most withered cynic could suspect. At several points on Sunday evening his voice wavered. At one point, overwhelmed by the response of the audience and its ecstatic reaction to him and his wife (who was in the audience) he broke into tears. It is an education in itself to see a grown man show such unaffected emotion in public. Certainly, he demonstrated to a young audience trying to order their own lives that an emotional person need not be a wreck and that a man with a heart can also have a spine.

‘What was that?’ asked an old friend I bumped into on the way out. Hundreds of young people were still queueing to get books signed. Others stood around buzzing with the thrill of what we had heard. I still don’t have an answer. But it was wonderful.


Politically correct comics fail to sell

Retailers have been complaining to Marvel all year long about awful sell-throughs for the sociopolitically-charged (and basically full-Left leaning) comic books that have done little more than turn fans away from their favorite hobby. Well, reports have surfaced indicating that some of Marvel’s most notorious SJW comic books are getting canceled heading into the new year.

The website i09 is speculating that among the cancelled SJW comic books is America Chavez, a comic book about a strong, independent, inter-dimensional, lesbian Latina who doesn’t need a man.

The comic book has been derided all across comic book fandom by actual comic book readers, but Chavez has been put front and center in the comic book and social marketing space by Marvel’s comic book heads.

The speculation from i09 derives from a March solicitation posting for Marvel’s upcoming 2018 slate that was published on December 19th, 2017 by Bleeding Cool. Several Social Justice Warrior-themed comic books were missing from the line-up, including America Chavez.

What has been confirmed is that Gwenpool is one of the comic books coming to an end, with editor Heather Antos confirming the news via a tweet.

This spawned some anger and resentment toward Marvel from some of the handful of people who bought the comic.

Gwenpool wasn’t alone, however. The re-imagined homosexual version of the Iceman comic book is also getting the axe.

The report includes a tweet from writer Sina Grace, who also confirmed that Marvel has put the gay rendition of Iceman’s comic book run under the guillotine. You can read the note from Grace toward the fans about the cancellation below.

If you’re unable to view the tweet, it states…  “Yup. Iceman is coming to a close. I am supremely bummed out, but was given plenty of notice (& even a Hail Mary or two). Everyone [at] Marvel has been super supportive, but at the end of the day, solo x-titles are a hard sell for retailers…

    “There’s part of me that wants to suggest fans do a campaign, or rally by hella ordering the 1st collected edition, but I’ve had the ride of my life, and the ending planned feels so good (I’ve known it since issue one). This isn’t my end [at] Marvel, so maybe we accept, and learn to fight passionately about the things we love? I just don’t want you to feel cynical – apathy will ruin everything.

    “All my love to folks who read the book. You dudes, dudettes & all in between are so, so, so, so, so, so rad. I gave the book everything, and I don’t regret anything.”

According to ComicChron, Iceman sold 15,743 copies in July. It sold 14,056 copies in August. It sold 13,267 copies in September. It sold a surprising 34,200 in October. But then it dropped all the way down to 12,677 in November.

The sales were dwindling quite quickly even over a short four month period.

According to The Comic Kid, he believes that the new Marvel editor-in-chief, CB Cebulski, is purging the poor-selling SJW comic books out of Marvel’s line-up heading into the new year.

Now it hasn’t been confirmed yet that America Chavez is completely finished, but comic book fans are cheering and weeping in happiness about the news, hoping that Marvel will go back to making compelling and well-written stories that don’t read like Tumblr fan-fiction.

Marvel, however, has not given up on Chavez.  Despite the lack of confirmation regarding the comic book run coming to a close, the company did recently tweet out that the lesbian-Latina will be making her debut in Marvel Puzzle Quest, possibly as a means of compensation for the comic book series potentially coming to an end.

Once again, fans of the game (and comics) were not pleased with Chavez making an appearance in Marvel Puzzle Quest.

The comics starring Chavez have actually sold even worse than the homosexual run of Iceman, with her latest solo outing only moving 8,360 units in November, which had dropped by nearly a thousand readers from back in September.

Essentially, it’s quite obvious that the executives at Marvel’s comic arm are finally pulling the long overdue trigger on executing the runs on some of the poor-selling SJW comic books. However, there’s still the issue of their animation department dedicated to embracing their SJW-oriented characters with Marvel Rising, which is due out in 2018.

[Update 12-27-2017:] It’s been confirmed that She-Hulk has also been cancelled, joining Luke Cage, Ice-Man, Gwenpool and various others. The news was confirmed by writer Mariko Tamaki, who penned a letter to fans via Twitter acknowledging the cancellation, which ends with issue #163, according to NewsRama.


Invoking Scripture, Pence Wins Israeli Hearts With ‘Consummately Zionist Speech’ in Jerusalem

Israeli leaders hailed Vice President Mike Pence’s address in Jerusalem Monday as historic – in the words on one cabinet minister, the most important and most pro-Zionist speech ever delivered to Israel’s Knesset by a foreign leader.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat fumed, describing Pence’s words as a “messianic discourse” which underlined once again that the United States is “part of the problem rather than the solution” to the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.

In a sometimes emotional speech Pence, an evangelical Christian, frequently cited biblical passages – including key prophecies pointing to Israel’s modern-day restoration – as he spoke about the Jewish people’s ancient and God-given heritage in the land of Israel.

The approach was in stark contrast to recent remarks by Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who declared during a PLO central council meeting this month that “Israel is a colonial project that has nothing to do with the Jews.”

The Palestinians and their Arab allies have repeatedly promoted resolutions at the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO disputing or downplaying Jewish historic links to Israel, especially in Hebron and Jerusalem.

Addressing the Knesset, Pence quoted Old Testament prophecy referenced by biblical Zionists who believe God restored the scattered Jews back to their ancient land with the declaration of the state of Israel 70 years ago.

“The Jewish people held fast to a promise through all the ages, written so long ago, that ‘even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens,’ from there He would gather and bring you back to the land which your fathers possessed,” he said (Deut. 30:4).

“Through a 2,000-year exile, the longest of any people, anywhere, through conquests and expulsions, inquisitions and pogroms, the Jewish people held on to this promise, and they held on to it through the longest and darkest of nights.”

Alluding to Isaiah 66:8, Pence told the lawmakers, “this April, we will mark the day when the Jewish people answered that ancient question — can a country be born in a day, can a nation be born in a moment? — as the State of Israel celebrates the 70th anniversary of its birth.”

“How unlikely was Israel’s birth; how more unlikely has been her survival. And how confounding, and against the odds, has been her thriving,” Pence said.

“You have turned the desert into a garden (Isaiah 51:3), scarcity into plenty, sickness into health, and you turned hope into a future,” he continued.

“Israel is like a tree that has grown deep roots in the soil of your forefathers, yet as it grows, it reaches ever closer to the heavens. And today and every day, the Jewish State of Israel, and all the Jewish people, bear witness to God’s faithfulness, as well as your own.”

“And so we will ‘pray for the peace of Jerusalem,’ that ‘those who love you be secure,’ that ‘there be peace within your walls, and security in your citadels,’” Pence told the lawmakers, citing Psalm 122: 6-7.

“And we will work and strive for that brighter future where everyone who calls this ancient land their home shall sit ‘under their vine and fig tree, and none shall make them afraid’” (Micah 4:4).

Pence used the speech to reaffirm that President Trump will move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem by the end of next year, and to underline Trump’s determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, noting his pledge to withdraw from the nuclear deal unless it is “fixed” by the U.S. Congress and European allies.

Israeli politicians effusively praised the address, with Science Minister Ofir Akunis in a video statement linked to his Facebook page calling it “the greatest and most important Zionist speech ever delivered by a foreign leader at the Knesset plenum.”

Akunis also said the speech marked “the zenith of U.S.-Israeli relations since 1948.” (Similarly, Pence told the Knesset that Trump “has done more to bring our two great countries closer together than any president in the past 70 years.”)

In a Twitter post, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked described Pence’s speech as “one-of-a-kind” and “historic,” and thanked the vice-president for what she called “a consummately Zionist speech, a moral speech of the first order."

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely called the speech “inspirational.”  “Israel values the everlasting friendship with the U.S. and your commitment to our shared values of freedom and democracy,” she tweeted.

Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan said on Twitter Pence’s address showed that he “loves us with all of his heart – not as a politician, but from a deep faith and understanding of the role and mission of the Jewish state.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, hosting Pence at a dinner later Monday, called the speech “magnificent.”

“You saw people standing up again and again, applauding you, applauding the principles that guide your policy, applauding the genuine friendship that emanates from your heart,” he told the vice-president.

“It was a powerful expression of the enduring bond between our two countries and of your personal commitment to Israel, the commitment of President Trump and your entire delegation.”


4 in 5 Americans Want Less Immigration

Almost as many back skills-based over family-based immigration system

Eighty-one percent of Americans want one million or fewer legal immigrants to the United States per year, according to new polling data released Monday by the Harvard-Harris poll, a number lower than the 1.38 million who came to the United States in 2015.

The plurality of respondents, 35 percent, think that there should be between 1 and 250,000 legal immigrants arriving to the United States per year. A net 12 percent want to see immigration increased to 1.5 million people per year or more, while nine percent of Americans think that there should be no new legal immigrants.

Plurality preference for between 1 and 250,000 new immigrants a year persists across white, Hispanic, and black Americans, as well as moderates and self-identified Democrats. Such a rate of immigration would be lower even than the rate expected from the RAISE Act, a bill backed by the administration and expected to cut immigration in half in ten years.

These results are part of a broader pattern among a public that, according to the poll, is critical of President Donald Trump's performance on immigration policy but broadly sympathetic to the White House's agenda in that domain.

Forty-four percent of respondents approve of the job President Trump is doing on immigration, as compared to 56 percent disapproving. The largest group within that set were strong disapprovers, at 42 percent. Disapproval was especially concentrated among millennials, African-Americans, and self-identified Democrats.

But while those numbers are less than ideal for the president, the public seems to generally be on board with a more restrictive, merit-based immigration system. Americans prefer a system of prioritizing would-be legal immigrants based on their ability to contribute, based on their education and skills, over one based on immigrants having relatives in the United States, 79 to 21 percent. That includes a majority of white (79 percent), Hispanic (72 percent), and black (85 percent) citizens, as well as majorities of Democrats (72 percent), liberals (65 percent),  and Clinton voters (72 percent).

Additionally, Americans support doing away with the so-called diversity visa lottery 68 to 32 percent. The lottery, with its 50,000 visas allocated to nations otherwise underrepresented in the mix of immigrants arriving in the United States, has been a frequent target of criticism by Trump and congressional Republicans.

Respondents also backed tougher border security: 61 percent say that current security is inadequate, and 54 percent support a "combination of physical and electronic barriers" along the southern border.

Americans generally are sympathetic to the plight of recipients of DACA, the Obama-era program which protected illegal immigrants who arrived to the United States as children from deportation and which drove the federal government to a halt over the weekend. Seventy-eight percent of respondents believe that children brought in illegally, even those now in their 20s and 30s, should be given work permits; a similar number believe those individuals should be given a path to citizenship.

Respondents did not, however, believe that parents and relatives of DACA recipients should be given preference for immigrating, opposing that measure 60 percent to 40. They also opposed Democrats shutting down the government over DACA, with 58 percent opposing and 42 percent supporting.

All of this adds up to an immigration deal about which the poll explicitly asked if respondents would back "a congressional deal that gives undocumented immigrants brought here by their parents work permits and a path to citizenship in exchange for increasing merit preference over preference for relatives, eliminating the diversity visa lottery, and funding barrier security on the U.S.-Mexico border." Sixty-five percent to 35 percent, respondents said they would, including 68 percent of Hispanics, 64 percent of Democrats, and 63 percent of liberals.

After the three-day shutdown, the Senate voted on Monday afternoon to move forward on three weeks of funding for the government, with general agreement that any long-term budget solution would include addressing the fate of DACA recipients and the administration's immigration priorities. It is unclear what any final deal will look like, or how—if at all—it will reflect Americans' opinions on the topic.

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Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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