Review: Jordan Peterson in Glasgow – It was emotional

Review: Jordan Peterson in Glasgow – It was emotional

by Ian Black
article from Wednesday 31, October, 2018

IF YOU HAD told me a few years ago I would be spending north of £50 a ticket to go to go see a Canadian Professor of Psychology give a lecture as part of a worldwide ‘self-help’ book tour on a Saturday night in Glasgow, I would have thought you had lost your mind.

The phenomenon explaining this is Dr Jordan Peterson and his sensational 12 Rules for Life book.  Dr Peterson has in recent years become widely known and his book has topped bestseller lists all over the world.  His YouTube video lectures on such topics as personal responsibility, the Bible, mythology, archetypes, and the dangers of the post-modernist neo-Marxist left, and political correctness are unbelievably popular. He is a leading part of the Intellectual Dark Web, a diverse group of thinkers who cut through the lazy assumptions and partisanship of the mainstream media and challenge identity politics on both the left and the right.  

He is unfairly maligned by some sections of the media as being a hateful figure, a transphobe, or an alt-right figurehead.  Anyone who has read his book or watched his lectures would realise this could not be further from the truth.

When he announced Glasgow was to be part of his mammoth relentless tour to promote the book, I knew I had to go along to see the man in the flesh and experience one of his lectures first hand.  It was a sell-out and we had good seats at the front of the first balcony.  The crowd, I’m sorry to disappoint the haters, was highly gender, age and racially diverse, showing that his appeal is clearly not limited to young white males.  It was encouraging to see so many young men and women around student age there, as I had thought the ticket prices may have put them off.  

The atmosphere was electric, and with no warm up on the Scottish leg of the tour, he walked straight out to a strong standing ovation.  There was a lot of love for him in that room.  Love and trust.  He explained that he would focus on Rule 9 (Presume that the person you are speaking to knows something you don’t – essentially the importance of being able to really listen to someone), he would link it to other rules, but would start with the first rule (Stand up straight with your shoulders back).  He spoke about your posture signalling your openness (or not) to the world, and how your posture was linked inextricably to your psyche. He spoke at length about one of his clinical practice clients, who had lost her job and been in a car crash in the same day.  This left her damaged in more ways than one, psychologically to the point that she experienced fear of using her left arm.  There was no point in trying to tell this lady that there was no reason to be afraid – life is suffering, as Dr Peterson is happy to stress – the point was to be more courageous in the face of the suffering and fear.  

Moving to Rule 9, much of this was spent explaining the reasons why you need to be a good listener, in particular to your wife or partner - How to try and truly understand why they may be upset or angry with you, their needs, and the merits of digging down to the causes rather than kicking the can down the road until it happens again (which ‘as you are stuck with them’ could keep happening for the rest of your life).  When I told my wife that he had spent a lot of the night explaining the need to really try to listen to your wife she couldn’t contain her laughter, and I thought – she is going to remind me of that!  

Watching a man of Dr Peterson’s intellect speak and formulate his thoughts live was a marvel. Like a top comedian, he held the crowd completely in his hands and could lead us on wild digressions while linking his thoughts and always bringing it back to make the main points of his argument. 

The Q&A after the interval switched the theme from personal development and the meaning of life to the more political and cultural ideas that have made Dr Peterson famous. The first topic was a beautifully open question about Glasgow University adopting ‘Social Justice’ as one of its main aims and how did we get to this point?  This allowed Dr Peterson to riff on some of his most hated topics; Equity, Equality of outcome and Intersectionality amongst others.  This got the crowd’s juices flowing no end, and it felt like a greatest hits of Peterson’s more political Youtube videos. He ended the night to rapturous applause with a final plea to fight for western civilisation, of which Britain was a bedrock, and warned us of the creeping dangers to free speech of the creeping authoritarianism of the left’s social justice agenda while extolling British comedy where nothing escaped the satirical sword.

It was an almost emotional ending to a fabulous and exciting night of thought and ideas, a night where this ‘dangerous right wing hatemonger’ to quote some critics, talked at length about bravery in the face of suffering, the importance of listening to your partner, and the importance of freedom.   Scary stuff to some!

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