We are approaching the three year anniversary of Dr. Jordan Peterson's senate hearing on Bill C16, where he risked his livelihood and his reputation to fight against compelled speech in Canada. Since that moment on May 17th, 2017, Dr. Peterson’s popularity exploded. He was quickly considered the West’s most influential intellectual. After appearing on The Joe Rogan Experience he spoke around the globe day and night for almost two years straight, until his recent medical incapacitation.
In March 2020, American state authorities began forced lockdowns without any specific goal to alleviate the burden on hospitals through rationing or growth. There was no stated goals to increase hospital beds and necessary equipment, nor any procedures to test and track within the population, and not a single legitimate date to remove the restrictions.
To Jordan Peterson’s fans I ask, where were you?
Peterson was abused, called a Nazi, threatened with lawsuits and loss of employment, reviled by students and colleagues, because he understood—as he put it—”The causes of Auschwitz.” One of those causes was compelled speech, where Germans were forced to use certain words and forced not to use other words. So many of us applauded Peterson's bravery and supported his actions.
To recap his purpose that day, he was not opposed to the voluntary usage of a person’s preferred pronoun, but he was adamantly opposed to the forced use of those pronouns. He believed it should be determined by individuals whether or not to use these pronouns. Though he was personally opposed to using preferred pronouns, he was not opposed to people choosing to use them. BillC16 would classify non-compliance as harassment, effectively forcing everyone to use whatever pronouns chose.
Today, our government has issued sweeping shelter-in-place orders which has forced thousands of businesses and millions of employees not to work. Whatever the danger of Covid19, it should be individual actors who decide what actions to take. Yet, next to this sweeping—not legislated!—move by our state governments, I heard not a peep.
Where were all the millions who claimed to love Jordan Peterson?
I feel sorry for him. He worked almost to death to teach a basic principle, and he must be asking “Was it for this?” One of his core messages was to “clean up your room.” This often ridiculed message was his way of telling young people to take responsibility for your life, to demand the best of yourself.
There can be no personal responsibility in a lockdown. No going out to better yourself with a job. Worse, the opportunity to clean your room during a pandemic was taken away. We had no choices and thus we have lost the capacity to make choices. We were not allowed to make the choice to social distance, wear gloves and masks, and restrict our public outings. This choice was foisted on us, and with inadequate evidence.
Peterson’s deeper worry regarding compelled speech was his believe that words and actions literally builds our world. At the very least what we say—or refuse to say—builds our view of the world. For the men of 1930’s Germany who did not speak up, they were each, individually, led down a path to enact Auschwitz. In the book recommended by Peterson, Ordinary Men, we see the road to hell is paved by many small capitulations. This is what he fought against back in 2017. It wasn't an issue of pronouns. It was an issue of principle.
So did none of the thousands of people who attended his lectures heed Peterson’s lesson?
You may say, there’s a terrible disease killing people! This is true. But the existence of danger most not condition us to cowardice.
In our current situation, to slay the dragon, will require the full use of our rational minds. It will take individual responsibility and voluntary cooperation to move forward in every single life and in every industry.
If we have learned anything from Peterson it’s not to surrender our individual souls to a faux safety provided by an incompetent government. To preserve our souls and our safety, we cannot look to our neighbors or experts either. For this, we can only look to ourselves.