Jordan Peterson is in Russia, attempting a recovery from addiction to anti-anxiety drugs. Douglas Murray speaks up for him as his critics seize their opportunity for abuse:
I have known a few remarkable people in my time. The best of them, inevitably, have fans.
You can tell the fans, as the novelist Martin Amis once wrote, because they shake when they meet their heroes.
With Jordan Peterson it wasn’t like that. Walking down any street with him, or sitting next to him in book-signing queues, I saw first-hand what other people heard about.
In the 20 or 30 seconds that people might have him to themselves, they didn’t tell him how much they loved his work.
They told him what a difference he had made to their lives.
A great author is lucky if this is said to them even a few times in their lives. Peterson was told it multiple times every evening.
I’ll never forget a man in his 20s who came over after one event.
While Peterson signed his book, he related that 18 months earlier he had been living in a bedsit, spending his time gaming and smoking too much marijuana.
Today, he said he was married, holding down a job and his wife was expecting their first child.
This, he said, was all because of Peterson. I’ve heard similar stories many times.
A serious and grown-up society would take lessons from such a phenomenon.
Instead of dismissing him, deriding him or trying to catch him out, it would recognise that we live in a society where plenty of people are willing to tell easy untruths but too few people are willing to tell difficult, necessary truths.
It would also realise that underneath the glitz and technology of the modern age, there lies a deep lack of purpose – a chaos – that for young people in particular can be utterly terrifying and which almost no one addresses. Peterson has sought to address that chaos.
Not with grandiose plans but with small, achievable steps. All bolstered by a knowledge and curiosity that was frankly awesome as well as inspiring.
At no point has he held himself out to be a saint. And not once has he suggested that he has all the answers.
But he knows where the answers do not lie. And he knows that we can live lives of deeper meaning and purpose than this shallow and retributive age pretends.
Jordan Peterson is a remarkable man.
But he’s still a man, with all the frailties and failings that condition involves.
“Instead of dismissing him, deriding him or trying to catch him out, it would recognise that we live in a society where plenty of people are willing to tell easy untruths but too few people are willing to tell difficult, necessary truths.”