Here’s a paraphrased story:
I went to my son’s hockey game. It was a tight game, but they eventually lost. After the loss, I noticed one of my son’s teammates throwing a fit; he was pouting, slammed his stick on the ground, and was loudly complaining that they got robbed, that the refs were horrible, and that they had it in for his team. The boy’s father approached him, and instead of telling him to take the loss with grace, he told his son ‘You’re right. The refs were against you.’
He fed his son’s ego.
That is not how you raise someone to be a good person, or a person of character.
It’s a good story, and it’s difficult to take issue with the message.
The tale comes from Jordan Peterson.
“But,” you might be thinking, “He’s that misogynist, anti-trans person I’ve heard about! How can he say something reasonable?”
It’s a fair question; let me build up to the answer.
A couple months ago, I had no clue who Jordan Peterson was.
Many people didn’t; he exploded into the public consciousness seemingly overnight. When that happens, people react quickly. You take sides; you love what’s happening, or you hate it. I’ve seen Peterson toasted as humanity’s savior, and demonized as if he were Milo Yiannopoulos 2.0.
I saw some pretty rough ideas and quotes attributed to him, and have to admit my initial thoughts tended to drift to the negative.
Then I heard him speak.
Not in a six-minute, heavily edited piece possibly put together by someone with an agenda.
I listened to Jordan Peterson on The Joe Rogan Experience. The interview was around three hours long. This wasn’t a Tweet or a soundbite, this was in-depth, who-are-you and what-do-you-believe interviewing.
Did I agree with everything Peterson said? No. Did I like much of what he said? Yes. Am I going to dismiss everything he said because of the few things I didn’t like?
That’s the kicker.
My answer is no. In today’s world, however, I’m supposed to say “yes,” and discount the whole for some of the parts.
We live during a time where if you disagree with one thing someone has done or said, you have to denounce them completely.
We’re supposed to take sides and form teams. People aren’t allowed to be independent in thought, because that signals you haven’t committed completely to your tribe.
It’s funny (meaning sad), in a way. Consider how popular the musical Hamilton is. One of the last lines is the Aaron Burr lament, “I should’ve known the world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me.”
Audiences’ hearts break when they hear that line.
And then they go back into their daily lives and anger-Tweet at people they disagree with.
The problem with taking sides is that people are complex creatures.
On Twitter and in the comments section we pretend life is binary—this or that—but in reality we all exist in the grey. Everyone has a blend of ideas about life, and it’s difficult to find someone you align with 100%. If you try, you’ll go mad. My wife and I don’t agree 100% on everything, but our differences allow us to grow and learn from one another.
Chances are, you “hate” Jordan Peterson because of something you saw or heard out of context.
You read a report about his supposed stance on a transgender bill, or he the fact said the reasons for income disparity between men and women is complicated. Maybe you heard the words “forced monogamy” and reacted to them, and/or believed someone when they told you “forced monogamy” meant making The Handmaid’s Tale a reality.
Look, I’m not here to defend or explain anything Jordan Peterson has said; that’s not what this is about.
But I wonder why today it’s more important to throw the baby out with the bathwater than it is to examine a situation fully and completely before making a decision about someone.
Are you going to argue that Jordan Peterson’s belief that losing with grace helps to build character is bad, just because you disagree with something else he said?
If that’s the case, then you have the issue, not Peterson. You’re a living example of the “forest for the trees” argument.
We live in a world of soundbites; everything is hyper-edited and clickbait.
“THIS CELEBRITY SAID THIS HORRIBLE THING!”
You click the article, and it’s usually innocuous. Rob Schneider has been in the news several times over the past couple years for comments he’s made.
The problem is, when you hear Schneider give a long form interview—something he’s been allowed to do on Adam Carolla’s podcast—you find that he is, in fact, saying nothing outrageous. He’s speaking paragraphs, and what happens is those paragraphs get turned into clips that sound horrible out of context.
In fact, and I’ll probably get mocked for saying this, the Copy Guy is a pretty smart fella.
(If you don’t like that example, think back to the small, poorly thought out #CancelColbert movement. Stephen Colbert is near-universally considered intelligent, inclusive, and a champion of equal rights for all. Yet when he mocked racist attitudes, he was lambasted on Twitter because of a snippet removed from the entirety of his words, which was then used as an attack against him.)
You hear the phrase ”Liberal Media” when the mainstream media is discussed, and “Right-Wing Media” when talking about Fox News. The problem is, all media is ratings driven. Neither side is trying to inform you, they’re selling to you.
Look at the recent case of the Thai soccer team trapped in a cave; over the course of two days, I saw the following headlines:
Headline one: “BOYS TRAPPED! COULD BE MONTHS BEFORE THEY’RE ALL OUT!”
Headline two: “FIRST TWO BOYS RESCUED! ALL TO BE RESCUED BY THE END OF THE WEEK!”
The first story was designed to scare; “this rescue is going to take forever!” It draws you in and stirs up your emotions. And yet the very next day, rescues were taking place.
The “reporting” wasn’t about information, it was about eyeballs.
As is most media.
So, that said, the next time you read that Jordan Peterson (or anyone for that matter) has said something “despicable,” don’t take the small quote as the whole picture.
There is an old saying that if you give a person enough rope they’ll eventually hang themselves.
Over the course of the 3-hour Joe Rogan podcast, yeah, you’re probably going to hear Peterson say something you don’t like or necessarily agree with.
But are you going to extrapolate that moment, that sentence, that idea and focus on it? Or will you digest it along with the rest? It’s like hating your steak because the parsley was bad. That’s what the media does: it focuses on the parsley, and tries to manipulate us into doing the same.
Maybe next time you hear a disgusting quote by someone, question it before believing it outright.
And if you still don’t like the person? Think back to Aaron Burr’s realization: “I should’ve known the world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me.”
Right now, the case seems to be the world is only wide enough for those who feel the exact same way about everything.
It’s not a fun place to be.
Did you dislike this article, because you dislike Jordan Peterson? Then tell all your enemies to buy my books.