Wary of Jordan Peterson’s online fans, particularly the misogynistic Men’s Rights Activists that seem to follow him to every corner of Reddit, I wanted to read the book that catapulted Peterson to the public eye and have a better understanding of what I was up against here.
If you can get past Jordan Peterson’s lofty and sexist prose, 12 Rules for Life contains some very practical advice for eager young men who feel aloof in the world. However, these moderate tidbits of advice hide a sinister endorsement of gender essentialism – a completely unnecessary component to the logic of Peterson’s self-help philosophy. I get why this book has empowered a hoard of internet alpha types but, for every second of clarity, there are minutes of pretentious fog. We’re not lobsters competing for mates, I’d like to believe we’re much more clever.
In its simplest definition, 12 Rules is a self help book that finds its power in a spiritual philosophy of the self. This power is the book’s strength, but also its undoing. By focusing on the individual, Peterson’s treatise remains silent about the reader’s relationship to others. It’s a cold, isolated world that is empty of community or camaraderie – which is why it’s touched so many people who feel the emptiness of isolation. I wish, for all it’s Christian allusion, Peterson would demonstrate a sensitivity towards the heart of the spiritual imagery he evokes, the transformative power of Divine love.
In his loneliness, Peterson gives a useful treaty on HOW to live, but fails to substantially address WHY we live (and for WHO). In his silence, he fails to offer insight to the most simple problems that plague communities who face oppression. He operates from a place that reaffirms our evolutionary past, but I’d argue that merely because the “Alpha Male” was a Evolutionary Stable Strategy doesn’t mean we can’t begin to question our own evolution. 12 Rules is wonderful advice for the old world, but it’s time for a Brave New One.
If you’re facing the loneliness of nihilism, this book could bootstrap you from the void. But I would caution readers who are beginning their philosophical journey to start here. Discernment is required, and I’m afraid that diving into the deep end of Peterson’s grandiose mythology of Chaos and Order may swallow up young philosophers who have only a few tools in their toolbox.
Rigid, unchangeable gender roles sit beneath the pages – gender roles which I believe contribute significantly to the problems that many men are facing today (low self esteem and self worth, loneliness, restlessness, anger, resentment). Instead of convincing our boys how to be the ultimate alpha male, a better lesson would be to say that you don’t always have to run with the wolves.