Via The NY Daily News

Why I gravitate toward Jordan Peterson: A college student explains his appeal

Jordan Peterson was didactic, composed and self-confident. He met questions with eye contact and responses that were articulate, interdisciplinary, and sometimes hard to follow.

Although he was addressing the guests at small dinner party at the Aspen Ideas Summit in Colorado in early July — an event to which I had been invited because an organizer knew of my interest in Peterson — it could have been Madison Square Garden; his message, tone, and demeanor were exactly those on display in his huge, public lectures.

I sat and listened to him speak, and then I joined the audience at the public event afterward, in which he was interviewed by New York Times opinion writer Bari Weiss.

Like many of Peterson’s fans, I am a college student, a rising sophomore at Duke University. Peterson’s appeal to us is confounding to many on the left and to many older people, but it must be understood in the context of our generation.

I won’t try to convince you that Peterson is a savior articulating a higher truth. I’ll simply explain why, to me and others like me, his ideas have a special resonance.

We are the firstborn of the postmodern age. We have been taught that history is valuable only insofar as it teaches us the insidious origins of contemporary privilege. We have been taught to endlessly question every institution tangentially connected to what has become the most potent of all enemies: “the patriarchy.”

In the process, we helped delegitimize many of the institutions that once gave life its deepest meaning, including marriage, the family and religious faith. We absorbed the notion that morality is relative, and that there is no set of overarching rules that govern how we might rightly treat one another.

The prevailing narrative on most college campuses assumes that young men fall neatly into two camps: either “ally” or “deplorable.” This suffocating dichotomy reveals itself in organizations like the Duke Men’s Project, which is devoted to “creating a space of brotherhood fellowship dedicated to interrogating male privilege and patriarchy.”

Nothing is inherently wrong with an organization devoted to men exploring masculinity. Everything is wrong with an organization assuming that any man who “interrogates” masculinity must necessarily conclude that it is “privileged” or “patriarchal.”

No wonder many of us regard Peterson as a healthy corrective offering an alternative to an alienating narrative. I find his bestselling self-help book, “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos,” to be remarkably similar to various ancient moral texts. While it is true that his simple rules are not new — “Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)” is the rule that begins one chapter — they are new ideas to many in Peterson’s audience.

For people raised during the precipitous decline of religiosity in the West, the idea of an objective moral framework that places a responsibility on all of us is genuinely novel.

“12 Rules for Life” provides a basic structure for a fulfilling existence: Be strong; get your own world in order; find people who mean you well, not the ones who might exploit you. The vacuum created by the left and by identity politics could easily have been filled by an insidious force; the alt-right, for example, has capitalized in the worst way on the anxieties and discontents of a lost generation.

For me and others I know, Peterson provides a potent and truly constructive alternative. Peterson reminds me that not only am I the only person who can give my life value, but that I have a responsibility to do so as well.

Becker is a rising sophomore at Duke University studying political science.