Our modern Solzhenitsyn

The different voice that Jordan Peterson provides to the array of criticism of the socialist utopias so many seem to believe an actual possibility, in spite of the universal and disastrous failures every such experiment has created, is that he brings a psychological dimension to the arguments that are an important and in his hands devastating addition to the economic and philosophical arguments that have been more traditional. His has been amongst the most important additions to the criticisms of the left that may have arisen in the present generation. His ability to explain has been recognised in that he has been asked to write The Gulag Archipelago: A New Foreword for the fiftieth anniversary edition commemorating its first publication in 1968. It is a long intro which is worth the time it takes to read it through.

Why, for example, is it still acceptable—and in polite company—to profess the philosophy of a Communist or, if not that, to at least admire the work of Marx? Why is it still acceptable to regard the Marxist doctrine as essentially accurate in its diagnosis of the hypothetical evils of the free-market, democratic West; to still consider that doctrine “progressive,” and fit for the compassionate and proper thinking person? Twenty-five million dead through internal repression in the Soviet Union (according to The Black Book of Communism). Sixty million dead in Mao’s China (and an all-too-likely return to autocratic oppression in that country in the near future). The horrors of Cambodia’s Killing Fields, with their two million corpses. The barely animate body politic of Cuba, where people struggle even now to feed themselves. Venezuela, where it has now been made illegal to attribute a child’s death in hospital to starvation. No political experiment has ever been tried so widely, with so many disparate people, in so many different countries (with such different histories) and failed so absolutely and so catastrophically. Is it mere ignorance (albeit of the most inexcusable kind) that allows today’s Marxists to flaunt their continued allegiance—to present it as compassion and care? Or is it, instead, envy of the successful, in near-infinite proportions? Or something akin to hatred for mankind itself? How much proof do we need? Why do we still avert our eyes from the truth?

Perhaps we simply lack sophistication. Perhaps we just can’t understand. Perhaps our tendency toward compassion is so powerfully necessary in the intimacy of our families and friendships that we cannot contemplate its limitations, its inability to scale, and its propensity to mutate into hatred of the oppressor, rather than allegiance with the oppressed. Perhaps we cannot comprehend the limitations and dangers of the utopian vision given our definite need to contemplate and to strive for a better tomorrow. We certainly don’t seem to imagine, for example, that the hypothesis of some state of future perfection—for example, the truly egalitarian and permanent brotherhood of man—can be used to justify any and all sacrifices whatsoever (the pristine and heavenly end making all conceivable means not only acceptable but morally required). There is simply no price too great to pay in pursuit of the ultimate utopia. (This is particularly true if it is someone else who foots the bill.) And it is clearly the case that we require a future toward which to orient ourselves—to provide meaning in our life, psychologically speaking. It is for that reason we see the same need expressed collectively, on a much larger scale, in the Judeo-Christian vision of the Promised Land, and the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. And it is also clearly the case that sacrifice is necessary to bring that desired end state into being. That’s the discovery of the future itself: the necessity to forego instantaneous gratification in the present, to delay, to bargain with fate so that the future can be better; twinned with the necessity to let go, to burn off, to separate wheat from chaff, and to sacrifice what is presently unworthy, so that tomorrow can be better than today. But limits need to be placed around who or what is deemed dispensable.

And when you’ve read the intro you can then watch this.

You have never seen him so angry.

AND THEN THIS: This is Jordan Peterson’s video intro to the book. He states right at the start that writing this introduction is the greatest honour that has been bestowed upon him.

Conquest’s Second Law of Politics and the Heterodox Academy

That’s not necessarily true, Lindsay? And what’s not necessarily true? “That all perspectives in a university are valid.”

But let me work back from where I was to how I found this video. It was in an article on Jordan Peterson fires new salvo against Wilfrid Laurier in already fiery academic freedom battle. The core of the story was:

The fervent debate over academic freedom involving Jordan Peterson is rekindled for a new school year with Peterson saying in court documents that Wilfrid Laurier University’s contention he benefited from the controversy is like saying “those who survived the Holocaust should be grateful to their oppressors for teaching them survival skills.”

Peterson filed fresh legal documents Tuesday, including another lawsuit against the Ontario university — his second in three months — claiming Laurier further defamed him in its public defence against his June claim.

Not hard to believe he was defamed, but let me note where I found this article. It was from The New York Times: Attack of the Right-Wing Snowflakes subtitled, “Angry men go to court to silence their critics”.

The Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson, sometimes seen as a free speech warrior, has twice sued Ontario’s Wilfrid Laurier University for defamation, part of a controversy that arose after a teaching assistant there was chastised for showing a video of Peterson in class. He has also threatened to sue Kate Manne, a writer and assistant professor at Cornell, for calling his work misogynist. The failed Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore sued four women who accused him of sexual abuse.

Defamation is an illegal form of speech. You cannot say anything you like about anyone else. And it is wondrous that Roy Moore ends up, not just in the same story but in the same para, as if these accusations were not highly defamatory if they were untrue. But where did I find this NYT article? It came from The Heterodox Weekly Bulletin where that same quote is found as the lead-in. Heterodox Academy was, I thought, to defend free thought and free speech against those who would shut it down if they could, such as organisations like the NYT. It is Jordan Peterson whose views need protecting, not the NYT nor Wilfred Laurier University. All of which reminded me of Conquest’s Second Law of Politics:

Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.

Quoting a New York Times article contra Jordan Peterson makes me think the Heterodox Academy is well on its way.

Jordan Peterson talks with Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff

The most interesting fact I learned from the video is that Peterson is writing the introduction to 50th anniversary edition of Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. Perfect person to introduce this masterpiece on tyranny and resistance to actual oppression – not the fake oppression of “the patriarchy” – to a new generation.

As for the discussion overall, JP shows a depth the other two cannot match. He thinks the left is driven by resentment, but he lets them talk their own points although has plenty to say himself. And as he says at the start about our snowflake generation, with their trigger warnings and enforced psychological protections: “You could not invent a more counterproductive mental-health movement if you set out to design it.” Confronting what you fear takes practice and with practice comes bravery. Sounds right to me. The rest is from JP’s notes. Trying to work out how this overprotectiveness has arisen. Maybe siblings make people resilient. And the fact of older parents may make a difference.

Published on 19 Sep 2018

The Coddling of the American Mind on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2QJ20MQ
Consider this book as a gift for your local school board member, teacher or principal. The more educational professionals become aware of the issues it presents, and the dangers of our current hyper-protective preoccupations, the better the chances we’ll change course. I spoke with Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt September 18, 2018 about their new book, The Coddling of the American Mind — a treatise on the counterproductive but increasingly predominant “safety culture” of trigger warnings, safe spaces and microaggression sensitivity. We discussed the psychological and sociological factors that underlie this philosophy of fragility, over-protection and offense, considering the contribution of older parents, fewer siblings, the strange interaction of postmodern philosophy and Marxism on campuses, and the widespread use of social media by young people. We focused on the increasing proclivity of those teaching in the social sciences and humanities to characterize Western culture as patriarchal and oppressive; producing, as a secondary consequence, a pervasive and all-encompassing victim/victimizer narrative (and producing that partly for the purposes of justifying that characterization). We considered what steps might be taken, personally and socially, to produce an alternate culture of resilience, responsibility, strength and courage.

Jordan Peterson and Brett Kavanaugh

One of the major major flaws on the right is the reluctance to the point of refusal to back its side in a fight. Donald Trump is almost unique in his willingness to contest on every patch of disputed territory. On the left, no position is ever abandoned. McCarthyism, an entirely leftist meme when it began, is now used by everyone as a synonym for smearing the blameless as part of a partisan attack more than seventy years since the left began the savaging of his character. The reality is that McCarthy was 100% right about the existence of communist agents in the State Department, and yet, even now, only a handful will say a good word about one of the bravest statesmen who has ever lived.

Jordan Peterson is on our side. He hates the left and he hates their dishonesty and the ruin their march through the institutions has brought. He understands that wherever the left are in control they cause massive harm and destruction. And till now he has not put a foot wrong in fighting our fights and defending, and even extending, our positions. And even before now I have listened to no end of people without one one-hundredth of the influence for good he has had look down on him and his efforts to preserve our Western way of life.

What has now made many dismiss Peterson was his off-the-top-of-his-head comment – now retracted – that perhaps Brett Kavanaugh should be confirmed but then resign and allow someone less divisive be appointed in his place. He didn’t come out in favour of the Democrat position. He didn’t argue that Christine Blasey Ford had made her case. He didn’t suggest that Trump should find some compromise candidate who would be more amenable to his enemies. He just thought that once the confirmation was completed, then perhaps Kavanaugh might resign as a means of bringing the two sides closer together.

When I heard he had said this, I did roll my eyes. But it reminded me, as if I needed to be reminded, how difficult it is to understand politics. I did notice that no one on the Democrat side picked up this suggestion since it really has no potential. There is no possibility for compromise. And it is an oddity that even after all he has been through, that Peterson still thinks there is an ounce of good will on the left side of politics, that there are people who would understand such a compromise and work with the Republicans to find a candidate that would satisfy the aims of both sides at one and the same time.

But you know what? I don’t look to Peterson for his political judgement. His is better than almost anyone I know, but it’s not perfect (and neither is mine nor yours). But what I do know is that ninety percent of everything he says and does is working to roll back the left, from our institutions and from the mind-set of the young. This is hard work which I not only admire him for, but wish that he may long continue his work in these fields.

But to his critics on “the right” I feel only an anger at their wanton stupidity in not backing him to the hilt, and for trying to pull him down and in this way helping to advance the agendas of the left. Look at this:

Typical on the right, and how does this help our side in anything? What a smug jerk this chap is! Infuriating and far far more politically ignorant than anything Jordan Peterson has ever said or done.

Jordan Peterson discussed in The Claremont Review of Books

From THE JORDAN PETERSON PHENOMENON. I see Peterson as an attempt to guide us back to common sense, but perhaps there is no such thing, only tradition and custom. But we are also inheritors of the Western philosophical tradition. These are excerpts I have pulled out that seemed to summarise where the article was heading. But you should read the article yourself and see what you make of it.

His intent is to refute all “blank slate” doctrines that deny our biological hard-wiring and teach the same disastrous lesson: humans are merely social artefacts with no inherent or evolved nature. From there it is but a quick step to insisting that any differences in abilities or interests leading to disparate outcomes are arbitrary and unjust, and that men and women are essentially the same. This last emphatically erroneous point is of particular concern to Peterson, because it is at the root of so much of the unhappiness he sees in his clinical practice; not to mention that a society incapable of supporting stable families and raising healthy, well-adjusted children won’t long survive.

And this.

Peterson sidesteps the question of whether he is himself a believing Christian, and hints that he is agnostic. Some critics refuse to accept Peterson’s half-loaf of Scripture without God. They conclude, with Friedrich Nietzsche among others, that there is no Christian morality without Christ. But Peterson is actually correct, without ever quite saying how, in suggesting that God and His Word can be understood separately, that it’s possible to see the Old Testament as one among many ancient stories, and yet somehow radically different. He sees the centrality of the Bible for Western civilization, but misses something essential.

What did he miss?

In “Leo Strauss, the Bible, and Political Philosophy,” an essay published in 1991, Harry Jaffa explained that all the ancient cities claimed that their laws were of divine origin. In this sense, the Torah was like the stories of any other ancient city. But all other ancient cities were polytheistic. Only Judaism (and then Christianity) proclaims the “One God who is separate from the universe, of which he is the Creator.” Because the God of the Bible is “both separate and unique,” He is therefore unknowable….

“[But] God endowed man with the capacity for reflection and choice, and thus we can discern that the laws of Moses are “righteous.” Do we not see … that in the Torah, “the teachings of reason and of revelation will not contradict each other, since both reason and revelation are God’s gifts to mankind?”…

Because he is radically unknowable, belief in that God requires a leap of faith. Peterson—or anyone—can therefore find himself unable to make that leap, but nevertheless see in the Word of the Hebrew God the “wisdom and understanding” that makes the Bible unique.


Because people “live in a sea of complexity,” we “perceive meaningful phenomena, not the objective world.” This description of seeing the world pre-scientifically, as a place not of objects but of meaningful phenomena, derives fundamentally from Martin Heidegger and existentialism. Peterson calls himself an existentialist, in fact, and generously salts his book with references to “Being,” acknowledging his “exposure to the ideas of the 20th-century German philosopher.”

Jordan Peterson discusses the campus left

And he means the faculty! The text that comes with the vid:

Dangerous people are filling the heads of young people with dangerous nonsense. Who are these people? They are what Jordan Peterson calls “the post-modernists:” neo-Marxist professors who dominate our colleges and universities. And here’s the worst part: we are financing these nihilists with tax dollars, alumni gifts and tuition payments. Time to wise up.

In defence of Western Civilisation from our modern vandals

And half of those vandals are internal. Here is a twelve step program from Jordan Peterson. It is hard to believe that such common sense still exists and can be said in public, but here it is.

View image on Twitter

And if you are interested in the full text, here is the entire two hours.

This is Peterson’s own background briefing to the presentation:

Conservatism has all-too-often found itself unable to articulate a coherent positive doctrine. By this I mean specifically that the laudable conservative tendency to preserve the best of past has too-often manifested itself in a series of “thou shalt not” statements, instead of laying out a manifesto of fundamental values that might serve to unite people around a set of common ambitions. I am attempting to rectify this problem with this statement of principles, some of which I believe might have the additional virtue of being attractive to young people, looking for mature and forthright purpose and responsibility.

I am not making the claim that the statement is perfect, comprehensive or final.

I will just add that it’s not perfect or final, not least because it is mostly pragmatic but lacks the moral grounding that is essential. The left is filled with people who are evil to their very core but believe they are only doing good. Without a proper moral basis for action, there is no foundation for anything. Socialism is great on paper, and when we have perfected humanity we can bring it on. In the meantime, every such experiment is inevitably disastrous for everyone other than those who are at the very top of the pyramid. We have found a way to bring peace and prosperity which are through the principles laid out, but there is a deeper understanding required which only an Edmund Burke and an Adam Smith can supply.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Samuel Laing and Jordan Peterson

All three authors – Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Samuel Laing (1812-1897) and Jordan Peterson (1962- ) – wrote in response to the same issue: the impossibility of literal acceptance of Christian mythology in the wake of the scientific discoveries of the nineteenth century. Both Nietzsche and Laing found a response in turning to the seventh century BC philosophical writings of Zarathustra – Laing literally with Nietzsche only metaphorically – while Laing and Peterson argue that the moral teachings of our Judeo-Christian ethic can be maintained through the careful reading of Biblical literature. Knotting the yarn a bit more, Nietzsche and Peterson argue that without Christian teaching, Western Civilisation will disintegrate. Nietzsche thinks that would be a good outcome, while Peterson (and Laing) believe it would be bad.

Today, whatever the actual historical circumstances may be, we celebrate the memory of the freeing of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. Whether any of the events described in the Bible are literally true is unknowable, but almost no one alive today thinks of almost any of it, from Moses in the bulrushes to the ten plagues of Egypt, as anything but stories. But what is undoubted is that the recorded outcome led to the most important moral event in the history of the world, the receiving into the hands of the Jewish people, the Ten Commandments, whose impress for good on world history has been second to none, or at least as seen by Laing and Peterson, while from the perspective of Nietzsche, the consequence has been an unalloyed moral disaster.

Samuel Laing

Samuel Laing wrote the most astonishing book – Modern Science and Modern Thought – which was first published in 1885. He lived at a time when the scientific discoveries during the nineteenth century made it impossible to believe the literal accuracy of any biblical account. To quote:

There is no more room left for the supernatural in the fiercest tropical thunder-storm than there is in turning the handle of an electrical machine, or sending in a tender to light the streets of London by electric light. And the result is absolutely certain. In the contrast between the natural and the supernatural, the latter has not only been repulsed but annihilated. [Laing 1885: 243]

Morally, then, where are we left? Laing again:

The really religious writers of the present day are those who, thoroughly understanding and recognising the facts of science, boldly throw overboard whatever conflicts with them, abandon all theories of inspiration and miraculous interferences with the order of nature, and appeal, in support of religion, to the essential beauty and truth in Christianity underlying the myths and dogmas which have grown up about it; who above all, appeal to the fact that it exists and is a product of the evolution of the human mind, satisfying, as nothing else can do so well, many of the purest emotions and loftiest aspirations, which are equally a necessary and inevitable product of that evolution. [ibid.: 337-38]

And one more, just to see the point as strongly as it can be made. And he had the advantage of living through an era where the literal truth of Biblical accounts had not yet been shattered by scientific discovery.

Darwin’s “Origin of Species” was only published in 1859, and his views as to evolution, development, natural selection, and the prevalence of universal law, have already annexed nearly the whole world of modern thought and become the foundation of all philosophical speculation and scientific inquiry.

Not only has faith been shaken in the supernatural as a direct and immediate agent in the phenomena of the worlds of matter and of life, but the demonstration of the “struggle for life” and “survival of the fittest” has raised anew, and with vastly augmented force, those questions as to the moral constitution of the universe and the origin of evil, which have so long exercised the highest minds. . . .

To such questions there is no answer. We are obliged to admit that as the material universe is not, as we once fancied, measured by our standards and regulated at every turn by an intelligence resembling ours; so neither is the moral universe to be explained by simply magnifying our own moral ideas, and explaining everything by the action of a Being who does what we should have done in his place. [ibid.: 220-221]

We are therefore potentially morally at sea with no solid foundation on which to build a basis for any moral position whatsoever. This was the great question of the latter half of the nineteenth century for which answers had to be found.

Laing, and I shall suggest Peterson, have taken the side of our traditional morality which they believe has been anchored on an oral and written tradition that have descended to us through time. This is, loosely, the view of the political right. There is then a different tradition, found in the Marxist and Nietzschean traditions, that the only answers are those we make up ourselves and enforce through the will of the strong through the power of the state. Marxist ideology provides a false trail for political and economic construction, but it is from Nietzsche that the moral trail descends.


Nietzsche’s take starts from the same position as Laing. And it does cross my mind that Laing may be an unknown but still major influence on Nietzsche. It is an odd fact that in none of my various approaches to the world in the past have I ever found interest in Nietzsche’s works, and have been perennially left with the impression that he is someone whose writings are themselves a source of evil. But I may not have, until the last two weeks, opened anything of his in at least two decades, but with Laing’s next book having been The Modern Zoroastrians, which he prefigured in his Modern Science and Modern Thought, I was then immediately drawn to see what is inside Nietzsche’s own examination of this same philosophy. As it happens, there is no overlap at that level, but the parallels are nonetheless quite deep.

I began with the obvious, Thus Spake Zarathustra, and from there I continued with On the Genealogy of Morals. And while Zarathustra discusses “God is Dead”, which is more fully explored in The Gay Science, in the Genealogy of Morals we come face to face with his deepest anti-Christian and let me also note, some of the most shocking anti-Semitic writings you may ever find.

But first let me traverse the potential link to Samuel Laing. Both were living in the immediate post-Darwinian era, with Nietzsche providing the most striking phrase, but both reacting to a moral shift from a literal interpretation of Biblical events. For Laing, the Judean-Christian morality nevertheless remained as the bedrock irrespective of the provenance for the stories themselves. Nietzsche finds deep fault with the morality whatever may be its source, and wishes to see it overthrown. The first essay in the Genealogy of Morals  begins with these words:

Those English psychologists, who up to the present are the only philosophers who are to be thanked for any endeavour to get as far as a history of the origin of morality — these men, I say, offer us in their own personalities no paltry problem; — they even have, if I am to be quite frank about it, in their capacity of living riddles, an advantage over their books — they themselves are interesting! These English psychologists — what do they really mean? (Nietzsche [1887] 2013: 13)

My question here is not what do they mean, but who does he mean? And my suggestion is that Nietzsche is referring to Laing, who not only provided, in full, the opposite position with a complete defence of Western morality, but had himself focused on Zarathustra, using the more conventional name Zoroaster. The editor’s footnote to the above para [ibid.: 148-149] provides more than a dozen individuals to whom Nietzsche might have been referring, but the point is that no one knows. Let me therefore add Samuel Laing to the list of potential points of origin, and one with a lot more to recommend it since it is quite straightforward to see Nietzsche as specifically responding to Laing than to anyone else.

Nietzsche argues that the great moral disaster for the previous two thousand years had been the adaptation in the West of the Judaic moral codes as embedded in Christianity. It is these he wishes to seen thrown over and abandoned. The rule of the strong over the weak had been lost for two millennia, with the introduction of the slave morality with its ethic of pity and help for the poor and downtrodden. And here is a passage found in the Penguin edition that could not be found in any of the online editions, which meant it had to be typed out. But what is interesting is what it says and the phrase he uses. I cannot, of course, vouch for the accuracy of the translation, but you can see why others might have avoided it.

The pathos of nobility and distance, as I have said, the continuing and dominating collective instinct, and feeling of superiority of a higher race, a master race, in comparison to a subservient race – this is the origin of the opposition of ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’. . . . It is by virtue of this origin that the word ‘good’ is far from having any necessary connection with selfless acts, in accordance with the superstitious beliefs of these moral philosophers. [ibid.: 15 – my bolding]

The rule of the strong is the way of every civilisation but our own. Only in the Judeo-Christian world have those on the bottom of the pile ever mattered, and then only some of the time. A democratic political order can have no other origins than through a religious perspective that sees value in every human soul, in which each person is an equal, and in which each life counts for one and no life counts for more than one.

The influence of Nietzsche has been entirely sinister. His philosophy has had the most damaging consequences, for Jews looking at his effects narrowly via his well-known influence on the Nazis, and for the entire world since the nineteenth century.

Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson, more than a century after Laing, is trying to say exactly the same thing, and with the very same ancillary message.

The Bible stories, fairy tales, ancient myths and other readings from Western civilisation that we have been telling ourselves for thousands of years are chosen because they are reflections on the lived experiences of our ancestors, and provide us with answers and guidance for living in the world as it is, and at a deeper level that goes well beyond the superficial changes occasioned by our technological advances and the proliferation of modern gadgetry.

As an example of what you will find in Peterson’s book, here’s the opening para that leads off the discussion of Rule 7: “Pursue what is Meaningful (Not What is Expedient)”:

“Life is suffering. That’s clear. There is no more basic, irrefutable truth. It’s basically what God tells Adam and Eve, immediately before he kicks them out of Paradise.

“The simplest, most obvious, and most direct answer? Pursue pleasure. Follow your impulses. Live for the moment. Do what’s expedient.”

The obvious answer, perhaps, but the wrong answer. And what our biblical stories, along with so much of our mythology and philosophical reflection, represent are sets of instructions based on the observed successful life choices made by countless individuals over countless generations. The traditions are entirely based on lived experience as our human ancestors attempted to deal with the challenges they faced:

“Then we started to tell stories. We coded our observations of our own drama in these stories. In this manner, the information that was first only embedded in our behaviour became embedded in our stories.”

These stories delineate the straight and narrow, deviations from which are invitations to disastrous outcomes, not necessarily immediately but over time, and not necessarily for any individual but for societies as a whole. The book is a reminder that there is profound wisdom available to us all that will guide us through life.

And these stories began with the adventures of our own ancestors as they told the story of The Exodus. Whether the events themselves ever actually occurred or not, whether the Children of Israel ever did camp beneath Mt Sinai, the reality is that at some time the Ten Commandments were written down as the basis for the moral law of the Jews. And from the handing down of The Ten Commandments, that were themselves embedded within stories found in the various Biblical accounts describing how these rules might be applied, and which have been told and retold, and their meanings mined for messages about how to behave and how we are to live in moral communities with each other, we have absorbed our morality, even among those who insist they are complete atheists and will have no truck with deities and supernatural beings of any kind.

These powerful stories have given direction and guidance to the lives of hundreds of millions who have used Biblical accounts as a means to orient themselves through the various moral dilemmas served up by life.

The Seder

That is what the Seder is, a retelling of events within a moral setting. Whether God did tell Pharaoh to let his people go, the message that slavery is wrong has been passed through into the cultural DNA of the West. It has passed onto us, the belief that freedom is a paramount value. It has passed on a moral code that we have maintained for 3500 years, adapting it as circumstances have required, but based on the same values we have today.

And because of the spread of Christianity, it is these same values that have become the moral foundation for the richest and freest societies which have ever existed. What Nietzsche calls the “herd mentality” is literally what we think of as freedom. You personally matter. You personally count. Might is not right. The powerful do not have the moral right to do with us, who are less powerful, what they wish.

But these values are always in danger so it is during the Seder each year that we remind ourselves about the moral nature of the world we are in. And it is world we will only continue to inhabit if we listen to the stories of our own past and do what each of us can to defend these personal rights against those who would without any doubt take them from us, as the followers of Marx and Nietzsche would surely do if they could.

And Finally Peterson and Laing on Facing Life

Returning to 12 Rules for Life, the message is mainly for young men, where he instructs young males to get on with life by taking responsibility for those parts of their own lives they can actually make a positive contribution towards. This is a Peterson rant of some deep insight taken from one of his video interviews. As funny though it may be, and even though it is addressed to their teachers and not the young, the point is well directed towards anyone starting out in life, male or female:

“It’s what I tell 18 year olds. Six years ago you were twelve. What the hell do you know? You’re under the care of the family or the state, you haven’t established an independent existence, you haven’t had children, you haven’t started a business, you haven’t taken responsibility for anything, you don’t have a degree, you haven’t finished your course, you don’t know how to read, you can’t think, you don’t know how to present yourself, well Jesus, it’s not right to tell people in that situation that they should go out and change the world.”

Instead, his advice is to find something they can be personally responsible for and then show some responsibility. Grow up. Become mature. Be an adult! As it happens, but it is no coincidence, Laing’s final chapter is titled “Practical Life”. I will repeat the final para of the chapter, which is also the final para of the book, with the parallels and overlap unmistakeable.

And the conclusion I come to is, not that of the Preacher, ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,’ but rather that life, with all its drawbacks, is worth living, and that to have been born in a civilised country in the nineteenth century is a boon for which a man can never be sufficiently thankful. Some may find it otherwise from no fault of their own; more by their own fault; but the majority of men and women may lead useful, honourable, and on the whole fairly happy lives, if they will act on the maxim which I have always endeavoured, however imperfectly, to follow –


And this is just as true in the twenty-first century as well. We will always be fortunate to have been born in a civilised country, and where we are so blessed, we will have a duty placed on our shoulders to ensure that we do what we can to keep the places we inhabit civilised. And the final line was printed just as you see it, in the middle of the page, on its own, and all in caps.