Sunday, January 28, 2018

a short (for me) thought on that Jordan Peterson interview

it's been popular enough with a stratum of some of the blogs and journalism I read that I'll get around to some thoughts about it but ...

my initial thought about the simultaneously combative and vapid interview is that all Jordon Peterson seems to have done is figured out how to make an upscale tweedy presentation of the basic ideas that Mark Driscoll formulated in his William Wallace II rant "Pussified Nation".  The Peterson version has more scholastic dignity in its aura, I suppose, but the gist of the ideas, to the extent that I could describe them as ideas, are basically the same as Mark Driscoll in "Pussified Nation" mode.  For that matter it's the same shtick Driscoll's selling now, reformulated as trying to address a "father wound".

It might be worth noting that twenty years ago when Driscoll was interviewed for a Mother Jones piece his take on things was that a generation of fathers sold out to the American Dream at the expense of the children they were raising and the marriages they were ostensibly cultivating.  Driscoll and the co-founders of Mars Hill said they were setting out to live out and promulgate a different example, one in which individualism a the expense of community could be explored.

Back in 2006 when Confessions of a Reformission Rev was published Driscoll was still willing to propose an idea, that Christendom was over and that it was good that it was over.  This meant people either had to genuinely embrace what biblically informed Christian life and discipline was or admit they wanted to capitulate to the surrounding culture.  It was back during that period that all sorts of signs were about that Driscoll had empire-building in mind but to try to describe what those of us who were still at least tentatively on board understand Driscoll to be saying, what I understood his aims to be, it was that Christendom had ended and that there was not only no point in Christians in America attempting to revive or revitalize Christendom as it was conventionally understood, but that to do so was to capitulate to an empire-building mentality that would end in moralizing legalism and nominalism. 

And ... six years later it seemed that was what Driscoll hoped to get back in A Call to Resurgence, the kind of Christendom that a mere six or ten years prior he had regarded as rightfully ended.  Some of us with enough Native American lineage to have heard a few tales from Native American Christians about just how brutal a lot of so-called Christendom was can't feel bad for the loss of a Christendom that is, not without cause, conflated with Manifest Destiny and colonial expansion. 

If evangelicals and socially conservatigve Christians fall for the PEterson shtick having felt that Mark Driscoll went off the rails then my hunch is that they want this Social Gospel for Worthy Alpha Males more than they want the Gospel.  I'm sure guys will come up with dignified ways of saying, no, these two things are ommensurate if you really understand Natural Law and so on ... but after a couple of decades of seeing what the long-term influence of the man shtick has been within the culture of Mars Hill I just don't see that Peterson is coming up with anything the least bit new, and it's not like he's necessarily saying it's new. 

The mere fact that an adversarial and incompetent journalist was made to look like an idiot by Peterson on air doesn't really say anything in favor of Peterson's ideas.  It's possible to watch that interview and regard both parties as selling something I don't think people should buy.  An archetype can still be a stereotype and a stereotype may be useful as a heuristic tool but surely at this point we have at least some appreciation of the real limits of heuristic shortcuts. 

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

That will probably suffice for a weekend musing for now. 


chris e said...

Having seen him lionised elsewhere a year or so ago, I read and listened to a number of his talks/interviews before coming to much the same conclusion.

That conservative Christians fall for it is perhaps more indicative of a movement that once contained people who fell for the CREC and Doug Wilson - maybe they are just serial bad judges of character, at least when it comes to people saying what they want to hear.

I read his latest book and it was both 'good and original' but only in the sense that Samuel Johnson meant. It seemed that the 'good bits' were mainly self-care for those who feel that 'self-care is for pussies'.

Anonymous said...

I discovered your blog years ago when I was trying to figure out Mark Driscoll and the cult of personality surrounding him. I saw the warning signs and wanted to know if I was alone. Turns out, you were already there doing great work.

But I must're beginning to resemble the old adage "when all you have is a hammer, everything is a nail". All you appear to have is your Driscoll obsession and you use that to bash everyone and everything whenever your spidey-sense begins tingling.

You did great work on Driscoll. I too wish he wasn't pastoring again. But sheeesh. If you want to engage Peterson then engage him on his own merits, not by poisoning the well by comparing him to Driscoll.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

this post is by way of a prelude, because I don't think the problem, in the end, is really someone like Peterson but the socially conservative Anglo-American Christian scene and its set of responses to Peterson. Peterson couldn't help being a healthier variant of a set of ideas Driscoll has also promoted at some level, but one of the regular objections I've raised about the "man up" spiel in general is that it works great for people whose upward mobility is presupposed. Salient to Peterson's specific rebuttal to the lazy British journalist, what you want in a partner presupposes you have any business pursuing a partner. That's actually one of the points I have contested over the years, the assumption that being paired off is necessarily a sign of having attained emotionally, socially and economically healthy adulthood. By no means is it a bad thing if you attain it, there are proverbs about that being a good thing in Proverbs. But since the 2008 recession and its "mancession" impact I've been concerned that a lot of advice to a lot of men ends up being bootstrapping. Any number of men and women pursued marriage in the zeitgeist of the Mars Hill scene whose marriages have collapsed since Mars Hill collapsed.

Even if Peterson presents the best version of the talking points the way these talking points tend to be lionized within Anglo-American evangelicalism post 2008 seems like it's not really facing down economic reality.

But this post is more of a passing introduction to some of those ideas, depending on when I have them sufficiently together enough to post something about them.

The Friedersdorf piece on how incompetent and adversarial the interview with PEterson was was one of my favorite thinkpieces on the thing. The reporter brought the vapid and adversarial to the situation. Peterson never really got to even start saying what he seemed to want to say.