Jocko Podcast: Facing your Inner Darkness. Breaking Your Wretched Loop (Transcript)

Transcript of Jocko Podcast with Dr. Jordan Peterson titled ‘Facing your Inner Darkness. Breaking Your Wretched Loop. The Ultimate Hero is Dangerous but Disciplined.’ In this episode, Retired Navy SEAL, Jocko Willink and Dr. Jordan Peterson discuss discipline and leadership in business, war, relationships and everyday life. (Certain portions removed)


JOCKO WILLINK:… It does. And it’s not just individuals scattered around. These are groups of supposed human beings that are systematically implementing heinous and evil acts on totally innocent people. And I have obviously talked about evil before on this podcast. 20 years ago, during the genocide in Rwanda. 50 years ago in Vietnam during the My Lai Massacre. 75 years ago in Nazi Germany. 80 years ago in Nanking under the Imperial Japanese Army. And those things are in the past.

But it is important to remember that evil is still happening now. And I know that it is hard for us to see that, especially here in America in this unbelievably well protected bubble that we live in. A bubble that is provided and protected by young and brave men and women who volunteer to go out and hold the line. But the evil is out there. It always is.

And tonight, we have a guest on the podcast that I think has a very clear understanding of evil, of where it comes from, and how it manifests itself in the world. And he also has an incredible understanding of the good. And what we as people can do to live our lives better for ourselves, for our families, for our communities, and for the world. His name is Dr. Jordan B. Peterson.

And I’m not exactly sure when I heard Dr. Peterson for the first time. But as I dug into the content online, what really struck me was that what he was saying, and he was an academic, unbelievably smart, unbelievably well read person. And yet when he said things, they aligned almost perfectly with things that I believed and things that I had learned in my life.

And so here we were, these two radically different people from different backgrounds, one highly educated college professor, the other, a military veteran and a certified knuckle dragger. And yet, our thoughts were very aligned. And the way that I would hear him tie history and thought around human psychological evolution and to the social structure and to societal structure, and the way he laid out the maps of meaning behind the way we think, it was very useful. And it’s helped me realize that the way I feel in my gut, my instincts about people and about the world, they’re there for a reason. It isn’t random. There is some reason behind the way that I think and the way that we think.

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So, Jordan, thank you for coming on the show.

DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Very glad to be here. That’s quite the beginning.

JOCKO WILLINK: Yeah, I think, like I said, it’s very easy for people to lose track of the fact that while you’re sitting in an air conditioned space somewhere thinking about your next Netflix movie that you’re going to watch, there are people that are in the most horrible and heinous situations that are being put on them by other human beings. And it doesn’t really stop.

DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah, well, it’s a hard thing for people to contemplate. I mean, there’s two elements to life that are hard to contemplate. I mean, one is that the suffering that’s attendant on life fundamentally, and then the other is the malevolence of people. And we’re not, in the modern world, we don’t really think about those as fundamental realities in some sense, because we tend to think about material situations as fundamental realities. But the metaphysical realities, the ethical realities are more real. And it’s necessary to know that in order to orient yourself properly in life.

Like, you know, I never really took the idea of good, seriously, transcendent good, let’s say, or ultimate good until I convinced myself of the existence of, well, if it wasn’t ultimate evil, it was sufficiently ultimate for me, you know, because I immersed myself in the study of the Nazi Holocaust and of what happened in Nanking and what happened with Unit 731, which is the most horrifying, that’s the most horrifying material I’ve ever read, which is really saying something because there’s plenty of horrifying material to read. And what happened in the Soviet Union and what happened in Maoist China, which, you know, so few people know about now.

And I guess what I found most striking, especially with regards to what happened in the Soviet Union was, well, and in Germany, for that matter, was that there were a number of people who were writing about it, like Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist who wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, and also Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who wrote The Gulag Archipelago, which should be required reading for every, I think, for every American citizen, that there was some integral relationship between the moral failings of individuals and the catastrophic moral failings of the state, and that that was directly causally related, you know. So Solzhenitsyn made a great case in, with regards to the analysis of the Marxist catastrophes in the Soviet Union, that they were tied integrally, not only to that dogma, but also to the willingness of the typical citizen to swallow endless lies and act them out. And he included himself in that set of deceitful people, let’s say.

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And it really struck me that, because those writings are so profound, Viktor Frankl’s another good example. You can’t really read that without it really punching you, you know. It really struck me that it was possible that there was some direct integral relationship between the individual moral choices that people made in their day-to-day lives and the broad-scale social movements that happened around them. And I think I’ve come to believe that that’s the case. And, well, certainly the story that you read, the person who was written about, the rapist, was making all sorts of individual choices, right? And, you know, he might have been convincing himself that he was on some kind of holy mission, but I guess that would be in part so that he could stand looking at himself in the mirror in the morning without running away screaming if he saw what was really there.

JOCKO WILLINK: So… One of the things in Frankl that kind of, in Man’s Search for Meaning, that definitely, two points that really hit me hard when I was reading it was, one is I didn’t understand the extent to which the kapos, which were the Jewish prisoners that got taken on board to help and would get special treatment. Number one, I didn’t realize the extent to which they were in existence. I knew what they were, but I didn’t realize that they were as aggressive as they were.

And the other thing that hit me is the paragraph or the lines where he’s saying that the best of us didn’t make it out and that if you were going to live, you had to do things that you wouldn’t want to maybe do. And maybe if you were a better person, maybe you wouldn’t do them. And to me, that was harsh. I mean, this was his admitting that, that if you wanted to survive as a person in that situation, you might have to take someone’s piece of bread. You might have to move a number on a list to get someone else sent down to the execution area a day earlier than you, and that happens to postpone your execution long enough that you can make another move. And that’s a scary thing.

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DR. JORDAN PETERSON: You know, you saw the same thing with Solzhenitsyn’s description of the gulags because they were run in large part by the inmates. But I think that that’s a really good metaphor for totalitarian states in general, you know, because we like to think that a totalitarian state is made up of innocent, oppressed individuals who are under the thumb of an evil tyrant and that all of the catastrophes are cascading from the top down. But I don’t think that that’s true. I think that it’s more like a holographic structure where the tyranny exists at every single level. So it exists psychologically and it exists within the family and it exists within the mid-level organizations.

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