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Home » Transcript: Identity Politics & the Marxist Lie of White Privilege: Jordan Peterson

Transcript: Identity Politics & the Marxist Lie of White Privilege: Jordan Peterson

Full text of Jordan Peterson’s lecture titled “Identity Politics & the Marxist Lie of White Privilege”. In this lecture, Jordan delves more deeply into the radical side of the leftist spectrum and addresses the idea of white privilege.


Angelo Isidorou – Political commentator

Hello everybody, my name is Angelo and I am your emcee for the evening and on behalf of the UBC Free Speech Club, we would like to welcome you and thank you for attending our third Dr. Jordan Peterson event.

Now, I know you are all very excited to hear the man, so I am going to keep these opening remarks very short. The UBC Free Speech Club is devoted to the sanctity of liberty in our society and the necessity to keep liberty safe from those who want to destroy it.

Within just a year, our club has grown to over a thousand members and is now in the process of incorporation so that we may continue to bring speakers and host events such as this one.

None of that would be possible without Dr. Peterson, who has inspired countless students all over North America to start speaking up on their campus and in fact, this club sprung up around the same time when Dr. Peterson publicly came out against Bill C-16.

That was just over a year ago and since then, his philosophy of cleaning your room and sorting yourself out has bettered and influenced the lives of countless people. He is an accomplished psychologist, professor and author. His book, Maps of Meaning, is an analytical window into the myths and cultures of humankind, and now he has written a new book, it is called 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos and is available for pre-order on Amazon with the release date of January 23rd, 2018.

On that note, on behalf of the UBC Free Speech Club, we would like to introduce you all to Dr. Jordan B. Peterson.

Jordan B. Peterson – Psychologist

Well thank you very much for that. That’s quite something.

All right. There’s a house mic, right? I don’t need this one. Okay. Well then, let’s just move it out of the way.

Great. So I’m going to talk to you tonight about THE IDEOLOGICAL NEXUS OF POSTMODERNISM AND MARXISM and I want to get into it fairly deeply. So I’m going to have a thoughtful talk and then discussion afterwards. So it’s a confusing topic because it’s not obvious by any stretch of the imagination why postmodernism and neo-Marxism or Marxism proper would be aligned because postmodernism is an anti-grand narrative philosophical movement, and Marxism is a grand narrative.

And so the fact that those two things seem to coexist in the same space definitely needs some explanation and it’s a very tricky thing to get to the bottom of. So we won’t get to the bottom of it but we’ll get farther to the bottom of it than I’ve got before and hopefully farther than many of you have got before. So let’s see what we can figure out here.


So I’m going to start with some definitions. I’ll return to them as we continue. You know with philosophical movements, they’re often not named by the major thinkers in the movement, they’re sort of named afterwards. The name covers a very large range of ideas and actions and perceptions. Like it’s not that easy, people talk about existentialism for example, it’s not that easy to come up with a one paragraph summary of what constitutes existentialism.

My sense for the existentialist is that it’s fundamentally a movement that’s predicated on the idea, at least in the psychological sense, that Freud tended to attribute human suffering and mental disorder to childhood trauma. It’s more complex than that but that’ll do for a quick overview.

But the existentialists thought that there was enough suffering intrinsic in life so that it wasn’t insanity that was the question, it was sanity. It was how it was possible for people to be sane and let’s say normal, for lack of a better word, given that there was brutality and malevolence intrinsic in life and the fact that you had to rise up as an individual and stand in relation to that — relationship to that is part and parcel of what constitutes existentialism. There’s all sorts of different people who were thinkers who were existentialists, some of them atheistic, some of them deeply religious like Dostoevsky but, so it’s not — I’m using that as an example to show you how difficult it is to bring a set of thinkers under one umbrella. You’re bound to oversimplify but we’ll go ahead and oversimplify.

POSTMODERNISM, you can think about it as an attitude of skepticism, irony towards and rejection of grand narratives, ideologies and universalism, including the idea of the objective notions of reason, that’s a big one, human nature, that’s a big one, social progress, absolute truth and objective reality, all those things being questioned. I kind of think of the head joker at the top of the postmodern hierarchy as Derrida, Foucault is often mentioned as are a number of other people.


Here’s some other attributes of postmodern thinking. There’s a recognition of the existence of hierarchy, that’s for sure. And there’s an echo of that idea, the recognition of hierarchy and the term patriarchy because of course patriarchy is a recognition of hierarchy, now it’s a very particular kind of recognition.  but the postmodernists also tend to define hierarchy as a consequence of power differential, and so the world they envision, as far as I can tell, is something like a, it’s a sociologically Hobbesian nightmare, so Hobbes thought of, the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, thought of the natural state of human beings as every individual in some sense at the throat of every other individual, so that the basic state of mankind, unlike the Rousseauian state of say virgin innocence and the primitive garden of paradise was an all-out war of everyone against everyone else, and that that required the imposition of the social order to keep peace essentially. So it’s a fairly dark view of humankind.

Rousseau, on the other hand, would think of people as intrinsically good and the social order as intrinsically tyrannical. You can actually think about Hobbes and Rousseau in some sense as opposites that need to be paired together in order to get a relatively comprehensive view of human nature.

The POSTMODERN VIEW is like the Hobbesian view in some sense except you want to replace the individual with pyramids of social organization, so hierarchies of social organization that are based on group identity and that the landscape in which those pyramids exist is one of unbroken enmity and inability to communicate, so it’s a very dark view as far as I’m concerned. And I think it’s fundamentally wrong in many ways.

It’s right in that there are groups of people and there is some difficulty in communication between them and that power is an element in the formation of hierarchies, but you can’t reduce hierarchy or group relationship to those premises. It’s too simplified because people also cooperate. There are also not groups, many of us belong to many groups, so the actual situation is far too complex to reduce it to that degree, even though you can come up with a good explanatory story if you do so, it doesn’t capture the nuances and they’re not just nuances, it doesn’t capture the essence.

Now the thing is that when you make the presupposition that the reason that hierarchies exist is because of power, then essentially what you do is turn every hierarchy into a tyranny. And so if there is a hierarchy, then you assume it’s a tyranny. Well that’s really the patriarchy.

The patriarchy’s hierarchy assumed as tyranny and that’s also just not true except in pathological hierarchies. So for example, we know from the psychological literature that the best predictors of long-term life success are intelligence and conscientiousness in Western countries at least and well, that’s what you’d hope for, right? More or less, if you wanted even to set up a society, even if you weren’t particularly smart or hardworking, you might want to set up a society where intelligence and hard work were good predictors of success because then the people who were smart and hardworking would produce a bunch of things that you could have if you could trade for them. And of course that is actually the situation that most of us are in.

And of course, the other thing about people who believe that hierarchies in the West are only composed of power and tyranny is that their own actions belie that, because whenever they make a decision to interact with that hierarchy, they attempt or to make a purchase or to make a trade, let’s say, or to obtain a service of any importance, let’s say a medical service, they’re going to definitely act as if there are less and more competent people within that hierarchy and seek out the ones that are more competent, obviously, which you don’t do.

If the hierarchy is only composed of tyranny and power, there’s no point in looking for competence. But anyways, in the West and in functioning societies, the hierarchies are basically predicated on competence and not power. And you might say, well, that’s pretty naive. It’s like, no, actually, it’s not very naive. I’m not saying at all that inappropriate power plays don’t play a role in corrupting hierarchies of competence. That happens.

But generally what happens is if the hierarchies of competence get corrupted enough by power, then they crumble because they can no longer function. So the evidence that our hierarchies of competence work is everywhere because everything around this works all the time.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali tells two interesting stories in her book Infidel, which is a great book, by the way. She came from Africa and from a country that wasn’t very functional. When she came to Holland, she said there were two things that really amazed her. And this really struck me because now and then you get lucky and you can see the world you live in from an outsider’s perspective. You get to see through someone else’s eyes.

She said the first thing that knocked her off her feet was waiting for a bus in Amsterdam. She’s standing at the bus stop and there’s a pole there and there’s a digital sign on the pole. The digital sign says when the next bus is going to come and counts down and then when it hits zero, the bus appears. She absolutely could not believe that that would happen that there could be a sign that told you when the bus would come and that it would change and the bus would actually appear.

And you think, well, yeah, no, that’s a miracle, man. That’s an absolute miracle. It is. It is. You’ve got to think that through. The amount of timing and organization and reliability, mechanical reliability and sociological or social organization and dedication on the part of the bus drivers and the entire company and the organization of the whole city and the state, to make that possible is absolutely beyond belief, especially when it’s time to, well, perhaps not the second but to 10 seconds or something like that. That is absolutely beyond belief. And her inability to comprehend that was the correct response.

And then the other thing she was amazed by was that you could go talk to policemen and they would help you. That was just a no-go for her, because for her, her experience was policemen were there to shake you down and hurt you. And so you think, well, you know, well, I won’t dwell on that point any longer.

The point is that it’s absolutely ridiculous, blind, to make the assumption that the hierarchies in functioning Western democracies are fundamentally predicated on power and tyranny. And then, you know, I can use a biological example, too, which would place me outside of the postmodern realm of argument because the postmodernists don’t believe in biology, but they act like they do because they all die.


So this primatologist named — well, I’ll tell you two stories, okay, because these are really useful. So the one’s about rats. And I got this story from Jaak Panksepp, who’s a great neuroscientist. He wrote a book called Affective Neuroscience, which, by the way, is on my reading list. It’s on my website. It’s a really good book, Affective Neuroscience. He’s a great scientist. He was one of the people who — he learned that rats laugh. They laugh out ultrasonically like bats. So if you’re going to tickle them with a pencil eraser, they laugh, but you have to record it and then slow it down, and then you can hear them.

And you might think, well, rats laugh, like, what, do you need a big grant for that? What kind of idiocy is that? It’s like, no, no, no, just don’t get ahead of yourself here, you know. He was showing that that capacity for social interaction, for social interaction that was mediated by physiological touch activated the same circuits in rats, but a dozen people, and that those are actual biological circuits, and that we share them even with rats.

Now, rats are quite similar to human beings, as it turns out, I could say especially post-modernists, but I won’t, and so the fact that, you know, that little rats giggle when you tickle them is actually extraordinarily important.


He also identified, surprising, I’ve been talking too much lately — he also identified the primary place circuit in mammals, and that’s a big deal too from a scientific perspective. That’s like discovering a new continent, like discovering a whole brain system that people really didn’t know existed, that’s a big deal.

So here’s a little story about rats. Young rats like to engage in rough-and-tumble play, especially juvenile males. It’s also the case for puppies, if you’ve ever had a puppy. Dogs are like that, they like to wrestle, and it’s one of the things that male human beings tend to do with their offspring, and it’s a really, really good thing. Like rough-and-tumble play with children really helps socialize them, because it helps them figure out the difference between touch, and even rough touch and pain, you know, because one of the things you’re doing when you’re rough-and-tumble playing with a little kid is, you know, you throw them up in the air and you wrestle them around. I had two couches when my kids were little that were sort of face-to-face, so we built this little wrestling ring, and I used to go in there and pound them half to death every night, you know?

So they loved that. I mean, they get so excited about that, they love that so much, it’s just crazy. But the reason for that is, like, you’re stretching out their bodies and you’re showing them that they can’t put their thumb in your eye, and you’re teaching them to be graceful, and you’re teaching them the difference between something new that’s happening to the body and something painful. You’re really teaching them to dance, and it’s this really complicated physiological dance that is indicative of a socialized being, and that’s partly why women like men who can dance, by the way, because it shows that you can pay attention to someone else.

First of all, that you’re coordinated, but even more importantly, that you can take the fact of your coordination and coordinate that with someone else’s coordination, and that’s very primal and physiological. It’s built right into your body, and rough-and-tumble play helps with that a lot.

Anyways, rats also like to rough-and-tumble play for much the same reasons, and sort of pretty much all social mammals. So you can tell that rats like it.

How do you know if a rat likes something?

Well, he’ll work for it, and one of the ways you can figure out if a rat wants to work for something is that you get him in a state where maybe he’s desperate for whatever he’s working for, and you can put a little spring on him and figure out how hard he pulls to go somewhere he knows where he’s going to get that, and then you can measure the force that he’s willing to apply, and that gives you a rough estimate of his motivation.

Or maybe you have to bar-press like a cocaine-addicted rat to receive the reward, and you can count rate of bar-pressing, and you can get an estimate of how excited the rat is to go do whatever it is the rat’s going to do. So Panksepp used to put rats, he’d pair them, one rat against the other, in kind of a play arena, not a very big thing, and these were juvenile males, and they would work to do that. Okay, so they liked it.

And then maybe one rat was 10% bigger than the other, and then when you paired them, the big rat would beat the little rat because 10% weight advantage was enough to make the bigger rat dominant.

Okay, so then they established basically dominance and submission. You might think about that as a power relationship, and to some degree it is, but it’s more complicated than that, and this is very important. So the rats play together once, and the big rat pins the little rat, really very much like wrestling, like rats wrestle, just like people wrestle.

And if you pair them together, then the big rat can pin the little rat. Okay, so now you’ve got dominant rats, subordinate rats, roughly speaking. But then, you see, if you stop the experiment there, you’d think, well, the rats play to establish dominance and submission. But the thing is, is that rats don’t just play once, they play many, many, many times. And that’s also the case with human beings, is that you don’t just play once. You play many, many times.

And there’s a difference between the rules of a game and the rules of a set of games. And that’s so unbelievably important, so you keep that in mind, because we’ll return to that.

So anyways, the next time the two rats get together, the little rat has to ask the big rat to play, because rule basically is subordinate entity asks dominant entity to play. And so the little rat does what mammals do to play, you know, they kind of put their paws down and put the rear end up, bit up in the air. You see dogs do that. And unless you’re completely clueless, you know that that doesn’t mean he’s going for your throat. It means he wants you to whack him on the side of the head so he can sort of pretend to bite you, you know. It’s pretty obvious if you’ve played with dogs and children.

So again, I make that comparison because dogs and children understand each other, right? They’re pack animals. They follow the same basic rules. They know how to play. They can become friends. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have them as pets, I mean the dogs, not the children.

So anyways, the little rat asks the big rat to play, and the big rat thinks, yeah, yeah, okay, we’ll play. They wrestle. And you pair them multiple times. Well, if you pair them multiple times, what you find is that unless the big rat lets the little rat win 30% of the time, the little rat won’t ask the big rat to play anymore. And that you think, well, who cares? Why is that important? Like it’s really important. That’s a really important discovery because it shows you that even rats have a sense of fair play that emerges across iterated games. It’s evidence for the biological instantiation of a social morality. It’s a big deal, man. That’s a big discovery.

And it shows you that even at the level of rats, they’re very social animals, by the way, the interactions between rats are mediated by something like a sense of fairness or justice. And so that’s extremely cool because, you know, we tend to think of animals as having dominance hierarchies, and that’s predicated on power. And that idea, even though the bloody postmodernists don’t believe in biology, they extend that analogy up to human beings. Just not true.

Okay. Well, the same turns out to be true of chimpanzees. So Frans de Waal, who’s a Dutch primatologist, a very smart one too, he’s been interested in the biological basis of morality as well. And he’s written a lot of good books on primate behavior, chimps in particular. Chimps are brutal creatures, man. Like they go to war, eh? And so if you have a chimp territory out in the jungle, then the juveniles will, the males in particular, they’ll band together in groups of four or five, there’s often, but not always, a female or two with them.

And if they come across chimps from another troop that aren’t within their hierarchy, let’s say, they will, if they outnumber them, because they can’t really count, but they can estimate magnitude visually, it’s not the same as counting. But if they outnumber them, they will tear them to pieces. And chimps are at least twice as strong as a really well-developed human male. And so they can tear you up pretty good. And chimps are perfectly capable. They hunt. They’re carnivorous, like human beings, and they hunt. They hunt colobus monkeys often, they weigh about 40 pounds, and they’ll basically eat them alive, monkeys screaming away like mad, because it’s in pain, because it’s being eaten. And that doesn’t slow the chimps down a bit. There’s no cross-species empathy stopping them from having their snack.

And so chimps are very brutal creatures. And it isn’t obvious they have a lot of internal inhibition of their aggression at all. Most of the inhibition is sociological. It’s out in the hierarchy. And so the reason chimps aren’t always aggressive with one another is because they know who can pound them and who will gain up on them and who won’t. They establish their hierarchy.

Anyways, you know, you think about a chimp hierarchy, and you’re talking about a fairly strong and aggressive creature, you might think it’s biggest, ugliest, meanest, most vicious, irritable, unpleasant chimp that rises to the top. Well, that’s kind of the postmodernist view of human society. But that’s not the case. It happens sometimes.

But what happens, and de Waal documented this quite nicely, is that tyrant chimps lead unstable regimes. Now you know, that might sound familiar, because the same thing, of course, is true of human beings. Why is that? Well, it’s because, you know, people don’t like tyrants, and chimps don’t like them that much either. And chimps are actually quite reciprocal in their social interactions. So they don’t just dominate each other. They groom each other. They have friendships. They can track social relationships over very long periods of time. And they do that.

And so they engage in reciprocal interactions, let’s say prosocial and reciprocal interactions. And you might think, well, what’s the weak point of the biggest, ugliest, toughest chimp in the troop? And that is he doesn’t have any friends. And so, you know, maybe he has a bad day. He’s a little hungover, whatever, from eating fermented bananas or whatever he is partying with. And two of the slightly less ugly, slightly less mean chimps decide, well, this is a good time to take them out, and they tear them to pieces.

And so one of the things de Waal has pointed out quite nicely is that if you want to have a stable chimp dominance hierarchy, let’s call it a regime, the stable ones aren’t ruled by the tyrants, because the tyrants get taken out by paired up friendship dyads, something like that. That’s really worth thinking about too, you know, because it indicates that even in creatures that have less complex sociological orders, and they do, because one of the things that predicts how complex your social order is, is how big your brain is compared to your body and encephalization, essentially. And the more encephalized a creature, the larger the social groups it can track. And of course, human beings are very highly encephalized. So we have quite complicated group, we have quite complicated group organizations, but even in simpler group organizations like the chimps, it isn’t the tyrant who rules stably. And that turns out to be also incredibly important.

Okay, so, so, you know, so much for the idea that power is the only game in town, then you got to ask the question is, well, this is actually a postmodern question. So you know, one of the things Derrida said, the main postmodern joker is that by categorizing, you privilege one concept and you force other concepts out to the margins. And so he believed that when you constructed a hierarchy of power, that the hierarchy of power privilege certain people and marginalized others. And you know, that’s really not that brilliant an observation, as far as I’m concerned, it’s rather commonplace. All it means is that when you categorize something, that there are things that are in the category and a bunch of things that aren’t.

And so you actually can’t categorize anything, which means you can’t perceive anything, which means you can’t think or live without making some things in the middle and everything else on the outside. It’s part of categorization itself. And so maybe the postmodernists would go far enough to question the utility of categorization itself. And to some degree, they do that.

But the point here is, is that if you – you have to ask why it is that you would, if you were a postmodernist yourself, why it is that you would privilege the idea of power above all else? It’s exactly what is it that you’re pushing to the margin. And so that’s something that we’re going to talk about.

Now, here’s one thing you might push to the margin, let’s say that you believe that hierarchies are a consequence of power. Well, then you push competence to the margin. And then applying the postmodernist logic, you might say, well, the reason you’re privileging power is, so that you could push competence to the margin. And so you want to keep that in mind, too, because that’s going to become important as we discuss the relationship between postmodernism and Marxism.

Maybe you’re after the destruction of the idea of competence itself. All right, so, okay, postmodernism, we talked about it a little bit, we’ll return to it.


Now we’re going to talk a little bit about Marxism. I’ve got a quote here from Marx: “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains.”

Well, that was pretty good for like 1880 or 1890, or whenever it was he wrote it somewhere around that period of time. Turned out the proletarians had a lot more to lose than their chains. They had their lives and their families to lose, and that was demonstrated amply as a consequence of the, what would you call it, the sociological movements that were put into place when the Marxist presuppositions began to govern societies like the Soviet Union.

So all right, so let’s take the same postmodernist approach. So here’s some basic tenets of Marxism. It’s bourgeoisie against proletariat, the bourgeoisie are the capitalists, the property owners, those sorts of people, the proletariat, working class, for all intents and purposes. The basic idea is that history itself is nothing but the, what would you call it, the documentation of the struggle of one class against the other.

Okay, no, like that’s wrong, but it’s okay, because it’s too simple, obviously. It’s obviously too simple. There’s all sorts of motivations that people have. Some of them are economic, some of them are associated with power. But that’s okay. We’ll leave that. Let’s give the devil his due and say, well, yeah, fair enough, there’s still a fair bit of tension between the haves and the have-nots, and maybe that was even more intense in previous societies than it is now, and there’s no doubt that economics plays a role in virtually everything that human beings do, and a fairly significant role. So let’s accept that as a potential theory. It’s simple, but maybe it’s practically useful.

And then there’s kind of an offshoot of that theory, which is that, well, if you’re a Marxist, that means you have sympathy for the working class, because that’s what you’re saying all the time. It’s like, well, the poor working class, they’re all oppressed, the poor proletariat.

And then you’re also saying, well, we’re the good guys because we’re standing on the side of the oppressed. And so then you might also ask what you’re marginalizing when you claim that you’re the good guys, because one of the things that you would be marginalizing is all of the ways in which you’re not the good guys, but we can leave that aside for a moment, too.

But there’s the claims, is that there’s the working class against the ruling class. Another claim is the ruling class is the ruling class because they exploit the working class, basically stealing their excess labor from them. Another very, very what, surfacely attractive claim that lacks any reasonable justification, you know, because it’s predicated on the idea of the world as a zero sum game. And clearly the world is not a zero sum game.

So when someone creates wealth, when someone is wealthy, it can be at least at times because they created it, not because they swiped it from someone else. I think, you know, you can think of someone like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs is a good example of that, you know, what they produced had a value that far exceeded what they garnered as a consequence of their production, even though what they garnered was very substantial.

So anyways, but we’ll get, like I said, we’re going to give the devil his due, okay, it’s the bourgeoisie against the proletariat, we’ll accept that. It’s class warfare is the primary historical mover, no problem.

Now, but here’s one I’m not willing to give away so easily. We have sympathy for the working class, primarily, and we’re good because of that. No, I’m not going to just like, give that away so simply. So let’s investigate that a little bit. Let’s see if we can actually figure out if that’s true.

We’ll say we use a pragmatic approach, because I’m a pragmatist, in the William James sense. Or maybe you could think about it even more deeply and anciently. There’s a statement in the New Testament, I think it’s: by their fruits you shall know them. Fine. So we’re going to walk down that road.

So now that’s another thing you have to keep in mind. Before we do that, I want to make one more detour, okay, so like making detours and then tangling them all back together.


So I want to give you a bit of a history of theories of suffering. And I’m going to compare the Marxist theory of suffering to the Judeo-Christian theory of suffering. And the reason I’m doing that is because I think the Judeo-Christian theory of suffering is actually one of the foundation stones of our entire culture. And so it actually matters why you think they’re suffering.

And so the story that describes the entry of suffering into the world, the mythological story is the story in Genesis, the story of Adam and Eve. And basically what happens in the story of Adam and Eve is Adam and Eve are unconscious to begin with, and they’re sort of in this paradisal state, there’s no death, or at least there’s no knowledge of death, there’s also no knowledge of self.

And then Eve eats the apple that the serpent gives her, and the scales fall from her eyes. And she gives the apple to Adam, and he eats it as well, so she makes him self-conscious. They both wake up, the first thing that happens is they realize that they’re naked, and they cover themselves up.

And the second thing that happens as a consequence of that realization is that they come to know the difference between good and evil. And I mean, that’s an insanely complicated story that’s dealing with an absolutely incomprehensible number of complex phenomena simultaneously, but it basically goes something like this: To be aware that you’re naked is to be aware of your fragility and your mortality. When you have a nightmare about being naked in front of a crowd, it means that you’re exposed to the crowd, all your flaws, all your mortal vulnerability is exposed to the crowd for them to see, for you to be ashamed of, for them to judge. That’s partly why we’re all clothed, that’s partly why clothing is a human universal. There’s many human universals, by the way, clothing is one of them, although it’s used for many different purposes.

So Adam and Eve cover themselves up, and so it’s because they’ve realized that they’re vulnerable, they’re naked and vulnerable, that’s self-consciousness. Human beings are self-conscious animals, we’re really the only self-conscious animals. Other animals have the glimmerings of self-consciousness. Some of them can identify themselves in a mirror, for example, but we have whole theories of ourselves, we have whole articulated verbal and philosophical theories of what a human being is and what we each are as individuals.

So really, those aren’t in the same conceptual universe, it’s a whole different, it’s a qualitatively different issue in the case of human beings, we’re self-conscious. Self-consciousness loads on trait neuroticism, technically speaking, which means that self-consciousness is primarily something that manifests itself in the form of negative emotion, and we all know that. You’re on stage, you get self-conscious, is that a good thing? No, you can get so self-conscious that you’re tongue-tied, right, it’s not good, you don’t want to be self-conscious on stage, or maybe ever, you get self-conscious in the face of someone you’re trying to impress, you turn all red, you stammer, it’s like self-consciousness is a rough business, it’s no wonder, because you know yourself for the fragile fool that you are.

It’s even worse than that, because, see, it took me a long time to figure out why it was that when Adam and Eve woke up, they also developed the knowledge of good and evil. I just couldn’t figure that out, it just didn’t make sense to me, how self-consciousness, the knowledge of vulnerability, and the knowledge of good and evil were tangled together, or even really what the knowledge of good and evil meant.

But I figured it out eventually, I thought, oh, I get it, I get it, it was like a real revelation to me. As soon as you know you’re vulnerable, you know the difference between good and evil, because as soon as you know you’re vulnerable, then you know everyone else is. And as soon as you know that everyone else is vulnerable, you know how to hurt them. And so that means you consciously know how to bring suffering into being. And that’s the knowledge of good and evil.

And you know that, because let’s say that you’re really good at torturing people, and there’s no doubt a number of people in the audience who are actually quite good at that. And maybe you all have a bit of an affinity for it. If you’re married, I’m sure your partner would testify to that.

So if you’re going to hurt someone, what you think essentially is, okay, what would really hurt me? And then you think, well, I’ll just do that to them, and it’s like, that’s a good theory. It’s very sophisticated.

So anyways, okay, so what happens? Adam and Eve wake up, they weren’t supposed to do this, God told them that they’re going to be sorry if they did that, but they did it anyways, because that’s what people are like. And because we always learn things that knock us out of our present paradises, right? We’re curious, and we won’t leave things alone, and maybe things are not so bad.

And then you, you know, ask some questions that maybe you’re not so happy about asking once you find the answer, and you fall out of your little paradise into history, and you got to work to set things right again. And anyways, God gets wind of this, and He chases Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden.

But He says some interesting things when He chases them out. He says, all right, now you know, what’s the consequence of that. And He says to Adam, you’re going to have to work. Now, that’s cool. That’s really cool. Well, He is God, after all, you know, so He knows what He’s talking about. He says, you’re going to have to work.

So why would you have to work now that you knew you were vulnerable? Well, the answer to that is, well, if you know you’re vulnerable, that stretches out into the future, you know, you’re going to die, you know that you’re fragile, it’s like, maybe all your problems are solved right now, you’re all sitting here, you’re safe, you’re not hungry, you don’t want anything to drink, etc.

But what about tomorrow? What about next week or next month or 10 years from now, it’s like, just because you got all your problems solved for this second doesn’t mean you got them solved for the rest of your iterations through time, you got to work. And the work is the sacrifice of the present for the future. And so that’s exactly right, you have to work.

Now you see, see, what’s interesting about that, this is the theory that I was — oh, and then, of course, God tells that Eve, well, you’ve really screwed things up too, you’re going to have these big brain babies, and, and that’s her big problem, you’re going to suffer in childbirth, and then they’re going to be dependent on you forever. And because of that, you’re going to be dependent on this man that you just woke up, and that’s not going to be very pleasant for either of you, but tough luck. And so that’s it. That’s the curse in some sense.


And that’s exactly right. But the thing is, there’s a theory in there, there’s an interesting theory of suffering that’s implicit in that story. And the theory of suffering is that suffering is built into the structure of self conscious being. It’s built right into the structure.

So if you’re a self conscious being, that’s your lot. It isn’t someone else’s fault. It isn’t a consequence of sociological oppression. It isn’t a consequence of the fact that our society isn’t organized properly. It’s just part of being. All right, so that’s a big deal, because that’s an important theory, because one of the questions is, well, you know, why is there suffering and what are you going to do about it?

And it’s a big, it’s a lot different if it’s just the way it is for you. And if it’s actually your fault that he’s suffering, those are, or maybe it’s the group’s fault that you’re suffering, those are major — those theories are really, really different.


And then in the second story in Cain and Abel, Cain makes sacrifices to try to get it in good with God and Abel makes sacrifices and the sacrifices are kind of archaic from our perspective. They’re burnt offerings. So the smoke goes up where God can detect it because He’s up there somewhere — up there where the stars are. And God rejects Cain’s sacrifices, and we don’t really know why but it kind of looks like Cain is a second raider.

And then Cain goes and complains to God and says, like, what kind of stupid universe did You make here? I’m breaking myself in half trying to get things together, making the proper sacrifices. And nothing’s going well for me. And Abel, well, everything he touches turns to gold. Everyone loves him. He’s even a really good guy. It’s like so annoying. What’s up with this place You built?

And God tells Cain, don’t be coming and telling Me that the entire fabric of reality is wrong, because it isn’t working out for you. Sin crouches at your door like a, like a sexually aroused predatory cat. That’s basically the metaphor that, that God uses. And He says, and you let it in and let it have its way with you.

And that’s really an interesting way of putting it because what God says to Cain is that, you know, you’re all bitter and resentful and really it’s no wonder because, you know, things aren’t going well for you. And then you’ve got Abel who’s overshining you in every way. And uh, but yes, your fault. This terrible thing waited at the door. You let it in and then you entered into a creative union with it and you produced something as a consequence. And that’s this tormented spirit that you have now. And it’s polluting your relationship with reality. And that’s why things aren’t working so out very well for you. So go put yourself together before you come and tell Me just exactly what’s wrong with the structure of reality.

And Cain isn’t very happy about that because really, is that really what you want to hear? It’s right. Like you have more misery than is necessary because you really didn’t put your act together and you know it. And you’ve done it creatively. And so Cain goes and kills Abel.

That’s the story of how resentment enters the world. And it’s the first story in the Judeo-Christian canon, let’s say about actual human beings because Adam and Eve were made by God. So they don’t really count, Cain and Abel were born. And so there’s a reaction to suffering, right?

The necessity of sacrifice and the consequence of the necessity of sacrifice is that some sacrifices work and others don’t. And then if your sacrifices aren’t met with the goodwill of God, let’s say, well, then that makes you angry. Well, of course it does. You can take God out of the story if you want, you’re not happy with that kind of mythological or narrative statement, but it doesn’t really matter because the whole point is that if you make sacrifices, especially at the second rate, things aren’t going to go very well for you. And you’re going to get bitter and resentful and murderous and maybe genocidal.

But it’s really interesting because Cain has descendants and if you transgress against them, they don’t just kill you, they kill seven of you. And then his later descendants kill 49 of you. There’s this exponential growth of murderousness as a consequence of Cain’s primal fratricide.

And then the next story is the flood and that’s not an accident. There’s nothing in those stories is an accident.

Okay. So now you’ve got two different theories about the nature of suffering. You’ve got the one I just laid out, it’s called The Foundational Story Of Suffering And Malevolence.

And you have the Marxist story, which is, well, there’s oppressed people and the reason they’re oppressed and suffering is because the oppressors are oppressing them. Those are not the same theories, right? And there’s a utopianism that’s implicit in Marxism, which is if you could just get the damn oppressors to stop oppressing the oppressed, then the utopia would arrive. And so not only are the oppressors responsible for the suffering of the poor, they’re also responsible for the fact that the utopia isn’t here for everyone. And so how reprehensible can you get?

Well then that certainly justifies that degree of malevolence justifies pretty much anything you’d like to do to them. So anyway, so let’s take this apart in a little more detail.


George Orwell was interested in this question. And so he wrote this book called Road to Wigan Pier, which I would highly recommend. It’s on a reading list I made. It’s on my website. You can check that out. Those are books that have been particularly influential to me.

And so Orwell was a socialist. He wrote the book for the Left Book Club, which published kind of a socialist book once a month. Orwell, by the time he wrote this book, he was already awake in the 1920s. After the Russian Revolution, no one really knew what to make of what was happening and what would become the Soviet Union, right?

I mean, it was after World War I, the planet was in ashes for all intents and purposes. The old aristocratic order was crumbling. It was a horror show. And these revolutionaries came out with these new ideas and tried to give — in principle, give the working class a break and everybody watched to see what would happen, and the honest people and the intellectuals watched and I separate them for a reason.

But by 1920, ‘21, ‘22, something like that, it was obvious already that something was rotten in the state of Denmark. Malcolm Muggeridge went over to the Soviet Union to check out how the collectivization of the farms was going and he found out it was actually pretty murderous, right? Because what the communists did was round up all the successful farmers and rape them and kill them and steal everything they had and send them off to Siberia, which turned out actually to be a pretty bad idea.

Now, you think about it, those people were serfs not very long before, a couple of generations at most, and they were so not much more than slaves and some of them had risen up to the point where they may had a nice brick house and a couple of cows and maybe a person working for them or two. And there was a small proportion of the agriculturalists in the Soviet Union that were producing most of the food. And that’s just how it goes because that’s a Pareto distribution issue. In any field where there’s human productivity, a small proportion of the people produce almost all of the output. It’s actually the square root of the number of people in the field produce half the output. So if you have 100 farmers, 10 of them produce half the food. But if you have 10,000, 100 of them produce half the food.


Okay, so what happens when you kill all the good farmers? You starve 6 million Ukrainians to death in the 1930s. That’s not something that’s all that widely known, but if you want to provide some additional fodder for your nightmares, you could go online and read about what happened to the Ukrainians in the 1930s. So that’s under the collectivization principles.

So let’s say you’re a mother and you were starving to death and so are your children and you know, the communists had come in and forcibly collectivized you and then they took all the grain that your collective farm had produced and they shipped it all to the city say, and so that’s all done and you think, okay, you know, the city’s got to eat.

So then you go out in the field to pick up the grains that the harvesters missed so that you can, you know, the ones that they’ve been lying there, they’re not so good. There’s not that many of them. You go out and glean, you pick up the seeds that weren’t picked up. So you can feed your kids so they don’t die.

And so what’s the punishment for that? Death, because you were obliged under the collectivization orders to turn in any additional grains that you happen to pick off the ground to the authorities so that they could be, well, who knows, but at least so you — so they could be shipped to the cities, I suppose, which is of course absurd because of course that would never happen, but it was mostly so that you could just actually die.

So okay, anyways, back to The Road to Wigan Pier. Now I’m going to read you a little bit about, from the book. So Orwell went out to this mining town in the Northern UK and coal miners — Orwell had sympathy for the working class. He really worked on that his whole life because he was a middle class, upper middle class, snobby type Englishman, and he knew it.

And he tried really hard to overcome that. He served in the Spanish Civil War. He wandered around as a tramp. He worked as a low end worker in restaurants in Paris and in London. He has a very good book, I think it’s called Down and Out in Paris and London that describes that. He was a seriously committed dude and really a smart guy.

And so he’s going up to these terrible towns in the Northern UK where the coal miners worked and had their families and, you know, they had hard lives. They had hard lives. And that’s just saying nothing. You know, the coal miners that he met, they didn’t have any teeth by the time they were 30. The women he talked to, he said, teeth are just a misery. It’s better to get rid of them as soon as you can.

And the men went and mined coal and that was rough. You know, they all have black lung by the time they were 40 and they were done fundamentally. But here’s just a bit of a story about how hard their lives were. So they had to go in the mines during the day, so they never saw the day, so that’s one thing.

They had to go to the mines and then they had to like knock coal off the walls. That’s hard with hammers and picks and all of that. And they had to move it. But that was their job. But there was the commute.

So here was the commute. So imagine that the typical tunnel was about that high, something like that. And the typical coal miner was about that high. That’s a problem, eh, because you’ve got to walk through those tunnels to get to work. So you have to walk like this. Then the question might be, well, how far do you have to walk to work? And the answer is three and a half miles. And that’s how far you have to walk back from work after you put your eight-hour shift in at the coal mine. You don’t get paid for the commute.

And so Orwell said that was more or less like climbing a small mountain in the morning before you went to work and then climbing another one at night before you went home. And so that was just, I mean, believe me, I’m telling you very little about how tough their lives were. But that gives you a little flavor. Actually, one day like that for a modern person, you’re just, you’re dead. Or you wish you were dead anyways.

And so Orwell talks about going up there to stay in terrible places he lived in while he was up there and the terrible food he ate and the miserable, wretched scenes that he saw. And here’s one of the miserable, wretched scenes. He’s on a train through the neighborhoods. He says:

‘The train bore me away through the monster scenery of slag heaps, chimneys, piled scrap iron, foul canals, paths of cindery mud crisscrossed by the prints of clogs. This was March. But the weather had been horribly cold and everywhere. There were mounds of blackened snow. As we move slowly through the outskirts of the town, we passed row after row of little gray slum houses running at right angles to the embankment. At the back of one of the houses, a young woman was kneeling on the stones, poking a stick up the leaden waste pipe, which ran from the sink inside and which I suppose was blocked.

I had time to see everything about her. Her sack apron, her clumsy clogs, her arms reddened by the cold. She looked up as the train passed, and I was almost near enough to catch her eye. She had a round, pale face, the usual exhausted face of the slum girl who’s 25 and looks 40 thanks to miscarriages and drudgery, and at war for the second in which I saw it, the most desolate, hopeless expression I’ve ever seen. It struck me then that we, meaning the middle class at that time, are mistaken when we say that it isn’t the same for them as it would be for us, and that people bred in the slums can imagine nothing but the slums. For what I saw in her face was by no means the ignorant suffering of an animal. She knew well enough what was happening to her, understood as well as I did how dreadful a destiny it was to be kneeling there in the bitter cold on the slimy stones of a slum backyard poking a stick up a foul drainpipe.’

All right, so Orwell writes the first part of the book, and it details the lives of these people. And then he makes an argument. He says, like, how can you read about this? How can you know about this without having some sympathy for redistribution schemes and socialist ideas? And so he’s actually asking himself this question. It’s not just a rhetorical question. I mean, he’s a serious guy, right?

He goes up there and he tells you a story that you have to have a heart of stone if you read that and you don’t think, man, something should be done about this. It’s really awful. So he set up this situation where your sympathies are completely with the people that he’s describing.

But socialism wasn’t all that popular in Britain at that time. And so, and socialists weren’t all that popular with Orwell. He didn’t really like them that much. And he was trying to figure out why that was. So this is what he wrote in the second part of the book. Now this got him in a lot of trouble. They didn’t want to publish his damn book after he wrote the second part. But he fought with them and he got it published and it’s a classic and people still read it and you should read it because it’s a great book and Orwell’s a great writer.

And Orwell is another one of those people, intellectuals, who woke up pretty early. You know, Orwell wrote Animal Farm and 1984. He wrote 1984 in 1948, wrote Animal Farm approximately around the same time. He knew what was happening under Stalin and he wasn’t afraid to say it.

But it was a message that in some sense fell on deaf ears, especially among the intelligentsia. And there’s complicated reasons for that. But it wasn’t like the facts weren’t there for people to see them if they wanted to. And as already said, Malcolm Muggeridge had made it pretty clear in the 1920s. And that was widely publicized, by the way, throughout the UK, what was happening during dekulakization, the kulaks being the farmers that I talked about earlier who had committed the unspeakable sin of crawling out of their serf status over a couple of generations to the point where they weren’t mere property and half-starved.

So this is what Orwell had to say about socialists: It might be said, however, that even if the theoretical, oriented, book-trained socialist is not a working man himself, at least he is actuated by a love of the working class. He’s endeavoring to shed his bourgeois status and fight on the side of the proletariat. Obviously that must be his motive. But is it?

Sometimes I look at a socialist, the intellectual tract-writing type of socialist, with his pullover, his fuzzy hair, and his Marxist quotation, and wonder what the devil his motive really is. It’s really difficult to believe that it’s a love of anybody, especially of the working class, from whom he is of all people the furthest removed.

The truth is that to many people calling them socialists, revolution does not mean a movement of the masses with which they hope to associate themselves, it means instead a set of reforms which we, the clever ones, are going to impose upon them the lower orders. On the other hand, it would be a mistake to regard the book-trained socialist as a bloodless creature entirely incapable of emotion.

Though seldom giving much evidence of affection for the exploited, he is perfectly capable of displaying hatred, sort of queer, theoretical, in vacuo hatred against the exploiters, hence the grand old socialist sport of denouncing the bourgeoisie. It is strange how easily almost any socialist writer can lash himself into frenzies of rage against the class to which, by birth or by adoption, he himself almost invariably belongs.

Now I worked for the NDP when I was a kid, and I had privileged access to the leadership for provincially and federally for reasons that I won’t go into, and I thought that many of them were honourable people who were really striving to give the working class a voice, and I believe that the working class needs a voice, a political voice, for obvious reasons.

I think the Democrats in the United States have made an absolutely dreadful, abysmal mistake replacing their working class political ethos with identity politics. We’re going to talk about that. And I don’t think the situation has changed that much. I think one of the things that’s happened in the United States is that world stability and peace in some ways has been purchased at the expense of North American working class well-being.

Because the Chinese have got rich compared to 30 years ago, 40 years ago, 50 years ago. The Indians have got rich, again, same comparison basis, there’s more middle class people in India now than there are in the United States. The trade arrangements that have been in North America allowed for the rise of middle classes globally at the same time they opened up the working class in North America to competition from those low-wage sources.

And maybe that’s a good deal, it’s hard to say, right, because it’s not such a bad thing that the Chinese aren’t starving, and it’s not such a bad thing that the Indians aren’t starving, and that those societies are transforming themselves actually into communities that are quite wealthy. It’s like, hooray for that. It’s an absolutely miraculous transformation. It’s the most rapid growth of human wealth in the history of humanity.

So we should be pretty happy about that. But we should also remember, at least to some degree, who’s paid the price for it. And so, as far as I’m concerned, the working class needs a voice. And it isn’t obvious that they have one at the moment.

Having said that, however, it isn’t obvious to me at all that the people who purport to stand for the working class actually do so, or that if they do so, that the reason they do so is because they’re all compassionate and sympathetic and loving and kind and saint-like. I’m more convinced by Orwell’s argument.

So back to the NDP. The people I met at the leadership level, a lot of them I had a fair bit of admiration for, but as I worked with the party over about a five-year period, there was this contradiction that kept emerging for me, and that was that I didn’t really like the low-level party functionary activist types. Like, they just weren’t personally appealing to me. They seemed peevish and resentful.

And then, at the same time I was going to college, I was about 17, I got elected to sit on the College Board of Governors, and at that time, Alberta was conservative, politically. It still is, of course, but it was part of the progressive conservative empire, because they ruled Alberta forever. And all the Board of Governor members were basically nominees, they were conservative nominees. They were conservative people, and I was an NDP member, and I thought, and I’d worked for small businessmen, too, who weren’t NDP, they were conservative, I could never figure that out, but I’ll tell you about that in a minute.

But I had a bad case of cognitive dissonance, because it actually turned out that I admired the people on the Board of Governors. And they were mostly, it was in Grand Prairie, it’s not a very big place, and it’s not very old, and so if you were reasonably successful in Grand Prairie, the probability that you had inherited your money from the aristocracy was like zero, because there wasn’t one, right? The whole damn town was 50 years old.

So if you had any influence or wealth, you were a small businessman, small to middle-sized businessman, and you knew what you were doing. And I actually admired these people. And I thought, well, that’s not very good, I admire them, and I don’t share their political views, and then there’s these other people with whom I hypothetically share political views, and I don’t admire them at all. What’s going on?

And then I read Road to Wigan Pier, and I thought, oh, that’s it. They don’t like the poor, they just hate the rich. It’s not the same thing. It’s not the same set of motivations. And so let’s say that you’re a postmodernist, and you privilege compassion for the oppressed. I think, well, what do you push to the margins?

Well, what are you doing with all your hatred and your resentment? And your evil? It’s like, you don’t have any of that? That’s a bad theory. That’s a really bad theory. Okay, so fine. So you can say, well, yeah, you can say that, but I don’t buy it. I still think that the people who stand to speak for the oppressed are in fact motivated by empathy and sympathy. Their hearts are in the right place.

See, I don’t really buy that either, because I don’t really think, generally speaking, that it’s a credible claim for someone to make that their heart is in the right place. Now you can ask that of yourself, and if you think your heart is in the right place, well, more power to you. You know, I can’t see the halo from here, however.

And so given that you’re just as malevolent as your neighbor, or maybe even more so, and that that’s actually pretty malevolent, given the intrinsic nature of human beings, I can’t help but wonder what you’re doing with all those traits that you’re not admitting to. But you can even object, well, you know, that’s a pretty pessimistic view of humankind. It’s not, by the way. It’s just not naive.

But anyways, you could object that, and you could say, no, actually, the weight of moral authority is in fact on the left, even the radical left, with those who identify with the oppressed, and who are working to better their conditions.

Okay, fair enough. So then let’s say, well, let’s give those people some power. And if they’re actually motivated by compassion and empathy and desire for the working class, if you give them power, and you give their ideas power, then as those ideas unfold in real time, you’re going to find out, like, do things get better for the working class, let’s say, or do they get worse? Because we could consider that like an experiment, we could consider the outcome proof.

I don’t know what else you would do, I don’t know how else you would, you would come to your decision, because it’s just theory till you see it happen. Now Nietzsche said back in the late 1800s, that after he said that God was dead, and I suppose that would also mean the theory of suffering that I outlined at the beginning that is at the basis of Judeo-Christian civilization, that God was dead and that people had killed Him and that we’d never find enough water to wash away the blood. It’s a paraphrase, but I’ve got the basic message right.

And he also said, there’ll be two consequences of that: nihilism, because there’s no transcendent meaning and a move to totalitarianism because people can’t tolerate nihilism. He said the most likely pathway to totalitarianism would be communism, essentially, he didn’t quite use those words, but he meant that, the words are close enough. He said socialism, but I’m going to use communism to distinguish it from democratic socialism.

And he said that probably tens of millions of people would die in the 20th century as we played out that experiment. And then he said, but it might be worth it if we learn something from it. Rough, man, I mean, and unbelievable, like, I cannot figure out how in the world he knew that that was going to happen, especially so far in advance.

But Dostoevsky knew the same thing. He wrote this book called The Devils or The Possessed. You could read that. That’s a great book, takes about 150 pages to get going. But like everything, everything snaps together after that, you know, and then it moves. And it’s basically his prophecy about — it’s an examination of the kind of person who had arisen in the aftermath of the death of God in Russia, who would lead the communist revolution. That’s essentially it. It’s brilliant. It’s terrifying. And it’s a great intro to Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, which describes what did happen when those sort of people took over the revolution.

So let’s look at what happened after the revolution. And we might say, well, this, how about we replicate the experiment a few times, because you know how it is, if you’re running a scientific experiment, you want to find out what something does if you allow it to behave, you don’t want to just run it once because, well, maybe there was something specific about those conditions that led to the outcome. You want to generalize it across multiple circumstances.

So we might say, well, let’s take this set of ideas. And let’s run it on large scale over a very long period of time in a variety of exceptionally diverse cultures and languages. So let’s do that.

Okay, well, we could first start with the Soviets. People even now — because it’s like the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, are celebrating Lenin. It’s like, that’s not good. That’s like celebrating Hitler. Okay, I’m dead serious about that. It’s not good. And the fact that people can dare to think that that’s okay means that there’s something wrong with the way that we look at history. Lenin was a monster. And if you want to know about that, you can read Solzhenitsyn’s writings about Lenin, because communist apologists say, well, it wasn’t Lenin, Lenin was a good guy. He was all motivated by love of the working class. It’s like, well, his henchman was Stalin.

And if your henchman is Stalin, you’re not a good guy. And Lenin was around during the early collectivization. And if you read what he wrote, you’ll find out that he is perfectly willing to have any number of people die as long as his ideological system could be brought into being. So there’s no celebrating Lenin. There’s no, we’re cool, young, Marxist, hip revolutionaries, and he’s our idol. It’s like, there’s none of that. Not if you know anything. Not if you’re decent.

Well, there was the death of the kulaks, I told you about that, there was the Ukrainian famine, that’s six million gone there, there was the rise of the Gulag state, because it turned out that Russia, the Soviet Union couldn’t run on the principles that it had laid down as sacrosanct. They just didn’t work. So you had to enslave everybody and run your economy as a slave state, essentially, and try not to kill the people in the gulags so fast that you can’t suck some productive labor out of them. There’s the death of tens of millions of people. We don’t even know. The estimates range from 15 to 60 million.

And like, we won’t get too picky about the numbers, because after the first 10 million, you kind of made your point. The fact that we don’t know between 15 and 60 million is actually an indication of the horror of it, because our count is off by tens of millions. And that’s only within the last century.

And then there was the 1956 crackdown on Hungary, and the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. Then there was the whole, like, thermonuclear holocaust thing that was going on at the same time and the fact that in 1962 and in 1984, we were seconds away from complete annihilation, right, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The keys were in the intercontinental ballistic missile release systems. And Castro, as he admitted to Jimmy Carter, in case any of you are Castro fans, which you shouldn’t be, that he was perfectly willing to have Cuba annihilated if it would have meant the defeat of the United States.

And then in 1984, approximately, I may have the date exactly wrong, the Russians received an indication from their early warning systems that the Americans had launched five thermonuclear missiles. And one Russian decided that it was a mistake and refused to launch the retaliation. And he just died about two weeks ago. So you know, that was pretty close.

And so that was experiment number one, let’s say that that wasn’t good, that experiment. Let’s put it that way. It wasn’t good. It was exactly the antithesis of good. It was precisely the antithesis of good. But that wasn’t all. I mean, there’s the People’s Republic of China, that’s a different country, like seriously a different country, right, different tradition, different language.

How many people died in China under Mao? No one knows. Same issue with the Soviet Union, although Mao was a bigger monster than Stalin. And that’s impressive, you know, because there’s Hitler, there’s Stalin, and there’s Mao. And of the three, Mao was probably the worst. He’s still revered in China. Maybe that accounts for their affinity for North Korea, which could still destroy us all, the remnants of that horrible state. Maybe 100 million people died in China during the Great Leap Forward. That’s a hell of a leap forward.

Well, maybe it wasn’t 100 million, you know, maybe it was only 40 million. But as I said before, when you’re counting in the tens of millions, your point’s already made, and then there was Cambodia and the Killing Fields, and Bulgaria and East Germany and Romania and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, that’s North Korea, and Vietnam and Ethiopia, Hungary, etc, etc, etc. It was never a successful communist state.

Cuba, I suppose, came closest, but it was radically, the Soviets poured money into Cuba, so that doesn’t really count. So then the first question was, well, are these Marxists motivated by love or hatred? Well, is it love or hatred that produces 100 million dead people? Is that enough evidence or not? And if it’s not enough evidence, if you think to yourself, well, that’s not enough evidence, it was never really given its proper, a proper try.

It’s like, well, what would have been a proper try? See, I always think when I hear someone say that, I know what you think. You think in your delusional arrogance, that you understand the Marxist doctrines better than anyone else ever has, and that if you were the one implementing those doctrines, you would have ushered in the utopia. That’s what you mean when you say that.

And you know, there’s an idea in the New Testament that there’s a sin — it’s the sin against the Holy Ghost. If you commit that sin, no one really knows what it is, that you can’t be forgiven. And I would say, well, if you want a candidate for the sin against the Holy Ghost in the 21st century, the statement, communism — real communism was never tried with the underlying idea that if you had been the person implementing it, it would have worked. I think that’s a pretty good contender for something for which you should never be forgiven.

All right, so that’s Marxism.


So let’s go on to postmodernism. We talked a little bit about it. Now, hypothetically, it’s an attitude of skepticism, irony towards rejection of grand narratives, ideologies, and universalism, criticizes objective notions of reason, human nature, social progress, absolute truth, and objective reality. It’s predicated on the idea that the reason that you categorize is to marginalize. You categorize to marginalize to obtain power. Power is pretty much all there is.

There’s other elements of postmodernism. One of them is that human nature is merely a social construct. See, the reason for that, as far as I’m concerned, and this is a postmodern critique as well, I’m going to move the center to the margin and the margin to the centers.

Why would you think that human nature is only a social construct? Well, here’s why. It’s because that means you could construct it any way you want to. That was a very common idea among the communists. That’s why Mao wanted to wipe out Chinese history. That’s why the Red Guard went around in China and tried to destroy everything, every element of China’s history prior to approximately 1960, that great culture, thousands and thousands of years old.

Well, so you could bring in the new man. But what is the new man? Well, it was whatever slave Mao happened to fantasize about, or it was the utopian person. You take your pick, but like I said, if you take a look at the corpses, you can pretty much figure out which of those two it was.

So what’s up with these people, these deconstructionists, these postmodernists, what are they up to exactly?

Well, here’s the first thing. They came about pretty much when Marxism was no longer credible, no longer tenable as a set of intellectual propositions.

Now if you were a French intellectual, you had to have a lot of corpses piled at your feet before you were willing to think that you were wrong. So here’s an example, I don’t remember his name, he was the architect of the killing fields in Cambodia. It wasn’t Pol Pot, it was one of his advisors, unfortunately I can’t remember his name. He took his PhD at the Sorbonne and he developed a thesis in the Sorbonne, a Marxist thesis that the cities were parasites on the land. You know, it’s an extension of the whole bourgeois, the proletariat thing, the cities were full of bourgeois types, educated parasites essentially who were doing nothing but stealing what was rightly the farmers’.

So when he came back to Cambodia, he put that into action and emptied out the cities and put all the intellectuals and the city dwellers either to death or to work, which generally resulted in death, and killed about one sixth to one quarter of the population. But he got his PhD from the Sorbonne, and that’s a good story because that’s exactly how complicit the Western leftist intellectuals were in facilitating the horrors of the 20th century and it’s not like we’ve learned anything since then. Quite the contrary, we’ve just gone underground and that’s what I see when I see postmodernism.

So what happened was, despite the affinity of Western intellectuals for Marxism, maybe because they weren’t paid as much as bankers, let’s say, if we’re being cynical about it, because I’ve often thought that if you paid sociologists as much as investment bankers, they’d be capitalists very rapidly, well, which is also to say that you may underpay intellectuals at your peril.

And you know, that’s actually dangerous because one of the things that’s happening is that as the universities have become corporatized and corrupted in a variety of ways, more and more of the professors are adjuncts, right, I think it’s up to 30, 40, 50%, something like that now, they’ve got no tenure, they’ve got no job security, and they’re paid like $24,000 a year. It’s not a good idea to radicalize the people that are teaching your children, but anyways.

By the end of the 60s, so much data on the catastrophic failures of communism had accrued that even the most intransigent of French intellectuals had to admit that the jig was up. But that’s a problem, because that’s the whole ideology, right? That’s the whole raison d’etre, he says in his terrible Alberta French, you’re going to just give that up? What are you going to do after that?


Well, what happened was Postmodernism was invented. And so it’s a sleight of hand, as far as I can tell, and with postmodernism identity politics.

And so the postmodern transformation is, well, we’re a little wrong with the working class thing. It turns out that communists kill them all and capitalists make them all rich. And that’s actually exactly the opposite of what we predicted. But maybe there’s still a way this could be salvaged.

How about if we — we don’t say working class capitalists, we say oppressor oppressed? Well just, we’ll just transform the terminology a bit. And we’ll start thinking about all the other ways that people are oppressed, and then, and all the other ways that people are oppressors, and then we can play the same damn game under a new guise.

And now look, the postmodernists were Marxists, so let’s make no mistake about that. Derrida himself said that postmodernism was a transformation of Marxism. I’m not making this up.

The question is why? Well, because you could say, well, postmodernism is a valid philosophical school, and we’ll get into that for a minute, and they make some valid claims. One of them, for example, this is a central postmodernist claim, is that there’s an infinite number of ways of interpreting the world. And that actually turns out to be technically correct.

Part of the reason that we’ve had a very difficult time building robots, AI robots, that can operate in the real world is because perceiving the real world turns out to be so difficult that we really can’t figure out how human beings do it, because it is susceptible to an infinite number of interpretations. That’s actually correct.

Now I’m not going to give the postmodernists a tremendous amount of credit for discovering that, because it was discovered simultaneously in about five disciplines at pretty much the same time. But you give the devil his due.

So what’s the logic? It’s something like, well, there’s an infinite number of interpretations of the world. You can’t tell which of those are canonically correct. The basic narrative of human struggle is oppressor versus oppressed. We use category structures to constrain that infinite number of interpretations, because the basic narrative is oppressor versus oppressed, we choose those narratives that serve our function as oppressors. So it’s deeply cynical, but credible.

You can say, if you’re not naive, that people are motivated by power, and that our interpretations of the world can be self-serving. I mean, we do want to serve ourselves after all, because otherwise we die. And we are centered in one place, and so we can’t see everything, and we’re biased. So there is the probability that the way that we look at the world will be tainted by narrow self-interest, and maybe even tainted by in-group interests beyond narrow individual self-interest. We know this is true, but it’s also not all bad.

Like a good person takes care of his or her family. What does that mean? It means you prefer your family to outsiders. Are you going to get rid of that? It’s a form of prejudice, like it really is, like your choice of sexual partner is a form of prejudice. I mean, maybe it should be distributed in an egalitarian manner. That would be a lot funnier if it isn’t a possibility.

Like in Huxley’s Brave New World, that was the rule. You shared yourself with whoever asked, because it was rude not to. And you know what? It is actually rude not to. It’s seriously rude. Now, is that something you want to take away from people? You want that to be distributed in an egalitarian fashion? How prejudiced are you when you choose someone to sleep with? You choose that person and not everyone else. It’s the ultimate in prejudice.

You say, well, that’s not prejudicial. Oh, yes, it is. Usually go for the most attractive partner you can find. Usually go for the healthiest partner. You go for the best person you can find who can tolerate you. It’s prejudicial in every possible way.

So, well, so, okay, so you’re self-serving and you construct a view of the world that serves those self-serving causes, and some of that has to do with power. Fair enough. That doesn’t mean it all has to do with power, though. It means that some of it has to do with power. It’s like racism. People are kind of racist, or maybe people prefer their in-group. It’s not that easy. Or maybe people prefer the familiar to the novel, you know, that IAT that the social psychologists have come up with, Implicit Association Test, that measures unconscious bias. We don’t know what the hell that measures. The people who invented that bloody thing, they know we don’t know what it measures. They know it’s not reliable. They know it’s not valid enough to be used as an individual diagnostic instrument. That’s technically the case.

They also know that you can’t train people out of their unconscious biases because there is not much difference between unconscious bias and instantaneous perception. But they don’t really care. I’ve written to Mahzarin Banaji, who’s one of the inventors of the IAT, several times saying, how about you come out in public and say what you already know, which is that people are misusing your damn test. Silence. Well, that’s partly because her discipline, social psychology, is a corrupt discipline, as the social psychologists have discovered over the last four years, and be turning themselves inside out trying to rectify, which they haven’t.

Anyways, we’re giving the devil his due. There’s an infinite number of interpretations of the world, and it’s highly probable that you’ll lay a self-serving one on top of it. Yes, and also that’ll serve the interests of your group, however you define that. Yes, but it only accounts for a fraction of your behavior. There’s all sorts of other things that work as well. You don’t get to reduce all human motivations to one motivation: power.

And then you might also ask, well, why would you want to reduce all human motivations to power? It’s so you can use power. That’s why. You can justify the use of power. That’s force. You don’t have to engage in civilized debate. You don’t have to give a damn about the facts, especially if you’re not a postmodernist because you don’t believe in facts anyways.

And you might ask, well, why don’t you … Hey, I’m not kidding. I’m not kidding. Postmodernists don’t believe in facts. They believe that the idea of fact is part of the power game that’s played by the white-dominated male patriarchy to impose the tyrannical structure of the patriarchy on the oppressors. It’s like, I’m not making this stuff up. It’s embedded right in the theory. All you have to do is read it and you find this out. So they don’t believe in facts. Well, facts would constrain the use of power, at least that’s how it looks to me.

Okay, so fine. We gave the devil his due. There’s an infinite number of interpretations. And you’re likely to use biased compression algorithms on the world. And they’re likely to be biased in your favor… true, but only partly true.

And the difference between an ideologue and a thinker is that a thinker knows the difference between things that are only partly true and things that are completely true. Things are complicated. Like, I like to think everything is as complicated as a military helicopter. You have to … I think it’s eight hours of maintenance to keep those things in the air for one hour because they don’t fly. They’re rocks. They plummet. It’s really hard to keep them in the air. And they’re full of parts. And if you don’t know all those parts, you don’t go in there and monkey about with them because you just wreck it. And that’s just a helicopter.

Like, everything is way more complicated than a helicopter, so you don’t just go muck about in there hoping you’re going to make it better. That isn’t how it works. You need to be competent.

All right, so look. Here’s where the postmodernists are wrong. I think there’s three places, and there’s serious errors. The first is that there is an infinite number of interpretations, but there is not an infinite number of viable interpretations. There’s a very finite number of viable interpretations. And I don’t think that this is theory. I think that game theorists have already demonstrated this to some degree. And it’s going to be built into AI systems very rapidly.

Okay, so WHAT ARE THE CONSTRAINTS? Okay, first of all, you can’t have an interpretation that leads immediately to your death or your dead. Now, if you want to be dead, that’s fine. But if you don’t want to be, then you’ve got a lot of limited options, right? You don’t get to run naked across an eight-lane freeway at night blindfolded because probably you’ll be dead. That’s a bad interpretation.

Okay, so you might say because you’re fragile and vulnerable and mortal, that there’s a limited number of ways that you can look at the world that don’t result in, let’s say, death or serious damage or agony. That’s a bad thing. Agony is a bad thing. Most people agreed on that. So you’re constrained by pain and anxiety. At least your interpretations are constrained by pain and anxiety.

And you know, you can make pain worse or better by thinking about it to some degree, but only to some degree. When push comes to shove, pain is your master. Okay, so that’s a big constraint. That’s a big, big constraint.

Well, but the constraints are worse than that because not only do you not get to have an interpretation of the world that produces anxiety and suffering right now, but you don’t get to have an interpretation of the world that if you iterated across time produces pain and suffering. And so that’s a big problem because there’s lots of, you could go out tonight and get yourself blind drunk on cocaine and sleep with six hookers. And you know, maybe that, maybe that’d be a good night. You know, you might not think about it being so good tomorrow, but then maybe you’re dead of AIDS in a year or maybe you’re addicted to cocaine or maybe you’re a street alcoholic or whatever. It’s like as an iterable game, that’s a downhill.

And the thing is you play iterated games. You don’t play one. You play iterated games. And so your interpretation of the world has to be one that will sustain multiple iterations across time because you have to worry about 40 year old you and 60 year old you. And that’s a big problem. That’s a lot of you’s stretched over a long period of time. And it’s worse than that because it’s not just you, it’s like you and your family, right?

And so not only do you have to take care of yourself now in a manner that allows you to take care of yourself when you’re 40, you have to take care of yourself now in a manner that takes care of you when you’re 40 so that other people are happy to have you around now and continually so that they’ll cooperate and compete with you in a positive way. And so that’s getting ridiculously complicated. It’s not just you now and you in the future, it’s you surrounded by other people doing the same thing now and in the future. And there’s a lot of other people. It can’t even just be you and your family, you know, like, like the psychopathic burglar mob. That’s just not going to go so well, right? Other people are going to object and the world’s going to object.

And so fine, there’s an infinite number of interpretations. That doesn’t mean there’s an infinite number of viable interpretations. In fact, there are hardly any, there are hardly any playable games.

Now Piaget, Jean Piaget, the developmental psychologist is a very smart guy. He pointed out something very interesting. He said, imagine you ran a set of iterated games as a competition. And in one iterated game, the rule was you bloody well do what I tell you to. And the other one is, well, we’ll all get together and decide how we’re going to do this. Okay, now we run the competition.

Piaget’s claim is you do what I tell you fails. And the reason for that is I have to impose force in order to keep you cooperating. And the imposition of force is a cost. It’s an efficiency cost. And across time, that efficiency cost is going to multiply. And the equilibrated state solution, which is the one where we all agree, it wins. Now that’s worth thinking about.

You think and think about that locally. So you’re trying to organize your family. You have a little family conference about who’s doing what in the household. And if you want peace and harmony and an iterated game, you get everybody to say, well, here’s the tasks. And they have to be done. People have to agree on that. And then you say, well, which task would you do? You have to do some. How about you? And you know, which task would you do? And everybody agrees.

And then you say, well, unless you can come up with a better solution, that’s the one we’re going to go with. And then people can be a little resentful and angry about the conditions of existence, where they have to work, but they can’t really blame that on anyone else. And maybe that’s the best solution you can come up with. And that was Piaget’s idea of the equilibrated state.

It was like, it’s a voluntary agreement that can be iterated across time, that works at multiple levels of social organization. Man, that’s a serious, serious, serious set of constraints. And Piaget, by the way, was looking for a way to reconcile science and religion. He was looking for a biological origin to morality. And he thought he found it in the idea of the equilibrated state, and it’s even deeper than that.

Imagine if the equilibrated state idea is actually, there’s something to it, that if you set the state up properly, it will iterate across time so long that it becomes a permanent part of the environment. Hierarchies exactly. That’s exactly what a hierarchy is. Hierarchies are 350 million years old. They’re not the patriarchal invention of white European Christian males in the last 300 years. They’re 350 million years old. They’re stable solutions to this iterated game problem. And they’ve been around so long that we’re actually adapted to them. And that’s part of the reason we have archetypal representations of the social structure.

And we also have archetypal representations of the relationship of the individual to the social structure. Your job as an individual in relationship to the social structure is to embody the social structure, but also to serve as its eyes and its mouth so that it can update itself when necessary.

So you take on the mantle of your father, let’s say, but he’s dead. He’s the past. He can’t see. You can see. So you take the structure that’s already there and you modify it where it’s necessary. And that modification process is necessary, or the state becomes too static and collapses. And that’s why the state has to be subordinate to the individual. And that’s what Western culture has discovered. And we can’t just let it go. That’s the idea of the logos. That’s a big idea.

And you want to live somewhere where the individual is subordinate to the state. It’s like, hey, go right ahead. There’s lots of places like that, man. Emigrate. Go there. 90% of the world’s countries are like that. If you want to live like that, man, go find out what it’s like. You don’t see immigration going there. That’s for sure. Okay, so that’s a big mistake that the postmodernists made. It’s not trivial. That’s a big mistake. But it’s not the only one.

Well, here’s another one. They don’t like inequality. Well, who does? I’m against poverty. You know, that’s like classic protest sign. It’s like, really? Like I’m against torture. It’s like, it’s so obvious. You don’t get any brownie points for being against poverty. No one in their right mind is for poverty.

You know, you ever watch the Simpsons? You ever see the Republican Party in The Simpsons? They all meet in an old haunted castle at night with like lightning bolts going off and there’s a vampire and a crazy Texan. Even the Simpson Republicans don’t sit around in the haunted tower at midnight saying, hey, we need more poverty.

Here’s an interesting thing. So one of the postmodernist claims is that diversity is necessary. And they make it racial and they make it sexual, they may get ethnic and all of that. That’s actually technically incorrect, by the way, because I study individual differences. So those are the differences between people.

And I know the literature. So you know about James Damore’s memo, right, from Google. He wrote that part because he was watching my videos, which is why he wanted me to interview him. And I’m a believer that there are biological differences in temperament between men and women, apart from the other obvious differences, and that they’re actually not trivial. And that they maximize in the societies that have moved farthest to producing egalitarian states, the Scandinavian countries.

And that the reason for that is that there’s two reasons why men and women differ in temperament. One is biological and the other is environmental. And if you remove the environmental variation, which you do if you make the state egalitarian, you maximize the genetic variation. And that’s been demonstrated in the scientific literature over about four decades. And no one wanted it or hoped for it. And they weren’t biased in looking for it, because that was exactly the opposite of what social scientists wanted to find, because social scientists lean heavily to the left.

And what they wanted to find was, you flatten out the state so that everyone has equal opportunity, and the differences between people disappear. That is not what happened. The opposite happened. That was wrong. And no one was happy about it. And no one’s happy about it now. You can actually tell when you’ve discovered something in the social science, because you’re not happy about it.


But if you take, let’s say, there’s a big difference between men and women in terms of trait agreeableness: compassion and politeness. On average, women are more agreeable than men. And the difference is approximately this. If you take random pairs of men and women out of the population, let’s say you had to make a bet on who was more agreeable.

If you bet that it was the woman, you’d be right 60% of the time. Well, that’s not that much. Means you’d be wrong 40% of the time. That’s almost 50% of the time. So this is a big difference by social science standards. But that’s the magnitude of the difference. There are some differences that are bigger, like the difference between men and women’s interest in people versus things is actually bigger than that. That’s the biggest difference we know.

But it’s a big difference, let’s say, the agreeableness difference. But still, the shared attributes of men and women far outweigh the attributes that differentiate them. Because you could ask, are there more differences within groups or between them? Now, the postmodern answer to that is between them. That’s why you need diversity by group, right? That’s why you need different races. That’s why you need different ethnicities and sexual preferences and all of that. Well, that’s wrong.

There’s more difference within the groups than there is between them. You don’t get diversity by crossing the groups, you get diversity by selecting across individuals. In fact, the idea that there is more differences between groups than there is between individuals is actually the fundamental racist idea. It’s the fundamental racist idea, which is, well, let’s say you’re Asian — Oriental to use the old word to discriminate the one type of Asian say from the other. You’re so different from me that there’s no overlap between our groups. And you’re also so different. And there’s so little difference within your group, that now that I know that you’re not me, you’re not one of mine, I actually know what you’re like.

No, technically, that’s incorrect. That’s wrong. That isn’t how you get diversity.

Now diversity is actually necessary because people differ in intelligence and they differ in temperament and they differ in skills. And so you actually need diversity, because otherwise you can’t take advantage of all those differences. So you need diversity, but you need genuine diversity.

And like, what would genuine diversity mean? If you’re trying to put together a work team, you want enough, you want people of sufficient diversity, so that you gather together the appropriate talents to produce the implement that’s necessary to work properly in the world. That’s a competence marker, because otherwise your business is going to fail.

And so the proper diversity with regards to employment is the diversity that meets the requirements of the business, essentially, obviously. That’s why you try to hire people carefully and not randomly, let’s say.

Third error. First error is there’s only a finite number of valid interpretations. Third error is that there are real differences between groups of people, but there’s more difference within the groups than between them. Third difference is social status and payment, especially in a free democratic capitalist society is based more on competence than on power.

In fact, we would say that when a person in a hierarchy starts to act like their position entitles them to power, then that hierarchy has become corrupt. Harvey Weinstein is a good example of that. I’m serious. It’s like he acts acted like a tyrant. What happened to him? It’s not good. Not good for him. What he did was not good.

But it’s an indication. It’s revealed. It’s an indication that that misuse — So he’s competent. Fine. We have position because we need people who are competent, but that doesn’t mean you get to turn into a tyrant. If you turn into a tyrant, then that overshadows your competence and out you go. That’s the definition of a functioning state and our state essentially functions. It’s not perfect. That’s for sure.

But compared to what? That’s the issue. Compared to your hypothetical Marxist utopia. Well, compared to your hypothetical Marxist utopia, I mean, we’re living in Auschwitz, but your actual Marxist utopia is indistinguishable from Auschwitz. So we’re not listening to that comparison.

We’re going to take a look at what we have and we’re going to compare it to other places that actually existed in time and geographically. And by those criteria, it’s like, is there another time you’d rather live? Another place you’d rather live? I mean, a real place in a real time. I mean, you want to live back in 1895, even in the Western world where the average person lived on less than a dollar a day in today’s money. You want to live like those coal miners? Like the answer to that? No. If you have any sense, you should have some gratitude.

That’s another problem with the postmodern neo-Marxists like zero, zero, zero gratitude. It’s all, Oh my God, I’m oppressed. Of course you’re oppressed, but you’re not oppressed by the patriarchy for God’s sake. So you have status in a hierarchy. You might say, well, that’s like a reward to your, your high status person. It’s a reward. The reward should be shared equally. It’s like a badge of merit that you get. It’s a privilege. It’s not.

The reason that in a capitalist society, filthy, selfish capitalists put you in the position so they can extract maximum productivity from you. And that’s exactly why you’re there. You get paid. You get paid so you keep working. Why do we want you to work? Because your work is actually valuable to us. And so we’re going to pay you. So you don’t quit. It’s not a reward because you’re a good guy. It’s not a privilege. That’s not what it is. You don’t handle things out like merit badges. That’s not how it works.

The society is set up on selfish principles. We pay people who are competent, so they won’t stop striving because we want what they can produce. So you don’t just distribute that like, like it’s a gift. It’s not a gift. It’s not a gift at all. So that’s another place where they’re wrong.

Social status and payment is the consequence of the selfish desire of individuals and the group to extract resources of intellect, creativity, and industriousness from those who possess them in excess. Now, of course, it’s not a hundred percent like that. There’s incompetent people who rise to the top. You can fool people and you can manipulate them and you can act like a tyrant. And, you know, we might say maybe the system is like 30% warped, something like that. It’s not much more than that because we can account for people’s success across life by looking at their individual differences: intelligence, conscientiousness, emotional stability, creativity.

We can do a pretty good job of predicting their trajectory. So there’s error, some of it’s health, right? Because sometimes you’ve got what you need, but you get cut off at the knees or your family members do, or, you know, some tragic thing befalls you. There’s a randomness in the system that accounts for a fair bit of it. And then there’s a certain amount of corruption. Fair enough. But not so much that the lights go off.

Okay. What time is it? 8.15. And I started when? Sorry. It’s been. 6.30. I should stop then. I’m supposed to stop pretty soon. I’m going to go for five more minutes and then I’ll wrap this up.

I want to talk about intersectionality and white privilege a bit.

So I first said, well, we analyzed Marxism, we analyzed postmodernism. I suggested that postmodernism was a way for the Marxist to keep going under a new guise. I suggested that Marxism was fundamentally based on hatred rather than sympathy and empathy. I suggested that the corpses were the evidence for that. I told you why I think postmodernism is fundamentally wrong.


Now I want to talk to you a little bit about white privilege. So the first thing that I — and I haven’t got this quite figured out yet, I can’t quite figure out why the postmodernists have made the canonical distinctions they’ve made. Race, ethnicity, sexual proclivity, sexual gender identity, let’s say. Those are four dimensions along which people vary.

But there’s a very large number of dimensions along which people vary, right? In fact, given that there’s an infinite number of ways of interpreting the world, you could immediately point out that there’s an infinite number of dimensions along which people vary. And so then the postmodern question is, why would you privilege some of those dimensions over the other?

And I would say, well, because it sustains your bloody Marxist interpretation. That’s why. But you’re not going to say that because it marginalizes, right? You’ve marginalized that so you can ignore it. So that’s one of the fun things about postmodernism. I have a very vulgar image in my mind, but I won’t share that with you, but you can infer it.

Here’s some ways people differ: intelligence, temperament, geography, historical time, you live now and not 100 years ago, attractiveness, that’s a big one, that’s a big one.

Would you, imagine you could — we won’t go there either — youth, it’s advantageous to be young. You’ve got potential. It’s advantageous to be old. You’ve got wealth. Health, that’s a good one. Sex, women have advantages. Men have advantages. Maybe one has more than the other, it’s not self-evident. Women live about eight years longer. They’re multi-orgasmic.

Athleticism, wealth, family structure, friendship, education — well, then there’s the classic, you know, postmodern ones, race, ethnicity, et cetera. Why not those other dimensions of variation? There’s no evidence that they’re less important. In fact, there’s quite a bit of evidence that they’re more important. So like, why not consider them?


Then you get intersectionality. This is one of the things that’s really comical, I think, because the postmodernist identity politics types actually realized this. They thought, well, okay, race and gender, fair enough. What if you’re a black woman? That’s a problem because, well, now you’ve got two dimensions of differentiation. What the hell are we going to do about that? What if you’re gay and black and female?

Well then, what if you’re not very bright and gay and black and female? Then what if you’re ugly and not very bright and gay and black and female? And like, you can keep playing that game. You can keep playing that game an infinite number of ways, because there’s an infinite number of ways to categorize things, as the postmodernist already pointed out.

And so the intersectionality theorists came along to plug the hole, but they don’t know where they’re going. They don’t understand that the logical conclusion of intersectionality is individuality, because there’s so many different ways of categorizing people’s advantages and disadvantages that if you take that all the way out to the end, you say, well, the individual is the ultimate minority. And that’s exactly right. And that’s exactly what the West discovered. And the intersectionalists will get there if they don’t kill everyone first.


So on to white privilege. So it’s really interesting to find out where these ideas come from, because usually the scholarship is so awful, you just cannot possibly believe it. It’s just absolutely — it wouldn’t — at the University of Toronto in the psychology department, the original paper on white privilege wouldn’t have received a passing grade for the hypothesis part of a undergraduate honors thesis. Not even close. There’s no methodology at all.

The person who wrote it — it was called WHITE PRIVILEGE AND MALE PRIVILEGE, a personal account of coming to see correspondences through work in women’s studies. Well, first of all, personal account, it’s like, sorry, no. So she listed a bunch of ways that she thought, she says, these are personal examples of her unearned privilege or unearned privilege that she saw as she experienced in the 1970s, 1980s.

So this idea is the opinion of one person who wrote one paper that has absolutely no empirical backing whatsoever, which is a set of hypotheses, which had never been subject to any statistical analysis. Like if I ask you a bunch of questions, it’s not obvious how many questions I’m asking you because I could say, how tall are you? Or I could say, if you’re laying on the ground, how extended would you be? It’s like that two questions? It’s like, no, it’s one question. It’s just asked two ways.

And the way you figure out if you ask someone a bunch of questions, how many questions you’re asking them is by doing something called a factor analysis, which is kind of an elementary form now of social science investigation. If you make a questionnaire, you have to subject it to a factor analysis because you’ve got to find out how many questions you’re asking because you might think it’s 60, but it’s probably not. It’s probably five. That’s the big five, by the way.

Anyways, who cares about that? There’s no such thing as methodology anyways. That’s all part of the oppressive white male European patriarchy. So we can just not bother with that. And we can pen a few notes about how we think the world is constructed. And then we can screw up the entire political system two decades later.

Okay, so here’s her white privilege list. Some of it, there’s like 50 things. I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live. That’s actually a wealth thing, by the way.

I can be pretty sure that my neighbours in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed. I can turn on my television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race, widely represented. When I’m told about our national heritage or about civilization, I am shown that people of my colour made it what it is. There’s 50 of those, I think, something like that.

Okay. Is that white privilege? IS THAT LIKE MAJORITY PRIVILEGE? Is the same true, you go to China, you’re Chinese, it’s the same true if you’re Chinese? Is it majority privilege? And if it’s majority privilege, isn’t that just part of living within your culture? So let’s say you live in your culture, you’re privileged as a member of that culture. Well, obviously, that’s what the culture is for, that’s what it’s for.

Why would you bother building the damn thing if it didn’t accrue benefits to you? Now you might say, well, one of the consequences is that it accrues fewer benefits to those who aren’t in the culture. Yeah, but you can’t immediately associate that with race. You can’t just do that, say it’s white privilege, there’s many things it could be, certainly could be wealth, and the intersectional people have already figured out that there’s many things it could be.

So like, what the hell? Seriously? Well, what’s going on? Well, we let these pseudo disciplines into the university because we’re stupid and guilty, seriously. And they have no methodological requirements and plenty of power and plenty of time to produce nonsensical research and produce like, resentful activists, and now we’re bearing the fruits of that. It’s not pretty. So white privilege.

Well, the other thing you might notice is that to attribute to the individuals of a community, the attributes of that community on the basis of their racial identity is called racism. That’s what racism is; there’s no other way of defining it. It’s attributing to the individual, the characteristics of the group as if the group was homogenous.

Now the intersectional people have already decided that’s not a fair game, because there’s so many differences between people. But the postmodernists don’t care about logical coherence, because they regard logical coherence — here it comes again — as a creation of the white European male patriarchal structure that’s designed to oppress the oppressed. And that’s technically the case. So logical incoherence, it doesn’t matter.

And you could say, well, if you act out your logically incoherent ideas in the world, you’re going to run face first into a brick wall. And the postmodern answer to that is, there’s actually no real world. It’s all interpretation. So there’s no having that discussion. But the postmodernists don’t care, because they don’t believe that discussion between people of different power groups is possible anyway. So here we are.

Well, so I made a case tonight. You know, I’ll go over it, what’s the case? The postmodernists are wrong. They’re philosophically naive. They’re right about an infinite number of interpretations and wrong about a finite number of viable interpretations. And that’s death. That’s the end of postmodernist theory. And that’s not the only way in which they’re wrong. They’re wrong in a bunch of other ways, but they’re more subsidiary.

The Marxists — they’re not just wrong, they’re wrong and murderous, or wrong, murderous and genocidal, unless you think murderous and genocidal doesn’t mean wrong. And you can think that there’s lots of would be revolutionaries, who would be happy to have blood running in the street, if they had their chance for revenge, and the opportunity to move up the hierarchy of tyranny.

So you don’t have to think that murder and genocide is wrong, especially if the right people are murdered and genocided, right, that’s actually part of the whole equation. But if you’re willing to think that murder and genocide on a mass scale across many cultures over many decades is wrong, then Marxism is wrong.

And the postmodernists don’t get to just come along and adopt Marxism as a matter of sleight of hand, because their Marxist theory didn’t work out, and they figured out a rationalization. They don’t get to get away with that, because it’s too dangerous, it’s too dangerous to the rest of us.

And we don’t — and it isn’t necessary for us, who are trying with the small part of our hearts that might be oriented towards the good, to allow people who are manipulating us with historical ignorance and philosophical sleight of hand, to render us so goddamn guilty about what our ancestors may or may not have done, so that we allow our shame and our guilt to be used as tools to manipulate us into accepting a future that we do not want to have. And that’s that.


MODERATOR: Is that working? Okay, so we’re just going to do the, we’re going to move on to the Q&A now, but before we do, the venue wants to do a little announcement.

So for those of you in the first two rows, you can either line up here or at the mic over there and ask your questions. And also try to keep it short because we don’t have that much time.

MALE AUDIENCE: Hello, Jordan B. Peterson, huge fan. In your lectures, you use the term postmodernism interchangeably with cultural Marxism, nihilism, and moral relativism. I wonder if you’ve considered or heard alternative beliefs that the term postmodernism is not necessarily always congruent on a one-to-one scale with these other terms and in some limited circumstances is positive. Specifically the idea that when you’d use the term postmodernism to vilify is by some others referred to as pseudo-modernism, whereas some would call what you endorse to not be modernism, but in fact metamodernism, post-millennialism, or post-postmodernism, which unfortunately has a terrible name. And then I have a brief definitions of those words if you need me to.

JORDAN B. PETERSON: Well, no, as I said tonight, you have to give the devil his due, and so we’ll do that. So yes, there’s a very large number of ways of interpreting the world. There’s no doubt about that. Yes, people use biased interpretive lenses as means of interpreting the world, to put their own priorities forward without necessarily knowing that they’re doing so, and that that can corrupt them and society.

Psychoanalysts figured that out way before the postmodernists, so they don’t get any credit for that, like really, none. So it’s useful to keep those things in mind. It’s when they’re put forward as absolute truth that disturbs me. It’s like, yes, people are probably racist. They might even be implicitly racist, although we don’t know what that means, and we don’t know how it’s related to their explicit behavior, and we can’t separate it from in-group preference or necessarily from reaction to novelty. So it’s a tricky business, and we don’t know how to separate stereotypical racial perceptions from perceptual heuristics. We don’t know how to do that, because you’re always oversimplifying the world, because you’re not smart enough to live in the world as it is. You have to oversimplify it.

So yes, there are times when postmodernism is useful. I used it quite usefully tonight to deconstruct postmodernism, in fact. But when it’s turned into an absolute, especially a moral absolute, and when it allies itself with Marxism, it’s like, sorry, guys, no, you don’t like grand narratives. You don’t get to go there. Well, that isn’t where you went. That’s where you came from. You never left there. So that’s basically what I have to say about that.

MALE AUDIENCE: Hello, Dr. Peterson. Thank you very much. Now, my question is regarding ADHD, which is something I haven’t heard you speak a whole lot about, maybe a little bit. Now, it seems to me that we, or at least maybe just me, do not quite understand ADHD to what could be its full capacity, maybe. Because there’s many voices saying that it’s an overdiagnosed, overblown, small mental variance that’s prevalent in boys, or it’s just young boys being young boys. And then there are some that would fight and advocate for very different treatment in the academic world.

And I was wondering what your thoughts are on ADHD itself and on whether you think it’s overdiagnosed, and maybe advice for me as someone who has been diagnosed with ADHD on how to overcome it without maybe becoming completely reliant on prescribed medication.

JORDAN B. PETERSON: Okay, so first of all, it’s definitely overdiagnosed. Second, it’s a very unreliable psychiatric diagnosis. Many psychiatric diagnoses are unreliable. And that’s because psychiatric diagnoses aren’t precisely scientific categories. They’re weird hybrids, right? First of all, psychiatrists aren’t scientists, they’re engineers. Engineers are trying to do something rather than to describe the objective world. And psychiatrists are trying to make people healthy, whatever that means. It’s actually partly ethical. It’s very complicated.

We don’t know how to distinguish it from temperamental variation. So for example, if you’re high in openness and high in extroversion, and low in conscientiousness — low in agreeableness, conscientiousness, and high in neuroticism, you’re likely to manifest symptoms of ADHD. It’s because you’re exploratory, you don’t like to sit down, you’re full of ideas, your attention scatters across a wide variety of topics, and you’re not very stable. Temperamental variation. It’s also much more common among boys.

Panksepp showed — same guy with rats, that if you deprive young rats of rough and tumble play, which is what the young boys are deprived of in school, let’s say, that they get hyperactive, and then their prefrontal cortexes don’t develop very well because they’re not having the right kind of experiences, and that you can treat that quite effectively with psychomotor stimulants like Ritalin. So that’s kind of an interesting bit of scientific information that no one pays any attention to.

There is also absolutely no evidence whatsoever that long-term use of psychomotor stimulants produces increases in cognitive gain; zero. And there’s plenty of evidence that it’s harmful. So then the second part of that was what about adjustments for, in the academic world, say, disability adjustments. It’s like, that’s such a rat’s nest that I don’t want to even discuss it. I mean, I’ll discuss it for like 15 seconds. There is a never-ending multiplication of disabilities. That’s what’s happening right now, the disability offices in the universities are swamped.

Like I know some people have it rough, like believe me, I know that. I seriously know that. I’ve dealt with extraordinarily damaged people in my life. You’re bloody hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t have a serious problem or who doesn’t have a serious problem in a close family member. It’s like, where do you draw the line with regards to disabilities? Well, you can’t. You can’t, they multiply, just like LGBT identities multiply, really, technically just like that. Just like intersectionality categories of oppression multiply. It’s inevitable.

The way that you deal with it is you have objective standards, you apply them to everyone, not because that’s fair. It’s not fair if your criteria for fairness is that everyone has the same outcome, it’s not fair at all. It’s not even close to fair. It’s just less tyrannical than the alternatives. Now we don’t know that yet because we haven’t seen the full range of the tyranny of the alternatives manifest itself, not in our culture, but it certainly did in other cultures. I think it’s a bad idea.

Now I don’t want to be absolute about that. It’s tricky, you know, because if you have a disability that would allow you to do the work in the university and in the workplace with a modification, then perhaps the modification could be made. But I think that was done a lot better when that was in the hands of the professors and not in the hands of these crazy bureaucratic structures that have risen up around the disability issue. And they’re one of the ten things that are going to kill the universities, or maybe have already killed them, possibly, because they’re walking corpses as far as I can tell, zombies. And that might be wrong, but it’s what it looks like to me.

MALE AUDIENCE: First thing I want to say, thank you so much, that was an amazing talk. And I was wondering if you could elaborate. What I notice a lot, I go here to UBC, is that a lot of students and young people, they’re often desensitized to, for example, the atrocities that communism or ideology that forced terrorism. And maybe it’s some sort of Stockholm syndrome that I’m seeing, where it’s like people are just — they’re like trapped, and they can’t, they feel in a way they can’t do anything about it. And then they start to like communism, or they start to see more socialists or adopt socialist policies that in the end will get them killed, will get them hurt.

I was wondering if you could kind of like elaborate on what you think can be done about that, or even if something can be done in that respect.

JORDAN B. PETERSON: Well I think something can be done. I mean, I’ve been trying to educate people about the horrors of the Nazi regime, and the Soviet regime in particular. I’ve concentrated mostly on those two, because that’s good enough. And trying to let people know that it was through the fault of people much like them that those systems arose, and that there are steps you can take to limit the probability that you would participate in such a thing, and that those steps are associated with trying to be truthful in your speech and actions, because the stability of those systems depends on the willingness of individuals to lie. And also on your willingness to take responsibility for the malevolence in your own heart that manifests itself in those social movements.

And so, when I do my lectures, when I do talks like this, when I put them on YouTube, what I’m trying to do is exactly that, because that was the best pathway forward through such things that I could think up over 20 years of thinking about it. No one is so habituated to suffering that they can read The Gulag Archipelago, which is actually quite hard to read, without having it affect them. Like you’re psychopathic if that book doesn’t affect you. If you read it properly, it affects you deeply. And it’s not the only example of that kind of literature.

So the people who are habituated aren’t, they’ve just been shown low resolution representations of things they don’t understand that look vaguely bad. They don’t know a damn thing about them. And our education system has done a tremendously appalling job of educating young people about the absolute catastrophe of radical leftism. Now it’s not much better with regards to, say, the actions of the Nazis, although I would say on average, people are more aware of that, but it’s shallow, shallow knowledge.

So you make the knowledge deep, and deep knowledge changes people and wakes them up. The only reason that I ever got convinced that good and evil were real, more real than anything else, wasn’t because I learned that good was real. That’s hard. It’s hard to learn that. You have to find examples of transcendent good, you know, they’re rare. Evil? All you have to do is look, read history a bit, and read it like it’s about you. And there’s no way that you can do that without a transformation. But people won’t do it.

It’s like, you want to imagine yourself as an Auschwitz guard? That’s a rough thing, you see, because you have to figure out – see, Jung said if you confronted the shadow, which is the dark side of people, the aggressive side, the malevolent side, that it really reaches all the way down to hell. And Dante sort of was trying to put forward the same thing when he wrote the Inferno, right, with the levels of evil, right, because it was a voyage through the levels of evil right to the bottom. He thought the bottom was betrayal. Pretty good.

The center of malevolence is betrayal. I like that because to betray someone, you have to get them to trust you and trust is a moral virtue, right, especially if it’s courageous trust, because it puts you in alignment with other people and allows you to move forward into life. And if you betray that, it’s like a knife in the heart through the back, especially if it’s someone who loves you betrays you, and especially if they betray you for your virtues, that’s a really nice twist.

So I believe, because I think that people are capable of good, that if they know enough about evil, that that will straighten them out. But who wants that? You know, this is one of the things I really like about Jung. He’s often regarded as a New Age thinker. That’s wrong. He’s no New Age thinker. He knew that the pathway to enlightenment was barred by the necessity of a passage through hell. And that no one was going to do that. That’s why there isn’t a world full of enlightened people, you might say, like, it was just a matter of doing nice things, following your bliss, let’s say, however you might put it.

Then why wouldn’t everyone walk up the stairway to heaven? That isn’t how it works. That’s not how it works at all. I don’t think you can be convinced of the necessity for moral action until you understand exactly how dark and terrible things can get, and that it’s your fault that they’re getting that way. Who wants to think that? So you can think it though, but not without it burning you.

MALE AUDIENCE: Hello, Dr. Peterson. Thank you for coming. We all appreciate it a lot. I wanted to get your opinion on censorship that we’re seeing on the web. It’s accelerating. You were a very notable example. You were locked out of your Gmail account.


MALE AUDIENCE: Pardon me? Yeah, Trump just got deleted by an errant person, you know, now they’re saying that perhaps this was just a contractor and, you know, maybe someone from Twitter who’s gone in a very far left direction, YouTube has gone in a very far left direction. I’m just wondering — I’ve started an alternative to YouTube called PewTube. What do you see for possible solutions and just your thoughts in general on censorship?

JORDAN B. PETERSON: Well, here’s an ugly thought. It’s a crazy thought, but I’m going to tell it to you anyways. So I was just reading one of Ray Kurzweil’s books, I think it was called How to Make a Mind. And it helped me understand how the brain compresses information because the world’s really complicated. So you have to make a low resolution representation of it to live in it. And he actually explained to me in a way that I hadn’t really understood how the brain might do that neurologically. So that was cool.

But, you know, Kurzweil, this guy who thinks that — he’s a smart guy, very smart guy, and he’s invented a fair bit of high end technical, technological software and hardware. And he’s the guy that thinks that we’re heading towards the singularity. And so the singularity is, you know how processing speed doubles every 18 months and like hard disk capacity every year, and there’s a bunch of doublings going on, a huge number of them, and they accelerate exponentially.

And so we’re probably three years away, maybe even less than from building a computer that has the capacity to make as many calculations as reasonable estimates of the calculating capacity of the human brain are currently set at, 18 months away, two years away, something like that. And then we’re 18 months away from having one that’s twice that fast and then 18 months away from having one that’s twice as fast as that. So that’s like, say, six years, and we’ve got something that’s eight times as smart as a human being.

But there’s a twist on that, and this is Kurzweil’s twist, which is as soon as you make a machine smart enough to make the next machine that’s smarter than it, which is sort of what we’re doing, because computers are so fast that that will scale up to near infinite computing power almost instantaneously. Now, you think, no, probably not.

Ellen, Gates’ partner, has written critiques of Kurzweil, and you might think if something’s impossible, then it won’t happen, even if you don’t know why. And there’s reasons to not think that that will happen. But Kurzweil’s traced back the doubling of computing power way before the existence of the transistor, and it’s been ridiculously stable, crazily stable. So God only knows what we’re coming up with here, and you don’t know what something of infinite computing power might be like. Like, you seriously don’t know.

And there are serious people who are very, very, very worried about that. They’re very worried, for example, that companies like Facebook and Google will manage that first. And those companies are already making censorship AI bots, and that’s not that smart. It’s sort of like making really fast robots that can shoot people. It’s not that smart, and we’re doing that, too, very rapidly. And I know some guys who work in advanced AI, and you know how you watch the Terminator movies and you see the robots that miss when they shoot at you? They’re not very bright, because the bright ones not only shoot at where you are, but they estimate where you’re going to be when you make your escape moves, and they shoot there simultaneously, and their death rate is 100%. And so there’s no war against the robots.

When those things get going, they’re going to be so much faster than us that we’ll look like we’re moving through molasses to them. So maybe what we’re deciding now, with all of our individual decisions about censorship and the way that we’re going to construct the world and all that, is exactly what kind of super intelligence we’re going to bring into being. And I would suggest that we try to bring one in that’s good and moral, rather than one that’s evil and demonic, right?

So what can we do about that? There’s only one answer to that, as far as I know, that works, is get your act together. You’re going to be the person who’s working in AI, right? I know some of these people. They better be good people, because they’re going to build whatever they’re like into their machines. They better have their heads screwed on straight, because they’re going to get amplified like mad. And I don’t like what’s happening with Google and Facebook and YouTube. They’re building censorship bots, predicated on a certain kind of ideology, the kind of ideology that we outlined today. It’s a very bad idea.

Hopefully good people will stop that. So then what that means is that your moral obligation is to be good. And the way you do that is first by stopping being bad. And everyone can do that, a little bit. So I hope that’s what everyone does, because the consequences of not doing it are not going to be pleasant. They never are.

MALE AUDIENCE: Hi. This question is about your Biblical Lecture Series. I like that one because it’s about Genesis, which is usually ignored as being, we’re this post-Enlightenment society, we don’t need these ancient creation myths. And also I thought Revelation is kind of gets the same treatment as being dismissed because it’s the crazy hallucinogenic trip of some isolated madman in the middle of the Mediterranean. So I was wondering if after you’re done with Genesis if you were thinking about doing Revelation.

JORDAN B. PETERSON: Not without traversing the geography in between. Yeah, I want to walk through the whole thing if I can do that before I expire. So I mean, I’ve read it and thought about it, and it’s such a strange book, eh, because it’s really big among the evangelical Republican types, and you think, really, that’s the book that you rely on? Have you read it? It’s a crazy hallucinogenic trip, that’s what Revelation is.

Now that’s not to play it down, because God only knows about crazy hallucinogenic trips, that’s for sure. I mean, there’s accruing evidence, I would say, that a tremendous amount of the religious orientation of human beings, you know, that deep mythological symbolic orientation is in no small part a consequence of humanity’s experimentation with psychedelic substances. I think that the evidence for that, I think, has become virtually overwhelming.

So anyways, I will get there, maybe, probably not, because at the rate I’m going through the first stories, it’ll take me forever to get there, but that’s okay.

MALE AUDIENCE: Dr. Peterson, thank you, first of all, it’s a great pleasure being here, it’s awesome to see you live. I basically got into your work just earlier this year, and I had an original question, but your talk today kind of made me decide to change my mind, I was going to ask. Do you feel as though — would you agree with me in the sentiment that the left is pushed so hard for total control of our society over the last however many years, it’s almost to a point where saying 2013 was a different time, would you say that because they pushed so hard, they’ve created this backlash, and the backlash caused them the backlash back again, so they doubled down with their ideology, and then they get, they lose another argument, they lose another ideological war, they lose another meme war, and they double down, and they double down again and again, and they can’t seem to meme, they can’t seem to argue, they can’t seem, they can’t, they don’t want to have an intellectual discussion, and as an interpretation of what you were saying, there is no, there doesn’t seem to be any care of what’s right with them, they just want power, they just want, they just want to win — do you, would you agree with the sentiment that they’re burning themselves out and creating the mass red-pilling of the conservative movement that we see going on? Would you possibly think that maybe they’ve committed suicide and talks like this, people like yourself, Ben Shapiro, and others who talk to people like the subjects that we do, the taboo of nowadays, possibly that this is the answer to defeat the leftist stranglehold that’s on our society.

JORDAN B. PETERSON: Okay, so let, we’ll untangle some of that. Okay, well, first of all, the first observation is a really interesting one because you know that things can go out of hand very, very rapidly, and the reason they do that is because of positive feedback loops. Now, the thing that Kurzweil talks about is a positive feedback loop. An intelligent machine makes another intelligent machine that makes another intelligent machine, and that’s a positive feedback loop, and that can spiral upwards out of control very rapidly, and that’s what polarization is. It’s like, I tap you, you tap me. I slap you, you punch me. Well, up it goes.

Well, I think that’s partly why in the New Testament, for example, there’s an injunction that says, turn the other cheek, resist not evil. Why? Because otherwise you get into a positive feedback loop, and then you better look the hell out, and things can tilt very, very rapidly. I mean, all you have to do, look at what happened in World War I. No one expected that. It was like one relatively minor member, I think, of the aristocracy, if I remember correctly, was assassinated in one minor little country. It’s like, bang, everything fell apart, and that’s positive feedback loops, right? And so that’s what we’re in right now, and we’ve got to be, and that’s a really chaotic time, and so I would say, maintain self-control, and don’t aim to win. Aim at peace, because winning, that’s not peace. It’s better to aim for peace.

You know, I’ve got this talk coming up on November 11th. I’m quite worried about it, because I know there’s going to be protesters there, and that they’ve been emboldened by the fact that they shut the talk down before, and I want to make a video, I’ll probably do it tomorrow, telling everyone that comes to that meeting to, like, watch their bloody step, and stay out of the gutter, because, we’re at a point now where, under the wrong circumstances, if the wrong person does the wrong thing, that the consequences will be very great. Now, we can’t predict which action is going to precipitate that, or even if that will happen, but it’s chaotic enough so that it could happen. So, you know, so govern yourselves accordingly.

Now, the problem is, is that there are people who would be happy if there was blood running in the street. They’re the same sort of people that shoot up high schools, or kill innocent elementary school kids, just to show what they’re made of, and what they believe, and that’s a big problem, but for the rest of us, like, hopefully calmer heads can prevail, and so it really is important not to win. It’s like fighting with your wife. You don’t win. You can’t, because you have to live with her. You can’t win, but maybe you can solve the problem and bring about peace, and so you’ve got to practice doing that, practice restraint.

And remember, too, that these people that you’re talking about, who are radical leftists, is most of the time they’re not, like, they’re 95% like you, and if you pull them out of the mob, they’re just like your neighbor’s 19-year-old kid who’s kind of clueless and rebellious, right, and who you might even like. You put them in the mob, it’s a whole different thing, and so you’ve got to remember that too.

MALE AUDIENCE: Out of fear of social isolation, it’s kind of how they’re acting out, you’re saying?

JORDAN B. PETERSON: No, it’s just that they’re possessed by these ideas, but only partially, you know. You hardly find a full-blooded, absolutely committed, radical leftist activist, you know, like there are some, but not very many. Most of it is just fragmentary behavior, and you have to remember that. Like when the students come out to protest me, it was the case particularly at McMaster, I have to remember, these kids, they’re not much different than my kids. They are when they’re in a stupid mob behind a hammer and sickle flag, you know, but you don’t want to make a low-resolution, homogenous representation of them.

And so that’s why, again, I think, instead of winning, you turn to your own development, you turn to your own development, you do what you can to stop doing the things that you’re doing that aren’t good, because you’re not going to hurt anybody if you do that. All you’re going to do is help, and otherwise you’ll participate in this polarization, and that’s, unless you want that, and you know, there’s a dark part of people that — it’s part of the part that voted for Trump, would like to burn things to the ground. It’s like, to hell, I know how people felt when they went into the voting booth, it was like, Hillary, Hillary, to hell with it, Trump, you know, and that’s a hell of a thing to say, to hell with it, you know, I could certainly understand that sentiment, so we have to be careful, and all of you people who are here, who are advocates of free speech, and who are theoretically happy to come hear me speak, it’s like, I really do believe it, I truly believe this, and this is something I learned in part from Solzhenitsyn, and in part from Jung, is that the way that you set the world straight is by constraining the malevolence in your own heart, and that’s no joke, man, that’s no easy thing. And that’s a good voyage for people to go on if they want something difficult and worthwhile to do, so.

MODERATOR: Okay, just a quick thing, we’re not going to have time for pictures, so you’re, unless yours is the last question, okay, so sorry to everybody else, but you’re the last one,

MALE AUDIENCE: Hi, Dr. Peterson, thanks for coming. My question is a little bit off topic from everything else tonight, but I really wanted to hear what you had to say about it. I work in residence life here at UBC, and in the community where I am, we were recently affected by a suicide of someone who lived in our community, and I was upset about it, not just because obviously it’s a horrible thing to have happen, but also because res life in the university, like they talk all this talk about self-care, and your mental health is so important to us, but then things like this still happen.

So I wanted to know if you think, what do you think the university should be doing to keep stuff like this from happening in the future?

JORDAN B. PETERSON: Well, it’s not self-evident that it’s the university’s responsibility, and the reason for that — I’m not saying it isn’t, okay, I’m saying it’s not self-evident that it is, because different institutions can only do so many things, you know, and we’re already requiring the universities to educate, and to act as substitute parents increasingly, and to take on the role of judge, jury, and executioner, as there are more, what should be criminal cases being handled within the university, say.

Having said that, you could ask the broader question is, well, what do you do to help people be sufficiently in love with life so that they don’t wish to end it? You know, and I’ve tried to puzzle through that for a long time, and that’s partly why I’ve written the things that I’ve written, it’s partly why I’ve produced the online programs that I’ve produced. And so we know that if you have students do the future authoring program, for example, they’re much less likely to drop out of university, about 30% less likely, and their grades go up, and that’s especially true if they’re male and marginalized, it has a bigger impact on those communities.

And so, you know, I’ve tried to get universities interested in that, and the data’s there, but they’re not, and it’s very difficult to get a big bureaucracy to move, like big is immobile. So I’m not sure there’s anything they can really do about it. It’s certainly possible that the things that they’re trying to do about it are making it worse. You know, that’s another thing that you learn if you’re a good social scientist, it’s like, there was evidence, and I don’t know if this is still the case, but there was good evidence, I looked into this about 15 years ago, say you want to prevent suicide, you put a suicide hotline in your town, and you advertise it, what happens? Suicide rate goes up, because you’re advertising suicide, right?

And lots and lots of interventions are like that, it’s really, really hard to make things better, and it’s really, really easy to make them worse. And so that’s another problem, you get these big bureaucracies, let’s say, and they’re hypothetically motivated by positive intentions, and I would say hypothetically, again, because it takes an awful lot of work to help someone straighten out, it’s no joke, especially if they’re in real trouble. And they put in place these structures that are designed to help, but they don’t ever evaluate them, and they could easily be making it worse.

So I don’t have a straightforward answer to that question. I think that, well, that’s the only answer I have.

MODERATOR: Okay, so that’s the end of the show. If you’re in the first two rows, you can stick around and get some pictures, otherwise drive safe.

For Further Reading:

Economic Storms are Gathering: Peter Schiff (Transcript)

The Loud Absence: Where is God in Suffering?: John Lennox (Transcript)

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

At a Crossroads: Jordan B. Peterson 2022 Commencement Address (Transcript)


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