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Heather R Higgins on Jordan Peterson, from The Hill

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

[ posted by Charles Cameron — a direct share of Higgins‘ piece, How philosopher Jordan Peterson will change the world ]
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How philosopher Jordan Peterson will change the world


© YouTube

Your first sign that something different is afoot: the event is immediately sold out. The second clue: scalpers want over $500 for rear orchestra seats, and over $1,000 for prime. Yes it’s New York. But this isn’t “Hamilton”. It’s a bloody lecture.

And when you get there, there isn’t just one line around the block — there are two, one running in either direction. The audience to this beyond-sold-out event is disproportionately male, many young. And in line you overhear references to Jung, identity politics, biology, responsibility, faith, Nietzsche, the importance of not lying, and Solzhenitsyn. Whoa.

Why is Dr. Jordan Peterson, clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto, who recently gained meteoric attention in taking on the thought police and their language criminalizing legislation in Canada, attracting such a huge following of devotees, and eliciting both hatred and real fear among ideologues?
If you’re a young man, there’s a good chance you’ve experienced socially-approved condescension, because, well, it’s all patriarchy and social injustice and men are privileged (unless they are also part of an approved minority or sexual/gender orientation).

Young men hear falsehoods peddled as “truths”: That the sexes are not only equal, they are the same in everything but reproductive organs, and that any differences between males and females are socially constructed. That their opinion on any issue of gender is inherently inferior due to their Y chromosomes. That they are implicitly biased, and must have this bias “trained” out of them.

Additionally, they have observed a movement, where emotions matter and facts don’t, that shuts down critical thought as unsafe, and silences debate through vilification.

They know these things are wrong. But they don’t know why. They are parched for understanding, hope, and purpose to their lives. And into that desert comes the clear water of Dr. Peterson.

The first reason Peterson has had such impact is that this is no ordinary psychologist or professor, staying in his narrow lane. Peterson not only is extraordinarily intelligent, but also widely learned. Listening to him is like wrapping your mind with a Paul Johnson history, an interdisciplinary, intercultural, time-traveling tapestry of transcendent themes and truths — where evolutionary biology, history, literature, philosophy, psychology, music, art, religions, culture and myth are all interwoven.

People find him because of viral YouTube clips, where he dismembers sanctimonious ideologues with a mike-dropping command of fact and logic; they stay for two hour lectures on psychology, mythology, and religious texts — there are more than 400 hours online — on their new-found quest for understanding and meaning.

Peterson’s focus for decades has been what drives human beings to do evil, particularly the great evils of the 20th century, from Auschwitz to Soviet gulags, as well as helping people have agency over their own lives and the ability to endure and transcend the inescapable suffering of life.

That empathy makes him singularly effective and compelling: unlike most intellectuals’ arrogant pieties that are driven more by resentment than concern, Peterson is obsessed with actual human suffering. He cares deeply about real people, and particularly the unnecessary suffering caused by others, about which he becomes passionately angry. The high purpose of doing what he can to prevent the evil that human beings do — whether out of malice because they believe there is no meaning to life, or through lofty intentions because that is the price of their putative utopia — permeates his work.

His third atypical quality is exceptional humility. For Peterson, growth comes from constantly questioning himself, and being open to seeing another person’s point of view, even where the disagreements are profound.

In consequence, for all the attempts to pigeonhole his beliefs, he can’t be neatly put on left or right, Christian or not. To him routine questions are complicated, and modesty is called for.

If he does have defining principles, they would seem to be recognizing complexity and nuance, applying deeper wisdom than simplistic materialist explanations, being absolutely truthful, refusing to lie, and speaking out — whatever the cost — against those pernicious ideas and efforts that will hurt others. And because he has been teaching for a long time, he is skilled at taking grand concepts and challenging ideas and accessibly transposing them into everyday lives.

People may not like what Jordan Peterson says, but he is hard to disagree with. He serves as a role model for many, teaching them that facts do matter, to not assume conventional wisdom is right, to not be simplistic, and that it is not intentions that matter, but consequences.

Even more importantly, for many individuals, he reconnects them with responsibility for their lives, giving them agency and purpose — and not just for themselves, but in the effect they will then have on the world around them. Peterson is very insistent that each individual decision moves the entire world closer to either heaven or a bottomless hell. Because those aren’t just theoretical places we may go to after we die, but apt descriptions of the worlds we create around us.

Peterson is in part a font of self-help wisdom, a modern Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, drawing not on faith but on Jung, Nietzsche, Solzhenitsyn, biology, evolution, psychology, and learned wisdom, perceived through myth, religions, and history, all to provide better ways of being.

But he is also a cultural force. He is the scourge of simplistic, pernicious pieties, including: bias and social oppression as the presumed causes of inequality of outcome, equality of outcome as an unquestioningly desirable and enforced goal, identity as a subjective choice and the sexes as the same, patriarchy, white privilege, implicit bias, safe spaces, affirmative rights, postmodernism, nihilism, neo-Marxism, and identity politics.

As Peterson gets better known, he seems to find fewer and fewer on the left who will debate him. That’s no surprise — watch the debates that do exist, and be reminded of the attempted mugging of “Crocodile Dundee”, when he smiles pityingly and says “That’s not a knife. THIS is a knife,” before reducing his assailant to a quivering blob.

But those who like orthodoxies that would limit the speech, ideas, and freedoms of others in order to enforce a social construction of their own should be afraid. Like the boy who had the courage to tell the emperor he had no clothes, or like Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose lone voice of truth helped topple a totalitarian empire, when this too crumbles, Jordan Peterson will be seen as the courageous catalyst that exposed the lies and made us a wiser people.

Heather R. Higgins is CEO of Independent Women’s Voice, an organization promoting conservative free market solutions that advance prosperity, freedom, and greater choices. Follow her on Twitter @TheHRH.

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Shave off a dozen percentage points for over-the-top, and you have what I’d consider the single simplest and best account of Jordan Peterson and the reasons for his astounding popularity — which inckude a refusal to concede anything much to nuance and an a considered and measured indifference to applausee or dismisal alike. Having found a pair of great teachers in Jung and in his clinical patients keeps him deep and humble respectively. And he saves me a whole lot of work I thought was my obligation, while stretching me intellectually — not always an easy feat, although the comments section here certainly keeps me on my toes.

I am almost as grateful to Heather Higgins for this introduction as to Dr Peterson himself, the introductee. Brava,bravo, bravo!

Who would you trust more at CIA?

Monday, May 7th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — seeking to emphasize what may be at base a spiritual / psychological question ]
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First, the context, courtesy Washington Post:

Trump had signaled as a presidential candidate that he would consider reestablishing agency prisons and resuming interrogation methods that President Barack Obama had banned. Trump never followed through on that plan, which was opposed by senior members of his administration including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was tortured while imprisoned in Vietnam, said Haspel’s Senate confirmation should be conditioned on securing a pledge to block any plan to reintroduce harsh interrogations. “Ms. Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program,” ­McCain said.

Haspel ran one of the first CIA black sites, a compound in Thailand code-named “Cat’s Eye,” where al-Qaeda suspects Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, better known as Abu Zubaida, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were subjected to waterboarding and other techniques in 2002.

An exhaustive Senate report on the program described the frightening toll inflicted. At one point, the report said, Zubaida was left “completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.”

Internal CIA memos cited in a Senate report on the agency’s interrogation program described agency officials who witnessed the treatment as distraught and concerned about its legality. “Several on the team [were] profoundly affected,” one agency employee wrote, “.?.?. some to the point of tears and choking up.”

Haspel later served as chief of staff to the head of the agency’s Counterterrorism Center, Jose Rodriguez, when he ordered the destruction of dozens of videotapes made at the Thailand site.

Rodriguez wrote in his memoir that Haspel “drafted a cable” ordering the tapes’ destruction in 2005 as the program came under mounting public scrutiny and that he then “took a deep breath of weary satisfaction and hit Send.

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In light of the above, who would you trust more?

Someone who has overseen torture, deeply regretted / repented of it (metanoia), and wouldn’t repeat the crime / error / sin / shame / pick your word and its accompanying implications under any circumstances — or someone who was against torture from the first?

As I understand it, Gina Haspel claims to fall in the former class, thought I’m not sure whether she views her earlier actions with regret and / or remorse — and these /// differences are important.

There’s little doubt that as an administrator of Agency business, she’d more than qualified, so our “only remaining question” is whether someone who once oversaw a black site (and destroyed potentially incriminating evidence) can be trusted never to permit CIA to practice torture, under whatever name or cover it may hide, ever again.

Does she regret / repent, or does she feign regret / repentance?

And would you expect a newspaper reporter or cable news pundit — indeed, anyone short of her confessor or Haspel herself — would know?

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Once again, mortals must decide, and quickly — our continuing koan or paradox — while the most relevant information of all is tangled up in the knots of human psychology / hidden deep in the heart of God..

Anti-Muslim converts to Islam — Enantiodromia!

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — balancing explanations — psychological, sociological, anthropological ]
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Carl Jung‘s definitions of enantiodromia read:

In the philosophy of Heraclitus it [enantiodromia] is used to designate the play of opposites in the course of events—the view that everything that exists turns into its opposite….

I use the term enantiodromia for the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time. [CW 6, 708 & 709]

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There could hardly be a clearer set of instances of this individual psychological principle than this, as reported by David A Graham in the strong>Atlantic yesterday:

The Strange Cases of Anti-Islam Politicians Turned Muslims
Three recent incidents seem to highlight a quirk of sociology.

More details:

Last fall, Arthur Wagner was part of something remarkable: His political party, the anti-Islam, anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland, entered the Bundestag, becoming the first far-right party in the body since the 1950s. This year, Wagner has done something even more [ .. ]remarkable: He has converted to Islam and left AfD.

Even stranger, Wagner is not the first person to leave a far-right, anti-Islam party in Europe and become a Muslim. Arnoud van Doorn, a member of Geert Wilders’s Dutch Freedom Party—which is another far-right, anti-Islam party—left it in 2011, converted to Islam in 2012, and soon after made hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca Muslims are obliged to make at least once in their lifetimes. And in 2014, Maxence Buttey, a local councillor for the National Front (FN), France’s analogous far-right party, converted to Islam and was suspended from the party committee.

In the United States, a grisly story made headlines last year when an 18-year-old former neo-Nazi in Tampa who said he had converted to Islam confessed to killing two (apparently still) neo-Nazi roommates, though that case is so grotesque, and the use of violence so far from mainstream Muslim practice, that it defies comparison to the European examples. (The suspect also shouted a nonsensical, non-Muslim phrase.)

In all cases, the shift from anti-Muslim to Muslim is counterintuitive.

The same article quotes friend JM Berger, commenting after the Charlotesville shootings —

The process and structure of radicalization and extremism are the same in different kinds of movements, even when the content of the extremist belief is different (such as with neo-Nazis and jihadists)

— all this as part of a sociological explanation of conversions to and from extremisms.

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The sociological explanations are well-represented by these paras:

There seem to be some people who are joiners, eager to become part of larger groups. Almost everyone will know someone like this, perhaps someone who is constantly searching for new social groups or joining new organizations, or perhaps even a spiritual seeker-type who flirts with a succession of faiths. The cliche about the “zeal of the convert” exists for a reason.

According to Michael Hogg’s uncertainty-identity theory, people seek to reduce questions about who they are, where they fit in the world, and how people view them. “One way to satisfy this motivation is to identify with a group (a team, an organization, a religion, an ethnicity, a nation, etc.) a process that not only defines and locates oneself in the social world but also prescribes how one should behave and how one should interact with others,” Hogg writes.

I don’t think these sociological explanations really conflict with Jung’s theory of enantiodromia, but the latter seems more exact – “turning into the opposite” rather than “showing a propensity for eextremes” — because in my view, Jung’s version hits the mark so exactly.

I’m too fatigued to fisk Graham’s article more extensively, but my main point is that enantiodromia is “closer in” than the sociological motive, focusing in the indiviual rather than the group.

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Issues of this kind crop up quite frequently. IMO we need some kind of useful understandings of the boundaries between anthropology and sociology, and of the complex relations of both with psychology.

Who is President of the United States?

Friday, January 12th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — going all diagnostic on you! ]
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Roberta R. Greene in her Social Work with the Aged and Their Families (p. 100) lists questions nurses routinely asked by physician using Kahn’s Mental Status Questionnaire. I’m only too aware of these, having been subjected to these questions regularly over the past year..

5. What year is it?
6. How old are you?
7. What is your birthday?
8. What year were you born?
9. Who is President of the United States?

They are going to ask President Trump these questions, I immagine, as part of his overall medical evaluation. But that last one:

Who is President of the United States?

That’s an ouroboric question right there — what will he say?

If he says, President Trump, then he’s third-personalizing himself, and that’s diagnostically called illeism: Julius Caesar uses the third person in describing his French campaigns in De Bello Gallico.

But if he avoids that third person usage —

Me! It’s me!

That would suggest he may be uncertain of his victory over Secretary Clinton back when — after all, she won the popular vote!

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Oh the ouroboros! Oh the dilemma!

I had one of those medical questionnaires this morning. My conclusion: the questionnaire or routinized test has not yet been devised that doesn’t seem faintly ridiculous..

Please note that Roberta Greene’s work currently costs $100 as a book book. Urgh. Kindle $45.95 us a little better.

Uday and Qusay Trump motif traces back to Bill Maher

Sunday, January 7th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — more striking examples of form in the news, “pressed down and flowing over” ]
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Michael Wolff‘s book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House has been quoted extensively, but one accusation struck me forcibly, both because of its viciousnes and because it has a formal property of double, parallel construction. The comparison was between Trump‘s sons Donald Jr. and Eric, and Saddam‘s sons, Uday and Qusay:

Don Jr. and Eric — behind their backs known to Trump insiders as Uday and Qusay, after the sons of Saddam Hussein — wondered if there couldn’t somehow be two parallel White House structures, one dedicated to their father’s big-picture views, personal appearance and salesmanship, and the other concerned with day-to-day management issues.

Crudely but vividly put in a Pinterest graphgc [I’ve reduced its scale, but you get the idea]:

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Under the header, Maher Rips Trump Sons — Calls Them ‘Uday and Qusay’, Breitbart reported in September 2016 what seems to me most likely the original source of Wolff’s unsourced remark:

On the Friday airing of HBO’s “Real Time,” host Bill Maher slammed the two sons of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump.

Maher partially cited a Trump quote from his 2008 book, “Think Big,” which he used as a segue to attack the Trump children.

“Donald Trump also once said, ’Sometimes people will come into my office and they will be great. They will look great, they’ll sound great, they dress beautifully. Everything is great. Then after you hire them they turn out to be morons,’ which explains his sons Uday and Qusay.”

“I mean Trump, Sr. at the what House is bad enough without these two American psychos putting plastic over the furniture so that they can axe murder prostitutes while discussing Phil Collins,” he continued.

According to Breitbart, then, Maher would seem to be the ur-source — with just a hint that Trump himself may be partially responsible at that:

which explains his sons Uday and Qusay.

The Trump sourcing strikes me as so attenuated as to be worthless, but the tie to Maher seems undeniable — whether it’s Wolff’s only source or not.

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Here are a couple of other items in the news which have caught my eye on account of their formal propeties. Here, from Real clear Politics, is the first:

President Trump said there was no collusion between himself on the Russians, but there was collusion between Hillary Clinton and the Russians and the Democratic National Committee and the Russians.

That strrikes me as a clear instance of what psychologists term projectionAri Melber writes in his intro to psychologist Dr. Justin Frank, who discusses the issue with him:

Trump uses ‘projection’ as a defense tactic

Trump is an expert at projecting his own faults onto his political rivals as a defense mechanism

There are plenty of other arguable examples of Trump’s likely instinctive use of projection, but to my mind the most powerful are those that use the same words or phrases — eg: “collusion between [self, other] and the Russians” — in a short span to contrast the denial [against self] and accusation {against the other].

It’s a widely-found psychological trick — and a beautiful formal setup. The saying about “the pot calling the kettle black” summarizes it nicely, as Ari Melber obviously knows:

And dig this example:

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A second form to keep an eye out for, and one of my own favorites, is the serpent-bites-its-tail motif, or ouroboros.

Discussing Trump saying he’llannounce his “Dishonest and Corrupt Media Awards” tomorroww:–

“I will be announcing THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR on Monday at 5:00 o’clock,” Trump wrote. “Subjects will cover Dishonesty & Bad Reporting in various categories from the Fake News Media. Stay tuned!

Everyone in comedy took immediate advantage, proposing themslves (!) for awards:

but it was Ari Melber, host of MSNBC’s The Beat, who nailed the ouroboric implications of Trump’s challenge with this question:

Will he be physically able to give an award to anyone other than himself?

It may not feature groovy graphics, like the two late-night comedians’ tweets do — but that explicit Trumpian self-reference really stings!

Enough. I’m getting dizzy, and that’s something my doctors would scribble about it I mentioned it. Gotta save them pencil-wear — I’m not so simple as a list of symptoms, added to a single numbered diagnosis,


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