Jordan Peterson stated on BBC Radio in January 2018, “It just takes a little bit of encouragement and care so that they’re (young men) willing to set themselves straight and start trying. It’s just a catastrophe that that’s so rare in their lives. They’re desperate for a discussion about responsibility and fair play and noble being and working properly in the world and to hear the idea that their lives actually matter and that if they straighten themselves up and fly right that they’ll have a beneficial effect on themselves and their family and the community and the world is starving for that…It’s so damn sad.”
Peterson emphasises meaning and responsibility, drawing on an array of rich mythological and archetypal symbolism as well as some of the work of history’s greatest thinkers such as Jung and Nietzsche.
Among Peterson’s work is a noteworthy portfolio of Disney film deconstructions, among which is a deconstruction of Peter Pan. Peterson outlines the definition of the word “Pan” being “all’ or “everything”, which he suggests is symbolic of the endless potential associated with childhood. Peterson uses the character of Pan to represent reluctance to grow up due to the disgust of the adults around him (Hook). Pan, suggests Peterson, refuses to sacrifice the endless potential of childhood for disabled tyranny and fails to make the proper sacrifices he must in order to grow up, resulting in a life in Neverland as the king of the lost boys which, as Peterson states, is hardly a better alternative. Peterson claims that Hook is not the consequence of sacrifice but failure to make proper sacrifices. Peterson suggests that while sacrifice is unavoidable, whether the sacrifices we make are self defined or thrust upon us is in the hands of the individual.
In a video published in May 2017 on his YouTube channel, Jordan B Peterson (2017 Maps of Meaning 11: The Flood and the Tower), Peterson discusses the results of his implementation of the Future Authoring Program, a program designed by him and his colleagues to assist users in detailing their ideal future and orienting their lives towards self defined future goals. Peterson claims that the program had a “differential” impact on men, particularly those performing poorly. He points out that young women across the board are preforming better than young men so perhaps the program is more effective for those who are not fulfilling their potential. Peterson then describes the overlapping distribution for agreeableness among men and women, demonstrating a disproportionate amount of disagreeable men compared to women i.e. extremely disagreeable people are men and extremely agreeable people are women. The biggest differences, Peterson notes, likely occur at the extremes.
Explaining potential causes of the general lack of direction among young men, Phillip Zimbardo in 2015 reported at a TEDx conference in Rawa that young men are increasingly deprived of positive male role models and that too many young men spend excessive amounts of time playing video games and watching pornography. On The Joe Rogan Experience #1118, Theo Von commented on pornography, stating that porn weakens him and his ability to have sex and feel comfortable due to the lack of emotional engagement required when watching porn. Von voiced his opinion that pornography is having a negative impact on men which certainly could be the case. This, plus excessive use of other digital engagements such as social media and video games and the overlapping distribution for agreeableness alludes to a widespread hedonistic view on life. Explaining the demand for Dr. Peterson’s work among young men in particular is its ability to bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood for the millions lacking adequate knowledge and demonstration of such virtues in their own lives.
In a YouTube video published on London Real in Jun 2016, author, Simon Sinek points out that young people at large are raised to believe anything is theirs simply because they want it and have grown up in a world of instant gratification resulting in a widespread impatience. This is a notion Peterson often addresses, stating that young people are increasingly fed monologues surrounding rights without having the discussion about responsibility. Sinek goes on to liken compulsive device use to alcoholism, claiming that young people increasingly lack the skill set to ask for help and instead, turn to the screen in the face of stressful situations. Lois C.K. on Conan in 2013 amplifies Sinek’s claims, humorously emphasising the need for people to face their feelings rather than masking them through compulsive behaviour.
“I started to get that sad feeling and I was reaching for the phone and I said, ‘You know what? Don’t. Just be sad. Just let the sadness hit you like a truck.’ And I let it come and I pulled over and I just cried like a bitch. I cried so much and it was beautiful. Sadness is poetic; you’re lucky to live sad moments. And then I had happy feelings because when you let yourself feel sad… happiness comes rushing in to meet the sadness…but because we don’t want to feel that first little bit of sadness we push it away.”
It is apparent that unlimited instant gratification entails certain negative side effects which many struggle to combat. More and more young people, particularly young men, retreat from a chaotic world into the cushy cave of social media and video games, failing to make proper sacrifices or orienting themselves towards the future. Issues surrounding direction, then, can be broadened to young people in general, heightening the significance video game and porn addiction as well as the overlapping distribution for agreeableness in regards to the discussion surrounding young men’s general poor performance compared to women.
Jordan Peterson’s messages are simple on the surface. Clean your room, stop doing all the things you do that you know you shouldn’t, orientate your life towards the future and draw up a routine so that you’re working towards self defined goals each day. It appears, however, that many have been deprived of these maxims. It is responsibility, says Peterson, where the meaning of life lies. And those engaging with Peterson’s work know he is right.