Review of ‘12 Rules for Life’ by Jordan B. Peterson

I read this book because I know Peterson is Canadian, has a huge following, and he seems to have infuriated the self righteous left in the ongoing culture wars.
I am more of a ‘pox on both your houses’ about these left/right schisms. When either call their opponents stupid or evil, and treat a discussion as an excuse to hate, I’m out.
I wanted to see what the fuss was about, and for the first nine rules of twelve, I thought I might have picked up the wrong book. Most rules are pretty matter of fact. Stand up straight with your shoulders back. Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping. Make friends with people who want the best for you. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.
This is almost milquetoast advice. How can people get offended by this? There are a lot of biblical references to the King James bible, but more as an historical reference. It is a core of much Western thought, literature and morality, so I wasn’t offended. I attended Sunday school as a kid, so I know most of the stories.
I bogged down on so much psychological discussion. Even got bored a bit.
In the later chapters, I can see how it might rub some of the left academic woke folk the wrong way. He talks about gender roles as self evident, when so many university types want to change everything in the name of overturning capitalism, the patriarchy, or whatever other ills they see in society.
I rolled my eyes a bit, as Peterson sets up a straw man that most of us ignore day to day. I know when I hear an academic talk about ending Capitalism, I think of a quote from Michael Ungar “Western capitalism may have problems, but it has proven to be the engine for the greatest advances is economic and physical well-being in the history of mankind.” It betrays a naivety of the person who suggests ending it rather than regulating it. And Peterson covers well the alternatives of Fascism and Communism, the horrors of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot.
He makes several references to Dostoevsky’s ‘The Brothers Karamazov’, which is funny as I am reading it right now. He points out some of the imagery or metaphors in the book I may have missed. But I am still not enjoying it, and won’t read another book by Dostoevsky soon.
Peterson makes a point about how boys and young men are being marginalized because they are not like women enough. This is one reason I want to write books for boys and young men. Young women are going to university at much higher rates than young men. This will eventually lead to women in more leadership roles, which may be good, but men will be poorer and have fewer opportunities. I want to work to turn that around.
Men still lead in the STEM areas, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. For now.
I do like his idea to do one thing each day to improve your life in some small way. Clean your desk, pay your bills, return some calls. Balance a cheque book.
So in summary, a decent book, if a bit long, dealing with some current issues.

So as I prepare to post this review, I see Peterson is in the news again today. The College of Psychologists of Ontario has censured him over some tweets. He has been ordered to take a course in social media, which is kind of funny, as this entire episode is him running a Masterclass in using social media.

August 23, 2023

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ISBN 9780345816047