Interview: Jordan Peterson and Dennis Prager at the 2019 PragerU summit – Full Transcript

Dennis Prager interviews Jordan Peterson at the 2019 PragerU summit.

Dennis Prager: So everybody, when I never met in person– I never met Jordan Peterson in person, but I said to him when we met right before lunch something that is said to me by so many people who meet me for the first time: “I feel like I know you”, and I– That is the highest compliment, in effect. I now understand what a compliment it is when I receive it because I never gave it to somebody before you, and I– I have watched you for hours and listened to you, and read your book, and in fact, I didn’t just read your book. I heard your book from you. So I want to tell you something without embarrassing you, but I think I’d like to. You open your heart and your mind and so do I. When I was very young, I realized that God or nature had given me what I have called a “goodness detector”, and I knew, I always knew when I was in the presence of a good person because that’s all I really care about. I think brains are wildly over-rated. Wildly. That’s why I think you’re not bright if you join MENSA. Why you would want to announce to the world your IQ is so bizarre to me that I– I’m sure there are nice people there, but I I don’t understand it, but I always picked up that and I’ve always been right. It’s a– I’m batting a thousand essentially and when I heard you read your book, the passion comes from, “I just want to help people lead a better life”, and it’s really, it’s quite overwhelming. You didn’t just read that book. You… I won’t say you sang it, but I like that you use music. I’m very much into music too. So this is the man that I’m honored to have this dialogue with, because you’re– everybody knows you’re bright, but I know you’re good, so I wanted to state that at the outset.


Jordan Peterson: I have something to say about that.

Prager: Good. That’s good.


Peterson: See I don’t think it’s true. I mean, this is why. I got motivated to do what I’ve been doing, and I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing for, I would say since about 1979 in one form or another because things take a long time to generate. And one of the things I learned in the early ’80s was that people have a great capacity for evil, and I didn’t really understand that of myself until the early eighties, something like that, after meditating on it for a long time, and so I would say, it’s not that I’m– I would never claim to be good. I think it’s dangerous. But I did become terrified of how terrible I could be. And I mean, I became terrified about how terrible human beings could be and that’s one thing, but that’s easy– It’s easy to confuse that with other human beings. You know, it’s a different thing to understand that it’s true of yourself. I often recommend to my students that they read history as a perpetrator and not as a victim or a hero and people very seldom do that and it’s no wonder, but I would say perhaps that I became terrified enough from learning what I learned that I tried to avoid the pathways that lead people to the dark places that they go, and there’s something in that that might approximate good.

Prager: Yeah, it does approximate good. I would agree with that.



The parallels between us are so eerie to me that in my book on happiness, which came out of ’99, I actually have a chapter on the necessity of having a tragic view of life, and then I hear you speak of, like just now, this tragic view of life and ironically, if you don’t have that, you can’t be happy. So it’s just another example of this in that you’re getting this message out. If you want to comment on that, please, if not I’ll go on. You are such an– I watch you and you’re such an intense listener. I don’t know when you’re gonna react so…


Peterson: There’s this old idea You all know this idea. It’s an idea that’s expressed, for example, in the classic Disney movie, a classic Disney movie which I really like, called Pinocchio and you know when Pinocchio is attempting to free himself from the forces that manipulate him as a puppet and to become an autonomous being, he is required to go to the darkest place to find the worst, the worst monster and face that voluntarily, and in doing so, he rescues his father, and that’s a very old idea. I don’t know how old it is. It’s one of the oldest ideas we have in written form and and there’s no doubt that in its pre-written form it would be tens of thousands of years older than that, and it’s a very strange idea that you have to journey to the darkest abyss to free the spirit of your father. But there’s a reason for it, and it has to do with the tragic view of life, which is, that you can’t discover what you’re capable of being or withstanding, and those are the same things without — if you hide away from any of the things about life that are terrible but true, and the reason you can’t discover who you are without doing that is that only necessity will force that out of you, and I mean that from the perspective of learning, if you go work in a palliative care ward, you’ll learn to deal with death. You’ll learn the psychological strategies necessary — the steps. You’ll become more informed, but it’s deeper than that even.
We know now from a biological perspective that if you put yourself in new situations, in new and challenging situations, that new genes turn on in your nervous system and code for new proteins that produce new neurological structures. And so, you can’t even be what you are fully biologically unless you expose yourself to everything that you can expose yourself to, as you journey through life. The old idea of a pilgrimage was predicated on that idea, as is walking the Chartres Cathedral, the labyrinth. The idea that you walk the labyrinth in Chartres and you come to the center is that you traverse every corner of the world quarter by quarter, and then you come to the center, and the center is the center of the church, and it’s the center of the crucifixion. It’s the center of suffering and you can’t get to what that center signifies without having journeyed everywhere.
And so, the tragic view of life is necessary, because it puts you on the journey that reveals to yourself who you could be if you were courageous, as courageous as you could be, and as truthful as you could be, and that’s equivalent to discovering, to reviving your dead father, because you are an ancient creature in some sense and perhaps one with a spark of divinity inherent in it, but you will never release that unless you’re willing to go everywhere that you have to go, because only necessity will call that out of you. And so you can’t be happy. You can’t be complete without… You can’t know what you could withstand. You can’t have any proper sense of self-respect unless you know what you can tolerate, and if you avoid everything that you have reason to avoid, but should nonetheless not avoid, you won’t know who you are and then you can’t live properly.

Prager: You have said on a number of occasions, and on every occasion that I have watched you say it, not a single person in the panel, you often talk on panels, not one person has ever actually reacted to it. I totally get it. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most important things you regularly say. You live as if there is a God. Is that correct?

Peterson: Well, people ask me if I believe in God. You know, I’m gonna release a podcast about that, because I answered that question for about two hours in Australia, because people kept asking me that question, which I really don’t like. I don’t like that question, and so I sat and thought about it for a good while and I tried to figure out why, and and then I thought, “Well, you believe”. I thought, who would have the audacity to claim that they believed in God, if they examined the way they lived. Who would dare say that? To believe, you think, to believe in a Christian sense — this is why Nietzsche said there was only ever one Christian, and that was Christ. To have the audacity to claim that, means that you live it out fully and that’s an unbearable task in some sense.
I just debated Slavoj Žižek about a week ago, although it wasn’t really much of a debate. It was a strange event, but he said something very brilliant, and to me that justified the entire event, at least from my perspective. He talked about Christ’s moment of crisis on the cross, when he cried out to God that he had been forsaken, and what Žižek said was that what that meant was that the conditions of human existence are so tragic that even God himself in human form lost faith for a moment in the goodness of being. And I thought that was a remarkable observation, because, well, if God himself would lose faith under such conditions, what would you expect from normal human beings confronted with what we’re confronted by?
To be able to accept the structure of existence, the suffering that goes along with it, and the disappointment, and the betrayal, and to nonetheless act properly, right, to aim at the good with all your heart, right, to dispense with the malevolence and your desire for destruction and revenge and all of that and to face things courageously and to tell the truth, to speak the truth and to act it out. That’s what it means to believe. That’s what it means! It doesn’t mean to state it! It means to act it out, and unless you act it out, you should be very careful about claiming it. And so I’ve never been comfortable saying anything other than I try to act as if God exists because God only knows what you’d be if you truly believed.
I mean, if you think about it in some sense, that’s the central idea in Christianity is that if you were capable of believing, it would be a transfiguring event, a truly transfiguring event. And I know people experience that to one degree or another, but we have no idea what the limit of that is. So we have no idea what the possibility is within each person if they lived a life that was maximally courageous and maximally truthful. You know, because maybe you’re running at 60% or 70% or 20%, and at cross-purposes to yourself. God only knows what you’d be, if you believed. And so, well, I try to act like I believe, but I’d never claim that I manage it, because it’s a lot to manage properly, and you have to be careful about claiming to manage things that you can’t manage, and so that’s part of the answer to that question.

Prager: It’s a great answer as it happens.


Prager: I’d like you to react to something that is very operative in my life. I just, and if you— I always tell people on my radio show: Totally feel free to say, “Sorry. I really don’t find that tenable,” or whatever you, however you want to react. My route as an adult to God has been completely circuitous. I have come through the the back door. As I wrote 25 years ago, “How I found God at Columbia.” I realized in the ’70s at graduate school at Columbia that I was being taught nonsense. Literally nonsense. Things that made no sense, and it drove me crazy because they were all bright. Bright people taught me nonsense. One day walking through Columbia, the only time I ever had— I wouldn’t say, I never had a theophany, but I did have an epiphany. All of a sudden one of the verses from my yeshiva education in Brooklyn, New York, the Cloistered Orthodox world of my childhood and I don’t use Cloistered and I don’t like Cloistered but I’m not using it at a pejorative way. I’m just explaining what I had, and all of a sudden, one of the verses that we said every morning in kindergarten first grade and second grade, for the first time since second grade came to my brain. [Speaks Hebrew] Wisdom begins with fear of the Lord. Changed my life. There’s no wisdom at Columbia because there’s no God at Columbia and that has been— that is one of the ways I knew. Oh, without God, look what happens. Without God, look what happens morally, intellectually, in terms of wisdom, and my biggest reasons for belief in God are watching what happens when people don’t. So I’d love to have your reaction.

Peterson: Is it C.S. Lewis? Was it C.S. Lewis who said that if you cease to believe in God you’ll start to believe in anything?

Prager: That was the British guy…

Peterson: Chesterton.

Prager: Chesteron. Right? Yeah.

Peterson: Thank you. Yeah. Well, that’s a… That’s a good way of looking at it. I mean if Catholicism, you know? I’ve gone through lots of Catholic cathedrals in Europe. And of course, they’re stunning creations but they’re gothic and strange and the doctrine is eerie, and complex and surreal and the Biblical writings are the same. You think of a book like Revelation for example. But I think that Catholicism, that’s as sane as people can get. You know, broadly speaking is that we need a metaphysic, a narrative metaphysic to hold us together, and it has to be predicated on something that’s transcendent and absolute. And if you lose that, then you’ll fall for something else. You’ll fall for something else, or you’ll fall for nothing, which is which is no better, and I learned that from reading Nietzsche and I learned that from reading Dostoevsky and this is the problem with the rationalists like Sam Harris and the atheists, Dawkins. Now they believe that if we dispensed with our superstitions, we’d all become Harris and Dawkins.


Rational beings devoted towards the good, however we conceptualize that for rational reasons and I don’t believe that, because I don’t believe that we are rational beings fundamentally. I think we’re deeply irrational. It’s amazing that we can all sit in this room together without tearing ourselves into shreds. And I mean that. It’s really quite a remarkable thing that all of us, who’ve come from all over North America, can sit here so peacefully and concentrate on a single thing without any tension or trouble. The improbability of that should not be underestimated and the unlikelihood that that might be the case.
And then the issue of God as well is that there has to be something of fundamental worth. There is something that you consider of fundamental worth! You know what? I think that regard for other people, for the consciousness of other people, for the conscious being of other people, is in that realm. If you’re going to have a relationship with yourself. If you’re going to be able to love someone else. If you’re going to be able to take care of your family and your community, you have to attribute to human beings, a value that might as well be described as divine, given that it has to be the the ultimate value that you hold. I see, it seems to me that it’s not unreasonable to associate that value that is intrinsic in humanity, with something that’s of metaphysically— that’s metaphysically real. That’s part of the structure of reality itself, and my sense has been that it’s… It makes… If you watch how people act when they’re acting properly, the hypothesis that there is divinity within us, that reflects divinity itself, is the only conclusion that makes sense that works. And so I think the evidence, I think the evidence suggests that.
You know, you said, you look what happens when societies lose their bearings. It’s like, yeah, that’s what convinced me to the degree that I became a religious person. I didn’t… wasn’t as if I discovered God. It was more like I discovered Satan. I’d discovered the Devil and certainly believed that very powerfully. Metaphysically or not, you don’t have to read that much about what happened in Nazi Germany or what happened in the Soviet Union or what happened in Maoist China, what continues to happen in many places around the world, to be convinced that there’s a great darkness and it seems to me that if there’s a great darkness then there has to be a great light, and the first part of that is true beyond any hope of refutation, and the second seems to be a logical necessity in the light of the first.

Prager: It’s a powerful line that you… I feel so obviously the same. I want to talk to you about the darkness. So, I’ve often said, all of my life, really, that we have a wrong metaphor in calling evil dark because it’s actually so bright that people can’t stare it in the face. The number of Canadian or American students at the most prestigious universities who could identify Pol Pot or even the Gulag Archipelago, let alone the Great Leap Forward in China, is so small. The knowledge of evil. It is now up to over a quarter of kids never heard of Auschwitz. It’ll be a half very soon. It will be three quarters in a generation. They don’t know evil. At Berkeley, I had a dialogue with two leftist students. My last question to them was, “Do you believe people are basically good?,” and they said “Yes.” And I said, “It’s so demonstrably wrong, that belief, that there’s only one possible explanation for why you hold it. Because you live in such a good country.”

Peterson: Yeah, well, that’s the goodness of naivety, right? And it’s something that’s encouraged, you know, you encourage that by producing safe spaces around people. You produce that by sheltering them. You want to preserve that child-like innocence but once you’re no longer a child, it’s not child-like. It’s just childish. And that’s not good to be a 40-year-old child and to think that people are fundamentally good. It’s not— good is very difficult. It’s by no means the default position. What’s the default position? Entropy! Catastrophe, tragedy, malevolence, and death. That’s the default position. The good struggles up against that. That’s no easy thing to manage. To think of that is intrinsic. It’s an intrinsic possibility, but it’s not something that you… It’s not something that… It’s not something that you can manifest without faith and commitment, and the more faith and the more commitment the better, and the deeper the better, and it’s the most difficult of things to do, and it is, it’s appalling to teach people the alternative.
And I know that I speak of this clinically. You know, the people who are most prone to post-traumatic stress disorder are naive people. This is well-known clinically. There’s nothing about this that’s questionable or unorthodox. If you believe that people are basically good and that the world rewards goodness with good in return. If that’s your fundamental belief, that there’s not really any such thing as evil and you encounter someone malevolent, which could be yourself— Well, that’s often what happens to people who develop post-traumatic stress disorder, you know, they’re… it’s very common that people develop P.T.S.D. because they’ve done something so incomprehensibly, morally repugnant that it’s damaged them psychophysiologically, and they cannot recover. It’s very common among soldiers. It’s not what they saw, although sometimes it is. It’s what they did. They have no framework within which to conceptualize it. If you have no theory of evil, if you have no theory of good and evil, if you have no metaphysics, and someone malevolent touches you, you’re done.
And so, telling people that human beings are basically good and that evil doesn’t exist makes them ripe fruit for the picking by the malevolent, and there’s nothing about that that’s positive. It’s mere cowardice masquerading as virtue. It’s the devouring mother from the Freudian perspective. I’ll keep you innocent. I’ll keep you young and naive and nothing will ever come to harm you. It’s like, precisely the opposite is the case in life.

Prager: That is, why by the way, I truly…


Prager: That is why I truly believe that a 12 year old at a traditional Christian or Jewish school is wiser and more likely to be happy than a secular professor of philosophy who is 50 years old. Just because I knew, I went again to yeshiva, so half the day in Hebrew Jewish studies, half the day in English secular studies. I knew at 6, people were not basically good, because God said so in Genesis when he decided to destroy the world because it turned out rotten. So I knew at the earliest possible age, people were not basically good, and it not only affected my [speaks Yiddish], my worldview, it made me happy, because then I realized, “Wow, I’m meeting good people, despite the fact that people are not basically good. I really do have good people in my life. Am I lucky or what?”

Peterson: Yeah. Yeah. Well that’s it. That’s a really good. That’s a really good point because, you see, when I said that it was a miracle that we can all sit here peacefully. Like, that is how I look at it. I think every day when I walk out into the world and it’s not rack and ruins and flames and floods, that it’s a bloody miracle. I mean it! That we hold this together, it’s not an easy thing to do, and peace, to think of peace as the default position is a form of deep insanity. Like, it requires work to maintain peace and you can’t be properly grateful unless you understand how unlikely it is that we’re not in the throes of World War 3. We’re not still in the depths of World War 2, that the Cold War is mostly over, that the economic conditions of people everywhere on the planet are improving at a rate that could only be described as miraculous, and that most things are going in a positive direction. If you assume that that’s normative, then you think well, that’s life, and you have no reason to to be wide-eyed, to have your eyes wide open in admiration and gratitude at the fact that the worst, which is frequently manifested itself, is not knocking at your door at this moment, because that’s the story of humanity, and not peace and prosperity. So here we have it, and here we should preserve it, and here we should spread it. We should do everything we can to live in a manner that makes that most likely, and we should do that because, well, you said, what did you say about fear of God? It’s like, throughout the Old Testament, you know, it’s one story after another that people develop societies and they become arrogant and they wander off the path. And as soon as they wander off the path, all Hell breaks loose, and if you’re fortunate enough to be where all Hell isn’t breaking loose, you should do everything you can to help ensure that we stay the course and walk the straight and narrow path.

Prager: So I have a—


So, I have a very deep worry, in light of our absolute unanimity, if you could speak of unanimity among two people, but we’re so consonant in this. This is shocking how good things are, and yet in the United States, and I follow Canada a lot but let’s speak about America right now. In the United States, half, at least half of young people think they are living in a rotten society. Sexist, intolerant, xenophobic, homophobic, Islamophobic, racist, bigoted. That’s a SIXHERB. That’s my acronym for what I just said. This is frightening to me and I want to know is it frightening to you?

Peterson: Well, you know, I always try to give the devil his due, and the idea that the West is a oppressive patriarchy, characterized by the sins that you just described, is true. You know, there’s, if we look through our history, personal or political, there’s no shortage of things to be appalled by. That’s not the question exactly, or that’s not the issue. The issue is compared to what? No, it was Churchill, this time I’ve got this right. * laughter * It was Churchill who said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the other forms of government, and I would say that about our societies is that, there’s no— We have every reason to be awake and cognizant of our errors. Whether they’re political or economic or personal, but compared to how it could be, and how it has been in many places and how it is most everywhere in the world and how it was for much of the 20th century. Things are so good here that it’s absolutely beyond comprehension, and so along with that, careful awareness of the flaws of the patriarchy, let’s say, should be an unbelievable gratitude that we could wake up in the morning and the lights are on and the the freeways are running, and there’s no starvation directly facing us, and that our children will live and that the probability that any one of us will die a violent death is negligible, and the thing that bothers me about… one of the things that bothers me about the modern university is the absolute lack of gratitude that characterizes its teachings. It’s like, it’s half the story, you know, it’s like people are oppressed by nature, and people are oppressed by culture, and people are oppressed by their own dark nate, their own dark side. It’s an existential reality, but you have to balance that. You have to understand that nature has its benevolent element and that’s what’s giving you life, and you have to be grateful for your culture, for everything that is provided to you, and you have to understand that people can be good as well as adversarial and malevolent, and you have to be grateful for that and there’s damn… There’s a damnable shortage of gratitude in the modern academy, and that’s based on a naivety or a resentment that’s so deep that it’s almost incomprehensible. A naivety, and a resentment, and a willful blindness to the reality of history that’s so deep that it’s almost incomprehensible.

Prager: If I may ask you… It may strike you as absurd but I’m gonna ask it anyway. Except for technical knowledge, like medicine, or engineering, mathematics, obviously any of the Natural Sciences, law, if nobody went.. If all North Americans graduating high school decided, I’m not going to college, would North America be a better or a worse place?

Peterson: If you took away the STEM fields?

Prager: Yeah, taking away the STEM fields.

Peterson: I think that universities, not colleges necessarily, I think that universities do more harm than good now, and I’m very loath to say that, you know, because I’ve been part of the academy for thirty years, and taught at great institutions, but the postmodern collectivist doctrine is so psychologically and politically toxic that I think that academia now does more harm than good. It’s not only what it teaches, which is the ideology, this ungrateful ideology which denies the existence of the individual. One of the things I might tell you just so you know this, is that, you know that you hear that there are debates about free speech on campus, about who should talk and who shouldn’t, and people think that’s what the debate is about. About who should talk and who shouldn’t. But that’s not what the debate is about. You’re not even scraping the surface of the debate if that’s what you think it’s about. The debate on campus is about whether or not a human being has the capacity to communicate intelligibly as an individual or not, and the answer for the postmodernist collective types is that there is no such thing as an individual, and therefore the very notion of free speech is absurd, because free speech is predicated on the idea that each of us have something to say that’s ours, that’s a consequence of our unique individuality, not our group identity, or the multiplicity of our group identities but something that– something that we have that speaks from our spirit, that can speak to the spirit of another and produce a negotiated peace, and that’s what’s being debated! The war that’s going on philosophically or theologically in the campuses is far deeper than you think. The entire notion of the reality of the individual, which is, I think, also the entire notion of the idea that human beings are made in the image of God most fundamentally, that is what’s being attacked. It wasn’t for nothing that Derrida called Western culture phallogocentric. Phallus for masculine, logos for logos, for truth and courage, and centric for centric. That was a criticism from his perspective. The idea of the sovereignty of the individual. If you don’t have the idea of the sovereignty of the individual, because there’s no individual, there’s no free speech. All you are is an avatar of your group interests, and if I’m not in your group, it’s not in my interest to let you speak. There’s nothing that we have to say to one another. There’s nothing but power. It’s a Hobbesian nightmare of group against group and that’s the postmodern doctrine, and so, it’s, to call it appalling is to barely scrape the surface. It’s an assault. It is truly an assault on the most fundamental principles by which the West is governed. It’s not surface level philosophy. It goes all the way to the bottom. This is partly why I’ve been concentrating on religious themes in my lectures, let’s say, because the argument goes all the way down to first principles. Is the idea of the sovereignty of the individual correct? The Western answer is, it’s the great discovery of the West. The Western answer is that’s the most fundamental truth. That is exactly what’s under assault at the universities. The reason that the collectivist types hate me is because I’ve got their number. I know what they’re up to.


And I think, further that, they do not wish to shoulder the unbearable responsibility of being a sovereign individual. So, not only is it— And that accounts for the cowardice, and that accounts for the attempt to weaken the spirit of the people that they’re teaching, by over-protecting them. They’re not willing to take on the responsibility, and that the fault has to lie elsewhere. And I think that’s a good judge of someone, someone’s character in general. It’s like: Well, the world is in the messy state. Let’s say, and the question is, whose fault is it? And the answer is: Yours. That’s the right answer. It’s not the patriarchy. It’s not some identifiable group. It’s not some structure that’s gone wrong, even though those things can go wrong, and that’s the other fundamental truth of the West. Is that, things would be a lot better if you were a lot better, and you have to decide if you’re willing to accept that, and you have every reason not to. It’s it’s a terrible thought. Don’t— With Solzhenitsyn I think, and this is a paraphrase, but it’s close enough, he said that one person who stopped lying could bring down a tyranny, and that, when I first read that, I thought, “That can’t possibly be true,” and as I understood it, I thought, “That can’t possibly not be true,” because the only thing that can break the spine of a tyranny is the truth, and the only person that— the only way that the truth can be told is that some individual tells it. And so it’s necessarily the case that tyranny is broken by the truth of the individual. But then the question is well, is it going to be you that’s going to do that? It’s no trivial thing. You know, people come and tell me very frequently, and they write me and they say “Well, you know, I agree with what you say and this terrible thing is happening in my workplace, and you know, I don’t know what to do about it. And I don’t want you to make my story public because of the potential for repercussions.” And I think, yeah, Well, I mean, I understand your position. It’s no joke – it’s no joke to stand up when the amateur totalitarians are knocking on your office door. But if you don’t, then sooner than you think it’ll be the professional totalitarians, and then you’ll be in this sort of trouble that, that unless you’ve tried to imagine it, you can’t possibly imagine.

Prager: In the minutes remaining, I’m gonna ask you a few personal questions, as I did with the late great Charles Krauthammer at one of our weekends, because people like, including me, are just fascinated. So here’s one: What was the city in Alberta you grew up in?

Peterson: Well, it wasn’t a city.

Prager: Exactly. Okay.

Peterson: It was a little town. It’s called Fairview. It’s about 800 miles north of the American border. So, it’s a long ways up there.

Prager: Right. So how often, if at all, do you think, when people stop you at airports and you go around the world lecturing, “Jordan Peterson from Fairview, it’s hard to believe.” Does that happen?

Peterson: Well, I live in a constant state of disbelief. I mean, I’m dead serious about this. I think it’s a form of post-traumatic shock in some sense. I mean, my life in the last three years has been just a continuous series of surreal impossibilities. I mean, on the one hand, I’ve been involved in a political scandal of some sort for a good year and a half. It was at least twice a week, and then for the entire three year period, it’s been at least once a week. It’s non-stop and sometimes it’s national, and sometimes it’s international, but it’s continual, and so that’s…
I’ll give you an example. This is a funny little story. My son came over one day about a year and a half ago, and I was having a kind of a rough day because 200 of my colleagues at the university had signed a document trying to get me fired, and then they gave it to the Union and and the Union presented it to the administration without even informing me, even though I’m part of the faculty Union, and so I said to my son, “Julian, you know 200 of my colleagues today just signed a letter, saying that I should be fired,” and he said “Oh, Dad, don’t don’t worry about that. It was only 200.”


But I thought, well, that’s where we were at, you know, was like, oh that’s nothing. That was a light day.


I was okay, you know, and then, so there’s that, and and the fact that it doesn’t quit, that’s another thing I can’t understand. It’s like, you know all this blew up around me around Bill C16, and I thought, well, I’ve had my 15 minutes or my, then it was like, well, I’ve had my week, and then it was like, I must have had my month, and then… but none of that happened. It just kept expanding and expanding and expanding and expanding and expanding and every day I wake up and I think well, this is gonna come to an end, but it doesn’t. It just expands, and that just doesn’t seem credible in the least. Every time I come to an event like this, or I mean, when I was in Australia, I was speaking to audiences of 5,500 people, and it’s like: How in the world can you believe that? It’s like, you heard what I just said. Who in their right mind would come and listen to someone who just told you what I told you. You know? It’s so dark, and it’s so demanding, you wouldn’t think that people would line up for blocks and spend their hard-earned money, and and come because it’s a marital anniversary. That’s what they say. “This was our anniversary present to each other.” I think you people, you’re completely out of your mind! *laughter* And so, and then, I think too, you know that the state of disbelief is necessary, and maybe that’s an advantage to being older, because I’m too old to adapt rapidly, and this isn’t the sort of thing that you should adapt to, right? I should be in a constant state of shock, disbelief, because it keeps my head on straight. I don’t know what’s going on exactly. I don’t know why it’s the case that what I’m saying is so necessary apparently, but it seems to be, and I’m trying to figure out why. But I’m certainly not for a second, I think I take very little for granted, and I mean, I think I take even less for granted than you might think. I told you that I don’t take it for granted that you can all sit here peacefully, you know. And that is how I look at the world, is that if it isn’t burning in rack and runes, then I think it’s a bloody miracle and the fact that things have gone well for me, and that I’m still standing, which is also a miracle of sorts. You know, I mean, there are probably 30 different scandalous episodes, that had every, that anyone with any sense would have thought would finish me, and they’ve all backfired, and that’s also…


I also don’t understand that. It’s like, I don’t understand that. I get attacked in New York Times, and my friends call me, who are New York Times readers, and they say, “You’ve had it this time, because that was the New York Times, you know, you’re not gonna recover from that,” and I think well, that’s probably true. I mean, I was expecting it to happen all along, and then I wait and then, you know, everybody clamors at me and then I don’t respond too much to that, and it starts to die away, and then all the supporters come out, and then there’s a hundred people who clamor and 10,000 supporters, and you know, here’s something I can tell you about my life that’s really remarkable. So, you know, if you just read the press, well, you’d have all sorts of ideas about me. I mean, you know that I’m a bigot in the broadest possible sense. And so, that’s, you know, racist, sexist, homophobic, ethnocentric, white nationalist, alt right, Nazi, Hitler, all of those things. And you’d think that there was just nothing but hatred. Although, I have been treated well by many journalists, but you could easily get that sense that I live in a world where I’m surrounded by hatred, and that is absolutely not true! It’s so not true that it’s…
You know, there are lies and then there anti-truths, and an anti truth is even worse than a lie. It’s like the ultimate form of lie, and that isn’t what my life is like at all. What my life is like is that I travel with my wife and wherever we go, and I mean that literally, wherever we go— We’ve been to I don’t know how many countries in the last year. It’s like, I don’t know how many. 30-40, many countries. If I go down the street, or if I’m in an airport, or if I’m in a cafe, or if I’m in a movie theater, or if I’m in a mechanic’s shop, some person comes up to me every 10 minutes, and says, “I hope I’m not disturbing you.” And they’re very, very polite, and they say, “I’ve been listening to your lectures or I’ve been watching your YouTube videos or I read your book, and I was in this dreadful place six months ago,” and then they tell me a little bit about the particulars of that little corner of Hell they were ensconced in, and then they say, “Well, I’ve been trying to develop a vision for my life.” Or, “I’ve been trying to take more responsibility,” or “been trying to be grateful for my job, mundane though it may be,” or “I’ve decided that I’m going to try to put my family together, and make peace, and I’ve really been trying and it’s really working and things are way better, and thank you.” [voice crackles] And so, Well, it’s overwhelming to have that happen continually. It’s very difficult to believe, but it’s unbelievably positive. You know, I mean, it’s… if you could imagine, if you could ask for what you want today. You could have anything you wanted. You might think, “It would be lovely if I could live my life in a manner so that wherever I went in the world, perfect strangers would come up to me, one after the other, and tell me that they’re suffering much less, that their families are in better shape, and that their lives are on course, because they took they took to heart something that I was communicating.” That’s as good as it gets, as far as I can tell.


Prager: I really don’t want to ask anything else. I think this was so powerful, and if that didn’t prove my instinct is right, nothing will. Jordan Peterson, you are a good man. You are doing a lot of good. I thank God he made you. Thank you.

[Cheers and applause]

* * *

Further reading:

Jordan Peterson, On the New York Times and “Enforced Monogamy” [External link]

Meaning of “enforced monogamy”? [External link]

Ben Shapiro, ‘The New York Times’ Runs A Comprehensive Hit Piece On Jordan Peterson. It’s Dishonest, Malicious Crap. [External link]



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