Contrasting impressions of Jordan Peterson sermon

The visit of Jordan Peterson to new Zealand has been remarkably non-controversial. There doesn’t seem to have been any great protests or attempts to shut him up. On the contrary, journalists have flocked to him, with a lot being written about him.

One of Peterson’s shows was at Christchurch. Martin van Beynen and Cecile Meier have written contrasting impressions.

Martin van Beynen:  Jordan Peterson and the meaning of life

If you hadn’t read a thing about Jordan Peterson before turning up at the Isaac Theatre Royal in Christchurch to listen to a two hour, non-stop monologue from the Toronto academic, you would have come away without an inkling of the controversy he has generated around the world.

You would have left the venue thinking the Canadian was obviously an intelligent, well-read and reflective individual whose practice as a clinical psychologist had given him some insights into how people could live more meaningful and successful lives.

Which was disappointing because I had turned up with a free ticket with my colleague and fellow columnist Cecile Meier. The idea was that we would both write about our evening at Peterson’s talk with sparks flying due to our contrasting pre-conceptions and views on life.

In fact Peterson, who at times came across as a television evangelist in the American style, said little to create any sort of headline.

Both van Beynen and Meier mention what looks like an attempt by Peterson to dish out a controversial sound bite but didn’t get it headlined.

Anyway most of his life tips were actually pretty much common sense and fell into the category of life lessons that we know but need to be constantly reminded of, especially now.

What makes him so effective, I suspect, is that unlike most of the self-help gurus, he is an erudite, deep-thinking academic whose expertise in human psychology gives him an unusual insight into how life can be improved for individuals and therefore communities.

He underpins his arguments with what he regards as the unalterable truths encapsulated by the ancient stories in texts like the Bible. And those truths are based on our hard wiring and the nature of nature.

I am, of course, aware Peterson propounds some highly debatable notions and that he is hated by some on the left and many feminists.

So what did I learn from two hours of Peterson’s rambling sermon?

I like Peterson’s theory of Chaos and Order and how we need to walk a fine line with one foot firmly in Order and yet pushing ourselves by getting a bit of Chaos as well.

It struck me that I could have used a talk like this as a mixed-up young man. Although Peterson cops a lot of flak for saying Chaos is symbolised by the feminine, he is not saying women are more chaotic than men. Young men are probably far more disordered than young women and do far more damage.

I also liked his take on routine and mundanity. He argues we should work hard on making daily tasks and routine as “right” as possible, partly because we spend so much time on them and secondly because any routine or order is important.

He talked about clients who came to him at age 40 complaining their ideas about how their lives should go had turned to dust. He reminded us that it takes much hard work to be precise and clear about aims and goals and nothing is achieved by a haphazard, unmethodical approach.

In a non-religious age, it was also useful to hear him talk about prayer. One suggestion he had was thinking each night about the stupid things you did that day and how, just by not doing just one of those stupid things the next day, the compounding effect would soon amount to a much more meaningful and productive life.

Van Beynen  sounds like a bit of a fan.

Cecile Meier:  I went to see Jordan Peterson and it was equal parts boring and terrifying

How much would I have to pay you to sit through a two-hour self-help sermon, peppered with relentless biblical references, delivered by a misogynist?

A lot of young men, some older men and a baffling number of women paid between $70 and $270 to experience such torture.

I am talking about the drab monologue burped out by celebrity pop psychologist Jordan Peterson on Wednesday at his sold-out Theatre Royal show in Christchurch.

I understand why men turned up – Peterson has said things like “the masculine spirit is under assault”; The patriarchy makes sense because men are naturally more competent; Violent attacks are what happens when men do not have partners, and monogamy is the answer for that.

But why were the women there? Peterson’s theory is that order is masculine and chaos is feminine. His latest book is subtitled An Antidote to Chaos. This hardly needs Google Translate, but let’s spell it out. The subtitle to his book is “an antidote to feminism”. What kind of woman thinks we need less female power in the world?

Spoiler alert: not me.

Considering Peterson’s wild popularity, his political ambitions and his evangelical tendencies, his beliefs are not just outlandish, but deeply worrying.

I was expecting sensational insights, or at least controversial thoughts, but most of what we are getting is self-help gibberish. Maybe Peterson is not so such a threat to humankind after all.

He says you need a majority of positive interactions and a few negative interactions for a good relationship. “It kinda looks like for every 11 smiles you have to deliver one slap,” (the crowd laughs) “now I’m sure that will be the headline in some New Zealand newspaper” (the crowd goes wild). “Dr Peterson recommends slapping your wife and husband every 11 interactions – that’s the problem with not really understanding metaphors” (more clapping).

Sure, Jordan, it’s hilarious to joke about domestic violence in a country grappling with the issue. Ironically, later on he talks about one of the rules he had for his son: “Funny is good, but don’t push it. It’s a really tight line.”

But the audience loves it. They laugh and hoot. During the show, they frequently break into applause when he dishes out cliches like “cathedrals are built brick by brick”.

They adore him.

When it’s finally over, my bum hurts and my head spins. I wonder what the show was all about. Mostly I think it was about bringing old values back, revisiting the Bible, and making sure you have kids in your twenties or you’ll be infertile and miserable.

My conclusion? Peterson is indeed dangerous because he uses common sense self-help advice and tales of ancient wisdom to subjugate crowds of insecure people. When they are suitably hypnotised, he slowly lets his Handmaid’s Tale-style ideas slip in. Or maybe my inferior female brain is just not able to grasp the brilliance of his metaphors.

So there are people who like Peterson and people who don’t.  People (apart from journalists) pay a substantial amount to go and listen to him so he is playing to a market.

I empathise more with Meier’s account. I’m not into commercial sermonisers repeating common sense laced with biblical references with the odd controversial bone thrown in.

I’ve never enjoyed sitting through an hour of church (that’s way back in my past) so paying $140 to listen to two hours without the musical interludes is not something I would be interested in. And I’m not wanting to be saved by Peterson or anyone, I am happy with myself and my own abilities to work things out.

Different strokes for different folks.

At least free speech doesn’t seem to have been compromised.

Leave a comment


  1. artcroft

     /  24th February 2019

    One said Jordan Peterson offered sound advice for young men, advice he would have appreciated hearing at a young age, the other that he was a dangerous misogynist.

    This Jordan clearly isn’t an effective communicator.

    • Corky

       /  24th February 2019

      So what you are a say’n Arty is this: ”Two owlhoots have called you out. You square off. They go for their irons. But your double draw is faster. Both owlhoots drop to their knees dying.

      One says: ” Thankyou Arty for not blowing my ears off and disgracing me. Thankyou for teaching me to die like a man”

      The second says: ” You son of a bitch, Arty. My life of whisky and women is over thanks to you. I’ll see you in hell, boy! ”

      Are you critiquing yourself for their utterances? Or is what they think and believe regarding you leading them their business?

  2. sorethumb

     /  24th February 2019

    Jordan Peterson’s real attraction is taking on social science and humanities. Bret Weinstein says Peterson is an empirical social scientist and that social science has a crisis of replicability. He undermines the foundations of so many peoples academic studies and brings this knowledge to the general public.

  3. Gezza

     /  24th February 2019

    Cecile Meier’s was the 2nd article on him to appear in the Stuff front page, headliners & she mentioned she’d gone along with Martin, so I waited for her male colleague’s assessment to show up.

    The first one to appear as a headliner, though, was this one, from Verity Johnson:

    OPINION: This week it seems that everyone has been called upon to have an opinion on Jordan Peterson. It’s no mean feat given that I, and I’m sure many of you, are still trying to understand what this grumpy bearded old dude actually stands for, and why on earth he’s so popular.

    There is no denying he is popular, staggeringly popular in fact, albeit largely among dudes. It was an veritable sausage fest on Monday night when I ran into his fans: it was like the feeding of the 5000 30-something white men at his Auckland Town Hall talk. Aside from the dudes, there were six female partners, three placard-wavers, and one wizard in a natty black velvet cape and hat.

    For a long time I really struggled to understand this mass masculine appeal. I’d read his book, which is a messianic mixture of biology, biblical passages and Cosmopolitan-level life advice. There’s the occasional heartwarming insight into the kind of man who falls deeper in love with his wife when seeing her exercising relentless kindness to an unloved toddler. But at its best it’s predictable platitudes for respectable living, and at worst reductive biological explanations for all human behaviour.


    And that one made me realise how little she understands anything about men. Or why Peterson goes down so well with young men who after a lifetime of hearing what’s wrong with them understand so little about men.

    • Gezza

       /  24th February 2019

      And, because it came up in the other side headlines of other fluffy feminine stuff, I then read this one:

      OPINION: My husband and I have been more than just conscious about raising a feminist boy, we have been deliberate. Where possible we buy clothes that are gender neutral, regularly shopping in the girls’ clothing section as well as the boys.

      Our AFL obsessed kid is encouraged to watch the women’s matches as well as the men’s and loves to put on a tutu for “twirling”. I change the genders of characters in songs like Five Cheeky Monkeys, so that it is daddy who calls the doctor and the doctor is a woman.

      We’ve taught Rafi to tidy up after himself, rather than expecting his parents to do it. Even though he is abominably ineffective, I still feel a flush of pride when he attempts to wipe up his messy placemat after dinner and puts his bowl in the sink. He thinks helping me take washing off the line is fun and asks inquisitively about how Daddy’s iron works. I hope this early modelling sticks and that he never assumes it is the lot of women to clean and take care of him.

      Yet more and more, I cannot seem to shut out the avalanche of influence that exists beyond the walls of our home. Television, childcare, kids at the park, neighbours, extended family and friends are unwittingly starting to sway the views and expectations of my son. Gender stereotypes become entrenched and along with them, Rafi’s world begins to narrow. Like all three-year-old kids, he parrots back what his parents teach him. My son calls himself a feminist, but his actions don’t reflect that in the way they used to.

      Rafi moved childcare centres a few months back and since then the names of the kids he plays with are exclusively male. His interest in girl playmates has all but disappeared. It breaks my heart. He is no longer keen on dressing up or playing house. It’s all dinosaurs and footy and Transformers and outer space.

      Now, of course, none of these things are inherently bad and I want to encourage his passions, whatever they might be. Yet, I question how many of Rafi’s interests are genuinely his own and how much is being imposed by the structures and settings around him. As his parents, we worked hard to free him from those gendered confines and yet as he grows up it seems all but impossible to maintain.
      More feminist male-baby-down-putting drivel…

      • The Consultant

         /  24th February 2019

        A few years ago, the once famous and influential magazine, Newsweek, sold for $US 1.00.

        I think Stuff is racing lower that record.

      • Gezza

         /  24th February 2019

        And this morning, while hunting down that lunatic’s article, I came across these tossers

        A US family is letting their baby decide its own gender.

        Sparrow, who the parents jokingly call a ‘theyby’, will choose their gender when they are old enough to understand what it means. The parents are using they and them pronouns to let baby Sparrow “explore gender without

        Ari Dennis is letting their baby Sparrow decide its own gender. “Girl children are complimented on their appearance way more than boy children. I’m just moving boy/girl from the equation and just treating my child like a child.”

        The baby’s toys are a mixture of blue and pink, and dolls and trucks.

        The family got the idea to raise their child without a gender from ‘theyby’ Facebook groups.

    • Pink David

       /  24th February 2019

      I found it rather an intriguing contrast to her earlier efforts to ‘mumager’ her boyfriends…

      The toll on her seems very high indeed, two breakdowns from this ‘mummager’ business. She would have been better off outsourcing the work to Peterson.

      “It took me a long, long time (and two major breakdowns) to realise how damaging it is to approach your relationships this way. There is nothing more soul-eroding than continually running from your own dreams by renovating someone else’s.”

      She really does have a significant bit of cognitive dissonance going on.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  24th February 2019

        Given that ‘gender stereotypes’ seem universal, in the sense that men are expected to do the dangerous and unpleasant things in life and women are not, I think that we’re stuck with some of them. In the Solomon Islands, when a wife and husband are travelling through the jungle, he walks ahead carrying nothing heavier than a large knife, she follows with their possessions on her back, held by a band across her head, The reason ? if there’s danger, she slides the bundle off and runs back with the children while the man is dealing with whatever it is.

        Gender stereotypes meant a tiny number of men surviving the Titanic and the few who did being harassed and vilified as cowards.

        Gender stereotypes mean only men being forced to join the army.

    • Pink David

       /  24th February 2019

      • Mother

         /  24th February 2019

        Poor Cecile has trouble understanding that men can be compassionate too. Some even cry! Masculinity with compassion may be what she naturally desires?

        Compassionate intelligent men get good things done.

        It can be heart wrenching for youth as they navigate the inevitable wait for their life partner. Some are choosing to listen to people like Mr Peterson. It seems good and helpful.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  24th February 2019

          Someone has spoiled the fun of the Whittaker’s Coconut Ice Surprise chox by telling how to know which colour it will be.

          They are fundraising for Plunket, I think, and the chocolate inside is pink or blue,

          Need I say that the PC are getting their tits in a tangle over the pink and blue and squawking about gender and colour ?

          I knew a woman whose little boy had long blonde hair. She used to become very angry when people thought that he was a girl, but how they were expected to know is a mystery,

          The theyby parents are probably going to cause their child all sorts of problems. If it’s crested, it’s a boy, if it’s cloven, it’s a girl. If they decide later in life that they feel like a member of the othe sex or both or neither, that’s a decision that only they can make,

          Imagine the poor thing at school being asked ‘Are you a boy or a girl ?’ and having to say ‘I don’t know.’

          • Mother

             /  24th February 2019

            Schools are actively teaching/encouraging confusion around sex and gender now Kitty. It’s fast becoming less of a problem in school communities for the already confused than it is for those who prefer to stay un confused.

          • Gezza

             /  24th February 2019

            The problem these nitwits will face is when he does know & they can’t deal with it because its got nothing to do with his toys or the colour of his clothes.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  24th February 2019

              What will they do if they have another one and the first one sees that the new one’s bits are different ?

              What will it call them ? There were two parents at the Christchurch Creche who were both called Mummy; the man was Mummy Trevor.

              Can you imagine being so pwecious that you’d make a fuss about the colour of a choccy bar that’s a surprise (supposedly, unless you happen to have read the spoilsport’s explanation) because of the pink and blue gender thing ? It’s obvious that the surprise is because most babies are in that sense.

  4. Tipene

     /  24th February 2019

    Jordan Petersen filled venues: light thinking journo-children filled their nappies unsuccessfully trying to discredit him.

    Peterson: 1

    MSM: Irrelevant

    • artcroft

       /  24th February 2019

      True. Its disappointing that a professional journalist goes to a largely male gathering and can say nothing more about it than .”It was evil” but can’t identify any actual evil.

      What a moron.

  5. Mother

     /  24th February 2019

    Simon Wilson also wrote about Mr Peterson’s Auckland talk and he portrayed Mr P as a tortured man shouldering society’s mess. I suspect that many others who heard him probably just saw him as someone who cares deeply.

    From what I have seen online (which is very little) I think Mr P would detest the preacher label. He’s not like American evangelists at all! That lot don’t torture themselves, they torture others.

    Mr P is an intelligent academic speaking out on behalf of many who felt that their inner voice on life’s basics might always suffer from being subdued.

    Mr P is bringing hope to people but it’s not the sort of hope which I find encouraging. I agree, different strokes for different folks. But I see no real need for the misunderstandings (his anger about this is obvious in interviews I’ve seen).

    I think – Those who express their misunderstandings in a conclusive way reveal both their personal lack of inner equilibrium and their inability to practise communication in the spirit of free speech.

    It’s interesting that people like to know whether others are ‘a fan’ or not. I think they miss the point. One thing which I personally find obvious about Mr P is that his motives have zero involvement with wanting or needing fans.

    I think Mr Peterson’s message is simple – Individuals need to think for themselves – it’s the only safe way forward.

  6. Tipene

     /  24th February 2019

    My father was a senior sub editor on a number of metropolitan daily papers in both the UK and NZ. When I went to see him at his work as a kid, I would watch him deftly run a pen through dodgy copy, edit text, and then submit the amended story for final consideration by the Editor.

    As Dad is now a retired 82 year old (and I guess old habits being ingrained) I note that he still does this with hard copy papers he is reading.

    It’s fair to say that with the current crop of SJW once-over lightly writers, there isn’t much text left of the paper by the time my Dad has gone through it.

    Dumping sub-editors and making the journalist the researcher, writer, publisher, and legal liability guardian of the story probably hasn’t helped things either.

  7. Finbaar Rustle

     /  24th February 2019

    Religions dominated for thousands of years but now
    any one with a slick power point presentation
    can roll away the stone and hypnotise the masses.
    A trillion messages go out every day promising miracles.
    The whole world is becoming one continuous infomercial
    where people who yesterday did not know they had problems
    are now clamouring for the life saving elixirs and salves
    divined by Dr Phil, Brian Tamaki, Deb Webber, Kelvin Cruickshank + Leighton Smith.
    Paradise is just 2 clicks away.
    According to the latest census survey
    being saved online by said latest guru 2 or 3 times a week
    is the main Kiwi recreational past time now.
    Oh and don’t forget to tick, share and subscribe and join
    my patreon for exclusive material.
    Bless you all my people.
    I love you all I really do.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  24th February 2019

      ‘recreational past time now’ ?

    • Mother

       /  24th February 2019

      I get the impression Mr Rustle really is convinced he ‘loves us all.’ Who is he? I like to keep in clear view anyone who claims to ‘love’ me. Is Mr Rustle behaving fairly? Is he a sane person?

      Mr Peterson doesn’t seem like that at all. Mr P seems very normal to me. What sort of hypnotism is Mr Rustle talking about when it seems he places himself, and his personal dealings with others, within the realms of what he describes with sarcasm? Is he jealous maybe? Plain old Mr P has drawn crowds without any deliberate plotting for this result, it appears to me.

      ‘Religions dominated’…..hmmm. Are you OK Mr Rustle? I could tell you about Jesus Christ if you like.

    • Mother

       /  24th February 2019

      I think the controversy and wide ranging preconceptions about Mr Peterson come down to pride. Those who are willing to come down a little get on OK with his views. Those who can’t/won’t come down, just resort to deliberately misunderstanding his statements (and get found out). Either that, or they’re not intelligent people, or they are struggling with mental illness (the common kind of plain unhappiness/emptiness/inner turmoil).

      I have to say that the notion of comparing a talk by Mr P with sitting in church is grievous to me. From the little I’ve seen of Mr P (and I’m clearly sharing my views in ignorance) he is not actually a follower of Jesus Christ. He’s a seeker who dares to allow his vulnerability to be viewed by strangers. I think he is brave in love. The world always needs more like him. I find him very likeable. He is spending his intelligence for the good of others – a true servant and perhaps even a knight in shining armour.

      Or it could be that he is actually walking with Jesus, and knows that it’s not the right time to publicly declare his Lord. He certainly carries a heavy burden at times.

      Just my ideas, and I feel sure that Mr Peterson would approve (and not because of my praise).


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