Jordan Peterson’s Red Pill

Those beholden to social justice criticize Peterson for supposedly being a darling of the alt right, while the alt right criticizes Peterson for being a lightning rod that neutralizes people who would otherwise join the alt right. In other words, the left accuses him of being far right, and the far right accuses him of pushing people to the center. To the SJWs Peterson is a right-wing radical, and to the alt right he’s a cowardly centrist.

The truth is that Peterson shares certain characteristics with the alt right (which worries the leftists), but doesn’t share others (which makes people in the alt right see him as counterproductive). Peterson is part of the same red pill culture that birthed the alt right, but he removes everything that he thinks could lead to violence. The alt right includes a lot of people who like PUA, but Peterson sees pickup artistry as sociopathy. The alt right also includes a lot of people who like white nationalism, but Peterson sees identity politics as a conduit of pro-war emotion. Peterson’s red pill eschews promiscuity for monogamy, and identity politics for inclusiveness.

It’s clear that there’s a crisis of masculinity in the West. White men have become pathetic. But why did this happen? After the World Wars, people had enough of war. With the advent of nuclear weapons, the game of war was changed forever. War now meant mutually assured destruction. There was no longer anything in it for anybody. People then made the perfectly reasonable association between masculinity and war. To bring about world peace, they thought, we must tame men. Thenceforth traditional masculinity was to be considered toxic masculinity. But of course this came with its share of unintended consequences. With the destruction of masculinity came the destruction of femininity, and now we’re left with weak men, shrill feminists, and a thousand silly sexualities.

So where does Peterson come in? Since the backlash against war begot the backlash against masculinity, the revival of masculinity mustn’t bring with it a renewed tendency for war. Masculinity can be revitalized, but only if it leaves violence at the door. And for that, Peterson is your man. Peterson’s motivation has always been the avoidance of nuclear war. His journey started during the Cold War, where he had nightmares about where the world might end up. He wants men to rediscover their strength, but only in the context of a commitment to non-aggression. Masculinity must be born again, but without tendency for its past excesses.

After the World Wars, society was desperate to put an end to the masculine drive for war. But in its hastiness, it took shortcuts. Men were disabused of their war-like propensities, but only by robbing them of their courage, strength, and valor. Surely a bunch of pathetic men won’t have the guts to start another global conflict!

Peterson, on the other hand, takes a more nuanced approach. He explains that there’s no virtue in not harming anyone if you’re harmless. There’s no good in not doing evil if you’re simply too weak and pathetic to hurt anyone anyway. He tells you to become a monster, but then use your strength to the benefit of you, your family, and your community.

Peterson once told a story of a presidential candidate who was asked what he would do if his wife or daughter was raped. Peterson argued that his answer was “weak”. He said something about letting justice take its course. Peterson, by contrast, gave what he saw as the right answer: “I would be compelled with every fiber of my being to hunt him down and tear him to pieces. But I won’t do it.”

While the mainstream seeks to tame men by making them weak and easy to control, Peterson seeks to create a new generation of courageous men who use their strength for good rather than evil. The mainstream tries to destroy masculinity, while Peterson aims to retain masculinity but then channel it away from conflict and toward cooperation. The mainstream’s answer is a makeshift, while Peterson’s answer runs deeper. The pacifism that comes from a position of strength is much different than the pacifism of men who wouldn’t have the courage to go into battle one way or the other.

In the same vein, Peterson also says that a man should seek to be attractive to many women but then choose one. This is perfectly analogous to the above. Just as there’s no virtue in doing no harm if you’re too weak and pathetic to harm anyone anyway, there’s no virtue in staying faithful to your wife if you’re too weak and pathetic to have any options to cheat on her anyway. Men should be monogamous from a position of strength and abundance, not from a position of weakness and scarcity.

Even Peterson’s advocacy of monogamy stems at least in part from his concern about violent conflict. He explains that polygamous societies are much more violent than monogamous societies. When the top men monopolize all of the women and the bottom men get nothing, the top men are led to violence to protect their harems, and the bottom men are led to violence to try to topple the monopolizing power of the top men. Monogamy, however, gives everyone a chance.

In the end, Peterson is part of the red pill movement but seeks to remove anything from it that could destabilize society and lead to violent conflict. The leftists identify that there’s an aura to him that feels alt-right-like, but there’s a key difference. While the revival of masculinity in the alt right causes a lot of its members to lose their fear of war (which makes them more likely to argue for white nationalism and other such positions), or to let loose with promiscuous ventures (such as in PUA), Peterson’s red pill removes these tendencies. Peterson is as close to the red pill as possible while advocating for monogamy and disavowing identity politics. This reflects his overarching goal, which is to bring about a peaceful world while upholding the important elements of traditional culture.