Caution, very long and complex. One of the most fascinating things I read by JP is: “People report far more prejudice against their group than against themselves. That’s quite an interesting phenomenon, as far as I’m concerned. There’s a tendency for people to exaggerate the degree to which the group they belong to is currently suffering from generalized oppression. They’ve been relatively free of it themselves.” I think that applies to the women’s marches in particular, as I said in the previous post. Does it also apply to present day racism? If I were darker skinned, or knew enough“people of color” personally to hear about their own experience, I might be in a position to say.
“I also think that fairness is an absolutely essential, and perceived fairness is an absolutely essential component of peace. Because people can tolerate inequality, so to speak, or even revel in it, if they believe that the unequal outcome is deserved. Look at how people respond to sports heroes. … No one goes to a sports event and boos the star, even though he or she is paid much better and attracts the lion’s share of the attention, hopefully not in a narcissistic manner. People can celebrate success, but they do have to believe that the game is fair. And the game needs to be fair because otherwise the hierarchy becomes tyrannical.” We all know deep down, though we might not think about it in these terms, that when you work for someone else, you are paid no more than it costs to replace you. The more you value you create, the harder you are to replace, therefore the more you should get paid. If not, there’s other options.
“I think part of it is that things are changing so fast that none of us can keep up. It’s hard to keep the story updated. I had no idea, for example, that most of the world’s economic news and even a substantial proportion of its ecological news was positive until I started to work on a U.N. committee about five years ago on sustainable economic development. And who would be driving the communication of such things? Especially given two other things. One is that human beings are tilted toward negative emotion in terms of its potency. For example, people … are much less happy to lose $5 than they are happy to gain $5. We’re loss averse. We’re more sensitive to negative emotion than we are to positive emotion, and there’s a reason for that. The reason is, you can only be so happy but you can be dead and right. And there can be a lot of misery on the way to that end, so we’re tilted to protect ourselves and that makes us more interested, in some sense, and more easily captivated by the negative than by the positive. That’s a hard bias to fight.” The field of Behavioral Finance was established on the psychological research of Kahnemann and Tversky, who discovered that loss aversion was a stronger emotion than desire for gain, but they didn’t deal with reasons, only observable phenomena. I disagree with Peterson’s reason here. I believe that regret for a loss, the negative emotion, lasts much longer than excitement for the gain. Excitement lasts for minutes or hours, but regret can last for many people the rest of their lives.
“And then when you also take into account … and I think this is something that worth seriously considering because the other thing we don’t understand is the technological revolution that’s occurring in every form of media. No one understands it. But one of the consequences is that the mainstream media, so to speak, is increasingly desperate for attention. They exist in a shrinking market with shrinking margins, all of the leading newspapers and magazines are feeling the pinch. Television is dead because YouTube has everything the television has, and then an incredible array of additional features. And radio is being replaced by podcasts, so it’s a very unstable time for the mainstream media and what would you expect them to do except to do whatever they can to attract attention in whatever manner they can manage? Violent crime is down but reporting of violent crime is way up. The people who are most likely to believe that it’s on the increase are also those who are least likely to be affected by it because to be a victim of a violent crime, it helps to drink too much, but it also helps a lot to be young and male. And those aren’t the people who are particularly afraid of violent crime even though they’re the ones most likely to be implicated in it.” That is true, but doesn’t explain why the majority of people seem to be more interested in reading about the negative rather than the positive. I come across many articles in sports publications headlined “the worst busts ever” and “the best players ever drafted.” I never read the busts articles but love the bests articles. Perhaps a part of this is, I am not jealous of the achievements of others nor do I feel better about myself when I read about the failures of others. I never indulge in regret.
“So there’s technological reasons for our concentration on the negative and they’re complex. It’s not easy to figure out how to combat the spiral of outrage and attention. I don’t see any real evidence that your society is more polarized, generally speaking, than it has been many times in the past. And I think the next scenario is a good example. If you think about it, merely statistically, you’ve been split 50/50, Republican/Democrat, for what? Five elections now. And it’s almost perfect 50/50 split, that really hasn’t changed. Trump, of course, is somewhat of a wild card and so that complicates things. But I don’t think it changes the underlying dynamic.” If you think our recent political debates are rancorous, you haven’t read much history. Plenty of duels to the death over politics were occasioned by vicious personal slurs in the past, both here and abroad.
“What I do think has arisen again—because it’s made itself manifest many times in the last 100 years—is the rise of this group identity-associated, quasi-marxist viewpoint with this additional toxic mixture and paradoxical mixture of postmodernism. And that means that they’re skeptical about the idea that large uniting narratives are valid. And it’s a huge problem, that claim, because the first question is, “How big does the narrative have to be before it’s a meta narrative?” Is the narrative that holds your family together falsehood? Is the narrative that holds your community together a falsehood? How big does it have to be before it becomes a falsehood? We’re fundamentally narrative creatures, that’s how our brains are organized. And to deny the validity of large-scale narratives is to deny the validity of the manner in which we organize our psyches, and that’s unbelievably destabilizing for people.” It is.
First of all, the simplest story in some sense is that I’m at point A, and I’m going to point B. That’s not as simple a story as it might sound because it implies that you are somewhere and that you know it, you have a representation of it geographically, let’s say, socially, psychologically, you have some sense of who you are. But more importantly, you have some sense of who you are transforming yourself into. So that gives you a direction. The direction gives you meaning. The hope and the meaning that people thrive on is the observation that they’re moving toward something worthwhile and that might be individually, although it really can’t be because we live in collectives. But it should be collective and that isn’t optional. If you don’t have a goal, a transcendent goal, say something that’s beyond you, then you don’t have any positive emotion and that’s not good because you have plenty of negative emotion. God created us to be worshipers; that is, meaning-making beings.
“Suffering is a form of meaning and you can try to argue yourself out of that with your nihilistic rationalizations, but that is not going to work. You need a transcendent goal in order to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and the destruction of the narratives that guide us individually, physiologically, and that also unite us socially, familiarly and socially. It’s an absolute catastrophe. The question then is, why is it being undertaken? That’s a complex question and I don’t know if we can even discuss that. That has something to do with this unholy marriage of the postmodern nihilism with this Marxist utopian notion, which makes no sense at all because the postmodernists are skeptical of metanarratives, yet Marxism is a grant meta-narrative.
“It’s a catastrophe to take young people in their formative years, when they’re trying to catalyze their adult identity, and to tear the substructure out from underneath them and leave them bereaved. I do believe that that’s what the universities—on the humanities end, and to some degree on the social science end—fundamentally manage to achieve. I don’t admire that. I think there’s something deeply sadistic about that. There’s something deeply anti-human about that, and it presents itself in the guise of moral virtue, which makes it even worse. Well, that’s why people don’t like me. Being disliked by the right people is a badge of honor.
It’s said in Genesis that every person is made in the image of God. And there’s an idea in Genesis that God is that which confronts the chaos of potential with truth and courage. That’s the logos. If we’re made in the image of God, that’s us. That’s what we do, we confront the potential of chaos, the future, the unformed future. We confront that consciously, and we decide with every ethical choice we make what kind of world we’re going to bring into being. We transform that potential into actuality. And we do that as a consequence of our ethical decisions.Well, if you conduct yourself with the courage that enables you to accept your vulnerability—which is no trivial matter—and if you’re truthful, then what you bring out of potential is what’s good.” And that sets the world right. And that’s up to us. To me, that’s the great story of the West. That’s why we regard ourselves as sovereign individuals of value, is that’s what we are. And we need to know that to take ourselves seriously and to act properly in the world. That’s what I said in the biblical lectures in many hours. And that’s what’s made them popular because people, at the level of the soul, people know these things to be true.