…just not too comfortable.
Like many people, I was introduced to Jordon B Peterson through the events up in Canada surrounding the trans-rights issues and compelled speech laws written in the infamous bill C16 there. Given that to me it sounded like he was having a reasonable argument (that a gov’t should not force people to talk a certain way), I decided to give him a further listen.
Counter to what some of the media might have one believe, Jordon is a very introspective, thoughtful individual. One of the studies that he loves to think upon are the ideas of archetypes and the archetypal stories and how they describe the human condition. In some cases he uses Disney movies, like “Pinocchio” and “The Lion King” to illustrate (pun intended) some of the points he’s discovered over his years of research. He also has particular interest in the study of tyrannical governments, such as Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Linking the two together often, he comes up with surprising answers to a lot of the evils humanity not only encounters, but enacts.
Whether or not one likes Jordon (either via believing the negative press or not agreeing with what he states), one of the many ideas of his that deserves exploration is his idea of not incorporating the darkness in one’s self— of not dealing with our own capacity for malevolence. Or the act of ignoring it when it sits at our doorstep. Doing so often results in terrible consequences. For example, PTSD in soldiers returning from war, or our own actions of anger and hatred spilling out into the world— often in the name of good.
A statement I’ve heard him make in one form or another is that if you don’t see how you could be a guard at a concentration camp in Nazi Germany, then you haven’t thought hard enough on your own capacity for evil. It’s an interesting thought, and one I’ve started to grow to understand more and more as I age. It’s the idea of understanding one’s own capacity for evil so that one knows how to… you know… not be evil. It creates the idea of choice, the option then to be malevolent or kind, to be evil or good.
It’s an interesting idea getting comfortable with the evil pieces of the self. At first it feels that by doing so, we are actually doing evil. That is not the case. It enables the opportunity to understand when evil is there and trying to act upon its own desires. And in knowing, it allows the self to grab evil by the back of the neck and keep it in line.
When the self ignores evil, when it pretends that it is incapable of evil, then much like Scar did to Mufasa in “The Lion King”, evil sneaks in and overtakes the kingdom— an idea that Jordon proposed when he used the movie to discuss Carl Jung.
As uncomfortable as the idea is, I can see where I can be the equivalent of the guard in a concentration camp, or the Bolshevik in Russia, of where I am capable of malevolence— and in knowing that capacity, I am free to choose not to act upon them, to choose to be good. And when evil tries to sneak into my life, I am better equipped to catch it and put it in line.
(Plus it helps to write more compelling characters… but that’s just a weird perk of acknowledging the evil we possess.)