A short critique of Jordan peterson’s ‘Why I love Great Britain’ video
I begin this critique by first saying this. I am a long time follower and avid supporter of Jordan Peterson. In fact, I truly believe his lectures and books helped shape me into who I am today and for that I will be forever grateful. However, after watching his video on why he loves Great Britain I indeed felt a strong need to share my own opinions on such matters.
Firsty i shall give an extremely brief overview of the video, one which in actuality may do it a disservice and for that reason I urge you to watch it prior to reading this critique — This can be done here. The video was released after JP’s travels of the UK, where he visited both Cambridge and Oxford University, two historically prestigious universities known for both their academic excellence and rigour. During his attendance he gave multiple lectures, discussed matters theological, political and social with students, and debated leading academics, one of which being Professor Richard Dawkins. Within this video Peterson discusses his turbulent journey of gaining an offer of attendance to both universities, previously being invited in 2018 but having his offer withdrawn due to what he refers to as ‘a tiny number of individuals’ who still ‘meddled madly and unrepentantly behind the scenes’. Any who are aware of JP’s historical battle on numerous issues with those who can only be described as the ‘woke’ of this generation understand who he refers to, but to those who do not, I shall leave the sometimes funny but often extremely puzzling and anger inducing research to you.
Anyway I digress, following his rejection to both Cambridge and Oxford in 2018, then his re-invitation and recent visit, Professor Peterson had some revelations about our beloved United Kingdom. He claimed that he ‘Loved Great Britain’, and indeed this is the title of the video he posted. His reasoning? The freedoms of expression and speech that the UK so graciously gifted to the world and that are integrated within our own society — privileges which aided in his re-invitation to the universities and allowed him to engage in the open discussion we all value. Again I must reaffirm, this is an extremely brief explanation of his claims so please do watch the video to understand hisremarks and decide for yourself whether you believe they are just. However, It is here I take issue with Petersons supposition, that being his understanding of the UK being a beacon of light for the rest around the world to follow in regards to its freedom of discussion and expression.
Now the critique. As a UK native, living my entire life within London, I believe JPs perspective, especially on matters such as these, are very skewed. I am a London native who attended a state school and spent a section of my life within a single parent household. Through hard work, persistence and a great deal of support, I managed to attend two universities and experience the academic freedoms JP mentions. One of these universities was The LSE which fosters an environment much like the one at Cambridge and Oxford, that of academic freedom and expression (although this can be highly questioned in recent years within the social sciences, a conversation for another day). Now I say these facts not to gloat but to demonstrate that I have been on both sides of the coin and experienced both realities. Why I take issue with what JP is saying is that I believe the freedoms that he discusses are often reserved for those who are privileged enough to engage with them in any meaningful way.
Now I do not make the claim that those who do not exist within the upper echelons of British society do not have free speech as we conceptualize it in modern day. Of course we do not live in an authoritarian regime like many millions do around the world and we must be both aware and extremely thankful for such. We can, within reason, speak our truths and engage in such honest and open debate which Jordan Peterson refers to. But I do believe that whilst well meaning and probably simply due to ignorance, JP fails to understand how such freedoms function in reality within a society so heavily riddled with class. The rights and freedoms JP believes makes the UK so great are the rights and freedoms reserved only in any meaningful way for those of us who are privileged enough to engage in them. Many of those I went to school with, grew up with, and still know now, never feel that they have any real voice to discuss such matters. The discussion of Theological, political andsocial issues are mostly reserved for those who, in the majority of cases, have been born into such privilege. Such is especially true within the realm of politics, with many feeling disenfranchised with a political system whose governors all attended Cambridge, Eton or Oxford.Any who hail from London or the UK in general would be aware of this great class divide that exists. And any who come from those backgrounds I aforementioned will know there is often no opportunity to engage in such discussion or ponder such questions. A metaphorical line exists between those who have the societal right to engage in such discussions and those who do not, and whilst many may not speak of it, as someone who has been on both sides — I see it as clear as day.
I would indeed be very interested to find out how many of those who gained attendance to the institutions JP so voraciously praised were people of colour. How many at his lectures that he gave on the theological importance of the bible or the stories it presents were of a lower socioeconomic background? I could hazard a guess that the number would be extremely low, possibly even none. Now I say the above not to imagine some sort of sob story or to gain sympathy for those I talk about. After all, in this country we do indeed live in one of the most proactive and influential democracies known to man. But I do say it as I believe we must be especially careful when, like JP, we say ‘we love the UK’ for the reasons mentioned. Especially when those who reside in the country itself and call it home can not truly realise such freedoms themselves. Yes they may have the freedom to speak
but what use is that if you are never actually heard?