The decade's most triggering comedy
The following is a transcript excerpt from Dr. Jordan Peterson’s Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life tour. In this part, he takes a question from the audience about whether he is hopeful about the future.
I would say I am hopeful and desperate about the future. I think that is actually the right attitude to have at the moment. For example, between 2000 and 2012, the number of people who were in absolute economic privation in the world plummeted faster than it ever had in history. Part of that was a delayed consequence of the fall of the Soviet Empire; fewer countries around the world were pursuing counterproductive economic visions. As the population radically increased, everyone around the world got much richer. Now, there are still a large number of people who are absolutely poor, and there is an even larger number of people who are relatively poor. But all things considered, we were cruising there for a good while. I see no reason why we could not eradicate absolute poverty pretty much everywhere. I see no reason other than voluntarily willful blindness, stupidity, and malevolence that would necessarily interfere with the eradication of absolute poverty by 2035. We could do that. It is quite obvious.
There is enough food for everyone (though there are distribution problems). It is possible to provide educational resources to everyone. YouTube alone can do that to a huge degree. You might be cynical about that, but TV made people smarter, not stupider. It might have made really smart people somewhat stupider, but it made children who would otherwise have been abandoned alone in their cribs watching absolutely nothing for hours at a time much smarter than they would have been otherwise. This provision of universal information and electronic platforms allow us to disseminate information — almost all information — at almost no cost. So I think things could be radically better if we got our aim right. Part of that is a consequence of our elevated technological and computational power which is becoming cheaper and more powerful at an extraordinarily rapid rate. The vision of a future of plenty on the material and spiritual front beckons like it never has before.
But along with that increased power comes the requirement for increased responsibility and wisdom. We could easily break things apart and produce a hell that would make what happened in the 20th century look like a trial run. I would say that is up to each of us in the most fundamental way. I concluded 40 years ago that the trajectory we walk toward heaven or hell is fundamentally dependent on individual choice. I do not really understand how the universe can be constructed so that that is true, but I believe it is true. Solzhenitsyn said, for example, one man who stops lying can bring down a tyranny, and he did that so he knew. He was not the only person who did that. We each bear ultimate responsibility, in some sense, for the direction of our mutual striving forward. I think that is the core doctrine of the West — that each individual is sovereign and of divine and ultimate worth. There is a commensurate responsibility with that.
I thought when I realized that — partly from reading Solzhenitsyn, Jung, Dostoevsky, Frankl, Nietzsche to some degree, many people were pointing in that direction — it was necessary for us to become aware of that and to take that responsibility on our own shoulders. So I have been talking to people as individuals ever since being at McGill, at Harvard, at the University of Toronto, and then more broadly, publicly, inviting people to the adventure of their life — the moral adventure of their life — driven by my conviction that it actually matters whether you get your act together. It matters eternally in some sense. It matters in a heaven or hell manner. In a totalitarian state, people are locked into tyranny because every individual lies — every single one. That is the grip of the totalitarian state, and to the degree that you are living in deceit, you are contributing to tyranny and the hell that accompanies it — and not in some little way. Not only are you not saying what you should say when you should say it, but you are also not doing what needs to be done when you need to do it. You are turning a blind eye and allowing it to happen. But you are also not bringing into the world what you could bring into the world if you brought everything you could into the world. That lack on your part of bringing into the world what could be there if you would reveal your light is cataclysmic, and that is a painful realization. It goes along with being a locus of divine worth. I believe that.
I believe that if you fail to say what you know to be true, you corrupt the world. You corrupt being. If you lie, you corrupt being. Corrupted being is hell, and if we all lie enough, then we have hell. Whether we all lie enough to bring about hell is actually dependent in much larger part than you might desire to admit. It is dependent on your choice. One of the reasons we [Tammy and I] love doing what we are doing is because we come to these events with thousands of people, and everybody at the event is trying to aim up — and often doing so, especially in contrast with their previous efforts. That is unbelievably motivating and wonderful to see, but also necessary.
We are very powerful now, all of us, with our incredible technological gadgets, our computational power, and that is going to become way more; we are going to get way more powerful than that really fast so you better get your act together because children cannot wield that kind of power without all hell breaking loose. So I am very optimistic because things could be even better than what we could imagine. But if we want to, we could sure make them worse. So we all have to decide: Are we aiming up with all we have or are we aiming down? I hope that whatever we are doing tonight is a contribution to the consensus that we should each do what we can in the confines of our own life in the unlimited expanse of the opportunity of our own lives to aim up. If we all do that carefully enough, then up we will go. If we do not, then we can have the alternative. So, on that happy note, we will say goodnight.
To continue, listen or watch more content with Dr. Jordan Peterson on DailyWire+.
Dr. Jordan B. Peterson is a clinical psychologist and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto. From 1993 to 1998 he served as assistant and then associate professor of psychology at Harvard. He is the international bestselling author of Maps of Meaning, 12 Rules For Life, and Beyond Order. You can now listen to or watch his popular lectures on DailyWire+.