Should I listen to Jordan Peterson

Depression, drugs, corona: after going through several hells, Jordan Peterson is back

The Canadian intellectual helps people transform a chaotic life into an orderly life, but has temporarily succumbed to chaos himself. After a stay in hospital, he is now back on the job and is writing his next book.

Marked by the pain, the man speaks into the camera: “Hi, everyone. As many know, but others don't, I haven't posted anything here for a long time. "

But now Jordan Peterson is back home, as the title of the Youtube video he recently published suggests. It has collected around four million views, half a million likes and a hundred thousand comments so far, on top: "This is the best news of 2020. Welcome back, sir."

Indeed, during this difficult year, the voice of the thinker from Canada was missing. From autumn 2016, the psychology professor at the University of Toronto found an ever larger audience with his comments and lectures on the web. And with his bestseller published in 2018, of which he has so far sold 3 million copies and published 45 translations and which he promoted on a world tour in front of tens of thousands of people seeking advice, he taught his “twelve rules for life”.

Since then, however, he has remained silent while people around the world have had to grapple with the deepest questions of our lives and coexistence. Because Jordan Peterson went through hell himself.

The evil: the drugs

“What the hell happened?” Asks his daughter Mikhaila at the beginning of a conversation that she uploaded to YouTube in June. He made a mistake "to put it cautiously," he admits. During the Christmas holidays 2016 on the Canadian west coast, the whole family fell ill after a meal, worst of all the father. According to his own statements, he could hardly sleep for weeks. That's why he took "a supposedly harmless drug exactly as prescribed": a benzodiazepine.

These sedating drugs, which include Valium, are quickly addictive. And Jordan Peterson used it to treat his anxiety disorders, which worsened rapidly in the spring of 2019 after an acclaimed tour through Australia: His wife Tammy, who he had known since childhood, was told after cancer surgery that she was not suffering as assumed an easily treatable form of the disease, but one that leads to death quickly with almost one hundred percent certainty.

"I noticed that the drug was alienating me from the people around me, especially from my family," says Jordan Peterson in an interview with the daughter. So he stopped taking benzodiazepines and instead took ketamine, an anti-depression drug. "That was a bad idea," he says now. So he tried a quick withdrawal: "That was a very bad idea."

After a failed treatment in the USA, the daughter and her Russian husband found a clinic outside Moscow. She carried out a cold withdrawal with brutal methods: she put the patient into a coma for nine days using propofol, a drug that led to the death of Michael Jackson and other celebrities. Then Jordan Peterson suffered from neurological damage; he could no longer get dressed, let alone write: “I had to go to the toilet once at night. Afterwards I couldn't remember the sequence of actions, how I had to go back to bed. "

But now, after further stages of the journey to hell in Florida and Serbia, where he was also infected with the corona virus, Jordan Peterson is back. "I'm still alive and I have plans for the future," he says in the latest video. "I hope that I can go back to something that resembles a normal life."

The end of despair

He is writing a new book, a continuation of his bestseller “12 Rules for Life” (which is also called that in German), the author reveals. With the exception of the darkest weeks in Russia, he was always able to work on it during his time of suffering. And he also ensures that his YouTube lectures are subtitled in six languages: “There seems to be a certain demand for this around the world. 300,000 copies of my book have sold in South Korea. "

In addition, because of the great interest, he took up further lectures on the Bible, especially on the Book of Proverbs with the wisdom of Solomon and on the Exodus, as a continuation of the lectures on Genesis. Religious scholars also take this work seriously: The theological faculty at Cambridge University offered Jordan Peterson a visiting fellowship for this in November 2018, but withdrew it by tweet in March 2019 because a photo appeared of him next to a fan in the T-shirt with the not only orthographically incorrect inscription "I am a proud Islamaphobe".

To accuse the thinker of stirring up religious hatred is therefore “the opposite of the truth,” wrote the theologian Stephen Blackwood, who accompanied Jordan Peterson on his visit to Cambridge: “If there is someone to whom a disturbed, estranged young man listens should before he does something terrible, then it is him. " The counselor himself assured that he would avoid such photos in the future, but also appealed for understanding for his understanding: “I try to strengthen the self-confidence of lost, desperate people around the world. Many would give their lives for encouragement. I am this encouragement. "

However, a crucial question arises for Jordan Peterson's future: Who can be instructed by a guide on “order and structure in a chaotic world” (as the subtitle of the German edition) who is not in control of their own life? Who negligently handles delicate medication, gets involved in dangerous medical experiments, on the advice of his daughter, who is struggling with an autoimmune disease, follows a strict diet consisting exclusively of meat, salt and water and becomes estranged from his family during the most difficult times? (After all, the wife seems to be doing better than feared.)

A walking contradiction

The slide into dependency, noted a critic in the magazine "The New Republic", is incompatible with the principles of Stoic philosophy à la Peterson: composure, personal responsibility, willpower even in difficult surroundings and under dire circumstances. So it looks bad "when a man who has made his name with an intellectual disguise as a Spartan is hopelessly addicted to a sedative".

Jordan Peterson himself knows that he has to ask himself such questions. But he gives himself the absolution: "I have never claimed in my books and lectures that I am somehow different from all people who have to learn these lessons." So he hopes, he says in the video after his year in hell, that the book on how to keep your life in order could now prove to be even more useful.

His supporters at least seem to share this view. In the comments on the videos, they praise the fact that he shows himself to be a fallible, vulnerable man and that he draws his strength precisely from his deep knowledge of the danger to people: “This guy actually saved people from the depths of hell with his philosophy . " The fact that he made a dubious figure on his own journey to hell does not have to speak against his obvious merits, says a commentator who quotes Friedrich Nietzsche from “Also sprach Zarathustra”: “Some people cannot loosen their own chains, and yet they are Friends a savior. "

It is therefore conceivable that Jordan Peterson will return to the bestseller lists, in the lecture halls of the world and thus, as one of the most important and controversial public intellectuals, also in the media debates around the world. "I'll pick up where I left off," he says at the end of his comeback video, "and with God's favor and goodness." Once before, someone found his large following only after a resurrection.