Jordan Peterson transcript: Say what you think


One way of conceptualizing yourself is that you’re one speck of dust among 7 billion. And when you conceptualize yourself that way, you might think, well what difference does it make what i say or do? And that’s actually quite convenient for you because if it doesn’t matter what you say or do then you don’t have any responsibility and you can do whatever you want. The price you pay for that is a bit of nihilism but if you don’t have to shoulder any responsibility that’s a small price to pay. Another – that’s the underground motivation for nihilism.

The other way of looking at it – and this is actually the accurate way of looking at it – is that you’re in a network – you’re a node in a network, so, you can do a little arithmetic very rapidly and just figure out how powerful you are. You know a thousand people. You’re gonna know more than that over the course of your life, but let’s say a thousand for the sake of argument for now. They know a thousand people. That means that you’re one person away from a million people and two persons away from a billion people. And you’re the centre of that network. And now the way networks work is that information propagates in a network manner.

So don’t underestimate the power of your speech.

Now, you know, Western culture is (…) logo-centric let’s say, so we say, yeah, that’s just fine, that’s exactly what it is. It is predicated on the idea of the logos. That the logos is the sacred element of Western culture. And what does that mean? It means that your capacity for speech is divine. It’s the thing that generates order from chaos, and then sometimes turns pathological order into chaos when it has to.

Don’t underestimate the power of truth – there is nothing more powerful. 

Now in order to speak what you might regard as the truth, you have to let go of the outcome. You have to think: Alright i’m gonna say what i think, stupid as i am, biased as i am, ignorant as i am, i am going to state what i think as clearly as i can. And i’m going to live with the consequences no matter what they are.

Now the reason you think that – that’s an element of Faith. The idea is that nothing brings a better world into being than the stated truth. Now you might have to pay a price for that, but that’s fine. You’re going to pay a price for every bloody thing you do. And everything you don’t do. You don’t get to choose to not pay a price. You get to choose which poison you’re going to take.  That’s it. 

So if you’re going to stand up for something, stand up for your truth. It’ll shape you because people will respond and object and tell you why you’re a fool and a biased moron and why you’re ignorant. And then if you listen to them, you’ll be just that much less like that the next time you say something. And if you do that for five years, you’ll be so damn tough and articulate and able to communicate and withstand pressure that you won’t even recognize yourself. And then you’ll be a force to contend with. And you don’t get to wait until.. Because i get letters like … gets all the time from faculty members in particularly that say, Well, you know, when i get tenure, it’s like, and then they think, well when i’m an associate professor, and then they think, when i’m a full professor. It’s like, if you’re a professor already, you’re like the most protected person on the history of the planet. You know? And you (…) well, okay but what one of the things that indicates is that it is almost impossible to provide people with enough protection so that they feel safe to speak.

Okay so we’ll address that directly – it is not safe to speak, and it never will be. But the thing you’ve got to keep in mind is that it is even less safe not to speak, right? It’s a balance of risks. It’s like you want to pay the price for being who you are and stating your mode of being in the world or do you want to pay the price for being a bloody serf – one that’s enslaved him or herself. Well that’s a major price, man. That thing unfolds over decades and you’ll just be a miserable worm at the end of about 20 years of that, right? No self respect, no power, no ability to voice your opinions, nothing left but resentment because everyone’s against you, because of course you’ve never stood up for yourself. It’s like, say what you think carefully, pay attention to your words. The price is – it’s a price you want to pay, if you are willing to believe that truth is the cornerstone of society. and in the most real sense, if you’re willing to take that leap, then tell the truth and see what happens, and nothing better could possibly happen to you. There’ll be ups and downs and there’ll be pushback and it’ll be controversy and all of that, but it doesn’t matter. The truth is what makes the world – the truth is what redeems the world from hell. And that’s the truth.  And we saw plenty of hell over the last 100 years, you know, and we haven’t learned a bloody thing from it. It’s like, wake up! Tell the truth! Tell the truth or at least don’t lie and that’s a start. And you gotta understand that’s a risk. But i will – I have one more brief thing to say about that.

So, you know, i said what i had to say back in September and i’m sure that i could have done it better and many people have told me how i could have done it better, although it didn’t mean they would actually do it, but… And you know, my job was at risk, serious risk for about two months, it destabilized my family who were being very brave about this, so like thumbs up to them man, they just stood by me.

But here’s the optimistic news, is the university has left me alone completely. I shook hands with the dean two weeks ago. We’re on friendly terms. They don’t want this to go any farther than it has already. The students were tremendously welcoming when i came back to teach in January. I haven’t had a single negative incident at the university and I’ve received thousands of letters from people all over the world – all of which have been in support. I received two negative letters – that’s it. Two. So the people.. people have an inchoate longing to have this sort of thing that we’re talking about articulated, and so don’t be thinking you’re alone. It’s just that people can’t talk, they’re afraid to talk or they don’t know what to say. And those are real problems, so if you’re reasonably articulate, like start talking and sharpen yourself up. I mean, the enemy is a cloud. They’re a cloud of gnats, they’re only courageous in groups, they’re only courageous in mobs. If you stand your ground and don’t apologize and articulate things properly, they’ll disperse around you like they’re not even there. So most of it’s illusion. So don’t be… be afraid, but be afraid of the right thing. And the right thing you should be afraid of is not saying what you say, because that’s the same as not being. And here you are suffering away. You might as well be at the same time. At least then there’s something to you.” 

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