This article was originally published on Mandiner.hu on 24 May 2023.
It’s good to have demons. You need a Trump in Europe and it might as well be Orbán — says Jordan B. Peterson on why Hungary is portrayed so badly in the Western media. The world-renowned Canadian clinical psychologist who has recently visited Hungary talks about the lack of freedom of speech, the woke madness and the role of faith in our lives.
This is your third time in Hungary. How does it feel like in a dictatorship?
I have been here quite a few times. You can’t derive any real information from the legacy media, as far as I can tell. Virtually everything that we are told by traditional resources is a demented lie one form or another. What do I see when I come here? I have got to know Katalin Novák reasonably well, and I have met Orbán and his crew once. Katalin is great, and I like her for the Hungarian family policy. I think there is room in the West for a variety of opinions formed in immigration, variety ways of handling it, and being here I can’t see any evidence that this is the government that is pilloried so regularly in the West. I have been parodied and lied about by the legacy media plenty. So you come and see it for yourself!
Why do you think Hungary is so badly portrayed in the western legacy media?
Mostly convenience. It’s good to have demons here and there to squawk about. I guess you need a Trump in Europe and it might as well be Orbán. They tried it hard with Italy’s new president, too, but she is so popular in Europe that it is been hard to make that story stick. But Orbán makes a pretty good villain, so it is a good villainy name. It is enough for the dim-witted leftists who run most newspapers. The CNN came out yesterday calling Tucker Carlson a right wing extremist. Jesus Christ! Whatever Tucker Carlson is he is not a right wing extremist! He is barely a Republican! His political views on many issues are left-wing! It is so preposterous. It is partly the consequence of the technologically induced demise of the legacy media. CNN is not going to make it, they will not be here in five years, neither will MSNBC. Fox News killed itself by firing Tucker Carlson. So all these legacy news media and its apparatus is degenerating and as they degenerate, they turn to clickbait and lie.
You have been called far right and alt right. In fact Hungary has been called fascist ever since the end of communism. What is your tool against this labelling? Do you have a strategy or do you just ignore it?
I do not really have a strategy. I just say what I think. Whatever happens, happens. That’s a strategy I suppose. I’m a clinical psychologist, so I’ve seen lots of tricks. If a journalist who interviews me pulls tricks, I usually figure that out pretty quickly. My strategy with journalists who pull stunts is to treat them like my clinical clients. But mostly it is not a strategy. I have plans for my business operations, but on the public front I just say what I think as clearly as I can, and with as little emotion as I can manage. And that seems to work.
Meeting Katalin Novák you must have talked about the Hungarian family policy, the child protection act, issues of migration, the most debated questions behind the critics against Hungary. Do you think these topics really divide our society? How do you see the future of the children and Hungarian family policy?
My impression of your family policy is that if people understood it internationally, it would be very popular with most people. The vast majority are not insane leftists.
There is a very noisy and pathological minority who have more power than they should
partly because of social media, and partly because of their extraordinary effective use of mobbing. They have way more sway than they should. But most people have mothers! Most people are sensible enough to have some positive attitude towards the family. And most people, deep in their heart, would rather live in a family that was functional. So it’s not a hard sell.
Of course It can be hard because if you put forward an ideal vision of a family, the people who fall short of the ideal, feel judged and excluded. They also say that the ones who are putting forward the ideal and are compassionate are being harsh. But I don’t really care because I know what happens when you decimate the ideal. That is not pretty for anyone.. If you want to make the society worse you destroy the ideal. And the society is every time destroyed from the bottom up. The poorest, worst off people get designated first. You can see that on the energy front. What do idiot green policies do? They hurt poor people. It’s their solution for fixing the planet: making poor people poorer. Anybody with an iota of sense can already see that happen in Germany. And it’s going to be worse. The UK energy prices are now at least twice as high as they should be. They are decimating the small business sector, so then all the money flows up to the big corporations. And the left seem to think this is a good idea. What a crazy situation we are in!
AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) the crazy leftist who gets all the attention in US press came out on Twitter basically celebrating the fact that big corporations are silencing free speech and journalists.
We live in a world where bloody socialists are now celebrating the ability of corporations to quell free speech.
The world is so crazy at the moment.
Do you think that the majority of the society still sees things in the ‘normal’ way?
They are not very articulate. The part of the reason people pay attention to what I’m doing is that I can say the things they know to be true in ways they cannot articulate. If you say to a typical person: ‘justify marriage!’, they have no idea how to answer. ‘Well, I thought that went without saying’ or ‘I thought we already agreed on that’—and that is the right response.
People put up Christmas trees, they don’t know why. We have lots of customs we can’t understand, things that hold our society together, and marriage is definitely one of them. Why do people get married? You want a way for stabilizing the environment for kids on the long run. Why monogamous, two-parent, heterosexual, long-term married couples? Because it’s better for kids. But why does that matter? You are an idiot if you ask that question. If you can’t figure out why kids matter, you are far beyond the pale. As it goes: there are none so blind as those who will not see.
Liberals however argue: it is the 21st century, we have to accept the new agenda. Whereas conservatives must argue for everything, even for the most evident stuff.
The postmodern are obsessed with coherence. In fact the postmodern philosophy celebrates incoherence. They think coherence is a colonial plot. If you take countries like Venezuela where everything has gone to hell, leftists argue: why is Venezuela a hell hole? Because of capitalism. The bloody leftist are dopy enough to think that any inequality is caused by capitalism. Following Marx who was an envious, demented follower of Caine. He said a couple of things that were correct but for the wrong reasons. For example he pointed out the inevitability of inequality in capital system. Yes that is true, but no one knows what to do about it.
Inequality is built into the structure of the world. It is written in the gospel: the poor will always be with us.
Everything is unequal: a few rivers have all the water, a few stars have all the mass, a few writers sell all the books, etc, it is just everywhere. Wherever there is creative variation there is radical inequality. It is a law.
You had a crash on some issues with Pope Francis on Twitter. What was that about?
Pope Francis is a social justice warrior. He said some good things about the gender war, but thinks that Christianity is a social justice enterprise. It is not. Christ was not a political figure, full stop. Liberation theology is basically Marxism with a Christian brand. But there is no such thing as Marxism with a Christian brand. You could not formulate two doctrines that were more opposed to each other. Instead Christians should be concerned with the amelioration of suffering. Including poverty. The leftist notion that we can cure poverty by distributing money, you saw how well that worked in the Soviet Union. You can make rich people poor with socialism but you cannot make poor people rich.
Similarly to the media, we see problems in the university sphere. There is the issue of woke, LGBT, neo-Marxism spreading all around. You were forced to leave the university, too. In Hungary many people think this problem is far away from us, but should we not stop it before it reaches us?
There is no place immune to this. The thing about Eastern Europe is that you Eastern Europeans are bit by the communists recently enough to be aware where those can go.
If the values of the west are going to reassert themselves the probability that it will come out of Eastern Europe is pretty high.
In Canada my university students who are bright, hardworking kids, mostly children of first generation immigrants, know nothing about what happened under Stalin. No one ever told them why we fought the cold war, or that communists killed a hundred million people in the 20th century. None of that has been taught. So what the hell do you expect?
Can we save our universities?
I do not think we can. I have watched large organisations fall apart. You really only have to make one major mistake to die, and universities probably make at least ten mistakes simultaneously. They are overrun by administration, they charge students way too much money, they pick their future pockets, devalue their degrees and let all sorts of people into university who should not be in. Any of those mistakes could be fatal.
I have an online university, I have made up a programme to teach people to write, and that seems to be going well. There are a lot of alternatives to classical universities. You might be able to build new institutions but fixing the old ones, no way, it took them 30 years to get to where they are, they are not going to be fixed overnight. They look like buildings from outside, but there is rock everywhere.
Another hot issue in Hungary is the future of the European Union. There is a debate among members: a large part wants ever closer union whereas the majority of Hungarians would stick to the original idea of nation states. What would you suggest? The pressure from Brussels is incredibly large, and getting bigger and bigger.
No wonder the Brits left. And they seem to be doing fine apart from their own green insanity to which the conservatives are contributing to like mad.
The European Union has turned into a tower of Babel,
they are demanding the sacrifice of national sovereignty. It is not that nation states don’t have their dangers obviously any European knows that, but sacrificing local sovereignty to idiot administrators in Brussels is not going to solve that. It is sad to see what has happened to the European Union because it was a project that had its genuinely positive motivations. There were some pretty brutal wars here that were a consequence at least to some degree of nationalism gone array. The idea that it would be good for Europe to establish a system of international cooperation that could keep those pathological national tendencies under control was a reasonable idea. But it has degenerated into a tower of Babel, a handful of legislators, bureaucrats who are way too distant from their constituents. They have no idea how these systems work. They are like monkeys trying to fix a helicopter with a stick. Helicopters are complicated and the probability that poking it with a stick would make it better is zero.
The argument against the nation state model is that we have a global world with ever stronger China and US, India is raising and if Europe wants to keep its sustainability it should be a strong union.
Rather the opposite. Part of the reason that Europe was so incredibly successful is because it was a diverse aggregation of rather fractious countries. You tend to get a certain degree of conflicts. It is a tough thing to have the right amount of conflicts, as in a marriage, but it is definitely not zero. There is no thinking without conflict. And you’d better think.
Should Europe be united? Maybe, maybe not. I doubt it.
Your brain should not be united. If your brain is totally united it doesn’t work. There has to be a hierarchy of somewhat independent systems working in concept. You have to maintain separation, our brain is actually structured like that. The columns work in cooperation to some degree but also in competition. Complex systems have to have that structure in order to thrive. A part of the reason American system works well is that it is a decently set up complex hierarchy. Americans keep renewing themselves. They have a nicely distributed federal system. The EU is trying to figure that out but at the moment works way too hard towards the domination of federal power.
What is your opinion about the theory of hierarchy in history? In Fukuyama’s End of history it is written that liberal democracy is the best form and with that history has come to an end.
The problem is that we did not know what the preconditions were for a sustainable liberal democracy. The humanist types thought that a liberalism without a metaphysic could sustain itself but it doesn’t seem to be the case. Even people like Douglas Murray who is pretty hard on atheistic and materialist side have come to realise that without an underlying metaphysic even the liberal enterprise can’t survive. I think the reason why liberalism worked in Britain was because Christianity has saturated the society so completely that you could treat people as if they were trustworthy autonomous agents and that would work. But if you lose that underlying metaphysic the entire liberal enterprise degenerates, that is what’s happening now.
People become nihilistic and chaotic and the society degenerates into something like uniform tyranny. Nietzsche figured it out back in the 1800’s and so did Dostoyevsky in many fundamental ways. There has to be a metaphysic underlying the liberal enterprise. The classic liberals could take that metaphysic for granted but we can’t now because the Christian enterprise is shaking. The rationalist types thought as soon as we drop our superstitious past we would all become enlightenment scientists but that did not happen.
Instead we became hedonistic pagans. That was a much more likely outcome.
You spoke a lot about religion and faith in your lecture in Budapest. You wrote in the Maps of meaning that the thing most pscychology fears is religion.
There is a humanism among psychologists. Clinical psychologists are very guilty in this front. Clinical psychology is really a form of radical Protestantism. And a Protestatism that becomes fully developed makes each individual his own church. And that does not work, you have to get along with other people. This demand that people are able to find their own identity is the logical conclusion of Protestantism. You don’t need the church as intermediary between you and God, well then you don’t need God, that’s the next step. Well then who’s God? It’s you. Which part of you?.
Does that conflict still exist between psychology and religion?
What’s happening on the clinical psychology front nowadays
it is degenerating into kind of homogeneous wokeism.
In Canada for example the crediting boards among psychologists are doing what they can to make it impossible for university programmes that don’t teach social justice agenda to produce clinical psychologists. You can’t teach social justice agenda and become clinical psychologist, because psychology is not, in its essence, a political endeavour. It is an individual to individual endeavour. As soon as it becomes political, it just dies. We have seen that happen everywhere.
Legacy media, pressure on universities, the future of Europe. What would your advice be to Hungarians for the future? How should they manage these problems?
The proper solution to the problems we have been discussing so far, in my opinion, is that the most fundamental problems should be solved at the individual level. If we want things to be better we have to become better people. And you do that locally. You do that by taking up your cross and carrying that uphill. The totalitarian types think that the solution to the catastrophe of life is to be found in collective actions. I don’t believe that. I think the fundamental answer is the individual soul and the carrier of the soul is the religious enterprise. When you forget that then you forget the thing that is most important.
If we want things to be better we have to be better people. There isn’t a shortcut.
It’s hard for people to do that but the alternative is a lot harder. This you must always keep in mind. Why should I be responsible? Well try the alternative out for a while, and see what happens. Your life will be degenerating to chaos and if everyone does that everything degenerates into chaos. Tyranny is always replaced by chaos. We saw plenty of that in the 20th century and if we have any sense we won’t do it again.
Who knows what will happen in the next ten years, but is is going to be pretty damn strange. And with things happen now they happen fast.
If we toy with tyranny as we saw in the pandemic lock down we could get pretty totalitarian very quickly.
We have the machinery to do it, and they are definitely developing the technology for that in China. There are 700 million closed-circuit TV-s around the world. If people had any sense they would go and spray the lenses of every CC TV that has been put up in Europe. They are doing that a bit in the UK. These are got damned things, they are definitely people’s enemies. If you want to see the dystopian future in Europe you just have to go to the airport. I used to imagine that every place is now an airport. If you go to Brussels you see a giant airport. The proving grounds for totalitarianism that’s what airports are. So do we want to live in an airport?