Friday, December 8, 2023

One rule for life & what maps mean: Keep Jordan Peterson away from Ukraine

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Like anyone else who values logic and truth, and dislikes the notions of public pandering and hypocrisy, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Canadian professor Jordan Peterson’s rise to stardom. 

Peterson’s observations that the Western world was becoming hostile to the very idea of young white men, with public discourse seeming to perceive them as the root cause of all social evil in the 21st-century, is correct. There’s been nothing more tedious than speaking to self-hating white Westerners who do everything but self-flagellate as they bemoan the privilege of their skin colour, underneath the unspoken wish that they were part of a minority that they imagine being better dancers, stronger, more virile and more interesting to be around.

His ideas of sitting up straight with the shoulders back and making one’s bed in the morning were of sound sense. 

I’m not sure he’s the person to go for charisma, exactly. I wouldn’t want to be stuck next to him at a party, and it’s usually the funny chaps of this world who make friends and cause girls’ hearts to flutter, but still, there are worse people to try and emulate for those who struggle with basic human interaction. It’s quite simple, in my view – be nice to others, tell some jokes, go to the gym and learn how to box. No complex psychology there, I grant you, but it’s worked well enough for me. 

But with his views on Ukraine, Jordan Peterson is astoundingly, offensively wrong. How wrong, you ask? Well, we can begin with this quote: “It is also the case that Ukraine has immense and recently discovered – circa 2010 – petro resources of its own, particularly around the Caspian Sea and the north-east, enough natural gas, for example, so that it could become a major supplier of that resource to Europe, and thereby pose a threat to European reliance on Russian resources.”

Ah, yes. The famous Caspian coast of Ukraine. A beautiful place, or so I’m told; almost as nice as the Dutch mountain ranges that stretch from Mary Jane Peak near Amsterdam, or the endless leafy meadows of the central African Sahara.

Honestly, before diving into an issue as complicated as Ukraine, Dr. Peterson should have looked at the geography before trying to examine the politics. ‘Couldn’t even find it on a map’ is a phrase often used to dismiss the views of others, but I didn’t expect it to be so applicable at this level. 

Peterson goes on to hint towards the tired theory often put forward by the likes of figures as disparate as Peter Hitchens and Jeremy Corbyn: the West bears the lion’s share of the blame for the current war in Ukraine because, by dangling the carrot of NATO and EU membership to the Ukrainians – and thereby encircling Russia further, with Poland and the Baltic states already in both clubs – Moscow has been stung into action, like a man defending his garden from moustache-twirling urban city planners. 

Moscow probably does feel encircled – but it is surrounded by NATO in the same way a criminal is surrounded by the police after trying to rob a bank. The fact that the Baltic states and Poland are now firmly a part of the West – with Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia hoping to emulate them – has upset Russia is entirely true, but ignores the fact that these places might have some rather good reasons for wanting to do so; a history of invasion and subjugation by Russia, and where on the map these countries actually sit.

I do hold the West responsible to some degree, though not in the same way. In my view, the West’s culpability is more of the we-should-have-let-Ukraine-and-Georgia-in-earlier line, in a sort of Bismarckian realpolitik sense. Yes, Kyiv and Tbilisi needed reform, but reforming them once they were NATO members would have been easier, and doubtless more successful, than trying to get them to do it from the outside. 

But to insist that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the result of Moscow’s disdain for Western wokeness is ridiculous, especially as the interests of Kyiv and Tbilisi are limited to NATO protection and economic security. Indeed, the reaction of Georgians and Ukrainians to the nonsense espoused by the far-left is typically one of confusion and unease as leftists have not been supportive of including both countries into ‘the West’. Instead, they somewhat ironically find themselves now aligned with those of the far-right. 

Furthermore, for Dr. Peterson to refer to Russia’s invasion as an ‘incursion’ is nothing more than insulting. Oddly enough, it’s the very word that President Biden used earlier this year when stating that initially, the US would do nothing to stop an ‘incursion’. Incursions are small-scale and over quickly, i.e. the Navy SEALs who paid a flying visit to Osama bin Laden in 2011 from Afghanistan to Pakistan. The word does not make allowances for the wholesale destruction of cities, the occupation of territory and the murder of the inhabitants, or nine-month campaigns that flail from one debacle to the next.

But this is all of a piece with Western commentators sticking their oars into matters about which they know nothing. It has driven me to both amusement and despair to listen to political editors in London, firmly describing Putin’s next moves will be despite never having given Russia much prior thought beyond equally wild speculation over its involvement in Brexit and Trump’s election. Have they studied the 2008 invasion of Georgia? Did they pay close attention to the aftermath of the Euromaidan and the end of the Poroshenko administration? Were they watching the rise to power of Sandu, the problems of Pashinyan, or the endless saga of Saakashvili? Have they, indeed, ever been within 500 miles of Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, Yerevan, or Chisinau?

The answers, of course, are no, no, no, no, and obviously not, don’t be silly. Still, I’ll gladly listen to the London editors when it comes to explaining the Tories’ electoral challenges, or their Washington counterparts as they examine the failure of the Republicans to successfully swamp Congress with red victories, or indeed Canadian psychologists with an axe to grind against incursions (see, now I’m doing it) on free speech. But with regards to Russia and its murderous ambitions in Eastern Europe, I’ll take the words of people who’ve been there, studied the issues at hand, and can, indeed, identify the coastlines of the Caspian Sea. 

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