By a weird coincidence, on Feb 8th, 2020,I stumbled across this feature in the National Post on Jordan Peterson’s recent brush with death. Oddly enough, it coincides with the arrival of my new book, entitled Psychoanalysis, Politics and the Postmodern University (Palgrave MacMillen, 2020), in which I criticize Peterson roundly for his one-sided analysis of the current crisis in the Humanities and Social Sciences, his role in the campus culture wars, and for a startling variety of errors, oversights, omissions, exaggerations in his published work. Even so, I wouldn’t wish the ordeal he experienced on anybody, having witnessed my late brother go through a similar experience seeking help to detox from benzodiazepines (and a multitude of other drugs) in the greater Toronto area.
One day after this article appeared, on February 9th, I was dismayed to learn from friends in Toronto that some of Peterson’s adversaries among Liberals and Leftists in Canada are already gloating publicly about his precipitous decline and precarious health as if this were a just reward for his attitudes and behavior towards them. Though I am Canadian, and my political views veer somewhat Left of center, as a rule, I feel that this kind of talk is childish and irresponsible. It will not solve anything. It only reflects on the ugliness of politics today, and will doubtless intensify, rather than diminish, the culture wars that got us where we are today. Besides, what better way to express one’s humanity than by showing respect for human suffering?
That said, some features of this account of his illness and current road to recovery that strike me as somewhat implausible. Why did he and his daughter travel all the way to Russia when there are plenty of private (albeit obscenely expensive) clinics in the USA where he’d probably have received better care? Was the real object to keep him out of the spotlight, I wonder? And is there more to this than meets the eye? Also, I wonder, will this experience change him in significant ways? Near-death experiences often provoke periods of deep reflection and may change people, sometimes for the better. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Meanwhile, there is never any sense in hitting a man when he is down. I wish Jordan Peterson a speedy recovery, and offer my best wishes to his family and friends as they help him recover from this near-tragedy .
Daniel Burston, IAJS Member.