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Peacemaking Among Higher Order Primates
A commentary on Jordan Peterson's 2006 paper.
One of the most interesting papers written by Jordan Peterson was his 2006 essay “Peacemaking among higher-order primates”. Here I am going to pull some quotes from that paper and comment on them, with hyperlinks when needed.
I commented on the paper in video format here:
Facts are facts. Opinions about the facts differ. It is therefore the job of the peacemaker to bridge the gap between opinions, and in that manner, bring about reconciliation. This much seems obvious. But what if the facts themselves differ? What if the basis for the disagreement is so profound that the world arrays itself differently for each antagonist – and worse: what if the disagreement extends beyond the antagonist, to the peacemaker, who sees the facts themselves in a manner that neither antagonist can accept? What then?
Ridiculous, surely: how can the facts themselves differ, when it is one world that we all inhabit? But the facts do differ, because the world is complex beyond the scope of any one interpretation. (Peterson, 2006)
This is something I talked about in part 9 of my YouTube series. Part of the reason we have such profound disagreements about the world (political, religious, or otherwise) is because facts about the world are often literally different depending on one’s perspective.
The existence of God, for example, always depends on perspective. It depends on what you mean by God and even what you mean by “exists”. Maybe you think you believe in God if you act as if God exists. And maybe you think that belief in God must require belief in a literally omniscient and omnipotent, purely benevolent force. Maybe the existence of God depends, therefore, on your definition of God.
Maybe every issue is exactly like that. Maybe everyone has a point, from a certain perspective. And maybe everyone is wrong or blind, from a certain perspective. That is, in fact, what Jordan Peterson seems to be suggesting in his 2006 paper.
For this reason, there can be disagreement about first principles, as well as their derivatives. This means that the job of the peacemaker is to establish an accord that allows the facts themselves to become a matter of agreement. To do that, however, the peacemaker has to be able to see the facts that lead to peace. To do that, he has to be more than a pragmatic broker of opinions. He has to be a man of deep and profoundly rooted morality – and a man of the morality of no man’s land, instead of the morality of established territory. (Peterson, 2006)
The peacemaker must be somebody who is capable of seeing from everyone’s point of view. He must also be an idealist who is unwilling to compromise on his principles.
This is similar to how Nietzsche described the man who must engage in the “revaluation of all values”.
It may be necessary for the education of a genuine philosopher that he himself has also once stood on all these steps on which his servants, the scientific laborers of philosophy, remain standing — have to remain standing. Perhaps he himself must have been critic and skeptic and dogmatist and historian and also poet and collector and traveler and solver of riddles and moralist and seer and “free spirit” and almost everything in order to pass through the whole range of human values and value feelings and to be able to see with many different eyes and consciences, from a height and into every distance, from the depths into every height, from a nook into every expanse. But all these are merely preconditions of his task: this task itself demands something different — it demands that he create values. (Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil 211)
The genuine philosopher must be able to see from many points of view in order to be capable of seeing beyond those points of view. He must even be capable of seeing beyond good and evil, as Nietzsche rightly pointed out elsewhere.
My demand upon the philosopher is known, that he take his stand beyond good and evil and leave the illusion of moral judgment beneath himself. This demand follows from an insight which I was the first to formulate: that there are altogether no moral facts. Moral judgments agree with religious ones in believing in realities which are no realities. Morality is merely an interpretation of certain phenomena-more precisely, a misinterpretation. (Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols)
Peterson says that the peacemaker must be a man of profoundly rooted morality. Nietzsche says that the “revaluer of values” must be “beyond good and evil” and must, therefore, see through the illusion of morality. Is there necessarily a contradiction between these statements?
No. There is no contradiction, because the morality of the transcendent is “beyond good and evil” from the perspective of the local morality. Peterson explains later on in his 2006 essay that the peacemaker must exist in “no man’s land”, where the normal rules simply don’t apply:
No man’s land is the unknown, terra incognita. The morality of the previously established is merely a matter of tradition, agreed upon by all. When traditions clash, however, the facts themselves are no longer self-evident. Under such conditions, it is only the individual who has traveled strange lands who can build a bridge. But to travel strange lands is to risk coming under the dominion of the terrible spirits that inhabit the uninhabitable; to risk becoming the strange son of chaos – someone no longer acceptable to those who still dwell quietly at home. To travel strange lands is to see the broader territory, the no man’s land surrounding all conditional moralities, and to learn how to negotiate a path there – but also to lose all belief that there is one way, or one set of facts. (Peterson, 2006)
To travel strange lands is to come into contact with the reality of perspectivism, a reality that Nietzsche knew all too well. Perspectivism is the recognition that two contradictory statements can both be literally true from a certain perspective. Those who are masters of a local territory will find this difficult to accept. Richard Dawkins, for example, will find it hard to accept that religious fundamentalists have a point, just as religious fundamentalists will find it hard to accept that Dawkins has a point.
Nietzscheans may find it hard to accept that Christians have a point, just as Christians may find it hard to accept that Nietzscheans have a point.
Democrats and Republicans, socialists and libertarians, warhawks and peace activists, conspiracy theorists and “skeptics”, patriots and rebels, etc., may all have points and blind spots from particular perspectives.
The peacemaker is somebody who plays the meta-game (or the transcendent game) rather than the local game. This is narratively represented in Harry Potter by the “seeker”, who plays a different and more valuable game than the other Quidditch players.
Even if the seeker’s team is losing the local game, catching the “golden snitch” and winning the “meta-game” usually results in a victory anyways. In that sense, the meta-game is usually more important than the local game, even if it takes time for that fact to become apparent.
This is also similar to the mythical quest for the holy grail or the alchemical quest for the philosopher’s stone. These are all narrative representations of the idea that there is some transcendent discovery that could be more valuable than any mere earthly and local attainment.
Attaining this transcendent victory, however, may require becoming a loser in the local game. This is because the virtues that help one to win the “meta-game” may actually make one less capable of victory in the local game.
Predictability is a virtue in the local environment, but integrity is a virtue in the transcendental domain from which peace descends. The local victor can be a man of lead, heavy, solid – even corruptible, if such corruption has served his victory. The peacemaker must a diamond, by contrast – something from which light shines forth, even though reflected; something simple and translucent, but also something hard beyond belief. (Peterson, 2006)
There is, of course, a conflict between predictability and integrity. In order to get along in a local environment, you must remain relatively predictable. This means no sudden outbursts of emotion and no rapid changes of opinions or temperament
Integrity and authenticity, however, will often look chaotic and unpredictable from the perspective of local assumptions. To remain authentic, emotions must be expressed as they emerge. Instincts must be listened to, though not necessarily obeyed. In the transcendent realm, feeling is just as important as rationality. To allow one’s feelings to act as a guide will make one unpredictable, and that unpredictability is unacceptable in most local environments. For that reason, the peacemaker may appear to be a local loser. His integrity won’t allow him to achieve local victory at the cost of his ideals.
The peacemaker must have subjected himself to the heat and pressure of these forges; must have become something hard and translucent, in consequence, but also something protean and subtle. Gemstones shine most brightly out of the darkness, not the light. There is not enough contrast, in the light. The peacemaker must therefore have looked long enough into the abyss to partake of the darkness of the abyss. (Peterson, 2006)
The peacemaker must also partake of the darkness. This is represented in Harry Potter by the fact that Harry carries around a piece of Voldemort’s soul inside of him. He has evil within him, as well as good. In The Matrix movies, Neo appears in all black. He is the light, but he is darkness too. In Star Wars, the hero (Luke) is the lost son of the tyrant (Vader).
The peacemaker must therefore have some darkness in him too, and maybe even some love of the darkness. Is that not better than fear of the darkness?
Maybe that would sound something like this:
The hero and peacemaker must be a monster, as Jordan Peterson has said elsewhere.
Harmlessness and goodness are not compatible. To be harmless is simply to be incapable of inflicting harm. To be good is to be capable of inflicting harm and choosing not to (at least when that choice is appropriate).
There can’t be light without some darkness, as is represented by the symbol of the Tao. This means that even within the good, there is some evil. Otherwise, how could the good man ever understand the evil man?
This seems to be why Peterson elsewhere says that the peacemaker must even have some “sympathy for the devil”, and that this sympathy may not appear acceptable even to himself.
Local victory is admirable in the local environment, but victory, as the father of pride, blinds the victorious to the transcendent, the source of peace. This means that the peacemaker, who wants to get the facts straight, must remain unconcerned with his own status. The damned, after all, cannot speak, without an advocate. To become an advocate of the damned, the peacemaker must abandon his local pretensions, and his desire for status. Otherwise he cannot listen. But if he serves [as] an advocate for the damned, then he risks developing sympathy for the devil himself. That very sympathy makes him unacceptable to the local victors – and maybe even to himself. (Peterson, 2006)
Maybe that’s why Nietzsche thought that his ideal, the “overman” would be called “devil” by those who are most convinced of their own moral righteousness.
Verily, you who are good and just, there is much about you that is laughable, and especially your fear of that which has hitherto been called devil. What is great is so alien to your souls that the overman would be awesome to you in his kindness. And you who are wise and knowing, you would flee from the burning sun of that wisdom in which the overman joyously bathes his nakedness. You highest men whom my eyes have seen, this is my doubt concerning you and my secret laughter: I guess that you would call my overman -- devil. (Nietzsche, Zarathustra)
And maybe that’s why even the devil needs an advocate.
According to the neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran, the job of the “right cerebral hemisphere” is to play “devil’s advocate”. As he put it:
“The left hemisphere's job is to create a belief system or model and to fold new experiences into that belief system. If confronted with some new information that doesn't fit the model, it relies on Freudian defense mechanisms to deny, repress or confabulate—anything to preserve the status quo. The right hemisphere's strategy, on the other hand, is to play "Devil's Advocate," to question the status quo and look for global inconsistencies. When the anomalous information reaches a certain threshold, the right hemisphere decides that it is time to force a complete revision of the entire model and start from scratch. The right hemisphere thus forces a "Kuhnian paradigm shift" in response to anomalies, whereas the left hemisphere always tries to cling tenaciously to the way things were.” (pp. 96-98)
The left hemisphere mode represents the strategy of local victors. The right hemisphere mode represents the strategy of those who play the meta-game.
From the transcendent perspective (i.e., the perspective of the right hemisphere), even the devil has a point to make.
Lucifer rebelled against God because he decided that he could do without the transcendent. But is this not the same reason for why Nietzsche was rebelling against the old, transcendent version of morality?
This is why Nietzsche knew that the proper path meant going to war with the Old God. In the first chapter of Zarathustra, Nietzsche describes the second transformation of the spirit, which must occur in the loneliest desert.
In the loneliest desert, however, the second metamorphosis occurs: here the spirit becomes a lion who would conquer his freedom and be master in his own desert. Here he seeks out his last master: he wants to fight him and his last god; for ultimate victory he wants to fight with the great dragon.
Who is the great dragon whom the spirit will no longer call lord and god? "Thou shalt" is the name of the great dragon. But the spirit of the lion says, "I will." "Thou shalt" lies in his way, sparkling like gold, an animal covered with scales; and on every scale shines a golden "thou shalt."
Values, thousands of years old, shine on these scales; and thus speaks the mightiest of all dragons: "All value of all things shines on me. All value has long been created, and I am all created value. Verily, there shall be no more 'I will!'" Thus speaks the dragon.
You will have to excuse me if this transformation reminds me a little bit of the transformation that has occurred for me, here in my own desert. This desert is called Albuquerque, New Mexico (which is currently where I’m at).
I, too, have decided to go to “war” with the Old God. And who is the “dragon” who I will no longer call Lord and God? I call that dragon the State.
That is what Nietzsche had to say about the State, the coldest of all cold monsters.
State is the name of the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly it tells lies too; and this lie crawls out of its mouth: “I, the state, am the people.” That is a lie! It was creators who created peoples and hung a faith and a love over them: thus they served life…
“On earth there is nothing greater than I: the ordering finger of God am I”—thus roars the monster. And it is not only the long-eared and shortsighted who sink to their knees. Alas, to you too, you great souls, it whispers its dark lies. Alas, it detects the rich hearts which like to squander themselves. Indeed, it detects you too, you vanquishers of the old god. (Nietzsche, Zarathustra)
Who are the vanquishers of the old god? Those with heroic souls. The coldest of cold monsters loves to surround itself with heroes. One of my heroes is Richard Winters.
Richard Winters is obviously a heroic man. The State, however, has no business taking any credit for the actions of individual heroes like him. Much of what calls itself “patriotism” is simply the hero worship of great men like Richard Winters when that heroism is inappropriately projected onto the State.
Richard Winters was an honest and decent man, but the state has no business taking credit for anyone’s honesty and decency.
But the state tells lies in all the tongues of good and evil; and whatever it says it lies—and whatever it has it has stolen. Everything about it is false; it bites with stolen teeth, and bites easily. (Nietzsche, Zarathustra)
That is what I think of the State, including the United State of America.
Everything about it is false. Everything it has it has stolen.
I am patriotic in a sense, because I believe in some of the great ideals upon which the United States of America was founded. I am not, however, a patriot in the sense that many so-called patriots would want me to be.
I do not believe that United States government comes anywhere close to living up to the ideals upon which it was founded. My patriotism, therefore, makes me the enemy of the State, not its friend.
“If I ruled the world, with my rules and shit, I’d probably roll the constitution up into a spliff.”
At some point I’ll write in more detail about this problem. But the fact is that there can be no peace while corruption of that magnitude exists. And it is for that reason, I believe, that Peterson says the peacemaker must also be a warbringer.
As Peterson put it:
The peacemaker must love war – must in fact generate war around him, constantly, so that the need for war does not accumulate, and explode. The peacemaker brings a sword, not peace. (Peterson, 2006)
A little war is necessary now and then to stave off the larger war later on.
And so a man of peace must also be a man of war. And that means that a God of peace must also be a God of war. And so maybe the peacemaker must also share an identity with Mars, the Roman God of War.
And maybe the peacemaker’s mind, given its warlike and destructive nature, would sound something like this:
And maybe, paradoxically, even though the peacemaker wants peace, he also has a secret or not-so-secret thirst for warfare. Maybe he knows, on some level, that he was made to wage war, and that in the absence of warfare he would never be able to manifest his full potential. Maybe that would sound something like this, from Nietzsche:
You say it is the good cause that hallows even war? I say unto you: it is the good war that hallows any cause. War and courage have accomplished more great things than love of the neighbor. Not your pity but your courage has so far saved the unfortunate.
“What is good?” you ask. To be brave is good. Let the little girls say, “To be good is what is at the same time pretty and touching.” (Nietzsche, Zarathustra)
The peacemaker is therefore warlike. But his war is always in the service of peace, and his peace is always only a means to new wars.
The peacemaker is therefore a paradox. Maybe even everything about him is paradoxical. Does he bring war or peace? Does he create or destroy? Is he unique or common? Is he attractive or ugly? Is he good or evil? Is he a winner or a loser?
That paradoxical quality makes the peacemaker anomalous, from the conventional perspective, and one’s reaction to the peacemaker will be similar to how one reacts to anomalies in everyday life.
Ignore the anomaly, kill the anomaly, or dissolve and re-constitute one’s self in the face of the anomaly. Those are basically the three options.
Who will be most likely to want to kill or suppress the peacemaker? Peterson says it is those who have “sold their soul to the group”, i.e. those with the most tyrannical attitudes about current belief and morality.
These types are likely to hate the peacemaker and will seek to end his life.
Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training.
He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord.
Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; for if the righteous man is God's son, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.
Let us test him with insult and torture, that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.
(Wisdom 2:12-13, 16-20 RSV)
If so, they’ll never take me alive.
Maybe the peacemaker knows that pity is not the only path towards peace, and that bravery and war must be integrated into any state of peace in order for that peace to last.
Maybe that’s because the peacemaker knows how restless those men with warlike souls are in the absence of warfare:
One can be silent and sit still only when one has bow and arrow: else one chatters and quarrels. Let your peace be a victory! (Nietzsche, Zarathustra)
Warlike men can only be silent and sit still when they have bow and arrow in hand. Otherwise they chatter and quarrel. Some men were made for war, and in its absence they manifest a kind of illness. Often, this illness looks like a personality disorder. I wrote about this phenomenon in more detail here:
For me, that personality disorder looked like schizoid personality disorder, but I suspect it may look different for other men with warlike temperaments.
Peterson has elsewhere claimed that when Jesus said that “the meek shall inherit the earth”, what he really meant was that those who have weapons and know how to use them (but choose not to) will inherit the earth.
The peacemaker, therefore, must be ready for war and ready for peace.
The final passage from The Gospel of Thomas says:
(114) Simon Peter said to [Jesus], "Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life." Jesus said, "I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven."
If we choose to take this saying seriously, what might it mean that every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven?
I suspect that the translation being used here is not perfectly accurate. I suspect that Jesus meant that women must also adopt this masculine, warlike mentality in order to “enter the kingdom of heaven”.
Perhaps that is best represented narratively by the story of Mulan, the woman who had to learn to be warlike in order to best serve her family and nation.
Maybe Jesus meant something like this, as cheesy as it is:
Moving on, Jordan Peterson says that the peacemaker may appear to be a local loser, but this cannot be due to his incompetence. That is, the peacemaker may appear to be unsuccessful from the perspective of the local economy (e.g., with money, women, friends, status, etc.), but his loss must not have occured because he is incompetent.
The peacemaker’s lack of victory in the local game must be due to his idealism, not his incompetence. The peacemaker refuses to compromise his ideals in order to succeed at local endeavors, and therefore appears to be a loser from the local perspective.
The peacemaker won’t compromise his integrity for money, status, women, or any other form of local victory.
The “pragmatic man”, who thinks only in terms of local victory, will therefore have a very hard time understanding the peacemaker.
The pragmatic man is generally philosophical about the local – deeply philosophical, even. He is willing to do what it takes, because when he does what it takes he wins, and his victory justifies his pragmatism. But a locally pragmatic solution to the problem of peace is no solution at all, because it is not opinions about facts that differ among those who are at war. It is the facts themselves. There is no pragmatic solution to the problem of differing facts. That solution has to be derived from the transcendent – and there is no transcendent for the pragmatic man. That means that the peacemaker has to be deeply idealistic.
The pragmatic man regards the idealistic man, not unreasonably, as the slave of ideology, akin, in temperament, to the loser. This is neither surprising nor, locally, inaccurate. Among those who inhabit local environments, and lose, ideology beckons powerfully. The loser is highly motivated to develop an idealistic stance, antithetical to the local – to justify his loss to himself. This movement of bad faith makes him deeply unacceptable to the pragmatic man, the local winner. He is in turn motivated to see through the façade of the idealist, to the loser, and to judge him, properly, as resentful, shortsighted, and deeply untrustworthy. But not all ideals are ideologies, and not all idealistic men are losers. (Peterson, 2006)
The peacemaker is idealistic and this makes him appear similar to the local losers, who are also idealistic and who exist in no small number. These local losers become idealistic as a way to justify the fact that they are losers to themselves and everyone else.
Typically, I call these local losers “social justice warriors”.
If you want to see what these type of men look like when taken to the extreme, look no further than the pathetic collection of losers who make up the “Democratic Socialists of America”. They sound something like this:
These are the types of men (and women) who suffer from life and want to make everyone else suffer just as much as they do. They constantly rail about “justice” and “privilege”. They want to drag anyone who is healthy and well-constituted down to their own level of weakness and misery.
Nietzsche understood the psychology of these “born losers” all too well. I will quote him at length here since I could not have said it any better than he did:
The sick are man’s greatest danger; not the evil, not the “beasts of prey.” Those who are failures from the start, downtrodden, crushed—it is they, the weakest, who must undermine life among men, who call into question and poison most dangerously our trust in life, in man, and in ourselves. Where does one not encounter that veiled glance which burdens one with a profound sadness, that inward-turned glance of the born failure which betrays how such a man speaks to himself—that glance which is a sigh! “If only I were someone else,” sighs this glance: “but there is no hope of that. I am who I am: how could I ever get free of myself? And yet—I am sick of myself!”
It is on such soil, on swampy ground, that every weed, every poisonous plant grows, always so small, so hidden, so false, so saccharine. Here the worms of vengefulness and rancor swarm; here the air stinks of secrets and concealment; here the web of the most malicious of all conspiracies is being spun constantly—the conspiracy of the suffering against the well-constituted and victorious, here the aspect of the victorious is hated. And what mendaciousness is employed to disguise that this hatred is hatred! What a display of grand words and postures, what an art of “honest” calumny! These failures: what noble eloquence flows from their lips! How much sugary, slimy, humble submissiveness swims in their eyes! What do they really want? At least to represent justice, love, wisdom, superiority—that is the ambition of the “lowest,” the sick. And how skillfull such an ambition makes them! Admire above all the forger’s skill with which the stamp of virtue, even the ring, the golden-sounding ring of virtue, is here counterfeited. They monopolize virtue, these weak, hopelessly sick people, there is no doubt of it: “we alone are the good and just,” they say, “we alone are [men of good will].” They walk among us as embodied reproaches, as warnings to us—as if health, well-constitutedness, strength, pride, and the sense of power were in themselves necessarily vicious things for which one must pay some day, and pay bitterly: how ready they themselves are at bottom to make one pay; how they crave to be hangmen. There is among them an abundance of the vengeful disguised as judges, who constantly bear the word “justice” in their mouths like poisonous spittle, always with pursed lips, always ready to spit upon all who are not discontented but go their way in good spirits. Nor is there lacking among them that most disgusting species of the vain, the mendacious failures whose aim is to appear as “beautiful souls” and who bring to market their deformed sensuality, wrapped up in verses and other swaddling clothes, as “purity of heart”: the species of moral masturbaters and “self-gratifiers.” The will of the weak to represent some form of superiority, their instinct for devious paths to tyranny over the healthy—where can it not be discovered, this will to power of the weakest!
(Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals III. 14)
That is exactly the kind of man I see when I look at the Democratic Socialists of America and organizations like it. They are born losers who suffer from life and want to make everyone else suffer along with them.
One can also find this kind of man among fascist and alt-right organizations, though I suspect more rarely. I think everyone knows the type. These are “neckbeards” who adopt extreme political positions and then use them as a bludgeon to assert their moral authority over anyone who even slightly disagrees with them.
These are the stereotypical Reddit mods. Moderators on the website Reddit are known for being tyrannical and self-righteous. They are also known for having a particular “look”. We all know the type. We call them neckbeards.
These men are real losers. They would probably lose not only in the local game, but in all possible games. The peacemaker cannot be one of them, even if he can relate to them to some degree. The peacemaker must be somebody who lost the local game not because he was incapable, but because he was idealistic.
Jordan Peterson explains that:
… not all ideals are ideologies, and not all idealistic men are losers. Sometimes they are individuals who have sacrificed local victory for something higher. This may make them appear deeply untrustworthy to the master of the local environment, but that is only because the facts that array themselves to him, in consequence of his mastery, remain insufficient. Trapped by the fact of his own local victory, he can only see the reality of what he knows, and does not know that there is also a reality he does not know. (Peterson, 2006)
Local victors cannot understand idealistic men . They look at them and see a “loser”, just as Donald Trump (who is basically the embodiment of a “local victor”) looks at all idealists and sees nothing but losers.
When somebody like Trump sees a heroic sacrifice, he only sees a “loser” and a “sucker”.
Somebody like Donald Trump can only be a winner within a very particular local game. He is a true “loser” who just so happened to be born into the right circumstances to take advantage of his less-than-noble qualities. Someone like Donald Trump will probably never be able to understand the peacemaker. The local victor wins the local game despite, and even because, of his vices. The peacemaker loses the local game despite, and even because, of his virtues. This paradox may be incomprehensible to the “pragmatic man”.
The truly idealistic man is an avatar of the reality of the unknown, and not a loser masquerading in moral dress. His difference from the local victor makes him appear in the guise of the defeated – the only opposite the local victor understands. The facts that array themselves to the idealist are therefore invisible to the pragmatic man, and no communication is possible. (Peterson, 2006)
The local victor can only think in terms of “winners” and “losers” from the local perspective. This means that the local victor can only see a “loser” when he looks at the peacemaker.
But the peacemaker is not a loser. He was simply playing a different game from the local victors. To use a cliche, the peacemaker was playing chess while they were playing checkers. He was trying to catch the golden snitch while they were trying to score points from the conventional perspective. He was playing the meta-game while they were playing the local game.
The mode of being that leads to victory in the “meta-game” is the mode of being that is represented by the mythological hero stories, according to Jordan Peterson. In a 2013 paper, Jordan Peterson described this mode of being as such:
We tell stories about how to play: not about how to play the game, but about how to play the metagame, the game of games. When chaos threatens, confront it, as quickly as possible, eyes open, voluntarily. Activate the neural circuitry underlying active exploration, inhibiting confusion, fear and the generation of damaging stress responses, and not the circuitry of freezing and escape. Cut the unknown into pieces; take it apart with hands, thumbs and mind, and formulate, or reformulate, the world. Free the valuable gold from the dragon of chaos, transform leaden inertia into gilded action, enhance your status, and gain the virgin maiden – just like the first of your tree-dwelling ancestors who struck a predatory snake with a stick, chased it away, and earned the eternal gratitude of mistress, mother and group. (Peterson, 2013)
Of course, there is a paradox even here, as Peterson rightly understood. Sometimes the peacemaker himself may look like a predatory snake. The peacemaker himself may appear at some points to be indistinguishable from the dragon of chaos.
In an endnote to Maps of Meaning, Peterson said:
When I first began the process that led me to understand these ideas, I painted a frightening picture of the crucified Christ, "glaring, judgmental, demonic, with a cobra wrapped around his naked waist, like a belt" (as described in the Preface). I was struggling with problems of identity, in an world that had apparently gone insane. The image of the exploratory hero manifested itself to me in imagistic representation, contaminated with the figure of the Dragon of Chaos -"and as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up" (John 3:14). This contamination might be regarded as indicative of the danger the development of full understanding of that hero and the "world" he inhabited posed to my thenextant personality structure (which in fact dissolved and regenerated, over a lengthy period, thereafter). The "identity" of the revolutionary hero with the serpent of chaos, however, accounts for the hatred and fear his necessary actions produce among the population he is striving to help. (MoM, p. 488)
This, too, depends on perspective. From the perspective of the left cerebral hemisphere, which is the perspective of the “local victor”, the peacemaker will appear as the dragon of chaos. Perhaps it is even appropriate to say that the peacemaker simply is the dragon of chaos, from the perspective of the left cerebral hemisphere.
But from the perspective of the right hemisphere, which sees the totality of things more clearly, the peacemaker appears as he truly is. The peacemaker is the embodiment of the “spirit of positive masculinity” which manifests itself across epochal ages.
This is the spirit that discovers and facilitates non-zero-sum games, which I discussed throughout my YouTube series. Both Jordan Peterson and Robert Wright have called that spirit “The Logos”, the fiery flame that destroys only in the service of a higher creation.
The peacemaker’s identification with “The Logos” explains his role as both creator and destroyer. The Logos is the fiery flame which destroys only in the service of its creation.
Creation—that is the great redemption from suffering, and life’s growing light. But that the creator may be, suffering is needed and much change. Indeed, there must be much bitter dying in your life, you creators. Thus are you advocates and justifiers of all impermanence. To be the child who is newly born, the creator must also want to be the mother who gives birth and the pangs of the birth-giver. (Nietzsche, Zarathustra)
Robert Wright claimed that the Logos was aiming towards the creation of a one-world democratic form of government. I don’t know if it’s possible for the whole world to become one polity, but it does seem like that the only possible solution to dealing with the problem of our increasing technological sophistication is some kind of global government.
How else will we keep a lid on nuclear weapons, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, or other technological innovations that haven’t occurred yet? That’s not even to mention climate change and overpopulation, neither of which I think are currently existential threats but which could easily become so in the future.
There is, of course, no way to know ahead of time exactly how things will end. That is where “faith” comes along. Faith, to my mind, has nothing to do with believing in particular propositions. That kind of “faith” is merely willful stupidity.
Real faith, instead, is the belief in the fundamental goodness of the structure of reality. One must trust that acting in good faith will produce the best possible world, even if that turns out to be a world that you wouldn’t have chosen voluntarily.
It is for that reason that peacemaking is a process and not an outcome. It is a journey and not a destination. The outcome is uncertain, but the journey is undertaken anyways.
Outcome is a virtue in the local environment. Product is a virtue in the local environment. But outcome and product are not necessarily virtuous in the transcendent environment that surrounds the local. What is it that is being produced? What is it that qualifies as outcome? Such questions have no answer, when the facts themselves are in question. Peace must therefore be a journey – and a journey to an unspecified destination. (Peterson, 2006)
Maybe that would sound something like this:
The peacemaker must strive to win, as well, since he must be able to show that peacemaking is not merely a sacrificial mode of being but also one that has real material benefits.
It is in that sense that the peacemaker makes sacrifices. He sacrifices his current position for a future position. He sacrifices local victory for transcendent victory.
Peacemaking must be a vocation, and not an occupation. Peacemaking cannot be something that is done, by a peacemaker, but something that is, about the peacemaker. In his local environment, therefore, the peacemaker must be the man who has strived for peace, not victory – but he must also be the man who could attain victory, indisputably, if that was his desire. The morality of the loser, who sees victory slip away, easily becomes cowardice; something that seeks revenge, and revolution for revenge, not for peace. Not even for victory: even the victory that the loser strives towards is illusory, something not designed for dominance, but only for destruction of what currently exists. The peacemaker cannot be a loser, therefore, just because he is not a local victor. (Peterson, 2006)
The desire to win and conquer must also therefore be a part of the constitution of the peacemaker. Maybe that would sound something like this:
But maybe winning is not enough. Maybe, after he wins, the peacemaker would sacrifice all of that just to show that he could do it again if he wanted to.
Because maybe there is some part of him that would rather start from the bottom and rise again, just to prove that he could.
Maybe that would sound something like this:
Peterson ends his 2006 paper with an extremely hopeful paragraph. Peterson believes that the local victors and local losers could, at least in principle, make peace with each other. As he puts it:
The local victor is a master of technique. The peacemaker has no technique, although he is also a master. In the transcendent, technique is limitation. Pride in skill is still pride. Where pride dominates, the facts themselves fall into dispute. Because the peacemaker has no technique, he must attend. To what? To what announces itself as important, when victory is not the aim. When the facts that give rise to peace announce themselves to the man whose aim is peace, he can then point the way. Desiring peace, he sees new facts, and is filled with enthusiasm for those facts. Enthusiastic, he masters his anxiety, his frustration, his shame, his self-consciousness, and his guilt. Rising above his guilt, he can look over the blood on his hands, and see what still beckons. Observing his enthusiasm, the local victors, satiated, deadened, brutalized and bored by their victory, become jealous, and look, as well. Observing his enthusiasm, the local losers rise above their defeat, inspired by the evidence of hope embodied before them, and see what beckons, using the eyes of the peacemaker as their own. Thus, the peacemaker sees new facts, redemptive facts, and allows them to imbue him with life. The peacemaker can then transmit that life through the substance of his own body, to the antagonists, victors and vanquished. The antagonists, blessed with the eyes of the peacemaker, come to see their enemies for the first time. Guided, implicitly, in this manner, they may rise above their own desire for victory, and their own subjugation to defeat, and seek peace. (Peterson, 2006)
The peacemaker may have blood on his hands, just as we all do to some degree. The peacemaker may believe, however, that there is a mode of being that could transcend the guilt that is produced by that blood and even justify it. The peacemaker’s mode of being must therefore be redemptive.
Is there a mode of being that could make even the local victors jealous, despite their local victory?
Is there a mode of being that could inspire hope even in the local losers, despite their local defeat?
Peterson is hopeful that such a mode of being exists.
My hope is that if such a mode of being exists I will be able to embody it.
I hope that you, if you are reading this, can also strive to embody that mode of being.
Though, since I took my seat first, I plan on eating well.
I’m always down for a good fight, but all I’m really saying is something like this:
Because this is a war, ain’t talking about bullets and swords.
UFOs don’t make any noise when they travel in hyper-speed, so welcome aboard.
“The show must go on, yes, but I don’t have to act in it.”