It suits Burfeind’s thesis to miscast Peterson as YouTube’s Pied Piper, keeping his young audience so entranced with his high-brow “meme-world” of archetypal abstractions that they never put skin in the game of flesh-and-blood community. In actuality, Peterson’s entire project rests on his view of the world as a forum for action. So quit play-acting and start acting, he exhorts. Set your house in order. Put your family together. Make yourself useful in your community. Be someone people can rely on. Set a worthy goal and achieve it.
Contra Burfeind’s first take, Peterson is the anti-Osteen. Osteen will tell you that your best life now is on the way. Peterson will tell you that your worst life now is on the way. Osteen will tell you that you’re just swell the way you are. Peterson will tell you that you’d better start ironing out your soul now, because if you think you’re a pretty good person, think again, sunshine.
This is the voice of the schoolmaster. This is the voice of Law. This is a voice that can reach a bitter 20-something deep in the cesspools of Internet atheism and snap him into the kind of painful self-awareness that leads to the cross. I tell one such true story at the end of this piece. There are many more.