Peterson, Murray and their fellow Intellectual Dark Web culture wars commentators including Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro, who was a surprise guest, are certainly divisive figures. But to dismiss them as galvanisers of some sort of dangerous new right is far too simplistic and clearly not what the audience (one diverse across age, race and gender) was there for.
Jordan Peterson at the ARC O2 opened with the Kermit the Frog soundalike himself taking to the stage and giving a 40-minute opening lecture made up of his inspiring self-help advice. The Canadian speaker, who is sincere and well-meaning, famously never gives the same speech twice on tour. However, this felt somewhat rambling and unfocused away from the point of what ARC was supposed to be about. We were then somewhat relieved when he invited Murray, Lomborg and Pageau on stage for a conversation that lasted almost three hours without an interval but was never dull and was asking interesting questions.
This largely involved a united expression of the same set of virtuous aspirations for a post-Christian secular West, where people can often struggle to find meaning: to reject resentment, victimhood and selfishness and be willing to suffer courageously in selfless truthful living, in pursuit of the common good, thereby finding meaning and flourishing.
And what is Peterson’s source of such ancient wisdom but the very Biblical foundations the cultural zeitgeist has moved away from? He referenced the Book of Job and Christ’s Passion narratives in the gospels, which he called an extreme and ultimate example of the most virtuous person going through the worst form of suffering for the ultimate good.
Meanwhile, Eastern Orthodox icon carver and public theologian Pageau shared comments on what he sees as our symbolic world (also the name of his podcast) and how the uniformity of reality is built on hierarchies from the depths of the Earth up to the heavens themselves.
His main message was: “If you want to solve the big problems, you have to start with yourself.” From the simplest actions like Peterson’s call to “tidy your room” to just seeking to be a good friend and neighbour to those around you. All good stuff really.