Dragons, Monsters, and Men: Episode 2 Review

Luke Rexing, Contributor

The second episode in the series is titled “Arm Yourself”. In this episode, like the last, Peterson goes through an interconnected web of ideas that seem to encompass one of his overall themes. From my perspective, it seems like this theme is something like: think for yourself, then be wise enough to act as if you believe it. 

One of the first ideas brought up in this episode is that boys and men are becoming passive. Boys now tend to do worse in school, bail out of relationships, and even bail out of society. Stories portrayed by the media seem to not want men anymore, but Peterson rightfully disagrees. Many reasonable people, when confronted with this proposition of whether or not it is acceptable to be a man, will say something along the lines of “yes, it is okay to be a man”. But Peterson takes it a step further, claiming that:

It is not just okay to be a man, it is necessary.

— Jordan B. Peterson

Many boys grow up without a predominant father figure, which leads them to become distressed and confused. They are unsure what to do with themselves because of a lack of direction. I believe a large factor in this conundrum is also the fact that young boys are not encouraged, but instead shunned for their more aggressive nature. In general, according to Peterson, men are more interested in things, and women are more interested in people. Boys are more interested in playing with things like toy weapons, throwing rocks, and the like. However, more and more sheltering is seen, especially within public schools and academia, to make sure that the priority is having a “safe space” rather than a place dedicated to producing a functional, and continually growing human being. 

In a podcast with his daughter, Mikhaila, they speak of a rule that was implemented at her elementary school. This rule banned not only the throwing of snowballs, but also the making of a snowball. How are children (especially boys in this case) supposed to express themselves? It seems that the verbiage, and in turn agenda, of many institutions is hypocritical to their values. The values of accepting everyone for who they are, and encouraging them to be their “true selves”, are the same ones that will not allow a little boy to make, let alone throw a snowball. It leads to overprotective parents who want nothing more than to shelter their child from the world instead of vivifying a courageous spirit inside them. Like mentioned in the last episode review, if we want to create an empowered world, we must face responsibility with our heads up and shoulders back, even if it means taking a snowball to the face. 

This type of confinement of recreational exuberance leads us to one of the next big ideas I found in the episode: The basis of our society is the spirit of play, rather than a power-based dominance hierarchy, as the legacy media so badly wants us to believe. Peterson, in an effort to explain this misunderstanding, recites a study by Franz de Waal, a Dutch Primatologist, in which the hierarchy of chimpanzee troops were studied. In this study, the alpha male of the troop was analyzed. The hypothesis was that the largest, most power-hungry, and dominant male would become the alpha and rule over his troop. In some cases this was true, but only for a short time. If this large, extremely aggressive chimpanzee rose to the alpha status in his troop, subordinates would grow to strongly dislike him. Even the most powerful of chimpanzees can not take on three of their own kind. The subordinates would turn to rip their alpha to shreds, and completely overturn the barbarian-like, and ineffective governance. So, this proves that being strictly power driven may work initially to get to the top of a hierarchy, but it is nearly impossible to stay at the top of the hill when everyone is plotting to take you down. However, this was not the most important finding in the study.

What was found was that in some cases, even the smallest male in the troop could become the alpha male. This was possible if he had support of an older, and powerful female with good connections within the troop. He must also be good at reciprocal interaction, and reconciliation post-conflict. In cases like this, there was peace within a troop. The alpha would in turn govern for much longer than the combative male. The psyche of the troop could be characterized as functioning under the spirit of play, or friendship, and reciprocal bonds. This was a study of our closest relatives, and I believe that it is evidence enough to easily overthrow the media-favored ideology that our entire society is predicated upon power and dominance. This is not to say that stories similar to the power-crazy chimpanzee do not exist among humans, but it is to say that this is clearly not the principle that we want to tell young children (especially boys) about their ambition. 

This study was interesting to me because, temperamentally, I think that I am on the low end of male aggressiveness. I dislike conflict, so I have had an easier time getting through school than those who are more disagreeable. Peterson speaks to both sides here, saying that a man who is capable of aggression, but unable to control it, is just as bad as someone who is incapable of aggression. There is a balance between being aggressive and knowing when to use it. I have been a “yes person” for most of my life, and Peterson is helping me realize that there are times that require a “no”. In order to climb the ranks in any institution or social establishment, one must be able to negotiate. This means both understanding one’s own needs just as well as the others. Negotiation requires an integrated aggression. 

Like the last episode review, there were many other ideas within this episode worthy of consideration and deeper thought. 

  1. Follow the rules, but don’t follow stupid rules. 
    1. If you break a rule, be willing to serve the consequences.
  2. In order to develop you must subordinate yourself to something.
  3. Each child born produces seven times as much wealth as they consume (on average).
    1. We are not overpopulated, in fact it will be the opposite. 

Thank you for reading this review, and look for my review of Episode 3: “Be the Prince, You’ll Find the Princess” in the next edition of the Minnesota Republic!