Prominent intellectual and speaker Jordan Peterson’s current Australian tour could well be the first time many millennials have heard a message of personal responsibility.
For most of their lives, millennials have been coddled by the narrative of having rights without responsibility. For many millennials, individual accountability was obsolete in western culture, until people like Peterson revived the discussion in a new way for a new generation.
As an unintended consequence of the cultural change in the 1960s, there has been an overemphasis on group identity and intersectionality in our culture.
The most important aspect about an individual has become their group identity — characteristics such as race, gender, cultural background, and sexuality, take primacy over the individual.
This has led to people being classified as belonging to either an oppressor or a victim group. Being a white person meant that you had to forever reimburse the sins of western imperialism and slavery. Because you share the characteristics of those who did wrong in the past, you must pay in the present.
Meanwhile, being a minority victim group meant that you can ‘never be guilty’ or be responsible for any suffering in your own life. If you belong to a victim group, your problems were caused by the oppressors.
Peterson’s message directly counters this narrative. For the first time, many young people are being told they have control over their life. You are not responsible for the sins of your ancestors. Nor are you a victim because of the trials of your ancestors.
Take control of what you can. Start small, slowly build competence, and your life will drastically improve. This is how you build a meaningful life.
As Peterson says in his book, 12 Rules for Life, “We must each adopt as much responsibility as possible for individual life, society and the world”.
We must bring personal responsibility back onto the table.
Leonard Hong is a student at the University of Auckland and a research intern at The Centre for Independent Studies.