It was kind of a thing. A big and well advertised debate between two popular as well as controversial thinkers: Slavoj Zizek and Jordan Peterson. Many people were looking forward to it. Normally, if something is ‘hyped’ like this, I tend to ignore it. But since I had nothing else to do, I watched it and I would like to share my thoughts on it.
Now, I am as neutral an observer as can be, since prior to the debate, I had never read any work or watched any performance by either one of them. I knew that both Zizek and Peterson evoke strong and opposite reactions, sheer admiration as well as intense loathing. I had no thoughts or feelings for either one of them, so I watched the debate without any biased opinion.
And I must say I was surprised. Whatever one might say about their opinions, their personalities, what they brought forward, the way they brought it forward, or whatever they may have said in the past, in their books or whatever… What I saw watching this debate and what struck me the most is this:
I watched two people, declared “sworn enemies” by the large public beforehand, willing to engage in a real conversation about their ideas. Two thinkers who were willing to discuss the ideologies they are associated with, criticizing not only their opponents’ ideas, but their own as well. Admitting their flaws, instead of just defending them.
Of course, one may disagree with either one of them wholeheartedly, and it is easy to say that Zizek is a neo-Marxist idiot who fails to admit reality, or that Peterson is a male chauvinist pig with a blind eye to the disadvantages of capitalism. Too easy, because in this debate, I think both Zizek and Peterson prove this prejudice wrong.
I watched two supposed opponents seeking common ground and openly trying to understand each other, engaging in a debate but also able and willing to say “I agree with you” and “I know I don’t have all the answers”. I think it was a decent, respectful debate, without the yelling, name-calling, or dismissing the other person as happens so often in political debates. I thought that was really refreshing.
When Peterson is asked at the end of the debate what he hopes people will leave the debate with: “the belief in the power of communication between people with different views.” That.