“What young people know about 20th-century history is nonexistent, especially about the history of the radical left.”
Speaking at a New York City event this week, Canadian public intellectual Jordan Peterson said young people’s knowledge of 20th-century history is “nonexistent” and their attraction to socialism is based on ignorance of the economic and political system.
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“People are unbelievably ignorant of history,” Peterson said Tuesday during a talk hosted by the Heritage Foundation, before emphasizing that he considers himself “one of those people.”
The clinical psychologist was responding to a question from the Heritage Foundation’s Genevieve Wood regarding why socialism, in spite of its well-documented failures, seems to be gaining traction among young Americans.
“What young people know about 20th-century history is nonexistent, especially about the history of the radical left. How would they know?” he continued. “They are never taught about it so why would they be concerned about it?”
While the collapse of the Soviet Union and fall of the Berlin Wall may be seared into the memories of older Americans, according to Peterson, younger generations – such as Generation Z and millennials – are missing these fundamental pieces of knowledge.
This makes them susceptible to a misunderstanding of socialism’s true nature. Instead they are “emotionally drawn to the ideals of socialism, say, or of the left, because it draws its fundamental motivational source from a kind of primary compassion, and that is always there in human beings.” That allure, Peterson said, will “never go away.”
Plainly stated – young people like socialism because they don’t really know what it is.
According to Peterson, socialism preys upon our human susceptibility to be “more captivated by the negative than the positive.” This hinders young folks caught up in their emotions from being able to recognize the astonishing economic strides made in global society in recent years.
“There’s a tendency for people to exaggerate the degree to which the group they belong to is currently suffering from generalized oppression,” Peterson told Wood, before citing examples of worldwide economic progress.
“Between the year 2000 and the year 2012 the rate of absolute poverty in the world fell by 50%,” he said, citing U.N. figures. Peterson went on to reference the dramatically decreased child-mortality rate in Africa as an “absolute miracle” and lamented that the news wasn’t more highly publicized.
A Gallup poll released in August revealed that most young Americans, 51% of those aged 18 to 29, prefer socialism to capitalism. Only 45% view capitalism positively, a “12-point decline in young adults’ positive views of capitalism in just the past two years and a marked shift since 2010,” according to Gallup.
The trend comes amid the rise of young socialist-progressives in the Democratic party, most notably Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.
The millennial progressive’s meteoric ascendance in politics, accompanied by her staunch advocacy for socialist economic policies, has been characterized by many as an indication of younger generation’s shift towards socialism.
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- Jordan Peterson Heritage Foundation.: Screen grab