Who gives a fuck about the world? Lots of people, it turns out.
According to a World Economic Forum survey of 32,000 18-35-year-olds across 186 countries, the top four concerns are climate change, wars, income inequality and poverty.
Extensive surveying by Roy Morgan finds that people consider unemployment, followed by climate change, the “political system”, the economy and housing affordability, to be the biggest issues facing Australia.
In the United States, polling has shown that the majority of adults under 30 reject capitalism.
You would know none of this, were you delving into the dumpster fire of right wing pop-psychology topping best seller charts.
Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is the standard-bearer. But there’s also The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck (Sarah Knight) and The French Art of Not Giving a F*ck (Fabrice Midal).
Most ideas espoused by “no-fucks-given” authors are not new. What is shocking is the callous way they are deployed and the bombast with which they claim that “science” validates their views.
Manson’s central theses are: “the world is totally fucked and that’s all right because it’s always been that way and always will be”; human desires are selfish, individualistic and relate to acquiring beauty, status and material possessions; we’re overly entitled and “coddled”; and we’ve forgotten life is about pain and suffering.
Manson exhorts us to suffer. Stop being whiny babies who give a fuck about all the material things we’ve been duped into believing are important, and realise life is about “being mediocre”, experiencing pain, not blaming anyone for that pain and “taking responsibility” for all our problems.
He has a particular obsession with blaming lonely people for their loneliness. But possibly the cruellest accusation he makes is about a father whose son died in a car accident. The father’s pain, he surmises, comes from a refusal to accept Manson’s sage advice that “how he reacted to his son’s death was his own choice”.
The political conclusions of his book of hackneyed clichés and pseudo-science are unsurprising. Not giving a fuck includes accepting that “most of our beliefs are wrong”. There are no facts; the only belief we should embrace is uncertainty about everything (except the values he promotes – such as entrepreneurship).
Oh, and the political left and right are equivalent, and political activism, especially activism directed to ending oppression, is “rewarding people who are able to perpetually feel victimized”. Political activism is “outrage porn” and “victimhood chic”.
Manson reveals in the final chapters of his book that he “was born into a wealthy family”. What a surprise that an entitled turd writes a book telling people to stop feeling entitled.
Another best seller is Canadian psychology professor Jordan Peterson, author of 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. The underlying assumptions of the no fucks genre and Peterson are similar; so too are their political conclusions.
Peterson takes right wing psychology into a realm previously unimagined. Like Manson, he attributes the cause of human suffering and grotesque social and economic problems to deficiencies within individuals, and then naturalises them.
But you ain’t heard nothing like Peterson’s explanation for the natural order of things. It’s based on his accidental research on lobsters, his infatuation with Nietzsche, a preoccupation with serial killers and every crank fabrication that exists about Marxism, socialism and the Russian Revolution.
Lobsters and people have little in common. There’s the small matter of lobsters not having brains and people not living under water. But Peterson defends the most anti-human aspects of capitalism using the lobster hierarchy and every nonsense critique of Marxism in existence.
To work your way up the lobster/human hierarchy, you must embrace competitiveness, and accept that humans are malevolent and that most of us are born inferior. To be a top lobster you have to master your biology (engineer a greater production of serotonin) and develop outright hostility to the “myth” of a social system having anything to do with the state of the world and the humans inhabiting it.
Peterson’s biological essentialism flows from and bolsters far right ideology. He rails against the idea that oppression exists. Women’s oppression, racism and LGBTI oppression, he says, are just expressions of a victim mentality created by identity politics and postmodernism, which are the newest incarnations of Marxism.
Marxism equals Stalinism and the Stalinist regimes are the proof that socialism can never work. Even when he gives ground to “good” Bolsheviks – the workers and peasants who were “well meaning” and wanted to live in a decent society – the biological determinism, Nietzschean pessimism and serial killer hypotheses return to remind us that for every duped well-meaning worker there will always be a Stalin, Hitler or Pol Pot waiting to murder us or send us to a gulag.
Also, there is no working class anymore because we’re “all rich now”. Apparently, that’s a joke on Marxists; we missed the disappearance of the working class.
Ironically, Peterson is writing this in a political polarisation that has resulted from working class people in the US and Europe continuing to bear the brunt of the 2008 global financial crisis – the most severe capitalist economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Peterson, Manson and others must be thrown by the sight of hundreds of thousands of non-existent working class people – teachers – mounting mass strikes across the United States, including in places such as West Virginia – where people are not only working class but also poor. They are not rich, coddled, obsessed with giant TVs or becoming navel-gazing wankers like these authors.
It’s almost as if people give a fuck about the exploitation and oppression they face day after day because of capitalism. It’s almost like they might just be sick of the poverty and mediocrity they are supposed to accept and are inspired to do something radical to change their lives through mass solidarity rather than atomisation.