Well we had the shirtstorm over a really cool Hawiian-style shirt worn by a rocket scientist. We’ve had hissy fits over pronouns and a McDonalds sandwich (Jerk Chicken, for those curious). Apparently now Random Penguin’s Simon and Whatever staff are throwing a epic dummy spit because . . . gasp, the horror . . . a Jungian psychologist has written a sequel to his popular first book and it is going to be released in March.
Now, the real problem is that that Jungian is a Canadian named Jordan Peterson, and the first book is about how to straighten yourself out and live as a decent human in the world around you. It’s not religious, although it uses a lot of religious stories (because he’s a Jungian). It’s not aimed at gaining followers and acolytes, although he has, simply by offering hope and accountability. I’m rereading the book, and while I don’t agree with everything in it, there’s a lot of food-for-thought material.
It’s not an easy read. It’s not supposed to be, even though Peterson writes well. The chapters circle around their main points in places as the author looks at archetypes, stories, and patterns in story and in human nature. You have to follow his logic and argument. That might be one of the problems that the Sensitive Souls at the publisher have with him – he makes his readers work and think and chew on his ideas.
Peterson also pushes personal responsibility, not victimhood. The world can be chaotic. Life can be chaotic. Your job is to adapt to the chaos, to take responsibility for what you can control about yourself, your choices of friends and mentors, and how you respond to things (Victor Frankl said the same, from a Freudian perspective). There’s nothing wrong with standing straight with your shoulders back, fixing your house before you try to fix other peoples’ houses, and finding people better than you to copy and admire, rather than choosing “friends” who drag you down. Down is easy. Climbing up is hard.
The current therapeutic victim culture doesn’t like hard stuff. You are a victim and the world needs to become easier for you, more forgiving of your problems, to do everything possible to soothe you and ease your path.
Those of us outside that theoretical bubble tend to roll our eyes, sigh, and make uncharitable comments about the people who insist on wrapping others in layers and layers of padding, blankets, and bubble-wrap. “Suck it up, buttercup,” has probably been murmured on occasion. I feel sorry for the kids who grew up swaddled, or who have been told all their lives that everything wrong in their world is because they are victims, and that they are powerless to help themselves. To do that to someone is cruel. The wake-up call is painful, and you can understand why they lash out. The trouble is that they lash out at the wrong party.
Like the young publisher employees lashing out and having crying fits because their company is going to publish a book by someone who is supposed to be racist/sexist/homophobic/whateverphobic. That’s what they’ve been told is the right thing to do – to stand up for the victims and show their feelings and the depth of their hurt. Except what worked on campus doesn’t do so well in the real world, especially not in a company that is probably looking for positions to eliminate after the next merger or profit/loss announcement.
I’m a story teller. The power of story is amazing. Stories can build people up, help them grow and become better. Stories can tear down, can diminish people, can drive them to destruction if they feel that they cannot escape the tale. If Peterson’s use of story as a way to help people take control of themselves and get out of holes works, then good for him. It’s certainly not worth having a conniption fit over, in my opinion. Shirtstorm led to the shirt selling out and lots of people wearing them. A Peterstorm will probably do wonders for the advanced sales – the opposite of what the young employees intended.