Hey y’all. Today, I want to talk about personal responsibility and what that means. I believe that every individual should have take responsibility for their actions and accept the consequences of those actions. After all, that’s what personal responsibility is. You cause a problem, you acknowledge the problem, and you fix the problem. It’s a simple thing that may not make life easier, but it speaks volumes about your character.
That being said, not every problem is a problem that you caused and taking responsibility for those problems may feel noble at the time of doing so, but part of taking responsibility is taking the steps to fix the problem. And after taking responsibility for other people’s messes lead to you being held accountable for things you didn’t cause and can’t fix, it causes a lot of distress. So, Jordan Peterson, I will clean my room, but you better help me clean the living room because you also made a mess in there.
If you haven’t guessed, I have a bone to pick with self-help guru, laughing stock of the psychology community Jordan Peterson. While I’ve never read any of his books and watched a few of his videos, he’s had an impact on my life through his influence on vulnerable young men trying to get their lives together and find out why is it that their lives are in disarray when they’re “doing everything right”.
To these young men, Mr. Peterson is an authority on how to fix things and when he says “Clean your room, Young Man” the room will be cleaned because that’s taking personal responsibility. However,what Peterson tells these young men is too simple. Neither are all problems are so simple nor can they all be solved by one person taking responsibility for their hand in the issue.
From my interactions with Peterson’s fanbase, I’ve learned of three things he teaches them about responsibility:
- Most issues that appear big and complex are simpler than they seem.
- Take responsibility for your own actions.
- If you don’t have a solution for something, don’t criticise it.
Well, this does sound like really helpful advice for certain situations, but the problem that often occurs with Peterson fans is that they use this advice indiscriminately. For example, a lot of issues in the world are simpler than they seem, but not everything is so simple. For example, I was watching John Oliver on Last Week Tonight talk about Brexit. Specifically, about how if the United Kingdom proceeds with Brexit how dangerous it would become in Northern Ireland again, because it they leave the European Union, checkpoints are likely to return to Northern Ireland so that goods being transported to Ireland can be properly taxed. This is specifically dangerous because in the past British checkpoints in Northern Ireland have been often targeted for bombings by the Irish Republican Army and to replace the checkpoints will likely result in a resurgence of those activities.
And while one can try to argue that the solution is to simply not put up checkpoints, but that’s simply not feasible. How could you tax and control the goods flowing in and out of your country if you don’t put up checkpoints at which you can monitor this activity? And you can’t just go ahead and put them up, because the checkpoints will likely be bombed as they’re being constructed and afterwards if they managed to get built. And to some people, dumping Brexit isn’t a possibility because what about all the people who voted leave? It’s not democratic to just throw away their vote.
This issue isn’t the fault of any one individual, but of multiple individuals at multiple levels within the established government and class system. The solutions have layers to them and will not solve everything and simplifying them won’t actually solve much.
Moving on to taking responsibility for your own actions. I think that’s absolutely something that everyone should do every day of their lives. My problem with Peterson fans on this, is that sometimes people are coerced into situations which make taking responsibility for those actions unfair. For example, let’s say that there’s a single mother with two kids. She has to work two jobs just to keep a roof over her family’s head and food in her kids’ stomachs. You could tell her to take responsibility for having two kids that she knew she couldn’t afford, but what you’d not know about her is that she could afford to take care of her children before her husband died of a heart attack and even after that she had a better job that paid the bills. But thanks to her the company she was working for moved their office to another city, she was left without a job and scrambled to find something to keep her kids alive. How is it her personal responsibility that she doesn’t have the money to care for her children, then? And when you hear about people like her you usually don’t know the full story, and it’s not your business to know.
Lastly, let’s talk about how much I hate the idea of setting your house in perfect order before criticizing the world. Because I find this beyond ludicrous. Life is dynamic. Even if you manage to get your life together and feel content with your place in society, your “house” will never be in perfect order. While arguably it’s can be taken as don’t be a hypocrite, more often than not it’s used to support the idea that the status quo is not the issue, but your way of going about things are. As a marginalized person in a society that encourages cultural assimilation. I can tell you that I most certainly will will criticize the world before my house is in perfect order, because it’s the world that keeps coming into my house uninvited and wrecking it before promptly leaving me to deal with the damage.
TL;DR: Jordan Peterson oversimplifies personal responsibility. We all should be responsible for ourselves, but should also recognize when problems are too big for the individual to take responsibility for. Systematic problems do exist because systems don’t get updates as often as computer operating systems do.
Peace out and have a lovely day, Friends!