12 Rules of Life by Jordan Peterson


Jordan B. Peterson (JBP) is an acclaimed clinical psychologist who has reshaped the modern understanding of personality, says the book starting with the question: ‘What are the most valuable things that everyone should know?’ JBP has the answer. He has worked out 12 such things, described as profound and practical principles, to help us all lead a meaningful life. Should he be seen as modern-day messiah with a message of his own? Is he inspired by someone who is neither clinical nor a psychologist? The book calls JBP as one of the world’s most influential public thinkers, with lectures on topics from the Bible to romantic relationships to mythology… Now the connection is starting to make sense. 12 principles for you and me, whether you’re in the USA or in Ethiopia, whether or not you want the same things he wants. The foreword, by Dr. Norman Dodge (DND), thankfully, resonates with the same question that I turned the page with. But, like a boomerang, comes back to me after taking that beautiful flight towards logic. We shall see: The foreword begins with the irony that a clinical psychologist – whom one might see as a servant of science and a friend of humanity – is issuing 12 rules, very much like the 10 commandments, or its like in some other book. So DND starts with calling this out, of course, in good humour. He makes it almost through the point right up to the logical rainbow but alas, doesn’t stay there. Instead, he swiftly makes a turn back into the realm of darkness. How? He begins by asking: Isn’t life complicated enough, restrictive enough, without abstract rules that don’t take our unique, individual situations into account? In my wonderment for this question of his, I only have one response: These lines by D.H.Lawrence (https://hellopoetry.com/poem/73460/self-pity/ ) – It’s called Self-Pity and this is what it says: I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a boughwithout ever having felt sorry for itself. I think people who, when they think of life, can only think of how complicated, restrictive it is, will always see misery everywhere around them and then go ahead to make 10 rules and 25 commandments, and 555 laws… and more… It makes them feel safer from all the uncertainties, some of which may include such pleasant moments of joy, fun, and even self-actualisation. Thereby, shutting out some of life’s grandest, most joyous potentialities. Such people, aren’t they lower than the wild thing in DHL’s poem? At least no one will say the small bird didn’t live up to its full potential. The opposite can be said about most of us human beings, and thanks to what? Some pithy 12 rules? Commandments? Truths? How does DND explain his view? Through a Biblical story involving Moses. He, who has come down from the mountain with 10 commandments, only to see the Children of Israel in revelry in front of the Golden Calf. How dare they celebrate after having been slaves to the pharoahs! So Moses took to subjecting them to harsh desert wilderness for 40 years, to purify them from their slavishness. It’s as if being slaves was a dirty toy they had been lugging around for centuries; and so he sacrificed all compassion, fellow feeling, and inner joy of finally being free, at the altar of purity. What is this obsession with purity, I often wonder. Why is there only one view of purity. Who is he to tell others about what is pure? Now free at last, they were all dancing… so Moses said, I have some good news and some bad news. When DND calls him the lawgiver I take it on authority that he must have had a reference for saying so. I’m looking at the story in all its incredulity, hoping for some major logical breakthrough. This is what I get: Moses the lawgiver (why are so many people giving out laws to others I’ll never understand. Besides, who was Moses. Besides, why is JBP doing the same thing today centuries down the line? And now, will JBP also subject us all to harsh desert wilderness?): I’ve got some good news and bad news. The hedonists replied: The good news. I wish there had been some liberals around to have told him ‘stop with the labelling’. “I got Him from 15 commandments to 10.” Hmm, negotiating with HIM. He must be pretty desperate. I see that these are the same people who will laugh at stories from my culture where deities talk to common people. Maybe DND wouldn’t, his ancestors and his peers certainly did. And continue to do so. Besides, even DND and JBP realise the power of storytelling in driving home the point, a point that’s not valid if Hindu cultures do it but the Word of God if ‘They’ themselves do it. In the interest of moving ahead, I must set aside the rampant hypocrisy. So the gathered public moves on to the bad news and Moses replies: “Adultery is still in”. Nothing brightens my day like coming across a cheap crack used by a liberal as a point of debate. And that’s the very end of DND’s grand questioning – where he says, So Rules There Will Be. The clinical psychologist equivalent of “And it was good”. He explains away his lack of rigour with: We are ambivalent about rules, even when we know they are good for us. If we are spirited souls, if we have character, rules seem restrictive, an affront to our sense of agency and our pride in working out our own lives. Why should we be judged according to another’s rule? I see him go really close, so close to the truth, which will solve the whole case but he turns his back on it right when he sees a smoking gun. He goes on: And judged we are. As if a mere acceptance of a fact. What about all that education he must have received? He adds further: ‘After all, God didn’t give Moses “The Ten Suggestions”, he gave Commandments; and if I’m a free agent, my first reaction to a commandment might be that nobody, not even God, tells me what to do, even if it’s good for me.” – Again you see a flicker of light. And then darkness at the end of the tunnel when he says: But the story of the golden calf also reminds us that without rules we quickly become slaves to our passions – and there’s nothing freeing about that. “Slave to our passions” is nothing but highly ignorant way of talking. We are slave to our passions because we do not invest in aiming higher as people. Your 10 rules may prevent baser nature, they’re not creating enlightenment. So that’s that. In my next post, I’ll examine the story of the golden calf. But this book is beginning to look a lot like some religious text and maybe that is what it is, a modern-day religious text. In fact, the 2nd last para on page viii says exactly this: Just like Bible has weaved in its laws for mankind through stories, so does JBP. Wow, the analogy is complete. This is hardly clinical in any way! You’re basically trying to tell people that we’re not good enough, not mature enough to think for ourselves, understand our priorities, and learn from our experiences. You are, as a doctor and as a psychologist, trying to tell people that they need some pithy 12 rules to feel they’re leading a meaningful life. A meaning that you’ve made up yourself. Just like the guys that preceded you. Your basic understanding of your fellow humans is that left to their own devices, they’ll be reduced to their baser nature. Is that how much you value this magnificent opportunity called life? For a world-renowned psychologist to think this way is, at best, disappointing.

Manikarnika & the Silence Around It


‘Main Rahun Ya Na Rahun, Bharat Ye Rehna Chahiye‘ becomes the defining song of the film Manikarnika. That should be reason enough for Tukde Tukde Liberals to avoid the film – they turn up their noses at the word Bharat. And rightly enough, Manikarnika’s release has been met with radio silence too. It’s not the usual script – normally one would expect someone like a Karan Johar at least to use the opportunity to grab a few headlines but not this time. Not at the time of Kangana’s directorial debut. This is a woman who has made it purely on her acting chops (ya… ya… everybody has a past) and a knack for ticking off some of the biggest names and decision-makers in the insufferably nepotistic confines of the Hindi film industry. Her weapon? Her personality and her truth. Also, her inability to stay quiet and do as told. She’s the veritable Manikarnika of the Hindi film industry. Perhaps this is why (and how) she took up the task of portraying The Rani of Jhansi, Laxmibai. Problem is, no liberal media has even started writing things like ’10 things you didn’t know about Rani Laxmibai’, ‘Manikarnika sets off a trend of biopics on women freedom fighters’… that is all now left to us guys, people like me who are branded as right-wingers in a total copy-cat move that’s as irrelevant as it is inaccurate, as far as ideological imports from the US go. Kangana is called crazy by people who know people who know her. They usually hint at her weird affair and legal fight against Hrithik Roshan… but Kangana has already made it pretty clear in one of her interviews that ‘normal’ she ain’t and can’t even hope to be – given all the challenges she had to overcome and the industry she belongs (sic) to. She’s upfront about it. It’s people like Karan Johar, Saif Ali Khan et al who have to jump through hoops to admit it’s daytime when it’s day. But the interesting thing is, Kangana reigns over hearts. She continues to make films, and notable ones at that. She is now a film director and she has done a good job with her debut. I’ll talk about Manikarnika the film, the way I saw it. The first 20 minutes are a strange drag. The research value is probably there but a Manikarnika in a velvet blouse stringing a bow to kill a wild cat is something too… well, far-fetched for me. CGI wild cat sucks. And Manikarnika seems to understand that. Kangana’s would-be husband, Maharaja Gangadhar Rao (played by Jishu Sengupta) who is an arts & culture exponent, opens with a dance sequence on a set that looks like borrowed from some mythological TV serial of today too is a bit of… a letdown. Having said that, the actors are fantastic, led by Kangana. Especially, Gangadhar Rao. If the screenplay wasn’t so good, I doubt I’d find it so easy to excuse below-par lighting & strange costumes. The film portrays Rani Laxmibai’s strengths really well – sword work is nifty. Action scenes left a lot on the table though. And then suddenly, around the interval, the whole look, treatment, performances, everything just changes for the better. I have a feeling that there’s a point where Kangana (& her team) took over. There’s a change (for the better) in camera angles, direction, even costumes & jewellery, everything looking a lot more authentic than before. And that changes carry the second half of the film well past the victory line. To note, the credits show a never-ending line-up of post-production agencies, reflecting the scale of challenges Kangana must have had to surmount in getting this film finished and released. It also indicates that the film probably struggled to get out, for reasons not known to us. Be that as it may, Kudos, Kangana! If you ever end up reading this, know that we do understand why industry acknowledgment won’t be coming for your film that has just crossed 50Cr collections in five days. Because, acknowledging your film would be to appreciate your success, that of the character you portrayed – Rani Laxmibai, and that of a nation that’s trying so hard to stay in one piece despite your fellow Bollywoodiyas’ tukde tukde disposition. They know that talking about you & your film would only drive more crowds to watch your film and they don’t want to risk it. Not in the current political climate. In this country, you smash Brahminical patriarchy by defending those who attack its inherently, organically secular nature toward monotheistic cults. Best moment of the film for me:  When Manikarnika’s father tells her she is to become the Queen of Jhansi, she says, “I may have been raised a Kshatriya, I don’t know how to be a Queen”. To which, her father replies: You love your Bharat. You’ll find a way. So here are a few historical facts about Rani Laxmibai that were quite faithfully portrayed in the film:  Her name was Manikarnika Tambe – Her father, Moropant Tambe and Mother, Bhagirathi Bai. Her father worked for the Peshwa of Bithoor. She learnt shooting, horsemanship, fencing, and Mallakhambe as a child. She was 14 when she got married to Gangadhar Rao Newalkar, who was some 25 years older. After becoming the Rani of Jhansi, she had formed and trained her own army of women, from her friends at the court. She lost her husband when she was 18. The Maharaja had, at the adoption ceremony of their son, which was also attended by a British officer, in his letter said that ‘his widow Laxmibai be given the government of Jhansi for lifetime’. She had strategised & led the occupation of Gwalior fort while the Scindias escaped to Agra. She died 29 years old. In the battlefield, fighting the British. This was after she had made them taste defeat twice earlier. British officer Hugh Rose said about the Rani that she was: personable, clever, and beautiful. And that she was ‘the most dangerous of all Indian leaders’. Rani Laxmibai was NOT the first such woman in the history of the great land of Bharat. The great queen Abbakka Chowta of Ullal was. She came to be known as Abhaya Rani as she successfully defended Ullal from the Portuguese for 40 years. This was some 300 years before Rani Laxmibai came to be. Now that’s a film waiting to be made, a story that’s waiting to be told to a generation that can’t see ‘why we don’t bin our space programme so that more kids can go to school’.