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British writer Tom Hodgkinson has a recommendation for attacking stress: fuck it. More precisely, according to the chapter titles of his new book, The Freedom Manifesto, you can just opt out of it all—give up on work, say no to government, abandon the rat race, and somehow enjoy life without alienating the friends and family members I imagine you’d soon be mooching off of. (Flipping through the book, I gather a ukulele is involved.) Still, I was willing to give the book a chance, lured in by the subtitle: How to Free Yourself From Anxiety, Fear, Mortgages, Money, Guilt, Debt, Government, Boredom, Supermarkets, Bills, Melancholy, Pain, Depression, Work, and Waste. Hey, I have a mortgage and go to supermarkets! Let’s find my Zen!
It took only three paragraphs before I crashed into this brick wall:
In the Middle Ages, despite the hierarchies, we used to organize things for ourselves. The vast majority of the manacles discussed in this book had not been invented. Life was self-determined and full of variety.
As this guy would say: What up the fuck? When Hodgkinson writes, “full of variety,” he doesn’t mean “full of death, pain, and abuses under feudalism.” He means: “full of amazing, freewheeling joy.” In a perverse way, I’m sort of in love with how Hodgkinson dismisses countless examples of war, oppression, enslavement, disease, and all-around soul- and body-crushing horribleness that was life for most people during medieval times, just by inserting a qualifier between appositive commas. Oh, there were a few “heirarchies,” sure, but otherwise the 14th century was awesome.
Skipping ahead, desperate for something that might justify this silliness, or identify the book as a prank, or at least make a lick of sense, I came across this: “Yes, I would have been happy to be a peasant, a cleric or a noble.” Clearly the British are different than we Americans, but Hodgkinson has apparently enjoyed some success with his magazine, the Idler. I’m not familiar with it—if you are, could you please point me to something of Hodgkinson’s that isn’t brain-shatteringly idiotic?