There’s a very popular white-guy-slash-recovering-pickup-artist-slash-self-help-guru by the name of Mark Manson. He rocketed to fame with his book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Last week, Manson forced me to give one or two. One at him, one for America.
His familiar arguments were first made on his popular blog: we concentrate on the wrong things! Materialism is bad! Face your death! What the media tells us will make us happy generally won’t make us so! And that old favorite of the self-help movement: we are 100 percent responsible for our experiences! William James, hollah!
Manson is part of an expanding universe of white-guy self-helpians marketing this blend of positive thinking, Buddhism and stoicism, with dash of capitalism. Other companions in his awakened bro-hood include Tim Ferriss, James Altucher, Lewis Howe and Ryan Holiday. Most of them do have a nugget of wisdom or more to offer; the problem is that most of it comes from a white, cisgender, heterosexual point of view. To quote By the Book, a delightful podcast hosted by Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer, who read self-help books and attempt to live by their rules for two weeks, it’s “privilege-y as fuck.”
Then there’s the trash. With Manson, you have to dig through a lot of it, some of which just stinks of racism. For example, he refers to one woman as a “Hot Asian Girl (HAG).” Without irony. As in, he never actually gives her a name.
But Manson has an audience. A big audience. And it’s not just books he’s selling; it’s his content. So he continues to make it provocative because we all live in an Internet capitalist world that sucks us dry. His latest “give fewer fucks” list includes Trump as someone to “give less fucks” about. Other things on the list: mass shootings and STDs. Because, uh, whiteness? I don’t know.
Some of Manson’s arguments hold a wee bit of water, such as “other presidents can lay claim to being terrible too!” Or, “Concentrate on the Congress!” He is also correct that Trump is part of what he describes as the “Kardashian effect” — i.e., someone who has, throughout his career, gotten attention for the sake of getting attention. So, he advises, just “give him less attention.”
As the owner of a once-difficult dog, I absolutely endorse this idea. Most dogs crave attention, and will do almost anything to get it, whether it’s sitting nicely or chewing the plaster out of a wall. Certain schools of dog training urge you to provide lots of attention to the good behavior, and remove it as much as possible from the bad. The result (which has also been tested on dolphins, sea lions and rats) is a dog who sits on command and skips destroying your apartment. But, as a US citizen, I call B.S. I don’t think Trump is trainable. And my dog went through four trainers.
I must also reluctantly agree with Manson on another point: it isn’t sustainable to live each day in a rage spiral. Granted, doing nothing — giving no fucks — isn’t an option. I’m not a privileged white guy who clearly never lost anyone to gun violence or watched friends die from sexually transmitted diseases. I have to do something.
My something is writing Postcards to Voters. Lots and lots of postcards. And now I invite you to do the same.
Postcards to Voters is a year-old, grassroots effort founded to remind Democratic voters to get to the polls in very tight races. We, the writers, who are 15,000 or so strong, have written postcards for school board candidates, a judge race in Wisconsin (the Democratic win gave Gov. Scott Walker conniptions), Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania (decided by 600+ votes) and, most famously, Doug Jones in Alabama. There are only a few rules to sending the postcards: at minimum, they must contain the name of the candidate, the date of the election, and one talking point. Postcard writers receive addresses, but no names, so a postcard typically goes out to “Esteemed Voter,” or maybe to “Best Voter Ever.” You can sign with a first name, or an initial, no last names, and no additional information. You can write as few as four cards at a time, or 30. Just text the Postcard bot, or summon it on Facebook messenger, and the addresses fly to your email box.
I spend my own money on cards and stamps, and I use my own pens and rubber stamps and washi tape. It is soothing to write these cards, and educational to learn the names of so many little towns. While my cards are more functional than decorative, some people are making actual works of art to send to voters. Just search the #postcardstovoters hashtag on Instagram for stunning examples of “get to the polls” art.
Also, cute dogs.
Postcards to Voters has connected me to candidates and races I’d otherwise be oblivious to. People who receive the cards tweet them out. Postcard writers throw writing parties. Artist-sympathizers design cards. Enterprising Etsy sellers gather vintage stamps and sell them at a discount. Trump may claim that Amazon is killing the Post Office, but: 1) he is wrong; and 2) Postcards to Voters is doing its part to keep the mail alive.
It isn’t clear what difference the cards are making yet, and there is really nothing to stop Republicans from doing exactly the same thing. The results page records wins and losses. Did my 26 cards for Conor Lamb make the difference in his very close race? I may never know.
But it has been really fucking fun. And to all of the Manson acolytes out there who think that resisting Trump is much ado about nothing, here’s my advice: sit down and write a postcard to yourself. Then mail it.