I had three thoughts after I stumbled across this announcement. Firstly, I was struck by the oxymoronic and incongruous attempt to project the doctrines and beliefs of two opposing economic systems onto the nebulous screen of happiness. Secondly, the limited and tragic scope of what these two thinkers will determinedly discuss represents the core sickness of our contemporary malaise. Lastly, Peterson versus Zizek is exactly the kind of debate our spiritually depleted society deserves.
Although I am certain armchair philosophers and political aficionados relish the opportunity to watch and listen as these two "rock star" thinkers from opposite ends of the ideological spectrum go head-to-head, I view the upcoming debate as nothing more than an opportunistic moneymaking venture for those involved. In addition, I believe the debate will amount to nothing more than a mundane and infuriating waste of time.
Here’s why. Peterson and Zizek are both materialists who believe human happiness resides purely in the physical realm. Of the two thinkers, Zizek is the more sincere. An avowed atheist who sees humanity’s suffering and salvation solely within the framework of Marxism and Lacanian psychology, Zizek is both upfront and straightforward concerning his denial of the transcendent and the metaphysical. Peterson, on the other hand, presents a far more slippery position. Lauding the current ruling form of global corporate capitalism as a force for good, Peterson makes occasional forays into the realm of the metaphysical by citing Bible verses and ancient myths, but he presents his erratic interpretations firmly within the framework of materialism. Thus, happiness resides purely in the material world for both Peterson and Zizek; the only bone of contention between them is which system is superior in terms of providing for humanity’s material needs and wants, which for both Peterson and Zizek remains the only possible realm within which human happiness can be discussed or realized.
The debate will be blandly predictable, in my humble opinion. Peterson will undoubtedly cite the great progress and improved standards of living the past and current forms of capitalism have ushered into existence. He will reference UN reports and research papers from organizations such as Human Progress to emphasize the tremendous rise in quality of life around the world, particularly in underdeveloped regions. He will speak of personal freedoms and material improvements and hold recent generations up as the most fortunate yet least grateful ones to ever have existed in history. He will attack Zizek by launching into tirades denouncing the horrors of communism and cite Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn ad nauseum to back Zizek into a corner. He will then hotly inform Zizek that all the myths and religions of human history support the superiority of capitalism and the divine individual, roughly speaking, of course.
Zizek in turn will sputter and spray on about mishandled and misinterpreted communism, the hypocrisy of liberalism, and the increasing disparities global corporate capitalism has created around the world. He will attack capitalism as fascism, censure creeping totalitarianism, and praise future collectivism as humanity’s only hope. Many arrows will be released into the sky, and I am certain some interesting points may be made by both parties, but in the end, none of the arrows will find their mark because the debaters will speak past each other. In the end, the entire foundation of the debate will be pointless because it will purposefully neglect the real causes of human happiness and unhappiness.
In fact, if I had been the debate organizer, I would have called the event Blind Spot: How Both Capitalism and Communism Fail to Create Human Happiness. Peterson and Zizek both deny the significance of the metaphysical – the former, elusively; the latter, directly. Regardless, both men are acutely aware of the iceberg the West struck long ago; both know the ship is sinking, but neither is willing to accept the one thing that could save everyone on board.
Rather than recognize the metaphysical solution to the sinking ship problem, Peterson and Zizek will both stand near the bow rearranging the deck chairs. As they do so, they will be perfectly content to quibble over that evening’s dinner menu in the ship’s opulent restaurant. Peterson will offer a pseudo-mystical Jungian filet covered in capitalism and responsibility sauce with a side of archetype word salad while Zizek will insist upon a sticky Lacanian stew topped with crispy Hegel bits and a stale piece of Marxist bread.
Neither menu offering will prove to be particularly appetizing. Both offerings are destined to leave the ship’s passengers unsatisfied, yet the diners will flock to the restaurant all the same. Afterward, the diners will suffer from indigestion as they trudge back to their cabins. Once in their own rooms, they willful ignore the icy water sloshing around their ankles as they argue over which menu selection was superior. In the morning, the passengers will awaken to water levels above their knees, but even then, very few will consider manning the lifeboats.
Simply put, arguing over material concerns and material distribution of wealth will not stop the ship from sinking. The only thing that can save us is acknowledgment and acceptance of Reality – the only solution to our dilemma rests in the development of our consciousness toward this metaphysical Reality.
Until we awaken from our slumber and its resultant alienation and realign our consciousness with Reality, debates featuring the likes of Peterson and Zizek will be deemed the only ones worthy of being held. They will also remain the only kinds of debate we deserve.