DYING TO LIVE (The Cost of Finding Purpose in the “Post-Outcomes” Modern World) by former Canadian army officer and IT expert Jeff Watson is full of insights about the existential challenges confronting people who live in First World nations today. Large swathes of these societies, he argues, are in death spirals—socially, spiritually, and existentially. “We are in a time extreme societal entropy, chaos, division, and self-destruction,” he writes. “It is also a time of immense opportunity.”
Watson’s core argument is straightforward but powerful: human beings need to be challenged to feel complete. He uses the more catholic term “suffering”, but the basic idea is that, because First World people do not need to worry about fundamental needs (food, shelter, safety), their psyches then create issues that are, objectively, trivial but, psychologically, overwhelming. This, he says, is the basis of many of the “woke” issues engaging so many people, from climate change to Black Lives Matter. “Our problems are largely myopic, temporary, contrived, self-inflicted or self-imposed, and in many case may have never been real at all,” he writes. A fulfilling life, Watson asserts, requires three components: Purpose, Identity, and Community. All of these have been undermined in advanced Western nations and his book is intended to illustrate “how we manipulate and are manipulated by the crises born of the deprivation of these elements.”
Watson’s polemic has four main objectives: to separate people from their ideas; challenge them to understand themselves; enable them to de-escalate hatred, division, and fear; and create an objectively more functional and deradicalized community. However, Watson’s very arguments demonstrate how difficult it is to reach ideologues, whether it’s the woke on the left or religious believers on the right. Yet he pays little or no attention to how he can persuade such readers, being content to assert that they should just believe what he says. His insights are, for the most part, empirically accurate and logically sound, but he makes no attempt to cite any data or research. In a polemic, such deficiencies can be compensated by powerful prose, but Watson’s style is a curious blend of the conversational to breezy with a dense vocabulary—“Everyone is a shitty persons if you look at them long enough, so you can get bent on your ideological purity standards,” for example. This is unfortunate because his book has many valuable and perceptive arguments. Even so, he’s unlikely to change anyone’s mind, especially the woke.
Jeff Watson offers many valuable and perceptive arguments in DYING TO LIVE and his insights are, for the most part, powerful, empirically accurate and logically sound.
~Kevin Baldeosingh for IndieReader