Author: Oliver Waters

In Search of Utopia for Lobsters Like Us

A review of 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan B Peterson, Random House Canada (January 23, 2018) 409 pages, and Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari, Bloomsbury USA (January 23, 2018) 336 pages. Two recent and highly influential books have both addressed a puzzling question: despite unprecedented levels of material wealth, why are so many people in the modern world still so anxious and depressed? For Canadian clinical psychologist / intellectual celebrity, Jordan B. Peterson, the issue lies primarily within individuals themselves. His book 12 Rules for Life argues that many people, especially young men, lack meaning, purpose and connection because they have not taken on enough personal responsibility for their own lives. In contrast, Johann Hari, a British journalist and author, places the fault for rising levels of depression and anxiety upon the much broader shoulders of dysfunctional modern societal norms and institutions. People are miserable, he argues in his book Lost Connections, because the dominant culture in the West emphasises ‘junk …

Get ‘Em While They’re Young

A review of: Communism for Kids by Bini Adamczak, 2017, MIT Press and Total Propaganda: Basic Marxist Brainwashing for the Angry and the Young, by Helen Razer, 2017, Allen & Unwin. A century after the Bolshevik Revolution, and a quarter-century after the collapse of the Soviet Union, somehow the Marxist dream is still alive and kicking. There are some who see the fading embers of communism not as a dark reminder of past horrors, but as an opportunity to usher in a new blaze. Keenly aware of millenials’ growing discontent with the status quo, they are reaching for the tinder-box. German writer Bini Adamczak’s Communism for Kids is a paean for the ideology written in the form of a children’s story. As its translator into English noted in the New York Times, the book seeks to convey the virtues of communism in a much simpler way than is usually done by economists, political scientists and policy experts. This involves cute animations of a talking factory, whose obsession with producing more and more stuff makes its workers very unhappy …

Review: Islam and the Future of Tolerance

A review of Islam and the Future of Tolerance, by Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz. Cambridge: Harvard University Press (2015), 144 pages. In Islam and the Future of Tolerance, ex-jihadist and Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz teams up with Sam Harris in an open dialogue to prevent radicalisation and to promote reasonable interpretations of the Islamic faith. An essential question Nawaz seeks to answer is how to converge on interpretations of Islamic theology that are consistent with modern political liberalism. Their conversation canvasses Nawaz’s ambitious project to convince millions of Muslims worldwide that the religion of Islam can indeed be rendered compatible with liberal values and institutions. Harris, despite his repudiation of the religion’s truth-claims elsewhere, also embraces this pragmatic objective, on the basis that converting all religious believers into atheists is simply not a feasible precondition for lasting peace across the majority-Muslim world. The unlikely duo’s strategy thus echoes the approach of influential political philosopher John Rawls, who argued that we should not demand citizens to converge on fundamental worldviews as a condition for particular …