Saturday, June 8, 2024

Q&A with Jon Mills



Jon Mills is the author of the new book End of the World: Civilization and Its Fate. His many other books include Archetypal Ontology. He is a philosopher, a psychoanalyst, and a retired clinical psychologist, and is emeritus professor of psychology and psychoanalysis at the Adler Graduate Professional School in Toronto.


Q: Why did you decide to write End of the World?


A: This is a topic I have been thinking about and researching for over 25 years.


Witnessing the Western world’s lassitude during the genocide in Rwanda in the mid-1990s where nearly a million people were slaughtered during rival ethnic cleansing campaigns made me want to understand the phenomena of how once-peaceful neighbors could turn on each other in such murderous tribal fashions.


Then I watched the world population reach 6 billion at the turn of millennium; then 9/11 happened; then the climate crisis intensified, and then many other catastrophic events kept occurring over and over again throughout the globe—so I started to read up on the scientific and scholarly literature. After we broached 8 billion people when the pandemic hit, I decided to write this book.


Q: The author Michael Shermer said of the book, “In this engrossing account of the many existential threats we face, Jon Mills outlines the problems and possible solutions. A must-read for anyone who cares about the future of Homo sapiens, in which we do not always seem so wise…but we could be.” What do you think of that description?


A: I have always been a fan of Michael Shermer, having read many of his books and admired his presence as a public intellectual. Although I have never met him, I always enjoyed his regular column in Scientific American for years; so, his endorsement of my book was a big thrill to see.

Q: How did you research the book, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: As a scholar, I have developed a habit of delving deeply into any topic I research and write about.


This topic, however, was just so overwhelmingly large and complex, that after consuming much literature in the Earth and climate sciences, projected overpopulation density, food and water scarcity, geopolitics, economics and capitalistic exploitation, humanities and philosophy, psychology and psychoanalysis, religion and eschatology, and the dangers of technology and AI, I realized I could not resolve the issue. 


I think what was most surprising to me was how unaware I was of the dangers we face as humanity. If I, with all my education and training, don’t know what’s going on at a global scale, then how could the average person? Humility is always the best teacher.


Q: What do you see looking ahead for our world?


A: I have guarded optimism with an undercurrent of pessimism. There is no way of predicting the future, but when we see a train wreck approaching, the reality principle tells us to get out of the way. 


I hope we can prevent calamity with foresight narratives of the future that conjoin and motivate peoples and nations in collective moral values to take action based on environmental conservation, nuclear disarmament, and social justice initiatives based in global self-interest and self-preservation, even if we don’t agree with our premises, methods, or like each other. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I usually work on two books at a time among my many other writings. I am currently preparing a scholarly academic book on psychoanalysis and social justice, but I am also in the preliminary writing phase of another general interest trade book on the psychopathology of everyday life.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I hope the reader will be moved enough to initiate these important discussions with others—especially if they disagree with me, as we cannot change what is problematic if we remain unconscious of our global predicament or dismiss it without debate.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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