Worth dying for

The world is changing.

If you want to survive in the modern world, you have to be leaner, sharper, colder. You have to cut back on love and empathy and focus more on the bottom line.

Don’t get me wrong: I love your idealism. I just think you need to be more realistic. Look, so you’ve got this great mission and all, but look at it this way: if you can’t meet the financials, you won’t be around in a year or two years or five years. Then who’s going to do all this great work you’re about? Nobody, that’s who. The sharks are going to have the pool all to themselves.

I mean, I’m not suggesting you have to be a shark yourself. Just the teeth, and the dorsal fin, and the hunger. You gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet, and sharks gotta swim. Am I right?

So you won’t bill insurance. Then how are you going to get paid? So you won’t diagnose mental illnesses. Sure, the manual has some flaws, but if you’re aware of them, you can use it wisely, right? I mean, you can always just give everyone adjustment disorder. Everyone technically qualifies for that, right? I mean, how long can you stand on principle, really?

Never mind that you don’t think these people have anything really wrong with them, or that you aren’t practicing medicine. You know, they’re poor mostly, and that means they can’t pay you. So you have to bill someone else. Medicare/Medicaid, insurance, and employee help program. And they require you keep data, which means a diagnosis.

Maybe you can coach on the side. Executive coaching, personal coaching, life coaching. Those guys can afford it, right? And you can keep your doors open. Never mind that you’re called to something deeper, that honesty and authenticity are hard to place in the short-term, ego-boosting world of coaching. Never mind that the problems people want to work on in those settings are their jobs and motivations, not their needs to avoid knowledge of death.

You could teach. Of course, you have to teach as an adjunct at a for-profit online school for poverty wages and no benefits, because that’s what society and the markets want. No no, don’t try to change the prevailing economic and socioeconomic conditions, just keep your head down. Something will come up for you eventually. I mean, especially if you’re willing to work for free for another year to get your license, or do a hundred hours of uncompensated labor to earn your 10 percent raise, or do a thousand hours of uncompensated labor to show your team spirit.

I enjoyed Lord of the Rings when I was a teenager, and again when the Peter Jackson movies came out. Lately, though, something that bothers me is the battle at Helm’s Deep. All the heroes come to fight a hopeless battle there, vastly outnumbered and overmatched. They come because it is worth it. But they don’t die; they win.

In my novel, they would lose. They would die. Because it is worth it. Because the good guy loses more than she wins. Because profits win, and fads win, and power and hierarchies and cults of personality win. And standing up to all these forces is worth it, even if we lose the battle. In my novel, the heroes die because that’s what they came to do: to stand for something regardless of the cost.

Evil cannot be defeated. Evil is us. To defeat evil is to remove ourselves from the equation. But we can confront evil, stand up to it, face it. And we can pay the cost of that bravely.

— Jason Dias

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