So I was listening to a podcast on nihilism (no, it cannot get any geekier and more depressing, at least not simultaneously).
In any case, a number of scholars talked about the history of pessimism and the belief that life is meaningless and Nietzsche’s horse and all that fun stuff. The scholars agreed that periods of nihilism are cyclical, just like all components of history, and that the doom and gloom that pervade our culture is not unusual… however…
A few of them believed that our era is subtly different — a bit more intense than your typical Armageddon of the past. This is because our society’s constant barrage of horrific news, and the proliferation of social media, have combined to create a hyper-awareness of just how shitty the entire planet is and the knowledge of every little thing that is going wrong anywhere at any time.
The experts are correct. Fifty years ago, you might have felt despair over the Vietnam War, but there wasn’t a constant stream of Facebook videos explaining just how hopeless it was, and maybe you still had faith that things were ok in Paris or Helsinki or Rio de Janiero or wherever. Today, we hear constantly that everyplace is fucked up, and you’re a bad person if you ignore it.
Isis wants to chop off all our heads, and undocumented immigrants are raping at will, and gay men are stalking kids in bathrooms — hey, irrational fear multiples and feeds upon itself.
However, I think there is even more to it.
You might expect me to mention that the recent election of the worst-qualified president in history, who is also an egotistical sociopathic, might have increased the perception that the end is nigh, or at least nigh-er. You would be correct.
However, there is yet more to it than that.
You see, a hundred years ago, you may have been overwhelmed at the carnage of World War I, but you didn’t seriously think all of civilization would be destroyed.
And then the nuclear era changed all that, and you had to accept that everyone and everything could go up in flames one day just because the Russians got all pushy. But even then, total annihilation required action (i.e., the launching of thermonuclear warheads). Therefore, as long as everybody kept his cool, it was going to be fine.
Well, we have now morphed into a new era — a period of intense, unique nihilism — where all the old fears about the end of the world persist. However, now it is inaction — in the form of denying climate change — that is dooming us.
In other words, for the first time in our history, we actually have to work to prevent our extinction. In the past, we just had to keep our collective heads down and avoid doing anything too spectacularly stupid. But now, we have to come up with answers.
And it is this knowledge — that we have to fight for our survival — that has caused so many people to embrace nihilism. If we can’t even keep our leaders from tweeting idiotic, made-up bullshit about climate change, what hope does the Earth have?
Of course, we Latinos are especially prone to Catholic fatalism, which has the whiplash effect of making us weirdly optimistic about the future. But that is a whole other story.
In any case, all this is rather bleak, so I’m going to end this article with an uplifting story.
Recently, a “Christian computer programmer” (emphasis on the “Christian”) crunched the biblical numbers and come to the conclusion that the apocalypse will occur on New Year’s Eve.
So humanity will be wiped out, and none of us will live to see 2017.
You may ask, “What’s so cheery about that?”
Well, duh, it means that Trump will never be inaugurated.
Happy days are here again.