Cynical Notions of a Nihilistic Existence
Why I think There is Light at the End of the Tunnel (if only we can see the light)….
If one were to look at the world today and see what is happening with the populations of many countries, is it a stretch to say that as a species, we are entering (or more correctly have entered) the age of the perpetual cynical thought?
Oh sure, people have said that time and time again down through history. Each generation has its galvanizing events, its watershed moments, its “fight the power” battle cry event to rally behind, but it seems over the past two to three years, every idea, every glimmer of hope, every statement made by an authority figure is to be questioned, dissected, ripped apart and then subsequently… dismissed with a scoff and a notion that “that person has no idea what they are talking about, how could anyone ever trust them”?
The first decade of the new millennium was not a good one for the global collective. 911 threw the United States into a tailspin of paranoia, revenge and protectionist patriotic fever that echoed throughout the world and in some ways brought about (eventual) progress (the Arab Spring) but also paradox-ly decline (the patriot act of the United States, a growing resentment from many corners of the world to the seen notion of a world police, a me against them mentality that has festered throughout society as a whole, a war without end a faceless enemy and a fighting for something no one clearly really understands anymore). Climate change began to (more than ever before) really show us a future that (deny its existence as happening or not) could be very costly, bleak and deadly if we do not take a step back and really re-access how we interact with this planet. Economies collapsed, much of the western world came to the brink of economic implosion, and all the while in the back of many a mind was the thought of consolidating what was now a foreseeable (not in our lifetime, but more than ever before in a real understood reality) exhaustion of the non renewable resources we so diligently suck off the teet of at an every increasing rate. The East was on the rise, the west in decline. New power structures were coming into play. Governments it seemed no longer control or even run countries anymore, nor dictate policy. Public opinion poles and talking head TV are the new media with corporations and big business the new kingpin on the playground.
The election of Barack Obama was seen as one of these watershed moments… this great hope and savior, not just for the United States, but a symbol for the rest of the world. Big shoes to fill indeed, and when things started to go from bad to worse (economically speaking) for many areas of the world, and the practices of the decade (plus) before him really came to show their true side effects (of the free market everything), his bumper sticker “change” slogan started to become more of a joke, a rally cry for those whom opposed him (or became disillusioned), and one of the greatest pimp tag lines to grace the airwaves since the“Where’s the Beef”Burger King ad of the 80’s.
Issues laid dormant or bubbling at the surface began to rear their ugly heads and take over the collective consciousness…., racism, religious misunderstanding/intolerance, economic disparency, the eroding working class, a lost generation of youth… so many issues, but with no real answers (and fighting people from all sides of the spectrum), he became burden with so much aspirations by so many in such diverse regions of the world, was it too much to expect that all that everyone else wanted (and thought his election would bring about) would come to pass? If anything, the election of Barack Obama, at least in some quarters of the world gave them a scapegoat for their own problems and shortcomings, in short, Obama became the lighten-rod in the rainstorm… easily detectable and open to hits from all sides. Not “liberal”/ “conservative” enough, not black enough/not white enough, not religious enough/not scientific enough, not helping the poor, not releasing the rich to do what we are told they do for the rest of us. Not bringing about world peace (isn’t that what a Nobel peace prise is for now-a-days?), not speeding up the road to a more even playing ground for everyone. When the Change and Hope that was blasted (and rooted firmly in the human collective) did not come about in ways WE all wanted it to happen, the cynicism set in even deeper.
Generation X and, even more so, the generation following it (those born 1984-2000) has grown up an extremely nihilistic generation. I do not mean nihilistic in the way The Big Lebowski means it (where they care about nothing), but instead in what I believe to be the mantra of nihilism: de omnibus dubitandum (“everything is to be doubted”). Many people associate this saying with Descartes, but I believe in many ways it is Nietzsche that understood the real impact of the term.
In the beginning of Beyond Good and Evil Nietzsche uses this term and applies it to all previous Enlightenment thinkers, including Descartes. He argues that Descartes, Kant, Rousseau, and even Hume all took this mantra for granted by never questioning their own existence, their own thinking, their own absolutes, or in the case of Kant, his own synthetic a priori judgments and categorical imperatives. Nietzsche, instead, vehemently stood up for the idea that we should question everything AND that we may not come up with an answer to the question – we should simply question.
It seems to me that logically if one were to only exhibit this type of thinking at all times it would (sooner or later) lead to cynicism, and while I do enjoy the writings of Nietzsche, and do think he has things to say on many idea of our thinking, I do believe it would be hard pressed for anyone to say that he does not suffer from at least a bit of a cynical nature. (at least that is what I have found in Nietzsche’s writing). Nietzsche is perhaps best summarized in his book The Antichrist in which he states that Buddhism is the best of all religions, because it ultimately believes in nothing. (this thought of his I do take issue with as if he was to believe in his own questioning then even the idea of … nothing… is the belief of …something… and Buddhism is a religion based on a large number of beliefs, but more a letting go of all of them to obtain this nothingness, but perhaps that in itself is a thought that comes from eastern thinking more than from western, but I digrees…)
This attitude (the cynical, belief in “nothing”) has permeated American and many other Western cultures in recent years more than ever before (at least in my lifetime it seems) –and I dare say I don’t think we have seen it blossom fully, (but the stage is set for a full blooming). We are watching the rise of a generation of “know-nothings” and “care nots.” They are against war, not because they are pacifists, but because they believe there is nothing worth fighting for. They are against government, not because they don’t care about politics, but because they think no one tells them the truth anyway so why bother. They are against thinkers not because they disagree with what they say (per-say), but because they are not like them and they feel they talk down to them and see themselves as better. And more and more it seems they are against something not because they believe (or even understand the entire picture), but because they just… feel… it is not the right and it needs to be questioned… just because.
They have lost an idea of what it means to be “human” so they attempt to fill this void with materialism, their jobs, money, or indulgences in whatever they see as “filling he void”
This is a generation raised to question everything, and rightfully so – they have been lied to time and time again, and they have seen what it takes to make it in this world… power, money, money, corruption, a good lawyer, money, good lobbyist, money, good PR, money, a good catch phrase, the right look, the proper clothes, car, watch, shoes and………… money.
Worse, however, is that the media/PR industry has manipulated this generation. They have been promised to “buy this,” “do that,” “say this,” “listen to that,” “enjoy this,” “reject that,” “act this way,” “be free,” and so on. They have been cheated by their own technologies, promising them greater access but delivering less substance. Yet, in all of this they have not found true fulfillment. Realizing that there is no fulfillment in these actions, they are cynical of anything that appears to be an illusion, and now a days it seems that most things are just that… an illusion for most.
The French postmodernist, Jean Baudrillard claimed that America is Disneyland. At Disneyland all the employees are actors, trained to be happy all the time, always nice, always dressed a certain way, always acting a certain way. Baudrillard argued that the media has turned America into this atmosphere and that youth are now fed an illusion of what it is to be human (to use his term, “a simulacrum”). Thus, this nihilistic generation has grown tired of the facade that they’ve been fed and reject all things, believing them to be an illusion –They (Americans in particular) are told time and again that their country is number one , but when they look around them these days they can see how much many other areas of the world have passed them by in so many ways, but they still hold tight to their cynicism and blame… not only their own governments but the people of the other nations (for things they, those people of those nations… had no control over and in most instances are just people like the cynical, trying to etch out a life and existence, and trying to live in this new world of the globalized facade of the American dream… the thing that has long since passed most people by),
Enter the Church/Mosque/Temple (whatever the place of worship may be) that, for all intents and purposes, is failing miserably to not only reach out, but to even understand the problem. The Church (specifically) is still stuck in this idea that everyone comes to the world through Judeo-Christian eyes and that if it can offer enough evidence that Christianity is true, or if it can rationally prove Christianity (in its own ideas of what rationally proving it would be), it will be enough. Other religions do the same with their own thoughts. Most (western/the big three) religions bluntly state they are the right one, and even eastern religions, while not overtly preaching they are THE ones like the west (it is all about cultural differences and imposing by not overtly doing so), they too talk about how one needs to let go of what one has to be a better person… to be something more than they are now. To obtain. Some go even further to think that if they just tell people to read the book of their faith, or if they just preach a sermon that addresses their Gospel, that will win the people over. Religion (believe in it or not… that is not the issue I am raising), in many ways has ended up being just another illusion. The worship band plays, the concert is neat, the programs are excellent, but a nihilistic generation sees through this pseudo-religion for what it really is; a spiritual social club.
So what is this generation to do?
Before answering that question, let us stop for a moment, as there seems to be one group missing from this “blame game” we are playing. The one that is most often left out when we discuss such broad issues of the world… oh yes, now I know, it is the biggest group of all.
The group we are missing is… ourselves…
The paradox of all this thinking is the fact that no matter what a person may say… they do believe in something, all persons do. It is inherently in us to believe. Be it science, religion, philosophy, astrology, alien-esq like thinking, humans are hard-drived to believe in something… and also it seems, to reject, fear, be wary of those whom do not see things in the same way. So it seems that in many ways it is Humans (not the media, not the religion, not the economics, the racism, the sexism, the homophobia… the list goes on and on and on), it is humans and their own thoughts, their own self-ego and conscious thought that is the problem and is the enemy of us all.
Human beings are not logical thinkers. Not instinctively. We are guided more by emotions, intuition, the unknown, fear, hatred, (in) security and the like. We are guided by the most illogical side of our being more than by the logical. It makes for a strange bedfellow, for without this side of the self I believe it be safe to say that great works of art, great pieces of music, great volumes of books, great feats of architecture, great discoveries of mind… all the things that make us whom we are, may never had been discovered without this side (the one that fights us and our individualistic notions at every turn)
So again, I have to ask… what is this generation to do? I am asking the question, not posing the answer, for I can’t, if I had them them I would be “God”, the thing Scientists quote, the thought thinkers would write about, the thing children would dream of being…
But in a strange way, I am all of those things, as are you and everyone else. For it is WE, all of us that is this idea of the human collective, and like it or not if we were not all here, in some way something (no matter what you think of a person for their colour, race, sexual preference, religious thought, and the like) would be missing and something would not be… complete.
Independence is a good thing, and being an individual is something I would always champion and instill as a definite necessity in life, but with that comes the understanding individuality is not the individuality I WANT.
Humans, in some ways (be it fear, misunderstanding, a lack of direction of the world at the moment), have gone so far to the extreme (in trying to show how we are all different), we have lost the similarities of our species. We spend most of our lives fighting to be equal (in the eyes of everyone else), that we often forget that fundamentally we already are. An easy thing to say perhaps, but if we only look at equality in terms of labels, laws and legislation, I fail to see how we are actually equal at all. We are only equal in terms of what the labels (that restrict us) tell all of us we are equal in.
The independence we so dearly long for, the equality we so passionately fight for has, in many ways made us more cynical than ever.
I just hope some day we can all collectively say… STOP
- #United States
- #generation x
- #western nations
- #world issues
- 1 year ago