Discover more from Culturcidal by John Hawkins
No, We’re Not All Doomed
Nihilism is a mistake.
We’re in a bit of a nihilistic moment in America.
Despite having more entertainment, distractions, and comfort than any society in human history, a surprising number of Americans are depressed:
A majority of Americans no longer believe that their kids will have better lives than they did:
More than half of Americans believe it’s unlikely younger people today will have better lives than their parents, according to a new poll from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
· "A stunning poll from the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia showed that 52% of Trump voters and 41% of Biden voters favored red/blue states seceding from the union."
· “As January 6 Capitol Attack hearings were broadcast across the nation Thursday night, a new report by UC Davis shows the divide in America may be even greater than thought. The study found that just over 50% of Americans believe ‘that in the next several years, there will be a civil war in the United States.’"
This isn’t being driven by just liberals or conservatives either. Both ideologies are pessimistic, but conservatives naturally tend to be that way a bit. We’re a little like the guys carrying “The End is Nigh” sign on the street corner, always scratching our heads a little that the world hasn’t actually ended yet but expecting things to go south any minute. Ironically, liberals may be catching up to us a bit on that point as well judging by a recent podcast I was listening to featuring podcasting legend Tim Ferriss interviewing marketing guru, Seth Godin.
Both of these guys would probably be better described as habitually liberal blue state city bros than diehard wokistas, but it’s interesting to note they’re struggling with some of the same worries as a lot of conservatives, although it has more to do with global warming than fear of the debt and the cultural destruction being wrought by the Left:
Tim Ferriss: With that backdrop, could you speak to how you think about nihilism and addressing nihilism? Because certainly even in my audience, and particularly among younger people, but I have seen it bleeding upward into my generation, even people who are older than me, what appears to be this creeping nihilism, this sense that nothing means anything. You can’t sort true from false, right from wrong. Everything’s too confusing.
We have deepfakes, misinformation, disinformation. You just can’t sort anything from anything else. And on top of that, it seems like the Titanic has already hit the iceberg. We’re on the way down. You can’t really patch the hole. So is the best we can do playing violins on the deck while she goes under? Or is there anything else to do? That is maybe an overstatement, but not much of one. This is something that I really do sense in many interactions that I’ve seen and felt. And I would just love to know how you have thought about that, because I have found myself…in a malaise. And some would say, “Well, it’s a well-warranted malaise. So what are you going to do about it?” And I would love to know what you suggest we do about it or what you have done about it…
Godin gave what I consider to be a not particularly noteworthy response to this, with the exception of one thing that he mentioned in passing, which was that “we have a meaning shortage.”
The thing about this is that there really is a legitimate mixture of reasons to be optimistic and pessimistic about the future of the country.
On the pessimistic side, our national debt is out of control and headed towards disaster and there seem to be few prospects of it getting better. Christianity is on the decline and our culture continues to rapidly become more degenerate. Democrats are thoughtlessly pushing the idea of getting rid of the Senate filibuster and stacking the Supreme Court, which would be highly likely to end the United States’ time as a Republic if it happened. Our media and political system have degraded to the point where there are almost no trustworthy sources of news. Crime seems to be out of control. Our military is dabbling in politics and becoming less competent. The Democrats are engaging in lawfare and corrupting government agencies. Our border is open and uncontrolled. The divorce rate is hovering around 50%. Weird perverts really are coming for your children with the full backing of every Democratic politician in America. Then there’s the potential threat to the whole human race by bioweapons, nuclear war, and AI.
These are real problems, they’re serious and they’re dangerous.
The flip side of this is that most of human existence has consisted of dirt poor people, hunting, foraging, and doing subsistence farming to get just enough to eat while under the thumbs of a tiny number of monarchs, emperors, dictators, and warlords who took a large portion of what they produced, told them what to do, and beat or killed them if they didn’t do it.
The world where we have a real say in our governance, air conditioning, high-speed Internet, supermarkets full of delicious food, and almost all of us working relatively cushy jobs (yes, even fast-food work or working at Office Depot is pretty cushy compared to tilling a field by hand or with a donkey) hasn’t been around for more than a fraction of human existence. Even my own father lived through the Depression and told me stories about peanut butter and soda being luxuries. Back then, there were people selling things at 10 cents on the dollar with no takers, and doctors and dentists literally struggling to make a dollar per week because no one had any money. How does that sound compared to where we’re at?
Are you worried that violence is going to break out? It may be because it has broken out before. We’ve had a Revolutionary War, a Civil War, and the White House was burned to the ground in the War of 1812.
What about America losing its status as the world’s only superpower? Well, the same thing happened to the Brits and Italians and they’re still here.
The point is it may get bad, but it has been bad before and people made it through.
Of course, there’s no guarantee it will get that bad. In fact, maybe it’s not as bad as any of us think because we’ve just been influenced by the relentlessly negative, outrage-inducing, catastrophizing fear porn that passes for news in America today. Unfortunately, good news and happy predictions don’t drive clicks and so, we don’t see it.
It’s also worth noting that the wheels of history turn extremely slowly compared to the length of a human life. People will return to sanity in some areas, it will just take a lot longer than most of us expect. If you want a prime example, it would be cities like San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, and Seattle turning a blind eye to crime. Eventually, that is likely to become a self-correcting problem. As tax dollars and businesses flee while the remaining citizens become ever more fed up, things will start to change. However, it will likely take years, a decade, or maybe two. Furthermore, Christianity may seem to be at a low ebb right now, but Christianity has been through many such cycles over the last two thousand years. In other words, the problems of today may come to a head or just fade away over time.
What it all leads up to is that we human beings tend to have these mental models of the world that go: A, B, and C are extremely important, and if they don’t happen, D, E, and F will, which will lead to X, Y, and Z, which will mean disaster! The problem with all that, as one of my favorite quotes goes is:
On a personal level, you see examples of this all the time. Someone thinks getting fired or breaking up with their girlfriend is the end of the world, but six months down the road, they actually have a better job or a better girlfriend. This happens at the national level, too, although people loathe to admit it. A lot of conservatives that happily collected Social Security thought it was socialism when it was first passed, and an awful lot of liberals benefitted from a thriving economy created by tax cuts that they opposed. That doesn’t mean none of us can predict anything or that we shouldn’t take steps to make ourselves and our country better, but it does mean that the future is not written in stone. To the contrary, the future of all of us and our country is in flux and how it will turn out is largely beyond our control.
That goes double since all of us are going to die one day. Everything could go perfectly, and you could get hit by a bus. Everything could look like it’s going to be the biggest disaster you’ve ever seen, and the entire planet could be wiped out by a giant asteroid. In other words, the past has already happened and none of us are promised the future, even though we all hope we have one. All we’re promised is right freaking now.
What should you do with your right now? Certainly not engage in nihilism, call for “burning it all down” or become “black-pilled” and give up. How does that make anything better? It doesn’t. Who does that help? It doesn’t even help you, much less anyone else.
Instead of going in that direction, make the best of your limited time on this planet. Better yourself, advocate for policies that will make our country better, and take care of your family and friends while trying to make a positive contribution to humanity in your own way. That still won’t allow you to decide how it all turns out, but at least in the small corner of humanity touched by you, it will make a better world.