Why is the world so fucking crazy? Here’s the short answer: people prefer the certitude of moral fanaticism to the yawning, howling chasm of despair that is nihilism. This essay argues that this false dilemma will always arise in the hearts and minds of people who have failed to dial their frequency into the range of gold, for whatever reason.
As any existentialist can tell you, nihilism is an inevitable part of being human. If one is not dull in the head, one soon observes that the vast majority of politicians, rulers, religious men and media figures are liars and thieves, essentially just master pirates, and one turns from there quickly to despair.
This despair tends to neither last nor transmute directly to nihilism. It doesn’t last because the naivete into which one was brainwashed soon reasserts itself. Because it reasserts itself, the despair does not transmute into nihilism.
A dull person will cling to this naivete once it is reasserted, and will not let it go again for fear of the despair that filled that gap last time. An intelligent person will break it down again, choosing by an act of will or intuition to understand that their suspicions about the true order of things were correct, and that one can never trust a person claiming to be one’s superior.
If the child-like naivete cannot reassert itself, usually because a person has developed a deep cynicism towards it, then despair will eventually turn to nihilism. This only occurs once a state of learned helplessness has been achieved. From here, things will go one of two ways depending on the philosophical sophistication of the person involved.
One way is to reach a kind of philosophical maturity. This way is really, really hard and is outside the scope of this essay. Essentially it is the same task as creating the Philosopher’s Stone, or reaching nirvana, or spiritual absolution, or becoming the Overman.
The second way is to become a fanatic about something. In practice, it doesn’t actually matter what one becomes a fanatic about, although each individual fanatic will doubtlessly have a number of illogical, contradictory or spurious reasons to support their supposedly heartfelt belief. All that matters is that it feels better than nihilism.
It can be observed in many people that they have become fanatics about something in order to distract their minds from the ennui that arises from considering existence authentically. Honest philosophical thought seems to lead directly to panic as nothing appears to matter and we appear to die.
One absolves oneself of the moral imperative to be authentic once one becomes a fanatic. The life of a fanatic is defined. It is defined primarily by those one stands in opposition to.
If a National Socialist, one opposes Commies; if a Communist, one opposes Nazis. If a supporter of one’s military, one opposes all other militaries. If a supporter of one’s soccer team, one opposes all other soccer teams. If a feminist, one opposes the patriarchy, if a men’s rights activist one opposes feminists, if a Muslim one opposes the infidel, if a Catholic one opposes the heathen, and so it goes.
This process is as true of groups as it is of individuals. Thus we can see that, ironically, the mass rejection of the mainstream moral narrative that followed World War I laid the furrow for the mass fanaticism that led to World War II.
Becoming a fanatic in this manner leads to a very soothing and very temporary kind of peace. One soon becomes surrounded by like-minded fanatics and, from there, it is trivial to convince oneself that the mission all of you are on is the true and righteous one and that by rebuilding the world in your image you will genuinely create a utopia for all.
Doing so, however, comes at a bitter cost. In refusing to act authentically by becoming a fanatic, one inevitably finds oneself forced to either tell lies or to commit violence, for all falsehood finds expression in the human world in one of those two ways.
Observing the reality around you before taking action usually gives you necessary clues about who you are and what your role in this place is. This is the basis of Pyrrhonic wisdom, which is to ask what the nature of things actually is before you react to it.
This column contends that the way to peace is to look beyond; to look beyond the reasons people say they do things and the moral superiority they claim motivates their actions and see the true frequency of their spirits. And then apply that same caustic cynicism to oneself, usually in meditation.
Only by doing this can a person correctly observe the terrain before them and move accordingly.