Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Who's the Fucking Nihilist Here?

Ken MacLeod:

This is so astonishing that it’s easily overlooked. In terms of appealing to the common interests of humanity ­­— even if purely as a cover for smaller or more sordid interests — only the great religions have attempted anything like it. No other secular ideology has tried to be a totalising force in the same way.

...The challenge for humanists and liberals in the face of a transhuman future is daunting: to replace the socialist project — or to revive it. Without something like it to underpin a sense of common human identity and common human interest, people will divide on the basis of other identities. Many on the left, of course, have found in identity politics a replacement for the universalism of their past. But identity can also be seized on by the far right. It can feed a resentful indifference to the plight of others that comes from having one’s own plight disregarded.

All right. So the aim of a peaceful, global community of equality, reasonable security, and material abundance was a fantasy. Make us drink that cup to the dregs, but don’t expect us to be humanists after we’ve wiped our lips. If labour in the white skin can never emancipate itself, why should it care if in the black it is branded?

Overlooked? Honestly, the fact that socialism/communism was a secular version of Christianity pretending to possess scientific rigor has been noted enough to almost qualify as a cliché by now. The similarities even extend to the aftermath, as evidenced by that last paragraph. Monotheists of both the religious and secular varieties, grappling with their loss of faith in universal meaning, attempt one last reassertion of it in an inverted form, that of nihilism. If my existence has no eternal meaning and significance, then nothing ever has meaning and significance in any context. All we are is dust in the wind! Either way, it provides a false sense of preordained certainty to alleviate the difficulty of thinking, measuring, experimenting, judging, attempting, and possibly failing at the Sisyphean task of creating contingent meaning in the course of everyday living.

If you don't believe in the universal socialist brotherhood of humankind, what's to stop you from becoming a white nationalist? Or, to phrase that sentiment in a more typical way, if you don't believe in God, what's to stop you from raping, robbing and murdering? When you realize the fallacious nature of such all-or-nothing thinking, you realize that all the life worth living is done in between such conceptual antipodes.