Our bastions of liberal letters regularly feature opinists who regularly inveigh against the monsters of the moment, nearly all from the folkish anhedonic liberal hope side. Rebecca Solnit does her Solnittian best to always see hope a’borning amidst the new day’s gloom over at Harpers, and though it is not worth our internet while to go over each and every preaching about this or that facet of our contemporary dystopia noticed by the fair M.s Solnit, there is great ire reserved, by her, against today’s libertarian hedge fund criminals, whose Randian self-service is termed by Ms. Solnit “nihilism.” If you don’t like someone or something and you’re on the academic, paycheck-cashing side of the liberal left, why then you call it “nihilism,” and the matter is closed – who wants to be for some variant of social virus that nearly all in the upright ape category think evil, or selfish, or downright moronic?
We here at FSN, of course, are the ones to defend the nearly- to the lectern-owning preaching crowd – indefensible. How to do this? First, hedge fund criminals and climate-change deniers are not, by any condition, nihilists, either social or personal. They chase money, they refuse to see the systemic problems of naked greed, so they are wrapped in delusions of supremacy. They believe in their own righteous destructiveness, as do the more commonly cited leftist bomb-thrower types, but these are the antitheses of social nihilists. Why indulge in meaningless violence and meaningless money hoarding if it will very little good for anyone? Why endanger your own livelihood and prospects for temporary surcease of major risks when there is so little to be gained from wanton pursuits?
Believers in the unverifiable are the opposites of social nihilists – they are the pious religious renunciators of pleasure, found at any Godshop down the road or on the afflicted campuses. They, the believers, are the professional hope-changists, who see the People’s Revolution in every last regurgitaion of the supersystem – today it’s the Brexit that will lead to a Better World, yesterday it was gun checks for terror suspects, or the great Vermont sheepherder Bernie. Or it’s the believer who is hard at work on some fantastical artistic mega-project, sure to be The Great American Novel, or at least a Sundance jury selection. Or the Believer who is raising Jesus children, with the sun-kissed young-un’s accomplishing world-changing feats with every crayon drawing.
For others, the social world is spinning out intractable problem after ineluctable non-solution, all embedded in the global capitalist social disorder that is not going to go away just because we want to enjoy some Fair Trade coffee. The supersystem is an analogue to any common development in the natural world, where evolution forces a winning adaptation to pursue its growth to the bloat-and-entropy stage. Clearly we are in this stage now, and nature and history abound with depictions of the consequences of unarrestable bloat and entropy. Noxious explosions, here and there, here on in, as in overgrown mushrooms that shower the air with stink and crumbles once penetrated after the bloat stage. To Ms. Solnit, that big mushroom just needed a collegiate nurturer type and some nearby sit-ins aroudn the mushroom, perhaos read some classical literature to and it would be magically retransformed into a fine, downsized, small-is-beautiful mushroom. Yeah, sure.