The fight is a losing one, here, for now, and for the next 3 years. “Nihilism,” is a term of abuse, universally employed to scorn enemies who use “violence.” A foreign correspondent in The Boston Globe refers to “jihadi nihilists” in Syria, about as clear an expression of the oxymoronic state of the word today. Jihadists, by their own definition, attach some greater divine purpose to their sometimes horrific actions, a “yes” to some deluded sense of supernatural favor sure to greet them after their intense spasms of murder. Other jihadists are not suicidal martyrs, but are still attempting to fulfill a religion-based imperative to cleanse the known world. This is not the “no” of nihilism, which sees no particular glory to self-sacrifice, or the killing of any particular imagined avatar of corrupt modern civilization.
The Unabomber was on a redemptive violence quest, and so the opposite of a social nihilist. Lone wolf killers, now appearing weekly across the American heimat, are also redemptive violence questers, and so the opposite of social nihilists. The police and the military, thought they draw decent paychecks from the tax tills, are not social nihilists, but also redemptive violence questers, since they place their continued existence in jeopardy through workplace familiarity with guns and ammo and quotidian eruptions of social violence sure to get the click-necking across the phoneline-connected interwebs this summer and next.
All of us, except for planning to be the next lone wolf killer, are, as the common saying goes, “deeply troubled” by this or that public form of killing, by neighbor, lunatic, spouse, government, police, or by systemic indifference to others’ plight, but being “deeply troubled” is the nature of every human, who then goes on in the next moment to redirect to some marginally, effectively trouble-canceling pastime or epic quest, like getting the next meal or finding a hooks-laden supergroup like the Explorer’s Club or Peter, Bjorn & John. As Dear Abby instructed many times, a social nihilist finds a bad job, does it relatively poorly, and finds true love without those demanding, time-wasting requirements.
Vision questers imagine that there will be some version of a “community” coming from their expressive emoluments, even if dire and pessimistic, but the world has promised us no retweets, reclicks, viewerships, or fan clubs. The white noise of the indifferent void should be a comforting background, because it is a true natural sound, there before us, sure to be the inheritance of our current atomic state. All of us have anger, hate, spittles of animosity and unidirected rage, but these are inherited or socially developed instincts, and as laughable in us, if they become dominant, as they are in a prepubescent. No redemptive violence today, no thanks lone wolfers and jihadi Republicans alike – just good times and great oldies, okay, gang?