Social nihilism is but one part of a functioning, viable worldview – the other part, not usually given its due here, is to seek personal action. No endless sitting around, no foolish screen surfing, no pessimistic self-castigation, but instead a determination to find personal engagement with the known world. A morose, indecisive, other-blaming person is not a human that fulfills our hunter-gatherer ancestry. One necessary dimension to being this active, dynamic person is to quell the litany of anxiety obsessions by issuing “affirmations” about the small-to-big earned and unearned good fortunes of the encountered world.
This is a generational imperative – the bounteous natural world is being traduced all around the globe, but the oceans are still blue in some places, the few lowland gorillas are still in their trees, there is no nationwide brainwave control system yet in place, pornography is affordable, and the summer harvest is producing power-packed tomato sauce. There is no god or gods to “thank” or to summon in vain for these affirmations, and there is yet a entire level of social suffering that lies outside the individual’s particular roster of inherited advantages, but no “despair” need accompany these realizations of private pleasure and public disaster. What does the universe do with “despair”?
For example, there is one salient personal fact that unites Damn Turd Pol (Donald Trump), A Lynch Trillion (Hillary Clinton), and Lines Jilt (Jill Stein): each presidential candidate has degrees and advanced degrees from the American higher, indeed, “elite,” education system. Correlation implies at least a minor level of causation.
In this American higher education system, money buys entrance to these degree programs, and guards against too much confrontation with authoritative dismissals of stupidity, bigotry, ignorance, or obtuseness on the part of the fee-paying student. No one told the obscenely-overprivileged scion Dam Turd Pol that he was an illiterate boob while at Wharton, because to do so would jeopordize that person;s check-cashing ability as a prof at Wharton. Similarly, though Lines Jilt may have a fairly extensive medical training at the corporate redoubt Harvard Med, there is no course in social nihilism, nor a concentration, leading the bombastic minor figure ripe for associating with the quackery of “alternative” or “complementary” medicine. A Lynch Trillion was not brought to Wellesley to be publicly shamed for betraying the legacy of the secular Enlightenment by becoming a bomb-dispensing genocidaire, because nearly the entirety of the liberalish college graduate class could be convicted of betraying the bumper sticker principles of equality and justice by entering the putrid role of imperial agent in the supersystem.
Education, like all social institutions, enforces servile disengagement. 00% of students, professors, ivory tower pundits, and test-prep commissars will once again begin the start of this year’s semester with a bifurcated mind, with only one, lesser side devoted to being aware of the performance of the dullness and the evasiveness of the classroom task. The bulk of each subject’s mind will be elsewhere- outside the prison of the lecture, the notes, the grades. Sexual contemplations, social worries, grabbing free culture, credit card anticipations, familial contretemps, clothing dislikes, cat fancies, these are what is on the syllabus, not the George Eliot paper or the analyze Proust. Guaranteed.
Should we bemoan this, and scream for the kids to get off our lawn? Social reality is much grander than any perfervid recitation of evident social ills. The traps are there to be played with.