Sheldon Solomon, the Death instinct, and Social Nihilism

WordPressland is the last, small redoubt in Social Media World. Here should be the last refuge for those who are not on, will never be on, and can never contemplate being on, Facebook. 72% of adult Internet users have a Facebook account, for no apparent reason other than to bore others with their vapid coming and goings – though there must be some genuine social benefit to it. Knock yourselves out, but in WordPressland, nobody really cares about your trip to Chuck E. Cheese.

There are no Ph.D’s necessary to be a voice in WordPressland – there just isn’t room for all the citations you might want to parade as an monomaniacal academic. Is this then the home of the great Unwashed? The progenitors of WordPress seem to have been coder/open source types, so there must have been good intentions at the start, but corporate capitalism chews up these idealistic types and eventually gives them useless yachts ont he Riveria. There may be terrible bug/surveillance problems with the current version of WordPress, but at least there is a sem-decent vibe of straight-up condensed word-singing going on here, though time may be running out, and the server farms do not run on squrrell wheels alone.

Potshots at the high and mighty are fated to land harmlessly outside the world that matters into the great maw of nothingness, but at least the pop-gunner feels a bit better. Sheldon Solomon, in this Skidmore Ted-lowercasex talk,,  bangs his way through a sermon on “Humanity at the Crossroads.” He, as the acolyte of Ernest Becker, posits, with some solid psycho-social evidence, that the fear of death makes our brain go wiggly, though there are a great many fears that also do the same. Death is different for every generation, and with the relative health of the baby boom generation, the fear of death is not stalking the 5:15 to Peekskill to the same degree it was to the heart-attack generation of men. Women on average live much longer so the fear of death should be much farther down the unconscious boogeyman charts for them.

At the end of the hellfire sermon that discloses the very great and abiding troubles that humanity now faces, ones that FSN has spared no quarter in retailing to its global subscriber base, the tenured prof relates, to the assembled tuition-paying or tuition-pad members of the college enterprise, that, well, there Hope: humanity has beaten the religious-aided scourge of infectious diseases, right? Humanity has done wonders when it has identified real underlying causes to major threats to life and limb and happiness. OK, we can all go home now and continue to rail against the social nihilist types, right?

Not so fast. Humanity can target identifiable scourges, but it has no history of collectively organizing a “power-down” of any kind. There is no precedent in any human history of civilizations for the self-abnegations required by the scale and scope of the sticky problems of economic disparity, climate catastrophe, religio-militaristic fascism, and corporate supersystemic control that occupy the lives and minds of those in power, from highest Punjab to lowliest apparatchik. In this realm of integrated crisis, , the CFC campaign and the polio eradication campaign do not count, nor does gay marriage, nor does token diversity figurehead initiatives, nor do ten-point bullet plans on how we can power our beer factories through fungi.

If there are no suitable historical examples showing how a global class of super-wealthy criminal overseers will fold up their supertanker fleets, then all of us, as WordPressian intellects, should steer the Big Picture cogitations away from the obligatory Big Hope windups that start in the last minute at  the end of every academician’s spiel, even if preceded by ABSN (All But Social Nihilist) content.

We may have a death fear that we need to get ahold of and shake down in size, but of far greater dimension and importance is our  life fear, in which we seem congenitally afraid to admit our vast incompetencies as a social species.


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