In order to consolidate the global hold on the number 1 place of social nihilism, the Fun Social Nihilist collective has been undergoing a rigorous, Red-Guard-supervised self-study suing Donald Crosby seminal The Specter of the Absurd: Sources and Criticisms of Modern Nihilism. By all reports, the text is proving to be a welcome run through fundamental assumptions and causes that define social nihilism, with some caveats.
First, though the 1988 book is standing up very well in its well-written and forcefully articulated attacks upon the edifice of modern nihilism it has gotten sidetracked into interminable forays into religious reactions to nihilism. This becomes tedious and enraging, as all religious claptrap is wont to be: besides the point. Human cognition has been given the historical green light to move beyond the unsupportable assertion of religious and spiritual claimants. “God”-talk, of any kind, becomes a rabbit hole of fruitless pounding. No longer can humans make specious, evidence-less claims of “divine” or “sacred” or other supernatural pretend-phenomena without being subject to a rebuke for speaking without foundation. This goes for once self-described atheists as well, such as Barbara Ehrenreich, who in a recent book posited some unshakeable contact with the “Other” that, to her telling, elevates spirituality above mere nihilistic rationality. Crosby, a religious studies professor at the time, was obviously restrained from going too far into atheistic understanding, and gives Christianity, a now fully -discredited monotheistic cult, too much prominence in trying to figure out how humans have coped with the knowledge of the cosmic meaninglessness of human life.
Neither is the morose, self-flagellating anhedonia of Schopenhauer (and his modern novitiates such as Parson Chris Hedges) going to work in providing the ur-text for social nihilism. Of far greater value is Donald Crosby’s masterful, thrilling analysis of Franz Kafka’s The Castle, which in Crosby’s calm, incisive retelling becomes a modern classic, foretelling the life of all of us in today’s supersystem. Forget all the God-nonsense, such a monumental waste through the ages -it is passe, boring, a virus of non-knowing. Here is Crosby on The Castle:
We saw that only a few bureaucrats at the pinnacle of the hierarchy are able to achieve anything like positions of clear dominance over all others; all the rest, other members of the Castle bureaucracy as well as the villagers, are consigned to lives of utter dependency and humiliation, with nothing about their lives they can call their own and with no sense of autonomy or self-worth. Their lives are completely at the beck and call of others, their role is that of slaves – timid, cautious, forever worried about causing even the slightest offense to those who wield power over them. … This predicament is what most human lives are reduced to. Only the few very strong will be able to prevail; the rest must forfeit their freedom, and thus their dignity, to others. They must become accustomed to weakness, embarrassment, and shame. In the struggle between power and fear, most will be made captive to fear.
Even those who win do so at a high price. They will have no friends or loved ones; they will be able to trust no one, nor can anyone trust them.
Has anyone ever said it better?