Despite that the mainstream and official doctrine of our postchristian and therefore postrational society is that thoughts have no meaning, unfortunately, thoughts do have meaning and ideas have consequences. The first immediate consequence of nihilism is intellectual cowardice, a blubbering craven timorousness on a vast and sickening scale.
I will take John Lennon’s â€śImagineâ€ť as merely one reading of the thermometer telling us the temperature of the zeitgeist:
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…
In the grotesque lyrics of John Lennonâ€™s revolting paean to nihilism, we are to imagine that there is no heaven and no nations in order that there by nothing to kill nor die for.
If it is true that there is no truth, then it is also true that there is no God, and hence nothing worth fighting for. Even those lesser things that serve as lesser gods, such as the flag, or the family, or the honor of the regiment, or the sanctity of motherhood, or the self-interest of private property; all of it is now illusion, none of it is worth taking a bullet to protect, or taking a life. Nothing is worth anything.
Logically, if the nihilists actually believed in nihilism, they would be as placid about, let us say, civil rights for Blacks or animal rights for spotted owls as they were about defending the national honor of the United States against Communists or Terrorists. They are, of course, liars who lie to themselves as deeply as they lie to others. Nihilism is not a philosophy, it is a rhetorical maneuver, something one says as the need arises to sooth the prickling of a conscience not yet quite dead.
But it does have a real appeal. Nihilism promises peace. It promises that if the Terrorists would stop believing in Fascist Islam with as much fervor (if that is the word) as the Nihilists have stopped believing in truth and justice and the American Way, why, then, there is nothing worth fighting over, nothing worth doing, and everyone should just drink booze and get fat and watch porn and chase distractions and diversions and dissipations, get venereal disease, and report to the Euthanasia center which someone else will pay for, and we will all live (if that is the word) in peace and harmony. It promises the kind of peace at a price which even the most wretched slave should be too much of a man to consider.
It is, of course, a false promise. It is appeasement. Slow suicide does not have an appeal to anyone who is not a nihilist, because only nihilists, perhaps correctly, judge their lives to be worthless. A bold communist or Nazi slavering over the chance to destroy innocent lives by the millions, or the Jihadist imp eager to kill himself while destroying innocent lives in more modest numbers, when called over to the negotiation table will listen in puzzlement as the nihilist explains the deal to him: â€śListen, neither one of us wants this war, right? I have here a bottle of mortal poison, but it is very intoxicating and produces long hours of euphoria and delicious psychedelic vision ending in sudden but painless death. If we both drink it together, there will be no war!â€ť
To which the more reasonable reply is: â€śIf you were not already destroying yourself, corrupt capitalist Great Satan swine, I would not have had the boldness to begin this war in the first place.â€ť
But if you believe the false promise of the false ideal, you must also believe the logical and inevitable consequence of the ideal. If the source of all pain and hardship and suffering and sin in life is the belief in something, then logically the only way to obviate pain is to believe in nothing.
And the only way to reach a belief in nothing is to admit of one single unquestioned and fixed principle, as motionless as Polaris: every work of art, every news report, every word spoken in public must serve two purposes. First, all efforts must make the good seem less good, so that people will gradually cease to believe in goodness, or pay it any respect or loyalty, or have any desire to protect it. The good must denigrated, until it is not good enough to merit being defended. Second, all efforts must make the bad seem less bad, so that people will gradually cease to resist or oppose or object to badness, or pay it any disrespect or aversion, or have any desire to avoid it. The bad must be elevated, until it is no longer bad enough to merit being attacked.
It is a simple rule. Whatever is good must be desecrated and vulgarized, accused and splattered with slime, so that it no longer seems so good. Whatever is bad must be excused, apologized for, forgiven, shined, polished, applauded, rewarded and encouraged, so that it no longer seems so bad.
I challenge anyone to come up with a clearer explanation for the affection of the modern opinion-makers for the wretched theocratic homophobic misogynistic brutes sending terrorists to blow up Jewish schoolchildren, and yet at the same time the same opinion-makers praise and adore gay marriage and feminist madwomen and godless Communism. The groups that the modern nihilists adore and support have nothing in common with each other, aside from the fact that they are evil.
So there is the answer to the deepest level of the puzzle.
The foundational metaphysical axiom of our society is nihilism, the belief that there is no truth. (Belief? Rather, the slogan that there is no truth. I cannot call it a belief, since no one honestly believes it.)
From this axiom only one conclusion, or, rather, only one emotional reflex (it is not a conclusion) is possible: war and conflict and all the ills escaped from Pandoraâ€™s Box, all the evils which erupted from digesting the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil come from the evil of discrimination, the ability to distinguish between good and evil.
To eliminate all wars, we need only eliminate the ability to distinguish between good and evil.
To eliminate the ability to distinguish between good and evil, we must elevate whatever is evil, make it seem not so bad after all, and denigrate the good, make it seem not so good as all that.
As I said above, no man believes in nothing. Those who say they believe in nothing are trying desperately not to believe in an objective and absolute truth. They do not want to believe in God because they think that such a Supreme Being would interfere with their own supremacy, and might damage their self esteem, or fling them into the lake of fire. They are also trying just as desperately to believe in something they cannot name.
I will name it. They believe in the salvific power of cowardice. They believe that if you are just craven enough not to fight for anything, no ideals, no flag, neither the ashes of your fathers nor the temples of your gods, then your life will be lazy, fat, and happy.
John C. Wright is a retired attorney and newspaperman who was only once hunted by the police. He is a graduate of St. John College (home of Mortimer Adler’s “Great Books Program“). In 2004 he foreswore his lifelong atheism and joined the Roman Catholic Church. He has published over 10 SF novels, including one nominated for a Nebula award, and was described by Publisherâ€™s Weekly as “this fledgling centuryâ€™s most important new SF talent.” He currently lives in fairytale-like happiness with his wife, the authoress L. Jagi Lamplighter, and their four children.
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