Against the New Nihilism: Actually, LOL Almost Everything Matters
It’s a popular and versatile phrase that can be reassuring, a reminder that despite how overwhelmed you feel, nothing matters so go ahead and enjoy that fourth doughnut.
It can also be discouraging, lamenting the feeling that while a precious few are attempting to keep order, the great many aren’t and so nothing matters.
Regardless, it’s no coincidence it’s become so trendy. Nihilism is back, big time.
Nihilism is as old as time itself — it’s at least as old as the first time a dinosaur spotted a giant fireball hurtling toward Earth and thought, Why did I bother tidying up the bog today?
There’s cosmic nihilism: The universe is indifferent to your suffering. There’s existential nihilism: You are insignificant, and life has no meaning. There’s political nihilism: All political systems and the values supporting them must be destroyed.
But it’s not the theories of Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche or Soren Kierkegaard that I want to dwell on — because, if nothing truly matters, life is short and who has the time? But rather, I draw your attention to a cartoon dog.
“On Fire” is a webcomic-turned-meme by KC Green published in 2013. In it, a dog sits at a kitchen table as flames engulf the room. “This is fine,” he says. “I’m okay with the events that are unfolding currently.” As his arm is incinerated, he says, “That’s okay. Things are going to be okay.” Finally, his face melts off.
Dark? Yes. Apropos in 21st century America? Definitely.
If it increasingly feels like nothing matters and this isn’t fine, there’s a good reason. We have utterly devalued and distorted accountability to the point of extinction. We’ve stopped demanding it and we’ve stopped believing in it at nearly every level of socio-political experience.