Nihilism: A Definition

I started writing this and realized that some of my posts are going to have to be simple definitions. A common problem I see popping up in The United States is that while most of us share the same words it sometimes seems that we are speaking different languages. Significant portions of society use the same word to mean very different things, or describe the same thing using different words as it suits us. When I use certain terms I am going to be referring to very specific things that could be misunderstood if I don’t define those terms first.

When I say Nihilism, I’m not speaking of a philosophic view or school of thought. I don’t refer to religion or lack thereof, or to any particular political stand point. Indeed my definition of Nihilism in this context isn’t something a person could choose in the first place. I capitalize it because unlike the philosophic school of thought ( which I’ll speak of some other time) or most of the forms of nihilism spoken of, this Nihilism is incredibly influential and has it’s grip on much of society in one way or another.

Nihilism as the self destructive urge to degrade. To be more precise it’s a social disease in which members of society aren’t simply opting out of what they don’t like but apparently are actively attacking every aspect they can get their hands on. It’s not a school of thought because so often those involved either don’t realize, or they don’t care what sort of damage they are doing. It also is indiscriminate, regardless of whether small portions express hatred toward another small segment as justification, the underlying damage is going to hurt them as well long term.

I spent five years in a very extreme, very abusive relationship with someone who had borderline personality disorder. This person would go to therapy but refused to follow through on any suggestions that any of the various therapists gave her to try and help. What made her different than any other person I’ve ever dealt with is that she never did realize how much of her life ended up the way it did because of her own choices.

Part of her disorder involved having a sense of self that was very much in flux, she had no strong sense of self to buttress against her emotions. I used to tell her she seemed like someone who was in existential crisis all the time. As a result she would unconsciously make the most destructive choices, attack people around her in the most personal and degrading way but also take extreme offense at the most innocent of statements and be hurt when people stopped talking to her. We split up because it had gotten to the point where I would say (in writing) one thing, and she’d be screaming at me that I had said the opposite.

I have no idea what became of her but I look around the United States and I see the same thing going on in groups. She became a symbol for Despair, Anguish and Shame to me. I see the same self destructive nihilism around me now. Regardless of the given justification of these small groups, somehow they band together to do damage to the same things even though they would all be worse off as well.

I think this new era of Nihilism is worth studying. The fact that there seems to be two separate conversations going on at the same time, using the same language and yet so far apart that they can never understand each other. We have groups that would rather do damage not just to others but to themselves for no real obvious goal. Beyond degrading other people. They are so caught up in it that they’ll degrade themselves more just to degrade other people.

Is it the result of religion? Social breakdown? stratification? Has technology broken a certain percentage of society? are mental disorders, illnesses and diseases becoming more common? or is modern society even less able to cope with it than past societies? and perhaps even more important than the cause, or the diagnosis. Where is this going to lead? and is there a cure?

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