Hold on... I thought I was the nihilist
Disclaimer: This comes from the opinions and observations of an American writer living in America. Your experiences may be different, or they may be the same; draw similarities as you see fit.
"If you don't like America you can always leave." The country is almost always different: "pinko" Cuba or China, tyrannical Iran or North Korea, or—if the "Patriot" at hand is almost reasonable—Canada. "If you like the stinkin' commies so much, why don't you move to Cuba?" he asks. "If you don't really think the stinkin' Muslims are as bad as the TV portrays, why don't you get your ass to Iran?"; "Canada ain't to far away, why don't you get your whiny stinkin' liberal ass over the border, eh?" It's all ridiculous.
Ridiculous and absurd? Of course—but it's also quite telling. Here I am, a "nihilist," attempting to show the positive effects of a nihilistic outlook, yet the contemporary American Patriot comes off as far more apathetic. To him life is quite alright because he is free in America. After all, if I just got a job and quit whinin'—the "American Way"—I'd be just like him, and us freedom lovers could rejoice... together.
But it's not just the dummies on the so-called "right" who suggest the duck-and-run. No, their counterparts in the hybrid cars are just as adamant about leaving the country. They are so fed-up with the aforementioned "American Way," the crooked politicians, the dwindling economy, and the ecological destruction that they see no other way to escape it than, well... escaping it. Given their more friendly nature, it might not be surprising that this group is the easier of the two to deal with, but the fact that they are suggesting the same thing doesn't change.
When many of us are raised we can't wait to leave wherever it is we are at the moment. As we approach age 18, the established aged to move out of the parents' house, we are all excited at how free we'll be. When we are applying for colleges in our last few years of high school, many of us apply to out-of-state schools hoping we can "get the hell out." But why? We no longer develop strong bonds with our parents, it seems: While we are growing up, they are arguing about the finances, their jobs, their sex lives, how to raise the kids, and we begin feeling alienated, wanting nothing to do with them. An extension of this is seen in our community lives (or lack thereof): We're nothing like our neighbors or our townspeople, and as the trust and familiarity between us dwindles, we all want to move away, onto our own little islands.
What do each of these people—the freedom loving American Patriot, the peace-seeking American liberal, and the alienated American teen—have in common? They are all sick, and they are suffering at the hands of a common illness. That disease? The modern outlook on life, a world-view based around individualism and apathy for everything not directly related to the self. It's hardly surprising, either.
The people of industrialized, modern societies have become so self-oriented, thinking about only themselves, that an individualist idea such as "getting out" is hardly unexpected. The Patriot wants you to leave so he can drive his SUV to his factory job in peace, knowing that he is free and unbothered by whining do-gooders. The liberal, on the other hand, wants for himself to leave, thinking that life will be better in some other land, away from evil America. The teenager just wants a life of his own, away from his pesky parents, hoping that he can someday have a good job, a big house, a wife, 1-and-a-half kids, and a dog. All three are interested purely in their personal well-being.
This is not anything absolutely terrible by itself, because we are all driven by what is best for us at our very core, but running away from problems, especially as they grow, is blasphemy. As opposed to the nihilist thought advocated on this site, this is the "nihilism" spoke of by philosophers. This is the age of apathetic fatality, of individualism. This is the age of true emptiness, with no care or confidence.
A problem will grow and grow, with the end results unknown, unless it is confronted and corrected. Leaving a problem unattended, or turning your back on it and pretending that it might correct itself, are among the most unheroic things a person could do. There are people who recognize that modern living is at odds with reality, who will not cut and run at the first opportunity, who will live life as they see fit and encourage those around them to do the same, and who have a hope for our collective future.
Our industrialized societies need to have healthy living habits, community life, culture, and trust restored once more. Things like "Almighty Dollar" and the subsequent materialism that it represents must be destroyed, as the behavior, attitudes, and habits it perpetuates are destructive and dangerous. Our inherent individualism must also be rethought if we ever hope to form strong bonds between ourselves and the people we know and love. Our destructive consuming must be drastically reduced, and with it, the health of our eco-systems restored, insuring a brighter future for all living things. Our pollution must also be stopped as it too is killing the world around us, making it not only smelly, ugly, and dirty, but unlivable. None of these enormous tasks can be accomplished by digging holes in the sand and sticking our heads in them. The idiots of the world will run amok, especially if we turn our backs to them; this is why the wisest and most able among us must be there to correct their behavior in all ways possible.
No one has said that making a better future will be easy (well, maybe Al Gore); in fact, it will be qite difficult to reverse our hazardous ways and march forward into a healthier world. The task, however, is completely necessary. When you study the alternative—of packing our bags and running away to Fantasy Land—it's quite easy to see the choice: take action or watch your world crumble.
I'm not going to run away. My entire life thus far has been lived in the same area of the world; while 200 years ago this may have been someone else's home, it is my home now. My home is beautiful, but it is being destroyed. I will not turn my back and walk away as it is being cut down, bulldozed, and replaced with concrete, but rather fight—to preserve it. Some might be happy with boring jobs, unhealthy food, and wasteful junk, while others might be happy to erase their memories... but I—I will be happy when life is healthy once again.
And so I will prepare for the battle ahead.
November 11, 2007
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