8/20/2019—I have been writing about nihilism so long that I assume everyone knows that this is the fundamental problem facing our culture. But, of course, most people have no idea what nihilism is and why and how it might be a threat—-let alone how to combat it.
So, the juxtaposition of two op-eds on Monday—one from the right and one from the left—Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel, on the one hand, and Michelle Goldberg, on the other, may mark a cultural shift. We can call them twin diagnoses of nihilism.
Carlson and Patel are telling the story of a culture in which “nothing matters”—quoting James Kunstler. Such a culture breeds the despair of the mass killer or the suicide addict.
Goldberg is telling the story of a post-truth culture that lacks faith in a rational future, referring to the thought of Peter Pomerantsev. The need for facts is predicated on an evidence based future.
Each column exhibits the usual partisan myopia. Carlson and Patel ignore the role of capitalism, because that doesn’t fit their preconceived notions of the problem—the problem with “the jobs they hold” is not that they are controlled by “tech monopolists” but by their boses. Goldberg thinks the lack of faith in history came from philosophy and ignores the collapse of religion.
But they both see the same thing. There are no objective values—there is no source of meaning.
Ah, but what do we do about it? The problem has nothing to do with Washington, as such. And there is no way to “get history moving again” without talking about why it stopped moving in the first place.