John Zerzan Seems to have No fucking Clue what Nihilism Means
We listeners hear Zerzan talk about nihilism all the time on his podcast.
I don’t have a phone – “Because I’m a real motherfuckin’ primmie, bitch!” – (actually I’m just really poor, like my ‘privacy’ [aka freedom], and spend my only money on food and weed) but if I did, I’d be of course so eager to call him up and have him interrupt, talk over, and hang up on me… Anarchy Radio is like a lukewarm SNL skit where someone gives Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus a public radio show, so that they can whine about shooting sprees, whose been naughty and nice, why Ted Kaczynski was awesome, etc. How’s that for analogy?
Anything that triggers him is instantly labeled ‘nihilist’. He goes on and on about ‘the nihilists’, but like that one line from Princess Bride, I don’t think the word means what he thinks it means…
[original article contains this embedded video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_29yvYpf4w]
When I pull up the Spotlight on my Mac OS – something which would without doubt surely be worthy of critique from Zerzan already (unfortunately I have no books or oil lamps available) – and type in “nihilism”,there are three definitions given:
– (historical) the doctrine of an extreme Russian revolutionary party c. 1900 which found nothing to approve of in the established social order.
That sounds pretty cool to me. Here is another definition:
– (Philosophy) the belief that nothing in the world has a real existence.
The definition picked up by Zerzan (and angsty teenagers/Spencer’s shoppers everywhere), that of ‘’moral nihilism’, is my least favorite:
– the rejection of all religious and moral principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless.
Notice this definition has no listed frame of reference and was thusly probably just made up by some editor of the dictionary, due to popular ignorant knowledge over what nihilism is or was.
Another definition that’s worth mentioning is the English Wikipedia’s, which I’ll paraphrase:
Nihilism is a doctrine of philosophy which implies a lack of belief in any of the putatively meaningful parts of life and ‘reality’.
In a world where capitalism has enslaved everything on Earth, (when humans could have the power to move the very stars if they wanted) the idea that there’s ‘nothing to approve of in the established social order’ sounds pretty fucking good to me!
In fact, confusingly, it’s something Zerzan talks about often in an agreeable manner – that whole ‘being against the establish order’.
As the blog nihilist communism.two wrote in April of this year:
‘The modern American attribution of ‘nihilism’ has almost nothing to do with the Russian nihilist milieu of the 19th Century. American nihilism is a malaise diagnosed in others from symptoms identified as indicative of chronic habituation to environmental stimuli. Russian nihilism is a ‘conscious’ form of being characterised by its repudiation of all given forms of attachment. American nihilism isducible to the individual’s embrace of conditioned immediacy at the expense of all else, whilst Russian nihilism supposes the rejection of the very concept of conditioning.
This distinction takes us so far and no further. In practice, American nihilism is defined and interpreted by media commentators and does not exist on its own terms. And the Russian nihilists…in their attempts to effect a detachment from the bad objects of religion, family, state and class only succeeded in re-attaching themselves to the ideal object of ‘material forces’.’
The blog also mentions what’s often referred to as ‘metaphysical nihilism’. In their own words, they posit that ‘the world is a produced world’. There is also ‘epistemological nihilism’, closely related to ‘anti-‘, or ‘post-‘positivism — the idea that all knowledge and ‘truth’ itself cannot be confirmed as true. Then there is ‘compositional’ or ’mereological nihilism’; according to Wiki, this ‘is the position that objects with proper parts do not exist…only basic building blocks without parts exist, and thus the world we see and experience full of objects with parts is a product of human misperception’.
If you didn’t make it through all that, there is another part of the nihilist communism.two blog which might shine some light and add some context:
’In lurches and flashes I recognise both my disconnection from, and integration within, social production. I am in no position to contribute to, participate in, or take control over the processes that form me. I am in no position to prevent, slow down, or halt the environment that constrains and uses me. I am a character, not an actor. Sometimes, as in a dream, I become aware that my presence, my behaviour, my words are written and directed from elsewhere. Sometimes, I become sufficiently aware of the field of my determinations and I make inky scratches upon myself as a reminder of my vanities. The condition of my defeat, which is also a mode of minimal preservation, and which I permanently inhabit, appears as a frozen act of self-interruption, or a prolonged stay of execution. I am stopped here, at some border and I will not cross it. Nor will I turn back. I seem to have been waiting for a very long time for the world to close over me.’
TL;DR; Zerzan would be a lot more effective if he didn’t ignorantly abuse the word ’nihilism’, or if at the very least he was more genuine about his reasons for the abuse. In general, the show also tends to sound like a broken record, but that’s a whole ’nother ball game…
In the end I see him, Kathleen(sp?) and Anarchy Radio providing something very positive and critical. I would hope they accept this critique in good humor. All the best