Nihilism, Fanaticism and Ideology - And The Urgent Need To Unite The People
The lessons get harder, and more painful, the longer we resist learning them
Dangers and Pitfalls
Growing up in the West, in Canada, in the 1970s and ‘80s, I had thought that the world had learned the lessons of the grave dangers of fanatical extremism, from the experience of WWII, or at least most people in the West had. In fact, in my university years, in the ‘90s and beyond, I began to think that in our rejection of an extremist clinging to ideology, we had over-reacted, and gone too far toward the other extreme, which is nihilism. It would seem now, in 2021, that both thoughts were partially correct. Can there be a nihilist fanaticism? Apparently so, because we are now living through it.
I would have expected that most people had learned the dangers of taking our pet ideologies too seriously, and slipping into fanatical extremism as a result, from the examples of the Nazis and the Soviet Union. But apparently, most people in the West failed to learn the lesson, because we are repeating the same mistakes again.
What should be clear, is that an over-confidence in one’s ideology, which is a form of arrogance or hubris, leads to terrible mistakes, and to tyranny and atrocities. Clearly, the majority of people did not learn that lesson. But what is even less widely understood, is that nihilism is every bit as dangerous as a fanatical clinging to ideology. In fact, the two extreme polarities of fanaticism and nihilism each feed the other.
In an over-reaction to the ideological extremism which we saw in the 1930s and ‘40s, the pendulum swung in the West; and with existentialism and post-modernism, we went headlong into relativism and nihilism. The culture of materialist obsession, consumerism and entertainment addiction further drove the masses into deep alienation, loss of social connections, and a sense of meaninglessness, as did their “bullshit jobs”, and their vacuous addiction to “social media” and “smart” phones; and this led them into an unacknowledged state of nihilistic, hollow, egocentric and vacant narcissism. That set the stage, paradoxically, for the authoritarianism and extremism which we see today, and which has become “the new normal”.
The Taoists were right, by the way: when things reach an extreme, a reversal of opposites is likely at hand, and things are liable to invert to the opposite extreme. This is why the black and white swirls, which represent the yin and the yang, each have a dot of the opposite colour within them. All extremes contain the seeds of their opposite poles. And when you push anything to one extreme, it is likely that the other extreme will soon follow suit. If you go heavily into Puritanical repression, hedonism and self-indulgence will surely result in time, if not immediately. If you go deeply into materialism, consumerism, egoism, nihilism, narcissism, egoism and hedonistic self-indulgence, you can expect authoritarianism and repression to follow, sooner or later. This may sound Hegelian, but it is not. It is Taoist. It is also the simple truth.
When people slip into nihilism, their values are eroded and dissolved, until they have no values left. What remains in that dark void of the soul, is only the ego - or as Nietzsche put it, “The ego, our last article of faith.” What that means in practice, is that nihilism not only destroys all values - and it is true that people who stand for nothing will fall for anything; it also means that in that dark void of the soul, which is nihilism, the only remaining values are the comfort and security of the ego. This sets the stage for fascism, or for an authoritarianism from either the right or the left.
When the people slip into nihilism, as it seems the majority of people in the West have done, then they have no values left that they are willing to fight for, and worse, since their only remaining value is the comfort and security of the ego, they will sell their souls and their neighbours into bondage, and often even their grandmother or their children, in return for a little comfort, and the promise of safety and security. Again, we can see how the stage was set for a slide into fascism, which we now have, and which is now here.
The sane response to ideology or philosophy, is to reject the arrogance and hubris of clinging too tightly to our own chosen ideology, which leads to authoritarianism or fanaticism, and usually both; and to also reject the vacuous and life-degrading black hole which is nihilism. To have values which we believe in, and yet also retain a sense of humility and tolerance, is the sane middle way, between the extremes. It seems, we are not there yet. It seems, we need one more lesson on the dangers of egocentric nihilism, and authoritarian, ideological fanaticism - two of the greatest dangers in the world, which now are fused into one. Welcome to the Brave New World.
The majority believe in nothing, in practice, rhetoric and self-delusions aside, other than their own egos, their comfort, and their sense of personal security. That is nihilistic narcissism. The elite also believe only in their egos, and they worship them, and lust for power and self-glorification as a result. That too, is narcissistic nihilism. And they make a perfect match. The union results in a technocratic fascism. The masses play the role of passive-aggressive subordinates, and the elite play the role of Grand Inquisitor, and arch-regal god-kings and messiahs. It is a match made in hell. The sane few who refuse either role, are swept up in the melee, or step out of it, if they can. And that is exactly where we are now, in the West: nihilism and ideological fanaticism have wedded, and formed a hydra of Orwellian neo-fascist technocracy.
After having pointed fingers at nations around the world for being dictatorial, and after been self-dubbed as the land of freedom - partly in honesty, and partially in self-deceit - the Western world, or at least many nations in the West, are becoming as dictatorial as any authoritarian regime of the present or the past. The question is, what we are going to do about it?
Options, Opportunity, and The Urgent Need For Unity
Surveying the ideological landscape, we can see we still have strong currents of thought, social and political movements, and political philosophies, including conservatism, liberalism, libertarianism, anarchism and socialism, amongst others.
My notes to myself, which I rarely use when writing, say…briefly discuss each in turn. I may return to that later. For now, let us just say that each of these political philosophies is legitimate enough, so long as they are moderate, and not fanatical, and so long as they remain anti-authoritarian. Once they cross that line, they lose their sanity, and hence, their legitimacy. But up to that line, we can agree to disagree, while we come to consensus and form bonds of unity and common cause, to defeat a common enemy. The enemy is not the left or the right, but the authoritarians on both the left and the right - who are, we should remember, in reality a small percentage of the population.
There are, I would estimate, no more than 5-10% of the Western population who are ideologically committed authoritarians on the Left, be they Marxist-Leninists or otherwise. And I would estimate that there are no more than 5-10% of the people who are ideologically committed authoritarians on the Right, be they fascists, neo-fascists, or something else. That makes less than 20% of the population who are strongly committed to some form or another of authoritarianism. That would be easy enough to defend against, if that were the entire picture, but it is not.
The roughly 80% of the people who are not committed authoritarians, of either the right or the left, are sadly unclear about what they actually believe, if they believe in anything at all - other than believing they would like a pizza, or a new pair of pants. That is the primary problem. It is the vacuous “centre”, who have no real values left, which allows the authoritarians of either the left or the right to come to power, and to abuse it terribly, as they always do.
It certainly seems to me that at least half of that middle populace, half of the 80% who are not committed authoritarians - which means 40% of the population - are confirmed nihilists, regardless of whatever philosophy, spirituality or values they may profess, or how shrilly. And I think I am being optimistic in my assessment. It may be more than that. “You shall know them by their fruits.” Judging by their actions, and not merely their words, it seems more likely that it is not 40% of the population, but 60-70%, who are in actual fact, confirmed nihilists, despite whatever pretenses they may make to themselves, or to others.
That means, we have 10-20% of the people who are strongly authoritarian in their ideological and psychological disposition, and another 40-70% who are essentially nihilists, sadly, who have no real values, other than their own personal comfort and security. That is a perfect recipe for fascism, or for some other nightmarish form of authoritarianism, because the vacuous and vacillating “centre” will support just about anything, so long as it promises them a little bit of comfort, and at least the illusion of security. They will surrender up their rights, their freedom, their liberties, their democracy, their constitutions, even their friends and neighbours, for a little purchased comfort and security. All the authoritarians have to do, is to play the fear card, and promise the nihilistic “centre” that they will be protected and kept safe, and freedom, constitutional democracy and human rights can be abolished, and swept aside, while fascism or some other form of authoritarianism is brought in. And the nihilists will not make a sound or a peep of complaint or dissent, but will remain obediently silent, or even cheer for it. Again, this is exactly what has happened, and is happening now.
So we can see what is happening, if we have the courage simply to deal with reality, and to open our eyes; and we can see why and how it has come about. What, if anything can be done about it? Well, we have four options, it would seem. We can comply, which means we give our consent to this new normal of fascist authoritarianism. That, to me, would be unconscionable. We can fight the authoritarians and their ideological justifications. We can remove ourselves from the worst nightmare zones, and wait it out, for surely it will fall, as all despotism and all empires have always fallen in the past. Or we can remove ourselves and continue to fight from stronger ground. (Sun Tzu’s advice would certainly be this last option, it seems to me.)
Whatever we do, it is unconscionable to accept a repeat of the horrors of 1930s fascism, or the horrors of the Soviet Union. That means, one way or another, on one ground or another, we stand and fight.
I am not recommending or advocating violence, and I think it would also be strategically unwise in any case. When I say we must fight, I mean, we must not surrender, we must not be passive, obedient, or fatalistic about it.
The good news is, 80% of the people are not committed authoritarians - yet. Give the authoritarian new regime time, and more of the people will be brainwashed into vigorously and passionately supporting the most strident and dogmatic, and violent and fanatical of authoritarianism. We cannot afford to give them that time.
Know that it is three distinct but intertwined primary threats which we are facing now. One is the billionaire corporate elite and their cronies, who have decided that freedom, human rights and constitutional democracy are quaint relics to be discarded, in favour of neo-feudal elite rule and fascism. The second is the propaganda and psychological warfare campaign that is the primary mechanism to transform the West and the world into a fascist police state. The third is the neo-Jacobin, neo-Maoist, Branch Covidianism, which is not only deeply authoritarian in nature, but also, fanatical, and by any reasonable definition, quite literally a cult. (Two or three intertwined cults, to be precise, but let’s not be distracted from the central point.) These are formidable opponents and formidable challenges, but they will be defeated, nevertheless. There are other challenges, problems and dangers, of course, but these must be dealt with first, or we will have no hope of dealing with any of the others.
The good news is, 80% of us, whether we be conservatives, liberals, libertarians, anarchists or socialists, are not in principle or adamantly committed to authoritarianism. Moreover, the better instincts of the 80% majority are anti-authoritarian. That is who we must unite. And we are the overwhelming majority.
I have been warning people for thirty years about two great dangers above all: the ecological crisis, and the very real danger of corporate fascism. Both are now here. And I have been urging people to realize that it is absolutely imperative that we unite the people, or we will be subjugated, and made into virtual slaves. The naïve cannot see this yet, but the one-third of the people who are more alert, can see the impending danger as plain as day. Uniting the people is the best way to empower the great majority who are still not committed authoritarians, and who are, by instinct, actually anti-authoritarian, at heart.
It does not matter what our ideology or political philosophy is now. What matters is that we unite the people, in order to defeat the fascists. Whether you are a conservative, a liberal, a libertarian, an anarchist, a socialist, or whatever political philosophy or views you subscribe to, the only question that matters at this hour, at this time, is whether you prefer freedom, or whether you prefer fascism. If you prefer freedom to fascism, then you are on our side, and you are an ally. We’ll sort the rest out later.
Firs things first: defeat the fascists.
Unite the people now.
J. Todd Ring,
November 20, 2021
A Rallying Cry
Who are some of the voices among the liberals and the left who realize what is going on, and who are speaking out against the current global corporate fascist coup? Among them are Vandana Shiva, Rocco Galati, RFK Jr., Russell Brand, Jimmy Dore, Naomi Wolfe, Max Blumenthal, and myself.
(Note the conspicuous absence of many of the “leading” icons of the left, most of whom are either silent, or are actively cheer-leading for authoritarianism. It is disgraceful. But it ain’t over ‘till it’s over.)
Among the conservatives and libertarians speaking out against the “new normal” of Davos-led authoritarianism are: Ron Paul, Paul Craig Roberts, Michael Rectenwald, and the host of the excellent Geopolitics & Empire podcast (who is so humble I have yet to hear him mention his name!) among a number of others.
Also raising their voice against the drive to global authoritarianism and technocracy, though I do not know what political philosophy they ascribe to, and nor does it ultimately matter: Gerald Celente, Joe Rogan, Dr. Robert Malone, Robert Epstein, Michel Chossudovsky, Catherine Austin Fitts, Doug McKenty, Piers Robinson, Anthony James Hall, James Kunstler, James Corbett, Gary Null, Sayer Ji, Matt Smith, Doug Casey, Dr. Igor Shepherd, Senator Malcolm Roberts, James Poulos, Jeremy Nell, Michael Parker, Patrick Fagan, Tim Ray, Gordon Hahn, Alexandra Marshall, Terry Wolfe, Tom Luongo, Francis Boyle and Matthew Ehret, among many, many others.
Wherever you stand, if you stand for freedom, and you oppose fascism, or whatever you prefer to call this monstrous beast of neo-feudal authoritarianism which is now trying to take over the world, we need you now. Join us. And speak up!
J. Todd Ring,
November 20, 2021
J. Todd Ring is a philosopher, social-political analyst, and author of: Enlightened Democracy, and The People vs The Elite, as well as the forthcoming book, All Hell Breaks Loose: Global Geopolitics 1945-2045. Essays are on Substack, WordPress, Blogspot, Medium and Patreon - free, with no paywall. Books are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and at better bookstores everywhere. Support your local independent bookstore, and order now.