Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Nihilism Stands At The Door - The New American Pessimism
“Nihilism stands at the door,” wrote Nietzsche.
“Whence comes this uncanniest of all guests?”
There has been nothing like the Trump campaign in American political history and perhaps not in history, period, which means that everything that happens is unexplored territory. As those of us with a degree of reason try to understand whence this whirlwind of self destruction comes from, where it leads, and why it exists at all, we may be focused on the wrong parameter. We look to the individual psychology of Donald Trump, which I suggest is a thick narcissistic morass of opaque self aggrandizement and little else...a deeply uninteresting phenomenon.
There is almost literally nothing there. Though Trump has a public persona, he has no personality. Any theory we come up with looking at Trump himself is doomed to fail because there is nothing there to observe. His persona exists only in terms of a larger field of observation... the contemporary American disorder of which Trump is but one especially acrimonious and disgraceful manifestation.
Donald Trump is behaving very much like a megalomaniacal billionaire with no qualifications would be expected to behave if he wanted to be elected president. (It's doubtful he wants to actually be president, but he wants to be elected. There is a difference. Perhaps not so subtle). He's an opportunist, tapping into a vast angry and fearful audience. Does he believe a word of his rhetoric?
I doubt it, I'm not sure there is any evidence that he remembers his own rhetoric from day to day...he feeds the beast whatever the beast has an appetite for.
Maybe the question we should ask is why he’s doing such a nonsensical thing at all? Or why he has been so successful with this essentially suicidal rhetoric? How large is the segment of the population that is hell bent on self destruction anyway?
The emergence of Trump as the inexplicable champion of working class white men, evangelical bible bangers, and retirees who watch way too much Rupert Murdoch programming on TV tells us less about him than about the country whose bowels he came from. Trump is riding the crest of a wave of nihilistic rampage, acting out a deep-seated national desire for self-destruction that runs parallel to America’s more optimistic self-image and interacts with it sporadically. He is trafficking in pseudo-uplifting nostrums about "making America great again" and how much “we” will “win” once he is president. But he has never offered any specific ideas or policy proposals, only incoherent fantasies that combine unilateralism with a police state and total war against amorphous enemies in a great game of nuclear wack-a-mole.
He just released an economic agenda...surprise angry workers! Same old trickle down bullshit that benefits Trump's income bracket and no one else. But his supporters won't really care.
They are hell bent on destruction. The rhetoric of which isn't important.
I have never believed that even his most vocal supporters take his proposals about the bazillion-dollar border wall, the deportation of all undocumented immigrants, or the exclusion of all Muslims seriously...this is pure fantasy. Those things represent a yearning toward the imaginary and the impossible. It's a nihilistic rejection of all reality. No candidate who proposes such things — or who asks why we can’t use nuclear weapons, since we have them — is actually selling hope or optimism of any kind.
No way, no how, my friends.
I don't believe Donald Trump’s suicide mission is a personal one. He wants to be president but doesn’t know why really, and he's got no idea whatsoever what he would do with the office should he actually win it.
Trump wishes only for his own glorification; he isn’t intelligent enough or complicated enough to yearn for his own destruction. It's a uniquely American sort of Nihilism.
In practice, is there a desire to lose the election, with the side benefit of endangering democracy by claiming that the system is corrupt and the results were rigged? I'd say that is a good guess. Trump’s suicide mission is ultimately about something much larger than his own presidential campaign, and also much larger than demographic clichés about the declining white majority. It's a disturbing self destructive penchant and it's not going away anytime soon.