Sunday, September 10, 2023


Everyone hates Florida Nazis as well!

Recently there was a parade of a dozen or so "Nazis" in Florida, which garnered media attention, which is, of course, what they wanted, more than anything else.  At first, people thought they represented the far-right-wing of the Republican party, which indeed, has been embracing a lot of racist and antisemitic views which Nazis also embrace.  But when interviewed, some of these "Nazis" allegedly said "fuck DeSantis, fuck Trump!" which sounds odd at first glance.  But on the other hand, it might make sense.

What is going on? Nihilism, I think.

Another commentator noted that the "gamer ideology" that permeated the 2016 election, seems to have shifted. Online personalities played games with politics, trying to "troll" people with absurdist arguments and "own the libs" and get people riled up.  To them, "politics" was just a game and your position on issues was irrelevant and to even care about such things was just stupid.  "Both parties are the same!  Nothing ever changes, anyway!" they said.

And if you've only been alive on this planet for a couple of decades, a conscious entity for maybe ten years or so, and an "adult" for a handful of years, then sure, it may seem like not much has changed in your lifetime.  But things do change and have changed in the past and are changing now, rather rapidly - and not for thebetter.  Many refuse to see it, however.

Growing up in the post-war era, the horrors of the Nazi regime were not some distant memory, but current events.  We tended to view World War I as a distant event, although it seemed recent enough to our parents.  The fact that most footage of that war was grainy and sped up (because frame-rate compensation and digitizing images simply didn't exist, and neither did colorization!).  Today, old footage of WWII seems grainy and ancient.  So we don't think of the killing of millions as a current event.  Some folks don't even think it happened.

And yet, since the holocaust, millions more have been slaughtered.  Mao starved to death tens of millions of people and had political prisoners tortured and executed.  Stalin slaughtered hundreds of thousands and starved millions to death. Pol Pot killed millions more.  But the world chose to look the other way.  We were more concerned about the price of gasoline than the fate of others in far-off lands.

It can't happen here, we thought to ourselves.  While many Americans were killed or wounded in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, we never - as civilians - were subject to the devastation of war personally.  Entire cities were flattened and millions upon millions of civilians were killed in various wars, but not here - at least not since 1865.

And oddly enough, many Republicans are calling for a return to Civil War, blithely assuming it won't be a messy, deadly, and destructive affair that could spell the end of our country.

What is going on?

Well, for a lot of these young people, it is simply Nihilism - the idea that nothing matters, nothing changes, and that caring about things is stupid and a waste of time.  It is an attractive philosophy (if you can call it a philosophy at all) to young men of a certain age.  It isn't "cool" to care about things, and it is more fun to mock those who do.  It is why conservatives love to mock Greta Thunberg.  "Dur! Dur! What a dork she is, caring and all that! Hur-dur!"

There is, of course, another form of this Nihilistic thinking - that the world is going to end because "The Bible said so!" (it didn't) and they welcome war and pestilence as a sign of good things to come.  Israelis are happy that the Christian Right, which used to call them "Christ-killers" is now embracing Israel - supporting moving our embassy to Jerusalem, for example.  They should be careful of what they wish for - these same fundamentalists only root for Israel because they hope it will be nuked out of existence as foretold, they say, in some perverted interpretation of the Bible.

Of course, Nihilism isn't really a workable philosophy or road map for life.  It is more of a childish temper-tantrum you might see in a Maurice Sendak book.  Because the world can change, for better or for worse - a whole lot worse, as it turns out.  And all it takes is for a few people to say, "I don't care" about politics, for a few very bad people to succeed - and succeed in destroying the world.

One of the tropes you read about online is the idea of travelling back in time and killing baby Hitler - or getting him admitted to art school.  How would the world have been different?  It is hard to say, of course, the "National Socialist" movement may have continued on without him and perhaps moved in an actual socialist direction.  Or maybe Germany would have embraced its fragile Democracy and flourished.  It is hard to say.  I suspect, though, that millions of people would not have died, however.

It seems we are at a similar turning point in history.  Will Democracy prevail in America, or will enough people say, "I don't care" and allow a fascist takeover of our government?  The January 6th insurrection may have seemed like a poorly planned amateur-hour.  But they said the same thing about the "Beer Hall Putsch" and other half-assed attempts to take over Germany in those days.  They were dress rehearsals - and people do learn from their mistakes.  And bear in mind, that people were thrown in jail for these things - but later got out.

The problems we are confronted with today aren't just "trans rights" or arguments over marginal tax brackets, but people actually promising to go on a killing spree if they are elected or just seize power.  And maybe you can delude yourself into thinking, "Well, they aren't talking about killing me, so what do I have to worry about?"  Of course, if you think that way, you are not a very good human being.  But then again, entire nations said the same thing during the reign of Pol Pot.  We all wrung our hands and said, waddya gonna do?  We can't get involved in another Vietnam!

But you have to wonder why a lot of mainstream Republicans - business owners and venture capitalists and the like - see in all of this.  War may mean short-term profits for weapons-makers, but in the long run, it means huge losses for most everyone, as infrastructure is devastated, your customer base is killed-off and everyone is impoverished as a result.

This shit matters - to everyone.

And the idea that "both parties are the same" or "nothing ever changes, anyway" are both wrong.  As I am writing this, an ad comes on Pandora promoting an online sports betting site.  Such legal forms of gambling simply did not exist - outside of Las Vegas - when I was a kid.  Did this change - and it was a dramatic change - make our world a better place?  I think not - the ruined lives of compulsive gamblers would seem to confirm this.

We can change our world - we should change our world.  Our evolutionary "gadget" that made us the dominant species and apex predator on the planet was our big problem-solving brains.  We've manged to think our way out of extinction problems that flummoxed our DNA ancestors.  We can solve the problems we now confront - problems that threaten to kill off most, if not all, of humanity.

Or we can be teenage Nihilists and close our eyes and pretend it all isn't happening, or embrace idiotic beliefs like Nazism as a "solution" to the world's problems.

Those approaches simply won't work.