The Politics of Nihilism

Life is absurd said French existentialist writers Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre back in the 1950s.  But surely there is no more appropriate description of life in the American Empire sixty years later.  Our lives are meaningless.  As psychiatrist M. Scott Peck presciently observed, we are ruled by “people of the lie.”  We are completely subsumed by the politics of nihilism.

What could be more absurd than:

  1. Barack Obama running for president in 2008 on a platform of “hope and change.”
  2. Liberal Democrats claiming that he represents a sea change in political philosophy from that of President George W. Bush, when, in fact, he is merely a smirk-free Bush.
  3. President Obama pretending that he is not a pawn of Wall Street, Corporate America, the Pentagon, and the Israeli Lobby.
  4. Norway naming him the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate while promoting illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  5. Obama’s claim that he can fix the nation’s health care system even though it is driven by fear of death on the demand side and greed on the supply side rendering it completely unfixable.
  6. His disingenuous opposition to the war with Iraq when he ran for president.
  7. The White House charade that it supports the so-called Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
  8. Obama’s refusal to close the Guantanamo prison or block passage of the renewal of the Patriot Act in clear violation of his campaign pledge to the contrary.
  9. The White House’s hypocritical campaign of harassment against Chinese President Hu Jintao on the issue of human rights.

10.  The Obama administration’s decision to limit its serious support of anti-government demonstrators exclusively to those in Iran while giving only lip service support to protestors in other authoritarian regimes in the region.

11.  Allowing the right-wing, racist Likud government of Israel to dictate our foreign policy in the Middle East.

12.  The realization that neither tax cuts, government spending, nor printing money have much impact on either the housing market or employment growth.

13.  Our President creating the illusion that he and his administration know how to fix the ailing economy and that everything will soon be just fine.

14.  His pretending to be a political liberal, which he is not, or more ridiculously, conservatives accusing him of being a socialist, when, in fact, he is a technofascist.

15.  The notion that it is possible to control 310 million people from one central bureau in Washington, D.C.

And what can we do about all of this?  We can rebél said Albert Camus.  We can peacefully rebél against the nihilism of the American Empire – the separation, the meaninglessness, the powerlessness, and death.  The time is now.


Thomas H. Naylor

February 23, 2011

Founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University; co-author of Affluenza, Downsizing the USA, and The Search for Meaning.