America’s Post 9/11 Nihilism

America’s Post 9/11 Nihilism September 11, 2014

John Zmirak’s writing, while it it is not serious theology, philosophy, or economic theory, has served as a fun foil for some of my best pieces. Thanks to him I was able, for example, to put the Inquisition in proper historical perspective, or come to terms with the libertarian nihilistic option for the rich.

The Z-Man has a new book coming, a kind of halfhearted rip-off of TOP10 internet lists that I like to do so much. It’s called The Race to Save Our Century: Five Principles Something or Other and So On… John and his co-author penned a brief summary of it for WorldNetDaily. This saves me the effort of torturing myself with reading the whole darn thing. If you’re not familiar with WND then here’s all you need to know: It’s a conspiracy-theory loving, apocalyptic-fundamentalist, libertarian news source that’s monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center because it’s so neo-reactionary.  Way to know your audience, John!

Is there anything more nihilistic than this?
Is there anything more nihilistic than this?

The piece is entitled “9/11: Consequence of ‘all is permitted’ ethic”. It attempts capture the scent of intellectual respectability by quoting the most overused and misunderstood phrase from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov in its title (nice try).

The gist of the story it tries to tell is that the perpetrators of 9/11 and the followers of ISIS aren’t monsters from the Dark Ages (1950’s?), but thoroughly modern cultured-despisers, nihilists who hate the West, because they know the West, and despise the West’s nihilism. So far, more or less, so good.

Then we are told the solution to the violent nihilism of the post 9/11 world is, wait for it, more violent nihilism, but from us:

The implacable evil of religious terrorism and bigotry must be firmly faced with force. It must be outwitted by sharp intelligence services and infiltrated at every turn, without any regard for political correctness. But we must also understand it, and the psycho-spiritual crises that give rise to it. Such bigotry is the desperate cry in a vacuum, of men who have tried to live in the modern world and have spectacularly failed. Too proud to admit defeat, they announce themselves as victims, and dream of a martyr’s revenge.

But isn’t this putting the cart before the horse? How about we put away the force for once? Do we have so little confidence in the intelligence of our intelligence services that we always resort to blowing crap up first?

You’d think that America would have learned at least as much from its comically ineffective engagements in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. If you did, you’d be giving too much credit to America.

Instead of advocating more nihilistic violence and giving the lie to introspection perhaps we should follow the more Christian example of turning the mirror upon ourselves. Here is what Fr. Zossima suggested in The Brothers Karamazov:

There is only one salvation for you: take yourself up, and make yourself responsible for all the sins of men. For indeed it is so, my friend, and the moment you make yourself sincerely responsible for everything and everyone, you will see at once that it is really so, that it is you who are guilty on behalf of all and for all. Whereas by shifting your own laziness and powerlessness onto others, you will end by sharing in Satan’s pride and murmuring against God.

Rene Girard convincingly argues that battling to the end leaves only battling in the end.
Rene Girard convincingly argues that battling to the end leaves only battling in the end.

To their credit Zmirak et. al. get at something like this toward the end of their piece (of course not before they call for dropping bombs).

As long as we in the West continue to pare away, inch by inch, at the notion that human life, or marriage, or love, is something sacred, we are helping to drain that vacuum. With each unnatural experiment in crafting embryos or cannibalizing them for parts, we are whispering to the anarchists among us, “There is no God. All is permitted.” They will find their own god, made up of a mangled image torn from a traditional religion, and they will act on that permission. And we will wonder again what happened, where we went wrong.

So let’s drop the bombs, but not in the sense we usually mean this.

Perhaps our intelligence can be made to work more intelligently and less violently to actually win over hearts and minds instead of crushing them to bits and pieces? Maybe that would stop the cycle of violence and actually remove the nihilism from our own hearts and minds? Otherwise we’re stuck nihilistically aping the nihilists.

After all, there is only one spotless victim. Let’s not usurp His place at the right hand. Whenever we do our songs of innocence nearly always end up sounding as bad as the new U2 album.


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