Friday, July 21, 2017

Passive Nihilism

The sense that there is something wrong with the anarchism of active nihilism is proper to thinking about nihilism. Deleuze’s Nietzsche suggests that active nihilism ends in passive nihilism, specifically when there is nothing left for activists to do; that is, when there is nothing left to correct. This kingdom of heaven—oppression free—makes it so that “nihilism” and traditional anarchism can be easy bedfellows. The projected world of anarchism, like the idea of the end of history (utopia, the secular kingdom of God), requires the destructive engagement of active nihilism to carry out anti-oppressive (punitive) justice, prefigured as the goals of the properly oppressed—as defined by liberal reform. Passive nihilism, thus, is the plateau supposed to be present at the end in liberal free market capitalism, or, in the marxist telos, desires of economic redistribution. Passive nihilism ends active nihilism; the end of active nihilism, that which is responsible for it, is passive nihilism. Those are the definitions in Deleuze’s Nietzsche.

In anarchist thought, passive nihilism as a pejorative, takes Nietzsche’s meaning for it: “there is nothing left to do”, further beyond, to the slothful and despairing “do nothing”. Anything that contains even a bit of pessimism is labeled as such, implying not so much that we have won and there is nothing left to do—which capitalists would say of Fukyama’s End of History—but rather that one has given up on doing anything at all, for some reason forever found to be inadequate. But are there good reasons to suppose that there is Nothing we could do? Or will the enemy always win anyways? (On the point, one might reckon that bite sized winning is preferable to the ridiculously immature presumption that the Rev is immanent. And the reason for this position is, of course, that most people that live in civileges don't wish to destroy leviathan, thereby biting the hand that feeds their wealth. Full stop.)

The ontology of nihilism without traditional anarchism is caught up in the materialism of marxism; or rather, the anti-idealism of marxism. And yet the question we have is: Just how much of the projected future of a stateless society is theological, or ideal? To posit that there is no god, defines the idea that there could be a secular kingdom of god-as-us, waiting at the end of history, waiting finally for when there is nothing left to do. In this sense then, the idea of a secular kingdom of god is like the final cause that calls us away from the individual “I will” to the “we can, together” waiting at the end of history; our better selves that do not require God to help us overcome our failures. From this (project)ed ideal, we might very well build a morality, democratically; and out of it we might derive a sense of justice to come; but justice is the kind of thing that seems difficult to approach form a non-hierarchical position. Is such a matter of the wild-west where we let individuals sort matters themselves? What of bad people that go against the morality we democratically adopt? Jail? Prison? Exile? Secular kingdom of God, indeed!

Under these auspices, nihilism would be on a leash; it serves the phallic goals of unity and togetherness, come what may; and yet it is exactly the nihilist implication, desired for the purposes of the secular kingdom of god, that would still continue to nevertheless rupture every secular theology. Nihilism is rupture, sedition; it cannot be contained by utopia.

The idea that we are either passive in our nihilism or active in our nihilism is flatfooted and designed to create the need for utopias, whether of the older workerist variety, or the garden variety in primitivism. Crucially it is important to realize that we are islands of desire, and yet, too, that we are built for relationships. Thus, we might recall the word of ‘disassociation’, a gentle echo in anarchism, if not forgotten, which is already happening with respect to unity: People don't really go to events; only opportunists care about mimicking and parroting the scenesters; for they too are looking to be among the next round of paid leaders in activist NGO’s. Nihilism calls us to divisiveness and sedition; and yet our hearts call us to find others, somewhere. The left would have the nihilists force states to make leftist governments; the active nihilists would follow in lockstep; the passive nihilists seem unbothered, unhinged like monastic ascetics. The trick to overcoming final causes made for us (state-programs), is to take these notions and use them, or (better) cut them out, here and there, like pruning, so that we might be free to create new ones, for ourselves, to turn the purposes of what we do, altogether, into things that we do authentically for what we want. 

The nihilist questioning of whether it is possible to have a utopia is a correct response to the absurdity of the anarchists that oppose this question of nihilism. But just because we note that we cannot win, doesn't mean that we might as well lay down and die, as they say we are if we are not doing anything. We might act or we might not; we are human; we have the capacity to be active or passive. No one is fully active or passive after all; we are usually grades between. Some of us are more active, some of us are more passive. No one is so stuck, so irredeemable that they might not grow this way or that; but no one has to do anything, because being human just means that you have the freedom to design your own purposes, which may or may not go against the secular kingdom of god, which, practically, is always open to sedition because it is so built on the shoulders of nihilism. 


I propose that we follow the distinction advocated by Deleuze’s Nietzsche, and yet fold the difference back into the notion of passive nihilism if only because passive nihilism, or hopelessness, seems adequate with respect to the projections of our “friends” on the left. We will not win, we just don't have power, as Thrasymachus was correct to articulate in saying justice just is power, to an incredulous Socrates in Plato’s Republic. But there is no prima facie reason that this makes it so that we cannot just leave to find others to act with their purposes in mind, passive or actively, to whatever degree we like, as many of us have already decided. In so far as Nihilism is an ontological thesis, the idea that there is nothing that is going to make the world better for us, places the creation of that world onto us; and yet the leashed active nihilist, the nihilist leashed by the left, is instructed to follow a prefigurative program, a dictatorship of the precariate in determining this utopia. Nihilism of the active variety pushes us towards open revolt and sedition; and it remains leashed so long as it seeks revolution of an order that is fixed in someone’s ideology-for-us. The seditious act of nihilism shadows its own pessimism if its goals are human sized; this invisible community here, that squat there, this life there, that life there; this indifference towards activism here; that activism there. If folks become free to do as they please then it follows that we will not have a well oiled utopia but rather an incredible weirdness, sort of like international relations, but without the extension of my penis into your affair. If you want to do active-ism in your crew, the result may be sedition or unity. Or whatever. 

Anarchy under passive nihilism is just this whatever-being, flourishing and opening more sedition or unity or whatever. Nothing from heaven will make things better, under the proper nihilist banner; nothing from the left will make things better, under the properly seditious nihilist banner; only the birth of whatever is what I mean by anarchy under an unhinged nihilism without end that stands in opposition to anarchism. 

While it is difficult to see that the world is or could be ruled ultimately by justice/God, there can be no mistake that the world is largely ruled by punitive consequences and incarceration. Of course this isn’t necessarily so. Most crimes remain unpunished; most interpersonal conflict is absorbed by survivors. But that doesn't mean revenge isn't an option. The question is: where does retaliation stop? In “the weakness” of absorption, of course. We hit back, they hit back; we hit back, ad infinitum. They give up? Unlikely, but possibly… Unless you say: It stops with me; unless they say it stops with us…. To arrest this ongoing once and for all, we leave; and so we stop participating; and so we walk away; and so we become invisible. And so we become invisible to be free to act as we please, or whatever. And so we adopt passive nihilism, they say, as if we weren't deliberate in our indifference.

They say that 
  1. active nihilism is the shit 

and that

2. passive nihilism is apathy. 

We respond to 1] saying,

R-1: Active nihilism must become unhinged from the swinging door of revolution or reform because,

3. nihilism is always seditious 


4. Pessimism about the capacity to win is proper and useful.

Moreover, we say
5. None of us are completely active or passive. 

We affirm 5 because it would seem obvious that passive and active modes are proper to a flourishing life; sometimes we are passive, other times we are active. The term passive nihilist as a pejorative can be spoken against civilians, of course; for they often simply live according to the final causes designed for them by capitalist flows; but in the sense of being unfree, the active nihilist or the activist, we would say, is passive in their meaning with respect to sedition and creating personal final causes. Wanting to oppose our passivity and activity to the ideology of the utopians, we affirm passive nihilism as our start, and out of our desire to birth whatever, we affirm that while those on the left might say we are passive, we know that we are just unhinged, ready to join in a fight if it suits us, or sit out if we think the project is ridiculous and lacking intelligence. 

From this it would seem that passive nihilism is far more complicated than some would suppose. With activity folded into a proper human life focussed on eudaemonia (happiness), the gesture of being whatever includes both forms. Not only one or the other, then, but an incredible weirdness without prediction caught up in a properly frustrating both/and.