The major problem of our time is the decay of the belief in personal immortality, and it cannot be dealt with while the average human being is either drudging like an ox or shivering in fear of the secret police. How right the working classes are in their “materialism”!
— George Orwell, “Looking Back on the Spanish War”, p. 164 of Facing Unpleasant Facts, a collection of Orwell’s essays compiled by George Packer. Mariner Books: N.Y., N.Y. (2008).
The theme of all my writings is that nihilism is not a problem. Maybe it was in other times but no longer, it is now the only sound solution to the individual struggle for meaningful spiritual survival in Technological Society that is itself at least for the foreseeable future the only sound solution to the absurdity of the human struggle against the universe to survive. Humanity survived the Stone Age that lasted millions of years, the Bronze Age that lasted thousands of years, and the Iron Age that lasted hundreds of years to reach our present Technological Society. Through lack of historical perspective, we describe our present as various Ages measured in hundreds of years at best and often just in decades such as the Industrial Age and the Age of Science — the first lasted approximately a couple of hundred years and the latter can be probably measured in decades. Our present Age is the Language Age and it will go back to the pattern of lasting millennia. Language and its control is the ultimate material for making power for all Powers in all forms of life in Technological Society.
In the West, the Age of Language has given us material power allowing the average person no longer physically to “drudge like an ox” nor shiver “in fear of the secret police”. Thanks to the power of the language of science and now of technology, the average person in the West is free from material drudgery in the sense of living a life of physical travail but the spiritual drudgery of seeking meaning in life has gotten worse. Further, there is no need for secret police to limit thought and freedom of thought any longer, the nature of language and the masters of the use and usefulness of language through the power of technology create normative rules that limit them opening, clearly, and as a natural acceptable attribute of Technological Society — physical threats and fear control the speaking of individual words but technology allows the Powers to control the words of individual thought directly. All my writings advocate a return to old school existentialism concerned with the survival of the individual soul in such an Age and Society. I am not concerned with promoting new school existentialism and its social engineering of the individual soul to create and maintain a world, gods, and a God in their image. I argue nihilism as the only sound morality that allows the individual soul to survive as more than a solipsist without being negated as nothing more than a social construct.
Indirectly, the individual nihilist who has made a leap to morality must accept and deal with materialism in their life. As bad as spiritual drudgery is, it is much worse if you are at the same time drudging like an ox uncertain of your next meal, of having a home, or of physical survival beyond the moment unless you are fully aware of what you are missing. Admittedly, many times, physical drudgery is a successful means of avoiding spiritual drudgery. When working like an ox, just as with an actual ox, one’s meaning in life is physical survival so there is no opportunity to engage in spiritual drudgery. As a human ox, one could find peace by an instinctive faith in a god but it may be only the nearest available social construct god and not God freely derived from one’s individual existential choice. I have no problem with someone who has known wealth or at least material prosperity to then reject materialism and its present successful economic subsidiaries consisting of capitalism and technology to take a vow of poverty or to see asceticism as meaning in life. I do have a problem with social justice theorists varying from Catholic priests to Earth worshipers lecturing to the poor and the working class that they most abandon their materialist consumerism to find peace in life by living as ascetics in harmony with the universe. The poor and much of the working class may find peace in life in such a way but it will be in the same way prisoners find peace in life through poverty: simply because they have no other choice. F–k the universe; it will eventually kill me but that does not require that I have to like it and accept its indifference to my existence. Nihilism is about the individual knowing reality as it is, not as it ought to be, and doing something with this knowledge. A nihilist who based on life experience rejects wealth, economic materialism, consumerism, or even the hedonism of Brave New World and then preaches rejection of them to workers who have not experienced them is a secular religious fanatic not a nihilist.
For nihilism, the truth and morality of the struggle with physical drudgery is pragmatic: if it works to physically make my life healthier, wealthier, and free of physically working like an ox, then it is true including morally true. If an individual who accepts such pragmatic moral truth wants to use that truth existentially to reject it, fine, but this does not negate the pragmatic nature of truth.
It is struggle with spiritual drudgery in the Age of Language that is the most difficult challenge for nihilism. All others who conceptually struggle with this spiritual drudgery — varying from agnostics onto true believers of both secular and theist religions and onto the most mathematical and rationalist scientists — knowingly agree only on their joint opposition to nihilism with all considering it a problem and an evil to be opposed and beaten. They are also all knowingly or unknowingly in denial as to the consequences of their opposition to nihilism:
Love of truth is one of the strongest motives for replacing what really happens by a streamlined account, or, to express it in a less polite matter, love of truth is one of the strongest motives for lying to oneself and to others. Besides, the quantum theory seems to show, in the precise manner so much beloved by the admirers of science, that reality is either one, which means there are no observers and no things observed, or it is many, in which case what is found does not exist in itself but depends on the approach chosen.
— Feyerabend, Paul. Against Method. Verso: N.Y., N.Y. (4th New Edition, 2010) p. 259.
Because language is a social construct, the existential individual described in language ultimately becomes either a social construct with no individuality in reality outside of language or a solipsist whose individuality is the only reality in language — both of which are nonsense but either work to allow Technological Society to survive and continue: the individual becomes either a worker bee lost in the many or a solitary lonely individual outcaste from the many, either way they are no threat to the Powers. This is true regardless of whether it is the aesthetic and instrumentalist language of science or the aesthetic and normative language of new school existentialism and its post-modern social justice social engineering. Only nihilism avoids both of these two resulting attributes of any language by accepting reality as it is: other than pragmatic truth, the only truth is the knowledge that there is no truth. The individual nihilist knows the universe as it is in the same way science knows reality by accepting not truth but falsification.
Once the individual is free of physical drudgery, it is nihilism that creates freedom from spiritual drudgery in the Age of Language. What will the individual do with the freedom provided by nihilism? For some who do not make the leap to morality, it may be a will to death instead of a will to life; for some it will be a will to power to become one of the Powers or a god using the aesthetics of scientific or mathematical language to bind even God; for others who make a leap to morality, it will be finding the companionship and love of other souls; for others it will be the hate of other souls; for some it will be one of the three absurd heros described by Camus: an actor who lives in the delusion of the moment, a conqueror who lives in history not outside of it, a Don Juan who achieves eternity through the timelessness of living in the moment; for some it will be a pragmatic acceptance of life as a wage slave as a means for happiness in this life with hope for a next; for others it will be a will to power as a Knight of Faith among the Powers; the options are uncountable.
What will be true of all these nihilist leaps to morality is that the Powers will not be able to count on any of these individual souls as a means for maintaining power based on prescriptive or evaluative normative obligation — that is as ethical obligations. The power of the Powers will derive from these nihilist choices only if they satisfy the pragmatic truth of these choices — they will not be able to justify power solely as an end in itself. If they fail in such satisfaction, the individual nihilist soul’s acceptance of the Powers — be it as wage slave, another Power, or whatever — may be taken away and the Powers fought and struggle begins. There is no moral obligation to believe in anything nor to trust anyone other than oneself or the authority one accepts as meaning in life — be it God, a god, or rebellion against all gods. That choice may be pre-destined or determined but only in language, existentially one’s soul is what it is and can never be anything else. Ultimately, existentially outside the delusion of language, freedom may consist only of knowing that one is not free but in nihilism this truth is enough and can be accepted or be rejected as a basis for meaning in life.