The left is boring and has no sense of humor.
This is something I see relatively frequently in online discussion from critics. Setting aside obvious bad faith intentions, is there any merit in such a claim? I actually think it's worse. That is, the left is inflicted with nihilism.
No, this is not to claim that the left does not believe in anything. I am not making a Peterson-esque remark about the ills of postmodernism or neo-Marxism or whatever banal and uninformed thing pseudo-intellectual reactionaries are peddling this week. In fact, there is a profound irony in Peterson and his IDW cronies identifying left tendencies as nihilistic, since their entire program revolves around what Heidegger referred to as the 'negation of nihilation'. That is, they are so uncomfortable with the flux and flow of a contingent reality that they have to cover the cracks through late-capitalist forms of myth-making: 'clean your room'; 'stand up tall'; 'be assertive'; 'hierarchy is natural'; etc.
So, if this is not what I mean, what does it mean to worry about a tendential left nihilism? To be clear, this is not an absolute statement. Nor is it to suggest that a left orientation is nihilistic per se. Rather, it is recognizing a certain tendency within contemporary (especially online) leftist discourse; and further to wonder if this signals something more fundamental that this discourse is grounded upon: namely, a means-end nihilism in relation to the world that is in favor of a world-to-come to the detrimental neglect of potency within the world that is.
Leftist narratives are shot-through with this type of thinking. In fact, so much of the leftist orientation is attributable to a refusal of this world in the pursuit of something better. Figures as disparate as Jesus, Lenin, and more recently Xenofeminists have articulated some discourse advocating the building of a world-to-come. In itself, I don't think this is nihilistic. It becomes nihilism when the world as such is denied and all the potential attendant joys and potencies denigrated. This is the tendency that I worry is far too ubiquitous among (online?) left orientations.
And of course, I get it. The world is filled with suffering. Injustice is rampant. Anxiety grips us. But what is life if we have no joy? What is the purpose and value of existence if at the end we spent our days as means to some end that we never experience? If there is no post-life consciousness, then how is it that we measure the value of our lives? Based on some feedback that we in-present derive from a projected fantasy of how we'll be remembered? Or, patting ourselves on the back by reassuring ourselves that we are living for something greater than our own selfish ambitions? (Is this not also a narcissistic perversion?). The problem is that even in our bitching and complaining we derive satisfaction; a perverse satisfaction that refuses to acknowledge the deepening of this need for more networks of negative affect. And in so doing we foster a spirit of narcissistic nihilism that increasingly insulates us from the world as such.
It may not seem this way. It may seem that this tendency is rooted in an outward focus. But I think that actually to suppose this is to self-justify an auto-erotic tendency to self-immolate and then project this self-referentiality onto the world, thereby making the world in our own image. It is a form of selfish fantasy creation. The world becomes the thing we (ironically) want it to be, which we hate and reject as we aim towards another fantasy of a future salvation, which of course we'll never experience and that only has a feedback effect upon us that imposes a guilt furthering this narcissistic tendency.
To reiterate, I'm not concerned with absolutism here. Let's think in terms of degrees of intensity and variation. Rare are those who entirely denigrate this world in favor of a Utopic vision. My concern, therefore, is not about eradicating or transforming so much as it is about maximizing and minimizing. I'm not sure if we can ever completely get beyond narcissism or some form of myth-making. But I do think that if we are to live lives of meaning and value, we need to refuse to succumb to a serial and mimetic spiral of nihilism. We need to fight for joy. And we need to let this joy define us, rather than have a spirit of negative affect become the identity marker that characterizes leftist rage. This might sound ridiculous. Shit, I'm not even sure what it means fully. In a way, I'm writing to think. But I do have a profound sense that the more we denigrate this world, the more we build an ideological persuasion that builds subjects incapable of joy. And what the fuck is the point of that?