Nihilism as a Basis for Society

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It seems to me as though most people begin life with a sense of happiness that encourages an achievement of his/her hopes and dreams. For example, small children wake up at the crack of dawn every day excited about the new things that they are going to discover. Life is pleasure. As children grow older, this excitement to wake up and experience the world diminishes. They fake sickness to stay home from school and instead immerse themselves in material pleasures such as television and video games. The more that they are forced to experience the agony of being involved in things that they don’t want to do, the more they dislike life itself and escape in materialistic pleasures. In this way, the society we live in promotes nihilism.

I myself have been told many times that it doesn’t matter if I want to do something because it has to get done whether I like it or not. So, in order to force myself to endure this agony I will promise myself some sort of materialistic reward once I reach the light at the end of the tunnel. For example, recently I had a big paper due that I hadn’t started at all and had procrastinated until the last moment. I encouraged myself to write this paper by rewarding myself with a cookie after I finished each section of the paper. This reward of food offered an escape from the agony of writing the paper and helped me get through the tasks of the day by indulging in materialistic pleasures.

These materialistic rewards aren’t just seen in college life, but are also seen in everyday jobs throughout society. Many people grudgingly force themselves to go to work every day while  disliking many aspects of what they do. But, they keep working in the hopes of having a wealthy retirement or a nice vacation to distract them from the lives that they live and the world itself. From a very young age, people have been shown that they must do what they don’t want to do and that this can be made up for with rewards and materialism. For this reason, we now see the epidemic of material consumerism that creates the platform for today’s society.

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5 Responses to Nihilism as a Basis for Society

  1. Emma Kato says:

    I can completely relate to this personally as well, and it honestly makes me kind of sad that I can relate to nihilism. Personally I think Nihilism isn’t quite the belief that I want to believe in but I also feel that I would be a hypocrite because I still act on it without knowing. Like your example of doing your paper, I would have probably done the same thing, probably find some escape to a materialistic pleasure. Not that that’s so bad but it’s such an easy trap to get involved in and we start depending on certain materialistic pleasures to force ourselves to do what we don’t enjoy. I feel that morally it should be that we should be able to do our papers without having some materialistic pleasure as our goal but to work hard, do it, get it done whether we like it or not. But realistically speaking it always turns out that we need certain motivation to something that is required whether we like it or not.

  2. Sung Min Lee says:

    I feel that your way of making life feel like there is a meaning really is effective and smart. A lot of people may find it extremely hard to believe that there is actual meaning in life, and why they are living on this earth. I can understand why a lot of people feel that way. I mean come on, let’s be real. We live here on Earth for many years, working our butts off so that we can continue to live. Unfortunately for us humans aren’t immortal, so we die. Hopefully if we’re lucky enough, we’ll be remembered here on earth, but some, or maybe most of us, will be forgotten. So basically because of this, many people may believe that they have no purpose here. However, I feel that, that gives us more reason to live. We should live out our lives while we’re here. We should work hard, and do everything that gives us satisfaction from accomplishment. This includes the cookie that you eat after your paper. It is a sense of satisfaction from the hard and good work that you have done. In fact, I am actually Christian so that in a way factors into why I have reason to not follow nihilism, but that’s going to a topic for a blog post of mine. 🙂

  3. sarahbrgr says:

    I find it interesting how you use the example of writing a paper to demonstrate that nihilism is alive and well. I’d never thought of myself having nihilistic thoughts, but this shows that when I reward myself with food for practicing orchestra repertoire, I’m thinking nihilistically. I’ve actually noticed that this “you will be rewarded for your actions” mindset is becoming more prominent in society. It used to be that you did chores to live, then to live comfortably, and now it’s to have an allowance. We have all grown to expect something from doing the smallest of work, and that something is usually a material item. Us as Americans are so privileged that perhaps we’re beginning to expect the rewards without doing much work. This means that the little work we have to do seems more and more unbearable, or agonizing (in your words). Because the work we do seems to get more and more burdensome, our society is ultimately becoming more nihilistic. Regardless, I definitely relate to your post, and hope that someday there will be less emphasis placed on material rewards.

  4. I suppose the cookie idea does present an example for nihilism, and also presents the issue of responsibility for our actions. Where we see the increase of ways to motivate children to find meaning in the day to day tasks, we see the disassociation of productiveness and responsibility with our youth. I personally grew up in a household where my responsibilities, though a small number, were considered vital for a day to day life. I assumed responsibility for my tasks and chores as a result of this upbringing, placing importance of consistent diligence in my life. I saw this first-hand by watching my Grandfather get up every morning to work in his apple orchard. For over 75 years. He didn’t screw around, and I’m constantly reminded of how much I act like a delinquent in comparison to what he accomplished in a single day of work.
    We always hear the joke about earning the gold star for the day, but what I find to be a more prudent approach to life is the awareness taught to our children that life will be infinitely difficult; it is made easier by our day to day efforts we put into all that we do, and is made more difficult when we distract ourselves from our responsibilities by thinking, “well, what’s in it for me right now?”

  5. jgraef2 says:

    Hey Kaila! I agree with your thoughts about starting life happy and inspired and gradually getting bogged down by outside forces. I connect with this because it is something I used to feel a lot as a kid and something I was thinking about semi-recently. When I was a kid I would be so excited to get up and go explore the day but when I started school, or pre-school, there was nothing I hated more than getting up in the morning to go do something I really didn’t want to do. I think this is part of a huge flaw in our society, and more specifically, our education system. I think that there is not nearly enough emphasis on creative thinking in our education system. It seems to be the one thin that kids like to do the most. If you ask any kid in a preschool what their favorite course is, they will almost definitely always say arts and crafts and I don’t think that we use that passion correctly.

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