The Politics of Nihilism

Life is absurd said French existentialist writers Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre back in the 1950s.  But surely there is no more appropriate description of life in the American Empire sixty years later.  Our meaningless lives are ruled by what psychiatrist M. Scott Peck once called “people of the lie.”  We are completely subsumed by the politics of nihilism.

What could be more absurd than:

Barack Obama running for president in 2008 on a platform of “hope and change.”

Liberal Democrats claiming that he represents a sea change in political philosophy from that of President George W. Bush, when, in fact, he is merely a smirk-free Bush.

President Obama pretending that he is not a pawn of Wall Street, Corporate America, the Pentagon, and the Israeli Lobby.

Norway naming him the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate while promoting illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Obama’s claim that he can fix the nation’s health care system even though it is driven by fear of death on the demand side and greed on the supply side rendering it completely unfixable.

His disingenuous opposition to the war with Iraq when he ran for president.

The White House charade that it supports the so-called Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Obama’s refusal to close the Guantanamo prison or block passage of the renewal of the Patriot Act in clear violation of his campaign pledges to the contrary.

The White House’s hypocritical campaign of harassment against Chinese President Hu Jintao on the issue of human rights.

Our government’s duplicitous response to the political unrest in North Africa and the Middle East.

Allowing the right-wing, racist Likud government of Israel to dictate our foreign policy in the Middle East.

The realization that neither tax cuts, government spending, nor printing money have much impact on either the housing market or employment growth.

Our President creating the illusion that he and his administration know how to fix the ailing economy and that everything will soon be just fine.

His pretending to be a political liberal, which he is not, or more ridiculously, conservatives accusing him of being a socialist, when, in fact, he is a technofascist.

The notion that it is possible to control 310 million people from one central bureau in Washington, D.C.

And what can we do about all of this?  We can rebél said Albert Camus.  We can peacefully rebél against the nihilism of the American Empire – the separation, the meaninglessness, the powerlessness, and death.

What America needs is neither a tea party movement, a tenth amendment movement, a nullification movement, nor a secession movement but rather a peaceful revolution.

The premise underlying the tea party, tenth amendment, and nullification movements is that the U.S. government is fixable.  All one need do is return to the Constitution and everything will be just fine.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Unfortunately, Wall Street, Corporate America, the Pentagon, and the bellicose Israeli government like things just the way they are and are prepared to make sure they stay that way.

Secession, on the other hand, is viewed by most Americans, particularly those on the political left, as a complete anathema to be avoided like the plague.

The mere mention of the word conjures up images of slavery, the Civil War, violence, and racism.  So ignorant are most Americans of the moral, philosophical, and legal principles underlying secession that anyone displaying secessionist tendencies is labeled a “racist.”

There may be no escape from the Empire.  The fantasy of an individual state seceding from the United States is most likely an impossible dream.  The Empire simply will not tolerate such an action, and the political will does not exist to make it happen.

The United States has lost its moral authority.  When all is said and done, there is but one morally defensible alternative to the Empire—peaceful dissolution, just like back in the USSR.

Twenty years ago the Soviet Union unexpectedly, peacefully imploded.  Could that happen to the United States?  How sure are we that American exceptionalism will save us from the adverse effects of a crash of the dollar, financial meltdown, some major environmental catastrophe, or imperial overstretch?

This is a call for rebellion against the Empire, a Second American Revolution.

The objective is not the overthrow of the government, but rather the peaceful break up of the Union.  In the poignant words of Albert Camus, “It is those who know how to rebél at the appropriate moment, against history, who really advance its interest.”


THOMAS H. NAYLOR is Founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University. His books include: Downsizing the U.S.A., Affluenza, The Search for Meaning and The Abandoned Generation: Rethinking Higher Education


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