Osa Iyoha ’22
“Nihilists” are annoying. I swear to god, if I have to listen to one more Rick and Morty fanboy babble on about how their clearly existentialist idol helped them achieve enlightenment through Szechuan sauce references, I will stick knitting needles in my ears.
As much as I appreciate how the new wave of entertainment has approached increasingly challenging topics such as mental health issues, I’m not a fan of the half-baked “philosophers” that it has spawned. Like most accidental births, we can blame both parties for this phenomenon. By breaking out of the mold and giving their protagonists complex personalities with serious faults, creators have caused some audience members to mistake these characters for role models. It’s almost like the creators should have attached a “Do Not Try This at Home” warning to their works. This misunderstanding has given birth to what might be some of the most pretentious thinkers in centuries. Their behavior is partially the symptom of a culture that values subversiveness over substance. In a mad scramble to stand out, they don’t question the value of beliefs before adopting them. Their ideology seems almost adolescent, but these people aren’t like your regular angsty teenager. They misquote Nietzsche to defend their arguments for nihilism even though most of his work was focused on transcending it and think that Fight Club’s commentary about consumerist culture makes it the holy grail of film. God forbid someone tells them that psychedelics aren’t the answer to everything or that BoJack Horseman wasn’t supposed to be a defensible character. Worst of all, the extent to which this half-nihilistic ideology has spread means that their ideas are rarely challenged. And so they’ll throw a fit at the slightest suggestion that their credo isn’t the last bastion of higher thought.
It’s almost as if an entire generation dipped their toe into the Olympic-sized pool that is philosophy and started calling themselves Michael Phelps. This nihilistic, existential, absurdist ideology is not without its merits. Though existentialism and nihilism have their value, they are not a substitute for the exploration that comes with learning about the other ways we can deal with the human condition. Rather than get stuck in the quicksand of the Dunning-Kruger Effect and slipping on the few grains of sand that make up their collective knowledge, I think that these misguided people could benefit from spending time not only learning about other schools of thought but also from approaching their ideas critically as all great philosophers do. It’s not hard to be a philosopher; all it takes is a brain and some willingness to question your perspective. It’s far better to explore the many different lenses through which you can view your existence than to get stuck in just one way of thinking.