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eXile Classic / April 13, 2009
By John Dolan

The Case for Nuclear Winter

Courtney Love: another gloating vampire.

(Lately we’ve been hearing a lot of crazy talk about a “nuclear-free world.” So what better time than now to rerun an eXile classic by Dr. Dolan–an elegy penned before its time, to the nuclear winter which never arrived, and now is gone forever. Amen.) 

There are no nihilists — but suppose there were. What would they say?

Once you dare to consider this question, the answer seems obvious: if there were any real nihilists, they would praise nuclear weapons as the means to bring an end to the world via nuclear winter. They would sing hymns to the warheads, seeing in them the first weapon we have ever obtained against the universe which has brought us into being to suffer and die. Even if these imaginary nihilists were too squeamish to advocate nuclear winter outright, they would be compelled to praise nuclear winter as the first real CHOICE any organism has ever had about whether to continue in the fated cycle of birth, pain, and death.

10 Things We’ll Miss Least When We’re Dead

  1. Intestinal cramps
  2. Homeless people
  3. Hagfish
  4. Beer
  5. Nursing Homes
  6. Masturbating
  7. Eurosport Channel
  8. Humidity
  9. Auto shops
  10. Memories


But of course no one has said anything like this — because there are no nihilists. The confrontation at the bowling alley at the end of Big Lebowski summarizes ethical philosophy at the end of the twentieth century: brainless Americans confronting even stupider Germans, one of whom brandishes his great-grandfather’s cavalry saber, a slapstick relic of the mad daring with which the Europeans entered the twentieth century. The Germans mouth nihilist cliches (“Ve beliefs in nossink!”), while the Americans say simply “What’s mine is mine!” The Americans win because they, at least, mean what they say: their chump change is theirs, and they’ll fight to the death for it. The Germans don’t even understand, let alone mean, their nihilist bluster; they are “laughable, man!” as the Jesus-Man would put it, their claims merely a cover for their pitiful state as parasites on the culture which wrested the world away from them. It’s not that they believe in nothing; they ARE nothing.

There are no nihilists any more. That fact is the most damning evidence of a great betrayal which has happened in the last half century. In 1945, when the Bomb gave us the option of quitting this dirty, rigged game of Darwinian strip poker, we learned that not one of the anti-life artists meant what they said. In a few years, all the anti-life art of the early twentieth century vanished. The artists who had made their careers documenting the horrors of life on earth and denouncing the cycle of animal existence yelped away like scared puppies the moment a real chance to end the suffering appeared.

They saw that magnificent mushroom cloud and instead of falling down to worship it, they ran to the nearest church or Christian Science Reading Room or Socialist meeting hall. After convincing thousands of adolescents to kill themselves in the name of holy despair, these sleazy careerists ran to hug the knees of GAIA, the bloody mother. They Chose Life — the swine!

Go ahead, pick a culture, any culture! Any culture you can name, during any historical period you choose, will furnish hundreds of examples of anti-life rhetoric which was taken very, very seriously — up until the moment when it actually meant something. Take, say, Europe in the nineteenth century, that cheery and bustling period. OK; here’s its greatest philosopher on the subject:

“If you imagine…the sum total of distress, pain and suffering which the sun shines upon, you will be forced to admit that it would have been better if the surface of the earth were still as crystalline as that of the moon….For the world is Hell, and men are on the one had the tormented souls and on the other the devils in it.”

That was Schopenhauer, telling the Germans in their bristly abstract way what Darwin told the English in their fussier, more detailed language: there is no point but suffering. There is no hidden redemptive meaning in any of this. It’s just an unfortunate industrial accident, organic life.

Both Schopenhauer and Darwin resorted to animal examples to convey the horror which summed up the world. They were trying to overcome the popular heresy that somehow, it all must “balance out” somehow. It doesn’t, because it was never designed to do so: “compare the pleasure of an animal engaged in eating another animal with the pain of the animal being eaten.”

By the beginning of the twentieth century, Schopenhauer and Darwin were in play in the higher European circles, mixing and strengthening each other. It was the bravest moment in the history of our species; something truly dangerous, a final anti-life epiphany, seemed ready to happen. This is what poor sweet Nietzsche meant with his heartbreaking faith in “the men who are coming.”

Nihilism’s one great weakness was that it had always been an elite cult, not considered transmissible to the masses. This was in fact why Buddhism was replaced by a mindless demotic cult like Hinduism in India: Nirvana was too cold a doctrine for peasants who equated fecundity with happiness.

Man craftily hunts the last of the great Mammoths into extinction.Man craftily hunts the last of the great Mammoths into extinction.

But in the early twentieth century, a demographic anomaly appeared: the elite was big, and getting bigger. They brought their cult with them; art began serving as the propaganda wing of Nihilism. What we call “Modernism” was actually a multimedia offensive which was beginning to make Nihilism palatable to the masses. The fuzzy “Modern/Postmodern” distinction is best seen as a change in popular religion: from 1910-1945, art did an honorable job of preparing the masses to abandon their attachment to the biosphere; from 1945 to the present, art borrows Nihilist images, diction and narrative without the least intention of employing them to free us from attachment to organic life.

The echoes of that dangerous early twentieth-century art are still audible:

“I’ve always been surprised by everyone’s going on living.”

Birth, and copulation and death.
That’s all the facts when you come to brass tacks:
Birth, and copulation, and death.
I’ve been born, and once is enough.
You don’t remember, but I remember,
Once is enough.

It’s sad for the dog. He lives only because he was born, just like me….

So they sang. And many believed them. Maybe a few of them really meant it — Schopenhauer especially. What would Schopenhauer have said about nuclear weapons? My guess is he’d be all for them; he was a serious man, an honorable man. But the rest — they never meant it, and only talked so grandly against Life because they knew there was no alternative, no way to end the world. When the cat’s away, the mice will ham it up.

But since 1945, they self-censored themselves, to the effect that no matter how many Nihilist images you may borrow, you will do nothing truly dangerous — nothing that could make anyone press that nuclear trigger. You can wear all the black you want; you can worship suicide — individual suicide, that is — ; you can write songs about how life sucks; but you can’t mean it.

Of course, not everybody’s in on the double-talk scam. Those dangerous anti-lifers are still floating around, infecting those naive enough to listen to them. Cobain and Courtney are the classic example: both wore the rags, the scowls, the sulk; both screamed and ranted against life; but only one of them ever believed it. He, poor bastard, took it all seriously; she, a much more typical representative of the treacherous 20th-century avant garde, knew better.

When you think of poor Cobain now, it all seems inevitable, from the moment he chose that fatal name for his band. “Nirvana”: a quaint Buddhist term, taken by most American bohemians to mean something like “nice peaceful feeling.” But that’s not what it means at all: “nirvana” means, literally, “the blowing out of a candle.” Extinction, a return to stillness. Poor Cobain! He took it seriously, and made Nirvana for himself…and Courtney inherited, pouting all the way to the bank.

They’re all Courtneys, the ones who still live. Lou Reed, who invented black, wrote hymns to heroin as the best available anti-life, and provided the soundtrack for God knows how many thousands of adolescent suicides, showed up recently at a memorial service for John “All You Need Is Love” Lennon. There he was, up on the stage with a dozen other rich old popstar vampires, singing treacly Beatles songs. They were praying, really — praying to be granted another few years of life. “Choose life!” That’s a vulture’s favorite proverb, and these wrinkled undead were singin’ it with feeling.

The ones who meant it, even a little — they die. Sid died because he believed it; John Lydon said so, giggling at his dead comrade’s stupidity in a recent interview. Sid, he explained, took all the punk stuff seriously, and died of it. Lydon knew better, he explained from poolside. He looked over at his pool frequently during the interview — scanning his LA mansion, just overjoyed with his good sense and deriving an especially piquant satisfaction from the thought of poor old Sid. Johnny chose life.

It’s not hard to see why a popstar chooses life; his life comes at the expense of everyone else’s. A vampire universe feels great — to a vampire. But what about the rest of us, the nobodies? The feeding cows? What do we have to lose?

There’s always been a lot of preaching against suicide. In some way, any choice to choose non-life frightens the ruling vampires. Their favorite argument is, of course, guilt: “Think of the pain you leave behind you!” I remember a scraggly hippie mystic on Sproul denouncing suicide as “a slap in the face to everybody who loves you,” and adding, “Even the worst bum on Skid Row has somebody who loves him.” It impressed me at the time; I thought he must have had some special knowledge of the affectional backgrounds of bums which I didn’t possess. It was several years before I knew for certain that he was simply preaching, another damn Christian-without-Christ babbling the ruling vampires’ cliches.

Suicide is unpatriotic; that’s why it offends them. It deprives the vampires of a jugular to sip. How can you not like this boneyard? This is the finest torture-chamber in the universe! How dare you opt out of it! But since 1945, the vampire lords have had another, much stronger reason to fear the idea of suicide: individual suicide is only Nuclear Winter writ small. Nuclear Winter is universal Nirvana.

And that makes it utterly different from individual suicide — because there will be no survivors to mourn and grieve. There will be no mourning and grief at all, ever again.

Thus nuclear winter offers a true cure for suffering — which the sermons against suicide do not. OK; you decide not to kill yourself because it will hurt your parents, friends, pit bull, roommates, chess club pals, whatever. So what? You’re gonnna go anyway, and in some way much more agonizing than a bullet to the head: cancer, car wreck, genetic glitch, rafting accident, heart valve pop. And when you do, that suffering of the survivors will begin, the ten billionth wail of grief heard on Earth.

And the grieving die in their turn, and when they go another wail sets up….It’s not just horrible — it’s silly. Just plain dumb. Squint at it — draw your head back just a little and squint at it — and it’s truly “laughable, man”: these creatures whose life consists of a ride down a conveyor belt towards a meat grinder, making a continual wail of surprise as another one goes over the edge. Every one a surprise. “Oh! He went in! How could this happen?” “Ah, she fell! My God!” Well Duh. What’d you expect?

That’s what suffering is: going over the edge one at a time. The experience of individual death while the world grinds on. What would happen in the Nuclear Winter scenario is utterly different: all jump into the meatgrinder at once. No one is left to suffer or mourn. When some die and some live, there is suffering; when all die, blown out like a candle, there is no suffering. There is something else, something for which we have no name. But one thing is clear: it is not suffering. “We shall not suffer, for we shall not be.”

It has been done on a small scale — communal suicide, oblivion. The Old Believers; Jonestown; and some of the tribes hunted for sport by the Europeans. The Carib — the last Carib jumped off a cliff rather than be taken. As did the last few bands of Tasmanians. They saw the suffering of their children ahead, and took the kids with them over the cliff. Are they were right. Imagine the prospects of a Tasmanian child in the hands of the British colonists who had killed its parents for sport. Life as a souvenir, mascot, bum-boy or -girl, stuffed exhibit in a museum…for what? So that in ten generations, one of its partial descendants might live to collect a guilt-dole from the Australian government? So that in another two generations, an even more attenuated descendant could pen a jargon-stuffed “indictment” of the crime, hoping for publication and a tenure-track affirmative-action job at a new regional polytech?

The cliff-edge has more dignity and sense.

Nihilists prefer MalevichNihilists prefer Malevich’s “Black Square”

We have given other species the gift of oblivion, sent them over the cliff: the Mammoth, the Moa Eagle, the Tasmanian Wolf…all the finest species, really, are going or gone. A hundred years from now, when all the big cats are gone, no one will understand how we thought the life of a hundred million Tamils worth that of even one Bengal Tiger.

Life on earth hit its peak during the Ice Ages, and we are now killing off the few species from that period who survived our first coup, ten thousand years ago. We have very little to lose, destroying the remaining fauna, now that the best is gone. The lives of all the horrible humans in Houston are not worth even one Columbia Mammoth.

So we have guides sent ahead of us into oblivion. When we pull the plug, press the button, drop the nuclear dime on ourselves, we will suffer no more than the Mammoth suffers. We owe them; let’s join them. We can make our first act in the afterlife a formal apology to the Tasmanian Wolf, the Cave Bear, the Mammoth.

But at least their suffering is over now. The Mammoths’ suffering ended when the last calf, watching its mother being hacked to death by ugly apes wearing caribou skins, trumpeted in shock and pain and tried to run — and was hacked to death, screaming, then silent. And when its life went out — the blowing out of a candle — the suffering of all Mammoths ceased, gave way to something entirely different: Nirvana. The Nirvana of the Mammoths, where they wait for us now.

But we have to be sure of one thing: that it will be oblivion, death for all, rather than another partial slaughter. That would be worse even than the present. The thought of a post-nuke world of wretched survivors is the only real argument against detonation now. That’s why the notion of Nuclear Winter is crucial. If, say, a nuclear war killed even five billion of us, it would leave a billion sobbing, burned survivors; and their offspring, mutant children limping across a boneyard; and hundreds of billions of mammals, birds, and reptiles mourning their kin. This is not Nirvana. Agreed.

But that argument has been specious since the early 1980s, when a team of physicists including that annoying geek Carl Sagan suggested that a major nuclear war would create a cloud of ash which would blot out the sun for decades, blocking 99% of solar energy for a period of three to 12 months, and thus extinguishing the photosynthetic engine which runs this big green torture chamber called Earth. Here’s their scenario:

“Nuclear explosions will set off firestorms in the cities and surrounding forest areas. The small particles of soot are carried high into the atmosphere. The smoke will block the sun’s light for weeks or months. The land temperatures would fall below freezing.

This combination of reduced temperatures and reduced light levels would have catastrophic ecological consequences. Average light levels would be below the minimum required for photosynthesis during the first 30-40 days after the explosion and most fresh water would be frozen. ‘…the possibility of the extinction of Homo Sapiens cannot be excluded.’ This effect is similar to what may have killed the dinosaurs.”

You know you feel the pull of it already. How much of our alleged “fear” of nuclear war is longing — lust for Nirvana, disguising itself as pious horror? In Berkeley, avid hobbyists went around spraypainting the sidewalks in a circle a half-mile around the Campanile, showing the range of “total destruction” from a nuclear blast over the campus. I remember seeing one of them at work — a skinny hippie who would’ve looked good in a pilgrim hat and black coat — laboring over his stencil, biting his lip in what I then took for concentration but now seems more like…pleasure. He was having The Dream: that bomb-bay camera shot of a dull static city suddenly jolted by the first blast, a hemisphere of fire, a half-sun umbrella over downtown…then the upwash, the stalk which will flatten out in the upper air to form the toadstool cap…now cut to houses sucked inward to fuel the blast, no sooner vacuumed toward the epicenter than the full blast whipsaws them outwards, roofs and cars and windows blown out by the great breath…and then, the post-coital smoke: pillars of it, from the few ruins which have enough energy left to burn. A city of chimneys and rubble.

The Japanese, the only ones to have felt the breath of oblivion, are more honest than we in acknowledging its beauty. No Anime is complete without at least one annihilation of a city by atomic weapons. In Akira you get a bonus: you get to see Neo-Tokyo destroyed not once but twice by mushroom cloud. There is no pretense, in Akira, that this is a bad thing; it is magnificent, a consummation devoutly to be wished.

If any of what I am saying has truth, then one would expect the ruling committees to work for the destruction of all nuclear weapons, so that they can rule with the same security as the thousands of other cruel tribal elites, pre-1945. And in fact, that’s what’s happening now, focused on the neutralization of the nukes in the former USSR. Nuclear Winter will occur only if there is a major detonation — a real, Cold-War style genocidal war. It cannot be accomplished by small-scale nuclear war: the erasure of a city here or there, a few missile bases melted, the boiling of a sea or two in order to cook a few enemy subs. It must be the US-USSR scenario.

Now you see why so many artists who were in love with little wars feared that one so much. A small war is material for a million artists and writers and songsters. Take Vietnam: they can’t shut up about it. It was the classic evil little war: a lot of killing in a fecund jungle, with no chance at all of ending the world. But none of the artists who loved little wars wanted to endorse The Big One; that was bad for business. That meant canceling the whole season. They sang, painted, wrote, and tap-danced down the streets against it. Or thought they were doing so; because their depictions of that sacred mushroom cloud were often beautiful in spite of the artist’s conscious intention. The lust for Nirvana shone from them, unnoticed as the porn aspect of a nineteenth-century nude statue.

Now there’s a push, a big one, encompassing all the bought artists, the spooks, the rich, the governments, to buy up and destroy the Russian nukes. It’s not like they’re against nukes; the West has no intention of giving them up. They like to play with them, like suburban dads who clean their guns on the weekend. But they don’t want the world to end. So they will do anything to buy up the Russian nukes. All those movies in the past ten years about Russian nukes “falling into the wrong hands” were cover for the real process, which involved those nukes falling into the wrongest hands of all: the people who plan to DESTROY those nukes, people who like this world and want it to continue.

For the first time in history, we can vote against the incumbent.

For the first time in the history of organic life — the first time in over three billion years of “birth and copulation and death” — the pitiful animals crawling over the surface of the planet have the power to choose to exist or to cease to exist.

Imagine a prisoner condemned to be tortured to death, huddling in a cell waiting for the next call to the bloody floor where his teeth are extracted, one by one. One day someone slips a knife under the door of his cell. For the first time, he has the option of ending a life of pain. And, like a true slave, he throws the knife away in horror, hands it over to the guards so that he may continue to be dragged out and tortured at their pleasure.

We are not the only lives at stake. We have a duty to the dead-and to the unborn. Life reached its peak at the edge of the glaciers; when they receded, we, ugly tropical scavengers, killed all the great mammals who had walked the colder and grander world. They are waiting for us: the mammoths, the last Siberian Tiger and the Tasmanian Wolf — and the Tasmanians, the Caribs, and the other billions of lives we can erase and avenge and join, with a single step, over the cliff, a few seconds of rushing air, and then Nirvana.

This article was first published in issue #139 of The eXile,  April 21,  2002.

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Add your own

  • 1. Sublime Oblivion  |  April 13th, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    “There is something else, something for which we have no name. But one thing is clear: it is not suffering. “We shall not suffer, for we shall not be.””

    I christen it…Sublime Oblivion.

    Or perhaps you might like Spengler’s view:

    “At last, in the grey dawn of Civilization the fire in the Soul dies down. The dwindling powers rise to one more, half-successful, effort of creation, and produce the Classicism that is common to all dying Cultures. The soul thinks once again, and in Romanticism looks back piteously to its childhood; then finally, weary, reluctant, cold, it loses its desire to be, and, as in Imperial Rome, wishes itself out of the overlong daylight and back in the darkness of proto-mysticism in the womb of the mother in the grave.”


    But unfortunately, “nuclear winter” is pretty much scientifically discredited – in reality the ash will largely settle down after 3-6 months. So you’ll just have lots of starving souls and chaos and anarchy, and as the War Nerd pointed out earlier, it is the organized hierarchical groups, not the loner post-apocalyptic warriors, who will win out. And there’ll be a lot more suffering.

    Instead I suggest accelerating technological development and achieving Nirvana through destructive nanotechnological self-replicators (grey goo) or roving bands of killer robots programmed to annihilate everybody, before destroying themselves. Much more survivalistproof than nuclear winter.

  • 2. eric  |  April 13th, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    a beautiful essay, perhaps the only classic of its kind. makes you ashamed of your humanity yet proud that we might be the ones to perform what is necessary.

    the only questions are whether the universe will experience the cold death of entropy or the hot death of collapse, and whether the sum total of universal suffering might somehow be reduced by staying alive long enough to take the other fecund planets with us. dare we dream of sending nuclear weapons through black holes or bent space-time?

  • 3. Chris  |  April 13th, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    Absolutely my all-time favorite. Wonderful.

  • 4. Natedogg  |  April 13th, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    Beautiful. Kill me.

  • 5. gazzaj  |  April 13th, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    There’s definitely something to be said for nuclear annihilation… as an undergrad studying Schopenhauer I would have *almost* agreed.

    Unfortunately as Dr Strangelove showed us, the only thing more tempting than oblivion is triage. With a healthy female:male ratio, obviously. The vampires survive to feed on the most attractive girls, underground, for a century. I’m not sure that’s an improvement.

  • 6. captain america  |  April 13th, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    spectacular article. i mean that sincerely. that said, i’ll still never understand how you leftists manage to achieve such staggering heights of misery when you effectively won the where-and-when-will-i-be-born lottery and got the USA in the late 20th century.

    nevertheless, the great achievement in what you’ve written here is how it so intimately articulates the private hell that you people live in. seldom have i seen this expressed in a way that a grateful, deeply happy individualist like me can better understand, even if i’ll probably never understand why you choose to suffer like this.

  • 7. mechagodzilla  |  April 13th, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    I love how writers have to tie everything together. As soon as you swallow the bullshit of the problem’s framing, you’ve already got the rest of it headed through your mouth.

    Human beings have brains way too wacky for their bodies.

    God forbid you like suffering, AND pleasure, AND being alive. The spin here is some sort of bizarre upgraded no-sugar moralistic fallacy, that suffering is bad and pleasure is good and neither is better.

    It’s been a lingering thought in my mind that the Buddha may have been one of the only people ever to live who was terrified of EVERYTHING.

    So if you’re going to enshrine the 無 on cosmic scales, then you’d better also lay the 有 across from it, because I’m willing to bet my life that it’s possible to really be alive in these circumstances, and accept all that comes until the final blow.

  • 8. eric  |  April 13th, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    well, “captain america,” suffering is partially reserved for the people who have extra folds in their brain tissue.

    i guess my big-screen TV is supposed to make up for the fact that my life has no purpose, this lack of purpose is accomplished with much physical and mental pain, not to mention i’m surrounded by decadent, greedy, self-absorbed morons. i suppose i’d better watch them on the TV; i’ll feel better.

  • 9. Moo  |  April 13th, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    It hurts me to write this, because I basically like this site. But the above piece is such a compendium of stupid things that I feel compelled to bitch.

    Point one: The “all the horrible humans in Houston are not worth even one Columbia Mammoth [or redwood tree, or extraterrestrial body, or whatever version of this cliché is currently being recycled]” bit. Either the human is the most valuable thing in the universe, in which case the hierarchies he creates matter, or the human isn’t the most valuable thing in the universe, in which case the hierarchies he creates don’t matter, and the standard by which you judged the mammoth to be worth more than the human is invalid.

    This is really inexcusable. John Dolan is a poetry reviewer. He should know better. In fact, he probably does know better. Which makes this piece disingenuous. Which is even less excusable.

    Point two: I can’t actually tell whether this piece is supposed to be an endorsement of nihilism or not. If it is, it’s inconsistent. (For the nihilist, the humans don’t owe the mammoths; the mammoths owe the humans.) If not, it’s whiny. (Complaining about phony nihilists who don’t commit to nihilism, without committing to anything itself.)

    Either way, this article isn’t really about nihilism, of course. It’s about asceticism – a chance for the author to flaunt his abstention from pleasant thoughts about the human condition. Schopenhauer: Providing a Christ-free substitute for Calvinism since 1818.

    Point three: This Prussia/Wilhemine/Nazi glorification is honorable when the War Nerd does it – he’s a war correspondent and not obliged to account for politics. When Ames and Dolan (who write political commentary and ARE obliged to account for politics) do it, it’s reprehensible.

  • 10. Moo  |  April 13th, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    “seldom have i seen this expressed in a way that a grateful, deeply happy individualist like me can better understand, even if i’ll probably never understand why you choose to suffer like this.”

    ^ General question: Has anyone here ever met a self-described “deeply happy” person who didn’t give the distinct impression of being fated to carry his virginity to his grave?

  • 11. aleke  |  April 13th, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    This is a great piece. Not only from many ontological points, but also in a social field guide way. That is, those people who are too dumb to over-ride their biological anti-suicide protection, but not stupid enough to take the world at face value, really come out of the woodwork and begin trying to rationalize this cruel misery (or at the very least deride the messenger).

    And from experience, these people are the ones most at disadvantage in this hierarchy. Nature isn’t exactly as forgiving to them as they are to it. It’s like my fellow Texans swinging around their piteous political will to those that seek to disenfranchise them further, gearing their industrial grind.

    By the way, recent research (07 and 08) indicates them smokes that rise up out of them crispy-fied radioactive hellscapes would last much longer in the atmosphere than previously thought. That nuclear winter will be thorough enough [flowin about in the stratosphere thanks to solar heating]; and we haven’t the technology to single-handedly reboot life on earth. To wit: even after the expected nuclear weapons reduction slated for 2012, this scenario would be very feasible:

    “A global average surface cooling of –7°C to –8°C persists for years, and after a decade the cooling is still –4°C (Fig. 2). Considering that the global average cooling at the depth of the last ice age 18,000 yr ago was about –5°C, this would be a climate change unprecedented in speed and amplitude in the history of the human race. The temperature changes are largest over land … Cooling of more than –20°C occurs over large areas of North America and of more than –30°C over much of Eurasia, including all agricultural regions.”

    I don’t think we can survive that one, bubba! We’re only hairless apes you know!

  • 12. paul  |  April 13th, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    fuck u dude.
    that’s right.

  • 13. aleke  |  April 13th, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    Oh and the “discredited myth” story of nuclear winter started in the rightwing, cold warrior survivalist manual. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    Oh and a small nuclear war in the subtropic regions (say Pakistan vs. India), according to the 2007 study “The sun is much stronger in the tropics than it is in mid-latitudes. Therefore, a much more limited war [there] could have a much larger effect, because you are putting the smoke in the worst possible place.”

  • 14. Ididntdoit  |  April 13th, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    “They [the Nihilists] would sing hymns to the warheads, seeing in them the first weapon we have ever obtained against the universe which has brought us into being to suffer and die.”

    Are we confusing Nihilists with Futurists. Maybe ask them about WW1 – and how that movement quickly succumbed to reality, once they were stuck in the mass graves of the Western Front…

    “Even if these imaginary nihilists were too squeamish to advocate nuclear winter outright, they would be compelled to praise nuclear winter as the first real CHOICE any organism has ever had about whether to continue in the fated cycle of birth, pain, and death.”
    Do you really believe that Nihilists believe that they are reborn again? Are we, once again, confusing them with f++king Buddhists? And even if we leave out these religious considerations. Is the author suggesting, that an ORGANISM lives forever? Individuals die, organisms die. Yes, they get born, but only ONCE, yes they die, but only ONCE. Where exactly does that make a circle?

  • 15. Moo  |  April 13th, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    “Nature isn’t exactly as forgiving to them as they are to it.”

    I’ll shut up after this, but really… trying to be un-“forgiving” to nature?

    It’s pathetic enough when Milton’s Satan decides that his mission in life is to hurt God’s feelings. Nature doesn’t even have feelings to hurt.

  • 16. jimmy james  |  April 13th, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    “i’ll still never understand how you leftists manage to achieve such staggering heights of misery when you effectively won the where-and-when-will-i-be-born lottery and got the USA in the late 20th century.”

    Haha, you think this is a left thing? The exact same fantasy is present in the other side, they just put it into Left Behind novels and other tall tales of Rapture.

  • 17. def.allah  |  April 14th, 2009 at 12:25 am

    where you reach truth here is in the piercing of ‘collective suicide’ — both intimately and at a distance, it appears the only action humanity (and the human) can take that approaches a pyrrhic victory over the universe and the human condition. like you touched on, it’s essentially a final bellyache and a wresting-free of the christian, historical progressivist dictation that, not only “thou shalt,” but “thou willst.” as the antipode of human suffering, coordinated suicide to the last man is the sole *human* revolution.

  • 18. Seryoga  |  April 14th, 2009 at 2:02 am

    I just used this article to help me get laid. The dyev was really impressed with my philosophizing!!! Thanks Dolan, thanks Exile!

  • 19. Moo  |  April 14th, 2009 at 2:32 am

    Damn it, I lied. I missed this the last time I read through the comments here:

    “people who are too dumb to over-ride their biological anti-suicide protection”

    Nobody ‘over-rides’ biology. There’s a biological impulse behind everything an organism does to preserves its own life, and there’s a biological impulse behind everything an organism does to end its own life.

    I refuse to believe that you don’t already know this.

  • 20. Locastus  |  April 14th, 2009 at 6:01 am

    Nice article, but I feel I should point out that Buddhism was not replaced by Hinduism in India.

    Hinduism is the world’s oldest living religion and Buddha himself was hindu before he developed his own philosophy.

  • 21. Not Impressed  |  April 14th, 2009 at 6:17 am

    This article, in fact nihilism in general, is merely the logical conclusion of atheism as a philosophy.

    Extremely warped.

  • 22. geo8rge  |  April 14th, 2009 at 7:12 am

    Sounds like the Beneath the Planet of the Apes episode. Since they are cyclical, you cannot really say which one was the nuclear missle worship episode.

    The problem with your reasoning is that the west is self destructing the old fashioned way, low birth rates while coddling high birth rate foreign cultures. Once the Nihilists won they just became childless homosexuals. And that is really the end. See Oswald Spengler.

    Oddly, the Bush Administration came close to actually nuking Iran(see Commander disciplined for nuclear mistake ). Sadly the Pentagon bureacracy, fearing loss of European travel privileges after Tehran was atomized, took the nukes away from Christian Zionists who got control the airforce.

    The good news is that once “equitorial” nations get the bomb they might use them.

  • 23. Requia  |  April 14th, 2009 at 7:32 am

    Why would a nihilist *want* to end the world?

    That would be just as pointless as not ending the world, not to mention less fun than smashing it up piece by piece.

  • 24. Gully Foyle  |  April 14th, 2009 at 9:04 am

    John Dolan! Thy name is Enzian Oberst!

  • 25. Mark  |  April 14th, 2009 at 9:08 am

    I hate to quibble over details, but Nirvana received their band name from their record company. That doesn’t preclude the possibility that Kurt took the name seriously…

  • 26. Jared  |  April 14th, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Nietzsche would’ve found all this pain Dr. Dolan speaks of to be life-affirming. I think that a better case for nuclear winter would be whether or not love is possible, examining Sartre’s position on love.

  • 27. Coldest Warrior  |  April 14th, 2009 at 11:13 am

    Unfortunately, even nuclear war probably won’t wipe the slate clean on this world. The organisms living around the hydrothermal vents ( will eventually wriggle their way into the vacant niches left by the almost-apocalypse. If not them, then maybe it will be some deep-crust extremophiles, (, or maybe even good old Deinococcus radiodurans (… One way or another, in a few hundred million years we’ll be right back where we started.

    If you’re really serious about ending life on earth, maybe you should take a look at this handy guide to geocide:

  • 28. it's true  |  April 14th, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    “To spend uncounted years of pain
    Again, again, and yet again
    In working out in heart and brain
    The problem of our being here,
    To gather facts from far and near
    Upon the mind to hold them clear,
    And knowing more may yet appear
    Until one’s latest breath to fear
    The premature result to draw—
    Is this the object, end, and law,
    And purpose of our being here?”
    – your man, Arthur H Clough

  • 29. Tam  |  April 14th, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    I’ve read loads of articles on this site I probably should’ve been more offended by, but this has got to be the most irritating thing I’ve read around here. You’ve finally hit a nerve. Well done!

    I can just about cope with you being rude about the late great Carl Sagan but bigging up a dork like Cobain in the same article?

    Yes, I know you like heroin too, but can’t you at least find a better class of smack-head to admire?
    What’s so impressive about committing suicide when you’re too wasted to know what the fuck you’re doing? His suicide might’ve had a certain integrity without the drugs, (like that guy out of the Manics) but as it was, it was just the death of an idiot who clearly couldn’t handle his drugs and probably quite liked the idea of becoming a legend.

  • 30. Mr Cool  |  April 14th, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    WTF? Is this some kind of a sick joke? I used to think the eXile was cool but now I am really wondering.

    I don’t see much intellectual integrity here; it seems more like some people getting their knickers in a twist. Hell yes, torture is an overwhelming phenomenon and an overwhelming question, and it’s hard to see how some people fail to be somewhat fascinated by it. But only madmen and physical, literal prisoners offer the real horror because only they are trapped; everyone else can INDIVIDUALLY choose suicide or choose to live. If you are too chickenshit too kill yourself, like the hypothetical tortured prisoner offered a knife in the example above, that’s your own fault. The fault of your soul? The fault of your biological nature? I don’t know, but, importantly, it seems like almost everyone has their limits and will become capable of suicide once it becomes really necessary. Is there empirical evidence to the contrary, as opposed to some hypothetical person?

    Chronic depression is likely to be largely biological in nature, in many cases. It’s not society’s fault. Most deeply impoverished countries are probably impoverished primarily because they lack the biological pre-requisites for becoming rich. There’s certainly some economic appropriation in the world but it’s not intolerable – it ain’t the Belgian Congo.

    So should the world be destroyed because of madmen and tortured prisoners? No. Their suffering is not infinite, because nothing is, but it’s unbounded, so we have to humbly revere it, yet life must continue.

    Also, it’s daft to think Nietzsche was a nihilist. How could one possibly think that?

  • 31. N  |  April 14th, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Goddammit, where is the self-satisfied gloating article about how Paul Krugman and a bunch of the MSM have written about Santelli and the tea bag astro-turfing this week? I have been impressing friends/acquaintances for weeks with that tidbit I gleaned from here, and it deserves a thorough “I told you so….”

  • 32. jb  |  April 14th, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    ‘This article, in fact nihilism in general, is merely the logical conclusion of atheism as a philosophy.’

    Not really, because despite the authors talk about religion being the source of all his woes his conclusion is ultimately christian. He concludes that it would be a good thing if we all sank into the warm embrace of oblivion.
    And oblivion at the end of the day is the end goal of christianity. Afterall logically heaven is a place free of suffering, thus we would have no memory of our lives here on earth or of all of those condemned to hell. So you may say that its eternal life, but to borrow a phrase its ‘life jim but not as we know it’.
    Its rather odd for the author to slander Christinaity so much when it is afterall a religion based on a guy committing suicide.

    Anyways I didn;t think much of the article either but i won;t comment too much on that because to be honest I got bored about halfway through and skipped to the comments section.

  • 33. rick  |  April 14th, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    I hope Dolan gets a terrible disease so we can all appreciate “Dolan’s Death Diary.” I mean, whenever, God. I ain’t rushin’ it, just imagining.

    It’s gonna be a literary classic! God forbid the world take his life swiftly. I want that wifi-enabled laptop on the deathbed! How talentless the species must be, nobody’s ever produced a great, funny death diary.

  • 34. totalesturns  |  April 14th, 2009 at 5:26 pm


    Yeah, but not until he finishes “Pleasant Hell II: The Grad School Years.”

  • 35. John Christy  |  April 14th, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Great article, as usual, Dolan.

  • 36. Kavuye Toon  |  April 14th, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    ‘Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence’ is a good book on the subject

  • 37. Mr Cool  |  April 14th, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Also, I suspect a lot of people read too much into the “void” and “extinction of the self” rhetoric of eastern religions.

    I don’t know if easterners had different mystical experiences than westerners, or if so why (perhaps even subtle biological differences?… incidentally I’m a white american myself). But anyway, eastern culture wound up emphasizing the dissolution or “extinction” of the boundaries of the self aspect of meditation and other mystical experiences. This is something many people can experience pretty strongly using psychedelic drugs. My point is, “becoming one with everything” isn’t a cliche, or a made up bunch of BS – it’s just an empirical fact that this is a real, concrete experience, and it doesn’t bear any necessary particular relationship with the various superstitious or speculative belief systems almost all religions have (zen being sort of an exception). Obviously, whatever this experience “really” means (maybe nothing?) it is utterly fascinating to have, and rather liberating, and if one has it as a reference point, one may not read the whole nirvana, eternal void, “emptiness,” “extinction of the self” rhetoric as being quite so pessimistic-nihilistic and anti-earthly-life or anti-the-whole-cosmos as it appears.

    “Becoming one with everything” only happens on the earth, as far as we know, and not after you croak. Though it does by its nature, if you experience it, somewhat reduce your horror of death (while full enlightenment is claimed to eliminate it completely). It is of course kind of nihilistic to emphasize the transmortal rather than the earth – my point is I’m not sure christianity really does this much less than the east does.

    Now, I’m not saying all eastern religion is *totally* pro-earthly-life to the degree of Nietzsche. Obviously buddhism in particular (minus zen) does have a robust earth-negative vibe in saying “all is suffering.”

    Anywayz, fuck nuclear winter, dude. I hope all this nihlo-anarchist crap is some kind of joke.

  • 38. captain america  |  April 14th, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    hmm…accused of still being a virgin and told that i’d be miserable too if i were just a bit smarter. that’s better than i expected to get for my heretical behaviour (openly admitting to being happy in the USA).

    i know that being miserable is essentially a career choice for the exile guys. nevertheless, the rest of you might do well to consider that life, although rarely ideal, is a pretty damn good thing if you make it so.

    or, baring that, get the book mentioned in the previous post and enjoy, i suppose.

  • 39. Mr Cool  |  April 14th, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    What I’m trying to say is that all the yada yada, about the void and death of the self, implicitly refers in part to a concrete earthly experience that is totally rad and really positive: the mystical experience of temporarily erasing some or most of the self-cosmos distinction. Ergo, to me, “void this, void that, inner emptiness, blah blah etc” not as negative as it might appear if one doesn’t have that context in mind.

  • 40. Peter  |  April 14th, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    It’s all a little bullshit because one of the premises of much that’s written on this site is that there are a great many things that making living in this world worth it, otherwise, what would be the point of class war? What would the rich be hoarding that we need to take? Even if the answer is something nebulous involving self-respect, it’s still presumably an issue because if it makes life better. So if there are things that make life better, then might as well pursue those instead of eliminating the possibility.

    This is just some of Dolan’s whining, although some of the discussion on his fellow whiners is worth reading, as usual. It’s a bit like the Bathory speech in “Pleasant Hell”: interesting, sad in an embarrasingly-revealing-about-the-author sort of way, full of false dichotomies (Oh really, it’s just Marx vs Bathory? I think a few other guys, like Veblen or Machiavelli, might have something to say in the matter, even if they weren’t popular at Berkeley in the 70s) and ultimately a figment of Dolan’s imagination. Well worth reading for style, but not worth taking really seriously as ideas.

  • 41. Mr Cool  |  April 14th, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Anyway, I’m a major fan of many a Dolan writing… it’s hard for me to believe that you could really think there’s a serious case for nuclear winter. Sorry, but I really disapprove. Sure, you could call me a fag for saying “I really disapprove,” but wouldn’t that be an insult to fags everywhere? If so, I really disapprove of myself calling myself a fag. “Bottomer” would be more like it.

  • 42. Moo  |  April 15th, 2009 at 1:12 am

    “hmm…accused of still being a virgin”

    Notice you didn’t deny it.

    “i know that being miserable is essentially a career choice for the exile guys. nevertheless, the rest of you might do well to consider that life, although rarely ideal, is a pretty damn good thing if you make it so.”

    By definition, anything is a good thing if you “make it so”.

    And no major religion identifies life as anything so simplistic as “good” or “bad”.

  • 43. Murakami  |  April 15th, 2009 at 3:04 am

    Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

  • 44. Nestor  |  April 15th, 2009 at 3:35 am

    Some interesting points in this article, but in the final analysis I don’t think suffering is THAT big a deal. You get over it.

  • 45. captain america  |  April 15th, 2009 at 4:55 am

    hey! mr. cool got the exile censor homo treatment! i no longer feel so lonely.

  • 46. Ididntdoit  |  April 15th, 2009 at 6:32 am

    “Imagine a prisoner condemned to be tortured to death, huddling in a cell waiting for the next call to the bloody floor where his teeth are extracted, one by one. One day someone slips a knife under the door of his cell. For the first time, he has the option of ending a life of pain. And, like a true slave, he throws the knife away in horror, hands it over to the guards so that he may continue to be dragged out and tortured at their pleasure.”

    Sorry, but this existentialist/nihilist philosophy, preaching angst, despair and death out of the mouth of someone (let’s take Sartre for an example), who has won one of the first prizes in the big lottery of life (= being born in the 1st World) is simply ridiculous.

    Our lives are not torture. Our lives are not pain. Maybe vain, but definitely not pain. We don’t die because we are starving, we die, because we are too FAT. We don’t have any meaningful problems left. Even the poorest loser in the 1st World is much better off than any other human on this planet, damned to live miserably and poorly in an assbackwards underdeveloped country.

    Watch this carefully, because it depicts our pseudo-problems quite well:
    Our problem is not that we have nothing too eat – we have too much!
    Our problem is not that we have nothing to wear – we can’t decide what to put on next.
    Etc, etc, etc

    I call these new kind or problems “American High School Problem” – by definition they are the opposite of existential… they are all ridiculous and shallow…

    Our (European and North American) lives are easy, filled with pleasure and distraction, chocolate, over-plentiful food and drink, meaningless comedy, internet bumblepuppies and even more sugar-coated thinkbloat.

    Angst, despair and death play absolutely no role in our lives (and the one of the author’s). We are not tortured, we do not feel pain. I cannot identify myself the slightest with this writing or Sartre’s or Nietzsche’s. We are the carefree, spoiled, bratty Generation 2.0… all our problems can only be superficial, but not existential.

    Starving is existential and causes pain and hoplessness.
    Not being able to decide whether you will eat the dark-chocolate-covered doughnut or the hazelnut doughnut next is a frakking joke.

  • 47. Jared  |  April 15th, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Again, Nietzsche would’ve found all this pain to be life-affirming. Schopenhauer is the one who complains at all the pain and suffering in the world. I’ve only taken Phil 101, and even I’m aware of it. I kinda expected more from exiled readers.

  • 48. Expat in BY  |  April 15th, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Had to respond to 29. Tam, re Cobain:

    Seems you have some strong opinions about the man, but I have my doubts that you’ve ever met him or were even around the Seattle scene when he was around. If you were closer in, you’d see his whole thing was about taking down the corporate music system. When the corporate music system proved too strong, he just sort of let it go and gave up dealing with life.

    If you ever met the man, you’d have seen someone a lot deeper than a random smack-head looking for happiness in a needle. Dolan’s comments on Cobain actually might be quite accurate, and certainly adds a dimension to his story, which has been going in so many different directions from the marginally accurate to the grossly inaccurate since Cobain himself dropped out of the discussion in 1994.

    That’s of course the problem with suicide. After you make the choice to die by your own hand and execute it, you aren’t given a say about what happens in this life afterwards. So maybe in response to the overall story it’s a matter of how much suffering can you take before you too drop out of the discussion? Interesting writing by Mr. Dolan, even reading it for the second time.

  • 49. Raymond Sim  |  April 15th, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Buddhism is an extremely diverse collection of sects and tendencies, some of which could probably be regarded as separate religions in their own right. And you’d have to search the lunatic fringe pretty hard to find this sort of silly stuff.

    Maybe I’m just not getting the joke?

    For what it’s worth Buddha taught that there actually is a way out of suffering. It isn’t megadeath. That’s the Willow goes all vein-faced heresy.

  • 50. foo  |  April 15th, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    This was in fact why Buddhism was replaced by a mindless demotic cult like Hinduism in India

    That’s one of the funniest things Ihave ever read, given that Hinduism is about 2000 years older than Buddhism and that Gautum was a Hindu prince to begin with.


    That’s not even a Buddhist concept. It’ sa Jain term.

  • 51. Ro Jo  |  April 16th, 2009 at 1:02 am

    Remember the Buddha, “Life is suffering.”

  • 52. Jared  |  April 16th, 2009 at 5:59 am

    It’s not so funny if you knew that Buddhism was indeed overtaken by Hinduism and Islam in many parts of India.

  • 53. Raymond Sim  |  April 16th, 2009 at 10:57 am

    I think it’s fair to say that until fairly recently the consensus view was that Hinduism and Buddhism as we know them co-evolved over centuries in which devotional practices came to dominate both religions. More recently, with the rise of a specifically Hindu political consciousness this account has become controversial.

    That said there’s still a pretty broad consensus that:

    1. Modern Hinduism derives lineally from the Brahamanic practices of Buddha’s day but has evolved considerably. For instance animal sacrifice has largely disappeared. (This evolution thing is probably the most controversial thing I’m going to say)

    2. Buddha did not generally repudiate that early Hinduism. He did specifically denounce animal sacrifice and the caste system, and he employed a doctrine in his teaching (“no-self” or “no-soul” it’s usually called in English) that was, and still is very much a point for philosophical debate between Buddhists and Hindus.

    3. Whatever the pasts of the two religions, and whatever doctrines their learned elites may adhere to, the practices of ordinary believers are mostly devotional and very similar. Switch the statues around and I imagine most outside observers couldn’t tell the difference.

    4. Actually sometimes the statues are already the same. Both traditions are extraordinarily syncretic and already resemble one another so much that it’s probably pointless to try to tease out who influenced whom.

    5. The Muslim conquests in India ended Buddhism there. Why this was true of Buddhism but not Hinduism is usually attributed to Buddhism having become a largely monastic religion. But that (by the contrapositive) is another way of saying that what the common people were doing was no longer Buddhism. That’s probably unknowable, which makes it a natural jumping off point for those inclined to argue. Buddhism did hold on in places like Tibet of course, and it’s interesting to note that the Buddhism practiced in those places is pretty darned magical. “Hinduesque” one might say.

  • 54. Raymond Sim  |  April 16th, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Wow that was long-winded. I’ll pipe down with the religion already.

  • 55. Your friend Bob  |  April 17th, 2009 at 12:06 am

    Fuck I hate these new “buddists” and their hierarchy of oneness. Here’s a tip: only stupid cunts try to rationalise history through the lens of their current privileged position. You dicks, your “humanism” is just another victorian mimetic quirk. Ah… but you’ll learn in time… or you won’t and you’ll die happy and stupid…

    Like Crumb noted in one of his few great cartoons – “the meaning of life? Go fuck yourself.”

  • 56. badnewswade  |  April 17th, 2009 at 4:26 am

    What is it with you Russians and nihilism? I prostrate myself before you!

  • 57. Frankenblank  |  April 17th, 2009 at 6:12 am

    OK, now that really *is* classic. I’m gonna pony up for The Exiled as soon as I find my credit card, just for that. The whole friggin’ Internet hasn’t ever managed to be so succint, and so accurate. If there is any justice at all, Dolan will be remembered for this essay for all time …’all time’, hopefully, being two or three decades, when global warming does what the nukes haven’t and probably won’t. He left no stone unturned in that. The greatest piece of sheer, irrefutable pessimism ever written.

  • 58. theMule'sson  |  April 17th, 2009 at 8:51 am

    One must either take an interest in the human situation or else parade before the void. – Jean Rostand

    nihilism is something you can experience, but must move through, otherwise see above.

  • 59. Honjaku Osho  |  April 17th, 2009 at 11:05 am

    Understand that Buddhism appeals to people who are just too sensitive, as it seems much of the exile people are. Here is great talk by Osho on the subject

    I would suggest that Exile writers get into meditation. It will help you, but you may not have any incentive to write the Exile anymore.

  • 60. Mr Cool  |  April 17th, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    I’ve got a major news break for all you fun fags out there: being born in a wealthy country is not guaranteed to make life awesome, rad, or cool. Some people have a melancholic or otherwise suffering nature.

    Nietzsche, by his own account, understood this about himself and tried to kill, or at least cordon off as much as possible, various suffering or pathological aspects of himself, so that he could go around achieving shit as much as possible rather than being a total whiny bitch. (Which he could be sometimes, particularly in his private letters.)

    I think some of you have been confused by ambiguous terminology: when you see “nihilism” attributed to Nietzsche, this virtually always refers to the allegation that he was a “moral nihilist” because he didn’t believe any eternal absolute truths existed (particularly moral ones). This charge is a little excessive, first of all because few people are are actually moral absolutists, and second because he certainly did believe in moral truths; he just didn’t think they would be the same for everyone, and he thought contrary truths would just have to fight it out by the pen and by the sword. Anyways, the “nihilism” he often discussed was different: it meant simply finding no value in life and more or less wanting to die. He unambiguously thought that such a feeling had to be rejected and overcome as much as possible if you wanted to live, though obviously sometimes life is untenable and you could choose suicide. The one thing he hated though is someone becoming a an anarchist or nihilist retard just because they are suffering – something he suspected happened a lot.

    What the censors added to my post above is true. This time I’ll spare them some effort by just adding that I’m going to go blow some major horse cock now, as I do every day around this time because I can’t seem to ever get enough. I also lick pictures of Nietzsche.

  • 61. Raymond Sim  |  April 19th, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    “Hierarchy of oneness” is a nice way of describing one of the classic wrong views that trip people up. It has a twin, which is what happens when would-be nihilists reject everything except rejection of everything. If they’re reasonably clever they eventually notice that and reject it too, but then they also have to reject that rejection – and you see how it goes. Infantile but commonplace even in grownups.

    The only way to imagine a post-annihilation world as better than this one is to posit an observer to appreciate it. That’s silly of course, and self-centered. Not selfish, though it is that, but self-centered. As in foolishly, pathetically incapable of shedding the self.

    Nihilists join the ranks of stupid cunts because they rationalize the universe from the privileged position of their own existence. Baby stuff. Sooner or later everybody notices that life stinks. Take off your diaper already.

  • 62. kulic  |  April 19th, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    This essay is misinformed, blowhard shite.
    It’s well-written, in the way that junior-high and high-school teachers call a piece of writing well-written when everything strings together nicely. For pieces of writing to be so cohesive, so linear, and so methodical, they almost always have to reduce their subject matter to trivial inanity- tres oversimplification, as is the case with this Dolan essay.
    I won’t subject this to a comprehensive examination but let’s bring up two points:
    You don’t use the word nihilism in an educated way. Not to endorse a normative authoritative version of the meaning, but it’s not really clear what your highly unusual and proprietary sense of it is; you don’t define it. And you bring up the Coen brothers of all things, how mediocre is that? Very brainwashed(the hip, snarky, reactive-nihilist variety of brainwashed) and mediocre. If you had bothered to research a little more you might have come to the clear and present (not to mention obvious) realization that the Coen’s are paradigmatic nihilists, and nihilists like your bitchy cunt ass eat them up. They are a large part of the reason why the snarky, hip, (mediocre) intellectual Americans under the age of 80 population segment is so completely and utterly in-effectual and degenerate.., all the while thinking themselves really with it and smart for watching and digging those Coen movies (I know, I’m a sort of fan myself.., but at least I’ve seen the problem with it). The Coen’s suck retard ass, and any fuckwit who references their material as philosophical authority has serious problems, (though in such a society as ours, they may go un-noticed against the backdrop of the noise of far more serious problems… which is to say, against a backdrop of massive and aggressive retardation, such literate and articulate (in that perfect college essay kind of way) fuck-ups like this may go un-noticed.

    (I liked the Ted Hughes column by the way. The Coen’s really do suck ass. Perfect decadent twats. I think it’s hilarious that they are considered the height of serious commentary in America in these times. Cream of a shitty crop.
    On Nietzsche: have any of these people actually read him? Doesn’t seem like it. Or else it’s going in one ear and out the other. )
    Deleuze on Spinoza with something closely related to Nietzsche’s conception of reactive nihilism:
    “[…]It’s in the scholia that he says what an ethics is, to make an ethics is to make a theory and a practice of powers of being affected, and an ethics is opposed to a satirics [satirique]. What he calls a satirics is tremendous enough: it’s everything that takes pleasure one way or another in sad affects, everything which is depreciating and depressing. That’s the satirics. It’s obvious that all of morality goes under the name of satirics. What exactly does powers-that-be mean? And in what ways do the powers-that-be take hold in order to depress, to affect people with sad affects?[…]”

  • 63. Mr Cool  |  April 23rd, 2009 at 7:11 am

    I think the meaning of “nihilism” here is pretty clear: anti-life. In art, any statment against life. In practice, anti-natalism and non-utopian anarchism or even nuclear winterism.

    Though I may dislike the essay’s own pessimism-nihilism, I think Dolan is pretty right on in fingering nihilism in modern art as being mostly a pose to attract cachet. Vanity ruined or vitiated mountains of modern art, though I don’t agree that the nihil pose was it’s main characteristic – the recherche pose was the even more widespread mode of vanity. You see the same recherche in criticism and philosophy; recently even in natural science. 1900s artists were the new world-creators and godmakers taking the place of christianity, and it went to their heads. Anytime they fell short of divine creativity and revelatory originality they became frustrated. I’m no theist but I think they needed a dose of the old school anonym soli deo gloria, then they would have remembered to place beauty above fame and above originality.

    The bounds of anti-life art are a little subjective. I find it hard to see nihilism in anything beautiful (in the broad sense), no matter how harsh or bleak it is. Beauty makes me want to live and have children. I don’t find Kurt Cobain’s music nihilistic though his painting for Incesticide does look nihilist. “Scentless apprentice” may be one of the harshest things around but it’s beautiful.

    I’d love to blather on, but probably few are reading this thread now. Here are some telling quotations about Kurt Cobain:

    “Cobain originally wanted to name the album [In Utero] I Hate Myself And I Want to Die, a phrase that had originated in his journals in mid-1992.[44] At the time, the singer used the phrase as a response whenever someone asked him how he was doing. Cobain intended the album title as a joke; he stated he was “tired of taking this band so seriously and everyone else taking it so seriously”.[45] Novoselic convinced Cobain to change the title due to fear that it could potentially result in a lawsuit.”

    “Throughout most of his life, Cobain suffered from chronic bronchitis and intense physical pain due to an undiagnosed chronic stomach condition.[23] This last condition was especially debilitating to him emotionally, and he spent years trying to find its cause. […] Cobain claimed that he was “determined to get a habit” as a way to self-medicate his stomach condition. Related Cobain, “It started with three days in a row of doing heroin and I don’t have a stomach pain. That was such a relief.”[28]”

  • 64. Eli  |  April 23rd, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Kulic: you are the one exhibiting pointless snideness. Just because you “sugarcoat” it with earthly vulgarity doesn’t take anything away from the fact that your recensing is pure, pompous *shite.*

  • 65. Campbell Roark  |  April 23rd, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Forgive them father, for they know not how to dream…

    Do you see, all of you, do you see how the master draws you in… how so many are compelled (and for each one who begins warily the weary task of compiling his opinions and chaingangbanging them into strident arcs of agreement or disgust; weary laughter or sanguine, jubilant spite…) for each one of them, how many were called to task, or tisk, or conscience… or whatever crass malapropism stumbles into view like a wayward basehead on MLK at 2 am- how many were called by Master Dolan but stepped back from the cry? For each lowly maggot with our pitiful add-ons, our crass collections of mundanities and mendacities… how many were broiled alive and poached in the venomous juices of the master’s spleen but lazily said, “Nay.” Drowsily murmured, “Fuck it.”

    Dolan’s art is that he invites, no- demands a response. His interminable rightness demands no less. Glance above my pallid offering- these slipshod words, this paucity of a dedication- look above this gutted carapace that stains the master’s art, look high! Gaze upon the flatfooted assemblage of palsied death throes, forced mumblings and strained thrusts and missteps and salutations… all, in some form or another, bearing their reverence for the Master. For to write in response is to be compelled, first and foremost, to be called to communion, for whatever reason! Bastards! My brothers!

    Even I, with my pallid cries of worship and delight. I have earned no place at the master’s table.

    Blessed, Blessed be the church of Dolan! For lo, he has come, and yet not come, unto us- his lowly throng- to show us the Church of the New Light, to teach the covenant of The Church of the Long Shadows, the orthodoxy of the psylocibyn cumulonimbus: the holy covenant of the eternal winter of ashen skies!

    Oh, and by he way: all you fucktards who, somehow, haven’t figured this shit out yet- Dolan is Brecher. You clowns should see this shit by now. It couldn’t be more obvious. Compare, for example (one example in a veritable litany)- the third War Nerd article, “Tom Clancy is not one of us,” with all the elaborate revulsion of his ilk (and as the man would say, “they are an ilk.”) in Pleasant Hell. Compare the elegiac, studious hymns to “Jane’s” in the columns of Brecher and the chapters of Dolan. Compare their as-yet unrivaled and criminally slept abilities to render into easy-to-understand-paragraphs precisely what’s wrong with our utterly fucked national defense ideology. Contrast their holy, holy hatred of Vile Reagan (Buster Friendly) as a faux-peacenick dipped in the righteous blood of the national lamb.

    It’s either Dolan solo, or, possibly writing in tandem with Ames or someone else, though I doubt it. Just as Hank Williams had to record his religious-type-shit under the less-punk (for its time) moniker of, “Luke the Drifter,” so must Dolan adopt different personas and shift his message. May it always be so. But no not deceive yourselves as to the authenticity and origin of The Master’s work.

    That one Clancy article (“Swoop, my beauteous eagle! Swoop on yon peasant brat!!!” awesome.) says it all; should be all you need to see this: It’s all Dolan. In that opus, he hasn’t distanced himself from the pose yet. Hasn’t completely taken up the mantle and the mask… Hasn’t dumbed himself down yet to Brecher’s more plodding/less pyrotechnic but equally brilliant and brutal style. The way Dolan/Brecher bounces the thrust of the narrative off of the author and onto Clancy’s ex, “Wanda,” sitting lonely in their mansion (Brecher comparing her to a Far Side character is yet another give away: Dolan constantly references the Far Side as a master archeologist references the cultural mainstays of whatever civilization has caught his exquisitely intractable, incontestable gaze), then- off Wanda and onto that evil talentless, fuckschtick Clancy, then onto the groupie he’s fucking and finally- back to the narrator, for a typically Dolanian piece of polemical denouement full of anarchistic bravado, wherein he quietly calls for us to find Clancy’s mansion, and when we, his brethren, find that pig- “O my brothers, you will know what to do.”

    Pure Dolan. One sees this nascent point of view to taking shape in earlier articles like, “In the Land of heroic Leeches,” And “The Book of The Dead-and Dumb.”

    They are one and the same. I’ve been saying since double-aught four and will shout it until the centuries fall like Samson’s pillars around me. No matter how many times (twice so far) the powers at the eXile refuse to publish these exultant cries of fealty and homage! Dolan is Brecher! May Dolan smite the swine unto eternity!!!!!

  • 66. Eli  |  April 23rd, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Raymond Sim’s comment has a point, however. But *please*, I don’t think that Dr. Dolan isn’t intellectually aware of the pointlessness of suffering-about-suffering (since suffering itself is realized as meaningless, from Nietzsche’s perspective). After all, he somehow carries on living – albeit whining about existence is his prerogative and actual occupation (i.e. curse and blessing at the same time).

    By the way, even being the oftentimes-non-authoritative source that Wikipedia is, it defines nihilism very appropriately and discusses it in depth.

    What Dr. Dolan brings forth as the main point, however, is the potential for existence of the nuclear solution (or “solution,” if you like) – something that didn’t exist during Nietzsche’s time.

    So, yes, while the suffering of a nihilist can be qualified as stupid (including by the nihilist himself) – making it a laughing/despicable matter can only be so from the point of view of someone who gave up on or never seriously considered the possibility that someday a nihilistic superhero/supervillain/messiah/anti-messiah comes and saves (or “saves,” if you insist) the world.

    Oh, and I would disagree with Sim’s assertion that everyone at some point realizes that life sucks. It’s not quite true. And, yes, it’s a good thing for day-to-day existence, as Nietzsche knew.

    I would summarize Dr. Dolan’s position as idealistic nihilism with dramatic undertones. It’s a superb piece writing!

    Despite, personally, supporting (non-ardently-enough) animals’ rights, the only thing I disagree with him about is the animals’ relative worth – I believe human suffering and pleasure has, on average, more dimension to it than an animal’s (even an advanced mammal’s such as dolphin). That is due to the complexity of our brains. I also think that Moo put forth a very good argument regarding animals’ relative worth (in post #9) – showing the inconsistency of Dr. Dolan’s assertion in that regard.

    Again, though – great piece of writing! But I need to disappoint you, Dr. Dolan – people have this thing called “fear” – and it’s always immeasurably stronger than any intellectual realizations, including ones that are as self-consistent and as empathy-borne as meditations on life’s meaninglessness.

    Somehow I feel Sophocles words before own death are appropriate here:

    “The long days store up many things nearer to grief than joy.
    …Death at last, the deliverer,
    Not to be born is past all prizing best.
    Next best by far when one has seen the light.
    Is to go thither swiftly whence he came.
    When youth and its light carelessness are past.
    What woes are not without, what griefs within,
    Envy and faction, strife and sudden death.
    And last of all, old age despised,
    Infirm, unfriended.”

    P.S. To “Honjaku Osho:” screw your meditation. Read some U.G. Krishnamurti. (Yes, “U.G.”)

  • 67. Pip  |  April 28th, 2009 at 8:45 am

    You can’t really blame the nihilists for not following through if you admit they took their lead from Schopenhauer. He was the original faux nihilist. He wanted to whine but he wanted to do it wittily and more importantly he wanted to be appreciated it for it. He lived well past 27. I suspect he was a closet optimist.

    Insteead blame the nihilists for picking the wrong person to follow. But the person this article would have them to follow wouldn’t make it out of his teens.

    People like to moan. People like to exaggerate. Some people like to court controversy.

    Bring on the bomb.

  • 68. H. Purrbuckets  |  April 29th, 2009 at 11:59 am

    This is the most beautiful essay I have ever read. It articulates the intrinsic (and inarguable) pointlessness of existence as clear as a bell. And most of the after-comments illustrate perfectly, albeit unintentionally, the demented self-assurance of that slithering virus so cleverly self-named “man.”

    Sadly, there is no end to life, as for every clear-headed misanthrope their are twenty idiot breeding-machines, who have never risen above the biological imperative of a slug, and ceaselessly grind out 6.5 billion+ deformed, malefic human sausages like they were going out of style. Sigh… if only they would go out of style.

    Even the bomb won’t wipe its vulgar creator out efficiently, but will only add to the suffering. Truly, Humanity is its own crime.

  • 69. bianco  |  May 2nd, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    dolan does arizona bay.

  • 70. yo  |  June 8th, 2009 at 8:50 am

    goodness you’re an idiot. and goodness you don’t know Schopenhauer. if you really did, you sure as hell wouldn’t be quoting him

  • 71. Julio C.  |  July 12th, 2009 at 12:34 am

    Someone one in the comments said, nihilism is a logical conclusion of atheism. That’s fallacious. Take a class or read a book on logic please.

    Also nihilism is stupid and self contradictory. Most people I’ve met who claim to be nihilists are just intellectually lazy and dont want to take responsibility over their actions. They make themselves victims. “So why dont you kill yourself?” I tell them. At which they usually cuss me out or shut up. Very intellectual.

  • 72. Vendetta  |  November 16th, 2014 at 12:16 am

    Carl Sagan also thought that Saddam burning the Kuwaiti oilfields would cause a a global winter. The man’s a sensationalist. The nuclear analysts whose works I’ve read are very skeptical of the idea of nuclear winter. Sorry to break it to you, Dolan. And I say this as a totally reliable anonymous commenter. You can trust me.

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