The Fetishization of Dystopia
from Ligotti to the Alt-Kid Subculture
Talking about the pessimistic conditions of the world we live in is hard to do so in itself: Our lives are filled with small moments of meaning-finding, and there is a lot of good in the world, but to critique the prevailing trend of philosophical pessimism is a hard task in itself. Nonetheless, I will attempt to formulate a healthy and life-affirming critique of authors like Benatar and Ligotti in this blogpost and uncover the psychological and historical reasons why pessimism has traveled into the false equivalency of Nietzche misunderstandings, and why internet subculture has played a big role in doing so.
Modern pessimistic philosophy has never seen worse spokespeople for its validity than the anti-natalists, David Benatar and Thomas Ligotti. The fetishization of Dystopia, the ignoring of finding meaning is common in the works of these men, which is contrary to the authors that they idolize so much (Nietzsche railed against nihilism, and thought that it was a stage that man had to overcome, for one notable example). They willfully misunderstand the books that they take their diatribes and polemics from, and unreasonably think that because life has its problems, that means that it’s useless to construct a yay-saying philosophy out of the seemed inherent meaningless of life, even though the authors they supposedly took from did. The anti-natalists also embody the most baseline Wikipedia-skimming interpretation of Nietzsche: That nothing matters, and that from a literal standpoint, God is dead.
It is clear that their roots have a modern processor in the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement started in 1991 by an activist named Les Knight, who, after taking part of the 1970s deep ecology culture, realized foolishly that the only way humankind can redeem itself is by voluntary extinction. His arguments already have inherent flaws, as 1: Humankind cannot be dissuaded to stopping reproduction, as some religions even make it necessary to reproduce, and sexual desire being a common aspect in all humans (except the asexuals/aromantic community, who avoid sex/romantic attraction as a preference) in some way or form. 2: it immediately takes a subconsciously (whether Knight admits it or not) Puritan approach to solving world problems, stopping sex in favor of a utopian apocalyptic collapse politics and pessimism on steroids. It also uses the fetishization of post-apocalyptic scenarios to its advantage, instilling in people the Fetishization of Dystopia.
It is clear that Benatar has at least heard about Les Knight’s work in the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement and decided to develop his anti-natalism from there, and that’s why we have the modern form of anti-natalism.
The internet, which is losing its faith as the Death of God theology in the 1960s proposed, is flocking to developments like “Optimistic Nihilism” that came out of anti-natalism, as well as starting a separate strain of thought: New Atheism (which is a subsect of Atheist thought started by Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins). It’s a non-philosophy that rejects some philosophical tenets in some ways, with some of them even rejecting philosophy, period, in favor of some reason-supremacist empiricism, closely (but not imitating) resembling Logical Positivism (the most debunked philosophical idea of the 20th century, maybe even of all time).
How can this sorry piss-poor state of affairs in the philosophical world be? Why are people, especially teens and young adults blindly eating this dystopia-fetishization up without any second thought? Why are we convincing ourselves to hide from the life-affirming light of optimistic revolution?
The answer lies in the increasing trend toward pessimism in the western world. The state of the world is refiguring itself towards a decline, which Spengler described pretty well in his book The Decline of the West. In it, he writes: "Mankind," however, has no aim, no idea, no plan, any more than the family of butterflies or orchids. ‘Mankind" is a zoological expression or an empty word . 1 But conjure away the phantom, break the magic circle, and at once there emerges an astonishing wealth of actual forms — the Living with all its immense fullness, depth and movement — hitherto veiled by a catchword, a dryasdust scheme, and a set of personal "ideals.". (Spengler, Introduction, p11, The Decline of the West). He correctly demonstrates why mankind has no aim in the waning of optimism or pessimism, the “Glass half empty or glass half full” paradigm. If you looked at the 1920s for example, the optimistic blind atmosphere was shown:
It was a time of perceived prosperity for the American people: WW1 had ended, developing technology had emerged, faith in the American government was in an all-time high, and the emerging middle class was hiding in their dens, listening to jazz music on the radio while drinking champagne, attempting to cosplay the rich. It was a time of never-before-seen optimism in the faith of the world, ignoring the bigger problems in the world while they focus on throwing dress-up parties and treasure hunts. However, around the turn of the 1930s, the Great Depression happened and swept that optimism away, replacing it with a stern pessimistic nihilism as the illiteracy and poorness rates in America rose. The stock markets crashed, thanks to the carelessness of banks, an inherent aspect of the capitalistic nature of the Western world. It was also one of the reasons why WW2 started, alongside the prevailing threat of Nazi Germany.
The prevailing ultra-nihilism of the 1930s never really left, cementing in younger people a heavy skepticism of prevailing ideas like Religion, and Statehood, sometimes in good ways, but sometimes in detrimental ways. For one: The self-hatred of Gen-Z, my generation, is widespread because of the fatalistic nature of Capitalist society cementing itself in anti-natalist pessimism. It’s media deals with existentialist themes and in heavy venting. We can’t be blamed for this, as Covid has sparked a radical decrease in mental health and physical health, with 2020’s lockdown being a symptom of fascism being openly supported by the Neoliberalist regime. We unknowingly rebel against this admittedly because of pessimism, but also because the conditions in which we live have to change. Ligotti and Benatar, the main theorists behind this strain of pessimistic philosophy I’m talking about, will not give us the preliminary materials for this kind of theory. The theory that they have is a dead-center acceptance of capitalism, the incorrect belief that things will nerve get better, and not to mention it’s fatal misunderstandings of 19th-century existentialist literature. Just because they can’t see that we can create our own meaning, doesn’t mean it’s not there, to sum up, my anti-Ligottism.
Alt-kids are Myspace revivalism hijacked into Ligottism. The nihilism of the current capitalistic world mixed into allowed opposition and pretend-caring of social causes. The “radical” dress styles and the caring of aesthetics like Kidcore and Weirdcore. Gen-Z has gravitated to this a lot and is probably one of the main aesthetic choices that Gen-Z has. The nostalgia for 2000s Myspaceisms set by Covid-nihilism mixed with Hyperpop, an application of PC music that is characterized by nihilist swarm-beats. One main aspect of the Alt-kid/Altcore aesthetic is its reliance on pseudo-Leftism, that is defined by the rejection of leftist economic causes like communism, in favor of a watered-down, fake-revolutionary “let’s all get along!” philosophy of apolitical-pretend-political centrism.
“20. Notice the masochistic tendency of [pseudo-]leftist tactics. [pseudo-]Leftists protest by lying down in front of vehicles, they intentionally provoke police or racists to abuse them, etc. These tactics may often be effective, but many [pseudo-]leftists use them not as a means to an end but because they PREFER masochistic tactics. Self-hatred is a [pseudo-]leftist trait.” (Kacynski, The Industrial Revolution And it’s Consequences).
They do not want to revolt for a good cause, but to promote pessimistic neoliberalism that masquerades as communist theory, reflective of the changing political landscape, and there is no actual leftist force in the united states. They storm transphobe’s meetings for no good purpose other than to disrupt it. They post copypastas on transphobe’s Instagram and Twitter posts and clown them. While these tactics may be effective, it’s also masochistic in nature and isn’t really getting anything done, despite the claims of Bernie-bros.
They, with their protests, shout “protect trans kids!” and “black lives matter!” without realizing that the same institutions those movements grew out of, and then hijacked by neoliberal capitalists, are harming us rather than helping us, hence settling in a faux-pa revolutionary attitude, advocating for reform rather than just and beautiful revolution, hence why we are pessimistic in the ability for the State and capitalism to do anything for those lesser off, and the LGBT community. The neoliberal optimists that are taking control of our lives using Spectacular means “want to be king, until they are.” (Young Fathers, In My View, Cocoa Sugar)
This is where nihilism comes into play for the neoliberal regime: the nihilism regarding capitalism in the western world has made it impossible to escape it, and the New Atheism and Anti-Natalism of Benatar, Dawkins, Hitchens, Ligotti, will only solidify that nihilism instead of giving us any actual critique of the Spectacle. We must therefore revolt through this sorry state of affairs, and create Revolution!