It’s the nihilism, not the IQ

Last week, Ron Guhname of Inductivist, tied together two disparate concepts I’d never thought to shove in the same container: Mexicans and nihilism. Like all good quants, he was able to tease out a correlation between the two groups with unrecognizable alliances using sociological surveys administered to a statistically significant group of people, of which ethnicity is but one variable. In the ethnic rankings of nihilism expressed by ethnic groups based on negative responses to the sentiment that life serves no purpose, Mexicans were at the top of the nihilist heap by a substantial statistical margin.

I gave it some thought. Initially I wasn’t sure what to make of the connection. However, after mulling it over, I began to nod in that “mmm, yeah, it does make sense…” type of post-reactive agreement.

If there is any group I know well, it’s the Mexicans.

We are truly a nihilistic bunch.

We attempt to sweep it grandly under the rug with dogma. The Catholic church has been our standard savior/buffer against the ruthless self-inflicted torments of meaninglessness which we drown in. But as anyone in L.A. can tell you, Mexicans have a voracious need for devotion. Any devotion, and the more fanatical, the better. Slowly, the Catholic church has given way to the 7th Day Adventists, Mormons, Baptists, Jehovah Witnesses, and a host of other self-conscious religiousness in the pursuit of quenching that gaping maw in our soul that threatens to swallow us as the prospect of yet another floundering and useless day winds down.

Mexicans love superstition and mystical shit. They love unrealistic diets and Herbalife. They just love herbs! They like Botanicas and faith healers and fortune tellers, sometimes all within the same scummy storefront in East L.A. Mexicans love this crap unofficially designed to lend meaning and a sense of control to life without meaning. For the essential elemental building block (or perhaps, waste product) of nihilism is hopelessness.

The Mexican character is immersed in hopelessness all its life but reacts as a culture with flagrant stereotypical pretensions. Superstition is our grand mortal salve which soothes the pain of Nothingness. Mexicans are practitioners not only of black magic, but black humor. The way we laugh at ourselves and our misfortunes would mortify most people, especially the SWPL folk. I learned at a young age that I needed to tone down my fatalism when dealing with non-Mexicans because the attitude can come across as harsh and dispiriting to those who were raised in cultures of hope and putative meaning.

Within Mexican culture, as with all cultures, nihilism is a descriptor, an adjective that insinuates nothing of behavior. It’s our reaction to nihilistic beliefs and values that shape our personality. It’s what we do with this knowledge that matters. A lot of Mexicans react by partying. There is a strong strain of joie de vivre interlaced with tragedy and sadness in the Mexican persona. Joyous, boisterous songs of sadness. The tragedy is our sadness at the irrevocable emptiness we experience at the cruel irony of a life that calls itself “life.” The natural extension of nihilism in the normal human is hopelessness. Being a worst sort of nihilist, I try to find strength in myself, autonomously. I shunned religion and superstition long ago. When I was 12. A nihilistic minded person can soften the approach by molding a personal, unyielding value system from which to derive substantive meaning from life. One can shrink his world to such a degree that the border of his existence stops just outside his field of vision, and thus isolated, is able to withstand an aimlessly glib existence.

Nihilism is an inhibitor of ambition. What’s the use of ambition when there is little intrinsic hope in this world and its delusions? A couple of days prior to this post, Gunhame put several occupations to the nihilism test. He found that lower-income occupations scored highest in scores of nihilism. He concluded that “evidently, a sense of meaningless is more of a problem for people with low status, repetitive occupations. Jobs with power and money are correlated with less nihilism.”

I feel this is putting the cart before the horse because of my experience with Mexican nihilism. Nihilism kills ambition. When nihilism is present as a pervasive cultural curse (and I have no idea why Mexicans are more nihilistic), this brings a pall upon all striving and long-term desires since most people don’t handle nihilistic conclusions very well. Rather than manipulate life to suit their own needs, they manipulate their expectations and values in order to create a world with meaning, however spurious, even if it is artificial and implanted deep in the web of a holy book. This sense of nihilism quashes ambition and competitiveness, the fuel of capitalistic modernism.

Whereas the archetypal tiger mom is driven by a furious and blind pissing match with other tiger moms, and the eyes of genteel society in general, the typical nihilistic Mexican sees no reason to suffer greatly for a future that means nothing.

My own nihilism prevents me from taking things seriously and I’ve let it now sabotage any sense of well-being. Some might fight to prop up a conformist value system and hope that the presence of shit and money in their life might give it some worth. Lonely is the nihilist who can’t find worth in money or possessions.

The key to “excellence” in this post-modern consumerist cacaphony is caring and believing this rat race has meaning and significance and that the dollar matters. Mexican nihilism negates crass materialism. It’s no surprise that the most materialistic and wealthy present day Mexicans often attain their fortunes by marketing narcotics, the great escape vehicle from valueless existence.

The subtle aroma of poo-poo which upsets our life

Yesterday was “chilly” for L.A. Nighttime temperatures were in the low 60’s and high 50’s. That’s cold for our Southwestern habitat. My morning bus was crowded but not packed. Because of the “frigid” temperatures, no one pulled the windows open and the bus had that warm musky air of trapped and smoldering bus-riding humanity which is never pleasant. I headed straight for the rear bench line of seats which were anchored on each end/corner by occupants, and I sat directly in the middle.

The stale entrapped bus-air smoldered humidly like bad bed breath. The driver did not turn on the cold or hot air and thus the only air movement on this rolling coffin was the result of people exiting or entering. As soon as I sat down, a very vague waft of poo-poo smell greeted by nose. Very faint. So faint that I wasn’t sure I smelled correctly. It vanished as quickly as it appeared. I checked out my neighbors from the corner of my eyes. The first lesson of public transportation survival is that one does not leer, even though you really want to sometimes. Nearly everyone in my vicinity was clean cut and presumably had showered recently. They looked “fresh.” Nearly all of them… There was one guy who sat in the sideways-facing seats nearby who looked scummy. Hmm.

I remained there for a couple of stops and for the most part, the poo-poo fleeting odor was not obvious but at times it seemed stronger and then non-existent in waves of poo-poo ebbing and flowing cycles. When it struck, it was as if it had been roused by random, transient air movements. Once I turned quickly and the poo-poo smell, ever so indistinguishable, lingered on the outskirts of my nostrils for 2 seconds before vanishing.

I think it was the odor’s fleeting nature that was so maddening.

Poo-poo is one of those smells you expect should strike with a resounding force of a hurricane strength wind. Poo-poo smell is obnoxious, there is nothing gentle about it. So when it lingers faintly, as if someone changed a baby diaper about 3 hours ago, it’s difficult to process. You expect something more. It is odious, thus it must be strong. But it’s not. Finally someone in the sideways facing seats left the bus so I moved there amid an expectation of relief which proved to be short-lived, because once again, that faint poo-poo smell made its bothersome appearance.

I looked across at where that guy sat. He was dark, Hispanic, with strong Native American phenotype. Dark skin, very dark eyes, he even had long hair bunched up in a rowdy, messy pony tail. His clothes were filthy. His hoodie sported a vast beige stain as if he had spilled food or vomited on himself. His nails were dirty and he kept fidgeting with an mp3 player which seemed as scruffy as he was. His shoes were a mess. If anybody was exuding a poo-poo smell, it was he. Once I moved, however, the odor stopped finally. He finally got off at a major intersection, but not before I realized the micro-stench was issuing from the rear bench. Either one of my corner neighbors hadn’t wiped their ass very well and the waft of remnant feces remained, but lacking the knockout punch to KO those who approached, didn’t strike me as terribly strong, or, the vivid smell of poo-poo had lived here recently, but now departed, left a legacy of its putrid affront. I don’t know what happened.

It occurred to me…this is life, isn’t it?

Many of us, most of us, are so busy, so preoccupied with making money and spending it and impressing strangers that we never know exactly the vague scents which traverse our mind’s horizon.

We are too busy to know. Self-importance clouds our senses.

Our senses are dulled and alienated. Sometimes in our life we experience the hazy unease of a bad odor, the remnant of disgruntled fortune, a departed agony, and though we know something is wrong, that things are not quite right, we don’t think about it and we don’t devote much examination because frankly, we don’t care. Still, the faint odor lingers in our mind, the faint odor of unease and unhappiness. Dissatisfaction. We know something is not right. But we allow them to flourish so we may concentrate on those which do disrupt our life. We put out the large fires but in the background, all the small flames smolder and we smell them but disregard them and change seats while we blame the wrong victim.

For the distant odor is right in front of our eyes.

Puro party!

In my recent past I was acquainted with a couple of Latina hoodratty girls of humorous but capricious and self-absorbed temperaments. In sum, they were simply doing what they do best: being young party gals whose sole aim in life rotated around having a good time. All else was sacrificed or distorted in the pursuit of a good time.

I certainly have nothing against “good times” even though personally, I’ve become quite the “good time” naysayer. I believe self-sacrifice and grueling self-infliction of physical and emotional austerity are the keys to a significantly meaningful existence. “Good times” are overrated and doomed to bust, anyways.

Go ahead, have a good time. Just do not make procuring such the sole purpose in your life. The very definition of life is “to kill a good time.” OK…I made that up, but is this not what life is about, after all? You might have a great time almost every day of your annoying life, for 80 years perhaps, then you die and all those good times vanish into thin air like a bitter whisper. Worthless shit. Good times did nothing. You were still an empty, blank-eyed doe the day you died because the good times shrank your soul.

Have a good time, but let it be an accessory to your depraved subhumanity. Don’t let it be the central focus of your fragile existence on this planet. These 2 hoodrat girls, even though they essentially structured their lives self-importantly around the tenant of having a good time, of maximizing leisure and luxury, and of letting this value system drive their life, still joked dryly in amusing bits of realistic, self-directed sarcasm. They said of themselves, in Spanish, “puro party!. It was boastful but simultaneously, self-deprecating. And always bitingly true. This is one of those Spanish phrase which translates poorly. In fact, it appears as an entry in Urban Dictionary:
“A term commonly used by Big Syphe and Eric Deluxe on Power 106 meaning “pure party””

Well yeah, if you insist on translating foreign phrases to English, and vice versa, the mechanical translation tells us what the words mean, but the translation does not convey the spirit of the phrase. Sometimes the phrase is nigh untranslatable. When the 2 hoodrats joked about being puro party, they were keenly recognizing that which I’m describing here. “Puro party” literally translates to “pure party,” sure. But it is more because it describes a way of life, a manner of living and embracing the world. It is an outlook. I think it is a sort of misplaced and unearned sense of joie de vivre, a fixation with gratification at the expense of misery as a tool of human enrichment. Puro party is an attitude. Puro party is resistance to life and subjugation to falsity, for consistently exaggerated levels of happiness are as hollow and harmful as high fructose corn syrup which is simply unnatural and exaggerated sweetness. Puro party people are addicted to artificially sweetened happiness. Each simple holiday must be transformed into an event corralling all energy, and if possible, 2 or 3 days off from work. Food is transformed into a gluttonous experience of tastes and flavors in which the basic offering of food, which is nourishment, is trampled beneath the rush to try foods of all types in a feast of inflated physical sensations. Puro party is an artificial existence for it cannot sustain.

Some point to IQ as a reason behind the failure of some cultures to advance as far as other cultures where the average IQ is higher. Possibly so, but I often wonder about the veracity of this belief, because some cultures seem more prone to the “Puro party” outlook which is just a self-defeating habitual short-term orientation when applied to the historical fortunes of any society. Puro party is street name for short-term orientation, but with more “pizzazz.” Robert Lindsay has pointed out that some cultures which appear “IQ-challenged” on the surface are nevertheless able to form relatively efficient and well-run municipalities and nations. I believe when measured in averages containing millions of subjects, IQ is a less pronounced indicator of orderly civilization than the “Puro party” variable.

Find the “Puro party” people and you will find broken strands of culture and trash on the ground.

How to be a good American

Our government is a facile skeleton of what our Founders intended when they triumphantly applied the final touches to our Constitution and its virtuous philosophical structure which those men sincerely expected would prove to be the greatest civilized experiment. It worked for a long time abiding loosely by the guidelines launched with the ostensible aim of shaping this Republic in a self-perpetuating reaction of human excellence through future generations. Then the money men erupted across our landscape like poisonous mushrooms lying in wait, poised to usurp all noble entreaties of our Founding Fathers. The money men were wise but impatient and taken with their own greed. Slowly, our government, when referred to as the government, came to evoke images of a staid, entrenched, dog-chasing-its-tail bureaucracy of dead-end levers and optimum inefficiency fueled by the flammable duopoly of profit and greed.

Our “government” is a shell of the grandiose dream that gave birth to its formation centuries ago by a band of deposed men rescued by their idealism.

Our government is overrun with oligarchs, bankers and MBA’s. Our Bill of Rights is a past due invoice that snubs its nose at those who would rape us more viciously if only it could be so. Our “government” is a runaway train of financial elitism and it’s in the business manufacturing promises. The most successful advertising agency in this country is housed within the classic pillars of Washington DC’s mightiest testaments to power. They pitch freedom and we keep buying. We are the most gullible customers. They alter the pitch ever so slightly, and dully mesmerized, we rush out to try each new flavor which is simply an old one, just re-packaged.

Our government demands our cooperation and blind delusion.
Our government depends on our conformist frenzy.

Our government wants you to live a complicated, modern life. It wants you to live an existence of scattered and disconnected realms. Our government’s financial fuel is the incongruity of your turbulent life and all the havoc it creates in the profit-generating sphere. It wants you to not have your shit in order. It wants you to spend too much, it wants you to borrow because you were a poor conductor of personal finance, and it wants you to default and fail to fulfill promises. The government needs you to run your life poorly and it wants you to compensate for culturally-dictated failure with wild and exaggerated pipe dreams of status and class, and further, it wants you to learn to define these in terms of possessions and glitter and reflexive consumerism. The government wants you to feel empty and it wants you to have no idea. It wants you to feel a void and it wants you to fill that void not with self-realization or a higher sense of wisdom: it wants you to be base. It wants you to spend money to fill the void. It needs you to fill that void with the artificial materialist narcotics of society that can be outlawed because the government needs to effect new streams of criminalization in order to spawn underground economies that enrich without paying the institutional price of legal legitimacy.

The government does not want you to be in control of your life. The government wants your life to be chaotic and fraught with irresponsibility and immature abandon. The government becomes wealthy off the backs of its puppet citizenry. The government wants you to be in over your head and it wants you to lose complete perspective when it comes to defining your self-existence.

I am sick of watching our government ease the way for gluttonous screw-ups. Those who joined the mindless frenzy get bailed out. People who abuse the system get bailed out. Governmental co-dependence. Screw ups are handed a clean slate and encouraged to soil it because it is patriotic to do so!

Yet, the simple man who demands nothing, uses little, leaves little mark on society, receives nothing. No federal commendations for those who remain offstage. The best way to keep up with the Jones’s in 2011 is to make terrible decisions and rash choices, and in turn, receive “get out of jail” passes from the government congratulating you for being a good, impulsive citizen, for fueling the dystopian socioeconomic backbone of our corporacracy with your excessive nature. It’s the American thing to do.