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.