Monday, June 24, 2013

Nihilism, Capitalism, and Population Control

“Psychic depression, personal worthlessness, and social despair are widespread in America as a whole… Just as in the black community, the saturation of market forces in American life generates a market morality that undermines a sense of meaning and larger purpose.” -Cornel West, Democracy Matters
 A prophetic pragmatist, a civil rights activist, and a lover of the people, Cornel West tackles what he calls a danger to the general public. This danger can be called nihilism, it takes many different shapes and forms but it has done one thing to society; keep the people down and keep them controlled. In Race Matters and Democracy Matters, West identifies nihilism and how it has affected both Black America and all of America.

In order to fully understand the connection between nihilism in Black America and the American population as a whole; one must first comprehend the problems faced in black communities.
“The most basic issue now facing Black America: the nihilistic threat to its very existence… It is primarily a question of speaking to the profound sense of psychological depression, personal worthlessness, and social despair so widespread in Black America.”  -Race Matters
This issue is not one that comes out of thin air but more so, it is an issue that has resurfaced in the black community. West reflects on the time when African Americans made their trans-atlantic voyage to the New World. African Americans began their struggle as soon as they stepped foot on American soil. Being treated as less than human and the psychological breakdown was in part the root of nihilism in black society. The loss of hope and absence of meaning were hard to overcome. A break through with a push for civil rights and equality in the 1960’s was a turning point. At that time it seemed that the fight against nihilism had been over with Black Americans coming out victorious. However, over the years there has been a relapse. In a market driven society, “images of comfort, convenience, machismo, femininity, violence, and sexual stimulation” (Race Matters, Pg. 27), have dragged African Americans farther into the nihilistic hole. A false sense of comfort and "progress" lulled these communities allowing for changes in policy and social norms. The largest and most alarming change in policy, recently, being the reconstruction and nullifying of certain parts (Section 4 & 5) of the Voter's Rights Act (VRA). With nihilism threatening the betterment of Black America, there must be a way to fight it.

West discusses several solutions that can be used for the struggle against nihilism in the black community. The first is replacing self-loathing and a sense of worthlessness with self-love and increased self-valuation. On one hand, it is hard to feel a good sense self valuation when your environment i.e school, neighborhoods, are not safe or secure. Nevertheless, we as a community need to come together stronger, less trying to get the upper hand and more lending a hand. A strong community breeds a stronger generation. "It takes a village to raise a child." The second point West touches on is being active in politics on the local level. There is only so much one can do sitting and complaining, taking action and putting it to local officials about your issues in the community is the best way to strive for change. This may change for many Southern state communities with the changes made to the VRA. Many times people sit in despair believing there is nothing one can do but that is not necessarily the case. With an understanding of nihilism in Black America one can now make the connection between Black America and America as a whole.

A market driven and capitalistic society has managed to dismantle democracy and replace it with the corruption experienced today in American politics. The fall of America’s democracy is its own hybridity with Capitalism. Malcolm X can be quoted on the matter, "You show me a capitalist, and I'll show you a bloodsucker". Capitalism takes away the power that democracy gives to the minority and disenfranchised. We live in a compromised democracy. Capitalism in fact turns this democratic republic into an imperialistic society where there citizens live life blind to what’s going on or forced to accept the conditions. The connection between nihilism in Black America and all of America is closely related because both sides are subject to governmental corruption.

To make things clear, capitalism in itself is not a bad economic practice and model to follow. However, the corruption and its application throughout many different facets of society is. The market driven aspect of capitalism has been corrupt by corporations and Wall Street. Many politicians that were voted in by the people have been bought out by these large corporations.
In February of this year, news broke that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew received an exit package worth over $1 million from Citigroup shortly before joining the Obama administration in 2009. In fact Lew’s contract with Citigroup made explicitly clear that the banker’s eligibility for a special bonus was contingent on his securing a “full time high level position with the U.S. government or regulatory body.
-The Nation
Likewise, a market economy mentality cannot be applied to other social facets like education and health care. Our government believes that a market based system can be added to education, when that occurs children are no longer looked at as human beings. They become numbers on a chart of how successful an institution can be. An example is standardized testing. Many public schools across the country use standardized testing as a means to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of a school. This method allows for less preparation for college, more focus on test taking. All this in order to show the school is excelling, leaving kids to fall through the cracks in the system. Education, a glimpse of how the market driven society is a result of an already corrupt, capitalism infused, government.

These institutions and avenues of society, based on the market system, result in a nihilistic population. Lulled to sleep in their own problems, these people are unable to pull out of the hole that they find themselves in, or even realize that they are in one. In black America many of the youth have fallen in that trap of not knowing what they can accomplish or not believing they can accomplish their dreams. The election of Barack Obama helped many children of the minority in providing a role model, so to say, that they can look up too. However, in the grander scheme of things the black community is in turmoil. Since the recession many Americans as a whole have seen great hardships as pointed out in Poverty in America, a middle class being wiped out and people stuck in their own problems leading to easy governmental control.

Nihilism is a danger to America. Democracy has been compromised by a misuse in capitalistic practices. The love for greater mankind is slowly being replaced by the love of power and wealth.

Written by: E. Rey