Nihilist parenting tips

“I have two daughters. I have two daughters that I will, above all else, do anything to protect and to provide for. I have two daughters whose fates are intertwined with the fate of all wildness. I have two daughters who have no future on a dead planet.”

I read the recent editorial to the forthcoming Black and Green Review, and I suppose I’ll just say that Kevin Tucker has the tendency to mistake moral posturing for an argument. That’s fine, we’re about the same age and have about the same number of spawn, I understand that doubling down on curmudgeonry is appealing when the twinges in your back take longer and longer to go away.

If there is one thing that I am becoming allergic to as I veer toward middle age, it is depending on “best case scenarios” or beneficial windfalls to save the day. Things never go according to plan: everything, from fixing the car, to completing a project around the house, to fixing a special meal, will be more expensive, will take more time, and will never come out quite as you planned. One of the other problems that I have encountered in maturity is learning that things will never break as expected. Indeed, “breaking” is the annihilator of expectations. Want to make the universe chuckle? Tell it your plans, or so the saying goes.

Anarcho-primitivism of the Zerzan / Tucker school seems to lean heavily on knowing, within reason, how something (all things) will inevitably break. I have already addressed why I think this is not very likely or possible. You may be able to predict to some degree of accuracy how a seed will grow or how a particular person will develop, but try to predict into how many pieces a plate will break if you throw it on a hard surface. At the same time, I find it hard to believe that an ideology based on the following sequence of events will be successful:

  1. Withdraw into the bush with your “besties” and create a “resilient” community (whatever that means)
  2. …. etc. [insert catastrophe here]
  3. Immediate returns hunter-gatherer nomad tribes dominate the Earth…

Aside from being a farcical repeat of the Yankee communal cult form, the major event here is some sort of nebulous eschatological happening that can’t be fathomed in any real digestible form. What does a plate shattering into seven billion pieces look like?

Parents should not feel obligated to promise their child “a future” because “the future” is precisely the problem. There is no way for me, as a parent, to equip my children for things that I barely understand. And perhaps the “cure” would be worse than the disease: to sell all that one has, take up the Cross, and follow wildness; to sacrifice all for the Primitivist Pearl of Great Price obtained after forty or more years of wandering in the desert.. all of that seems too much like a Sunday school lesson for my comfort.

What if nihilist parenting is parenting in the now, with all of its contradictions, with all of the things we don’t like? I feel strongly that the idea that I could promise my children “a better world,” would simply be the wrong mentality to have. The most I can hope for is to be there and be strong for those I love, and that’s it. There is a strength and resilience that one either has or one doesn’t. I don’t think it has to do with mere survival, it has more to do with realizing that there is more to life than just survival. We aren’t free, no, and to be honest, I think talking about “freedom” is rather stupid in our circumstance. It really is more a question of if life is meaningful, and if there is more to life than scrounging and groveling for our existence.

To be honest, as a parent, I cannot worry about tomorrow that much. And if I do, I miss so much. Part of my honesty is to tell my girls that they are mortal. They know that they are mortal, they know that we disappear to make way for others. That’s not “hopelessness” or “nihilism” (really), that’s just life. That’s part of the joy of being human, it’s to take your lumps like any animal. The last thing that I want them to do (though I have little control over this) is to sacrifice themselves for an ideal that they have no stake in, even if it is something as “fundamental” as the survival of the species a few generations from now.

In this sense, I don’t see one path of life as better than any other that we are currently offered. The last thing a good animal should do is “weaponize” their own survival as some sort of tactical sacrifice for generations that are yet to come. Unlike many of like-minded people to the south, I don’t fantasize about living a primitive life that I barely understand, yet I highly respect. Some of us are just unlucky, but all of us are tossed about by the winds of fate. For those I love, I just want for them to have the ability to enjoy what is free for us to all enjoy (nature, friends, simple pleasures) and the inner (and outer perhaps) strength to resist the rest. To have big plans invites fragility, but to forge certain attitudes (perseverance, loyalty, fortitude) creates resilience. That’s easier said than done, and again, I care little for the future when speaking of these topics. But a little love, tough and not-so-tough, can perhaps go further than training for Hobbesian Armageddon, or at least help us enjoy life up to the point of the second coming of Catastrophe.


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