Nihilism: A Hell of a Drug
By Ben Bartee - January 20, 2024

Originally published via Armageddon Prose:

I’ve been doing Dr. Joe Dispenza’s online meditation work lately — because why not when I’ve hit a brick wall? — the overriding mantra of which is that personality (influenced by the past and associated emotions) creates personal reality.

In so doing — in many hours at this point of solo meditation spent in self-induced blackness, just me and my thoughts — I’ve picked up on a curious disposition that I believe permeates like a social contagion our advertising-laden world: the inability to suspend disbelief just enough to get past my own nihilism and doubt, even for a moment.

That incapacity manifests itself even when Joe enunciates truths I know innately to be true — like that if our thoughts can make us sick (psychosomatic illness), it’s equally possible they can make us well (aka the well-documented placebo effect). Even then, I still can’t fully silence the nagging little doubting nihilistic gremlin telling me it’s all New Age bullshit manufactured to move product, to assuage the anxieties of desperate rubes eager to hear soothing nothings whispered in their ears, to make the consumers with disposable income feel like they have a modicum of control over their lives.

Thus, intellectual acknowledgment of truth does not translate into internalization and true change because there’s a firewall I haven’t managed yet to penetrate.

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Given the social milieu I was raised in, why wouldn’t I — or you —assume everyone is trying to sell me something as a first-order priority, irrespective of whether the product is comprised of quality ingredients, or materials, or ideas?

Letting your guard down as a consumer, inundated as we are with clever and ever-ever-evolving schemes aimed at the subconscious to induce consumption, is an invitation to get sold a bill of goods. Indeed, more than the mere predictable product of it, deep skepticism is a survival mechanism in a culture steeped in advertising.

I’m not here to bash capitalistic free markets — it’s possible there is no better workable system, and certainly not one of centralized economic control; opening up markets has pulled billions of people out of material poverty worldwide. Still, there is an undeniable psychological and social cost to monetizing everything, even spiritual enlightenment. And it’s ugly.

The pragmatism of unbelief aside, believing in stuff, we are subtly, inexplicitly taught, is uncool. It’s so 1500. God’s dead.

Trendies don’t believe in anything, except maybe fashion. The cool thing, so says pop culture, is to give up on finding any transcendence in anything and make that part of your identity, as a kind of based aesthetic.

Then, to add insult to injury, the fake culture machine monetizes the apathy, decadence and self-indulgence that it fostered in the first place. There’s nothing monetizable or exploitable for social control that isn’t pushed by the power structure.

Marketing despair as an aesthetic sells but, more importantly, it conditions the slaves to give up, eat zhe bugs, take their SSRIs and benzos, live life third-eye-blind in the Metaverse, and die quietly in lockdown because it’s all so pointless anyway, and anyone who says differently, per The Princess Bride, is selling something.


Ben Bartee, author of Broken English Teacher: Notes From Exile, is an independent Bangkok-based American journalist with opposable thumbs.

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