A critique on the criticisms of memes, shows and books about nothing.

In his widely renowned book ‘Shows About Nothing: Nihilism in Popular Culture’, Thomas Hibbis talks about how nihilism: an absence of belief in anything, has seeped into popular culture. Shows like Rick and Morty, movies like Fight Club and Pulp Fiction, suicide memes or people eating Tide Pods: all have an underlying intersectionality that says God isn’t real and life is meaningless. Not to be confused with atheism, nihilists believe that we are just spiritless inhabitants of a purposeless world.

People have tried to label this as something extremely regrettable, and blame the glamourisation of popular culture of a growing sense of disconnect and absurd existentialism among young people. Then again, most people who think so are also writing articles about how millennials are killing the movie business.

The truth is that at a point in time where education is rising, and students aren’t just passive absorbers of static knowledge, we are thinking about things. Most of us live privileged lives, and when we don’t have to worry about having a roof over our head or 4 square meals a day, existentialism creeps up. Why am I here? What can I do to make in impact? How do I ensure people remember me?For so long religion and philosophy have tried to answer these questions, and failed. Religion is riddled with dogma and restriction, Philosophy offers no solace simply because it’s too time consuming and needs in depth knowledge.

But why has this curiosity converted into a lack thereof: an acceptance that there are no answers? This is where I tell you that nihilism isn’t necessarily stagnating or negative. There have been a range of Ted Talks on a school of thought called Optimistic Nihilism recently, allow me to simplify. Understanding that the universe is too big to care about whether or not you eat that sugar loaded pastry, bunk that lecture, or finally confess to your crush, can be a good thing. If we have no predetermined purpose, if God doesn’t have a naughty and nice list, it means that we get to dictate our purpose. In other words, if life means nothing, I get to decide what MY life will mean. When I realize that I am responsible for everything I do, and am in control of what I do and why I do it, I live by certain guiding principles and I value my morality.

As millennials and Generation Z, the system has failed us. The American Dream is a lie, and we know that most of us are going to end up average, even our class topper with a perfect 10 CGPA. But average isn’t all that bad when you stop comparing yourself to Gandhi and take control of your thoughts. If you’re reading this article on your phone, you’re educated, you have basic facilities and life is good. You don’t have to be stuck in planning for the future, you can value your education, obsess about the perfect cup of Chai and cherish your student days. More so, keep up the meme making and pick shows like Rick and Morty over the same old uni dimensional F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

Feature Image Credits – Twitter

Nikita Bhatia
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As wistful nostalgia and overweening regret over a squandered semester dawns upon college students at this imperiled hour, is the dizzying rise of nihilist memes and notions in student bastions a scathing critique on the Indian education system?

A morbid infatuation with despondency and macabre elements is palpable within the current generation of students who’re reeling with the cataclysmic effects of decades of disastrous and myopic policies crafted by statesmen and politicians patently averse to the plight afflicting college students.

At this juncture, even a languid analysis will reveal startling results. While the febrile joviality of students during their freshman year of college is infectious, for a rare brand of zeal and gumption is displayed in a setting plagued with gloom, it gradually whittles down and buckles down to the inordinate pressure and colossal constructs constantly assailing them, for by the end of their stints in college, most of them have already undergone gruelling stress and drudgery, and resort to displaying excessive servility, and a meek, demure temperament in front of the asymmetrical college administration.

Although flexibility is hailed as a cornerstone of modern education, its acceptance in the Indian educational microcosm has been proceeding at a very dawdling pace, rendering millions of hapless students stranded and desperately groveling for hope. While universities and politicians are quick to decry the paucity of student-centric norms as a farce, owing to the languid implementation of cherry-picked proposals which they foisted upon universities and students, it’s a far cry from the burgeoning instances of students grappling with mental health problems and nihilism in general.

Utterly scornful of a system that obviates all instances of exhibiting one’s creative finesse, remains arrantly oblivious to their scathing grievances, and plods them constantly to cower in front of an antiquated and regressive system, the trifecta plays a seminal role in ensuring a prompt espousal of a lethargic front and a macabre outlook, which stumps parents and policymakers alike.

However, the prolonged combat doesn’t end here, for the festering cutthroat competition is contingent on engendering a supercilious disposition in students that unremittingly smothers one’s primal instincts to deviate from the norm to strike a dissenting chord.

It’s no wonder that the dizzying rise of a monolith system that thrives on the misery of embittered students is accompanied by a phenomenon marked by a remarkable increase in students professing their penchant for memes that are either nihilist or anti-natalist in their essence, a situation that doesn’t bode well with conservative parents.

And despite the interminable hemming and hawing by policy pundits who lament the occurrence of such an aberration on a colossal scale, nothing tangible has manifested that could assuage such grouses, for students are repeatedly chided and berated for airing their grieving voices in an astringent tone, which stems from years of neglect and tactless upbringing that fosters an insalubrious environment. While universities in this nation reel with concerns emanating from trenchant student politics, rampant goondaism, and nepotism, implementation of universally-lauded measures to ameliorate the gasping concerns of students seems to be the least of their concerns. They’re hushed into silence by being exposed to the inclement power ascendancy that exists between them and the seemingly insurmountable organs of ginormous universities and hectored into ignominious submission with vendetta-laced retaliatory measures that cast aspersions on their frangible and precarious existence itself.

Collegiate elections are laced with vitriol and frequent references to one’s caste and creed are made to ensure that one isn’t cognizant of his/her perils and exercises his/her discretion with an execrable tainted mindset, which exacerbates the prevailing condition to new lows. Collegiate politics seldom invoke issues marring the collegiate landscape: academic tussles as a mainstay of the Indian education system, the imperiled nature of students battling various disparate impediments at once, and a stubborn system that refuses to reform itself despite a deafening hue and cry.

Scant flexibility around the curriculum, professors who frequently exercise their discretion in a manner reminiscent to that of Nero, and a dubious microcosm that extols academic mediocrity while lambasting ingenuity make students ponderous with dejection and dismal despair as their terms with universities come to a pitiable culmination.

Never has this despicable scenario sprouted as intermittently as it has in the contemporary epoch, with students now even struggling to scrounge for moxie for their quotidian sustenance as they drudge along while commuting, while attending monotonous, droning lectures, and while unwittingly scripting their own demise, all the while maintaining a harried expression that reeks of misery and a wistful longing for a hunky-dory past.


Feature Image Credits: The Indian Express

Adeel Shams

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