How we condescend to nihilists: how we infantilise their motives, reduce their lives to shells and hypocrisies. We treat the nihilist as we might a local madman whose visions we relish for their falsity, the drunkard on the corner no longer respectable for what he’s done to himself. We treasure the childish element in children, in dogs; we loathe it in anything else, and please ourselves with the castigation of overgrown innocents.
A nihilist doesn’t come to our door wearing some trademark hat of immorality: he is revealed over a long dinner, he comes into our world dressed like other friends, and we listen to his words with perked ears and mouthfuls of meat and opinion; we discern in the timbre of his voice a total nullity, a reluctance to love what we love. He is a nihilist.
We call him deluded, we tell him he can’t possibly believe in nothing. Having offered him such expert diagnosis, we then rebel at his indifference, we offer treatments at a bargain. But of course he will not change. We see in him the void of our convictions.
With every insolence we detect in his tics and grimaces, we grow nobler, we turn philosophical in our violence. We aim our rhetoric at ourselves: the public is our own uncertainty, the hyperbole of this stranger’s total nothingness assures us of our truths, glorifies our patience, justifies our traditions, hides the doubt that would leap out of the chasm.