It’s a fact of life that much of the authority we face in our lives is bunk. People enforce little rules out of fear, or in some need to make themselves seem more important than they are. Even worse, the rules are usually designed to fit imaginary scenarios where all people are motivated by a few carrots and threatened by a few sticks.
What I like about nihilism is its reduction of authority. When you’re in a situation, you know how the scenario needs to play out so that whatever function you’re undertaking gets accomplished without causing undue havoc. This interpretation both frees you from inaccurate authority, and makes you more responsible without authority — a form of growth.
For example, the laws of the land are unevenly enforced. A nihilist sees them as devices for two purposes: fleecing the population, and when one of them steps out of line, as a pretense for stopping that person. The cops don’t actually care if you speed or take drugs, with the exception of well-intentioned individual officers unaware of the system in which they find themselves. The police department makes its money off of you.
Of course, if you move into a neighborhood and start causing stupid problems, they will find something you’ve done that’s wrong. Um, sir, your garbage needs to be six inches closer to the curb… that’s a fine. Your parties are too loud, spend the night in jail. Your house is ugly so we’re going to send you angry notes. Their goal is to drive you out by enforcing hassle upon you. It usually works.
A nihilist on the other hand realizes that the law operates on the principle that what is unseen and causes no problems (and isn’t a profit opportunity) causes no enforcement. You don’t make the cops look bad, and don’t cause other people to get all knotted up because you made their day worse, and you can do just about anything you want.
For example, if you move into a neighborhood and quietly grow dope for yourself and your friends, but you smoke it quietly with the stereo at a decent volume and you hide the stench, few people if any care. There may be a few fanatics who derive power from ruining other people’s days, but these are actually in the minority, because you have to have nothing you need to do to be on such a vigilance crusade. This is why the elderly are the ones always yelling at you to get off their lawns and cut your hair and get a job.
Another example is the internet. You can go about your business, even if it’s illegal and immoral and perverse, but as long as you don’t intrude on others, they remain oblivious because they derive a greater sense of personal importance from ignoring most of what goes on in the world. They like being out of touch so they can focus on how great they are, what they can buy, and who they’re going to vote for. It’s all personal adornment, like what they’re wearing that day. “I’m a good guy because I vote democratic, don’t steal from the poor, and eat only fair trade nutritional yeast.” It’s a form of subdued, sublimated panic.
I frequently run into trouble with people on forums. The admins will freak out at something I’ve said, usually for content, and so they’ll trot out some pretense of a rule and claim I violated it and I’m terrible. They can rarely just admit that my presence offends them (note: conservatives are actually better about this, since they are generally more vigorous about rigid beliefs of wrong and right, which comes in handy in some cases — if there’s a pedophile in your neighborhood, call the most Republican people you can find).
When I want to freak these people out, I say, “Oh, you didn’t like that. Well, I don’t want to cause problems with you, so I’ll just do otherwise.” This is a nihilist response. It shows I recognize their authority for what it is, which is a temporary factor of them having some perceived power, and it drives them nuts. If I said, “I hate your rules!” they’d find it easier to deal with, because then they could simply call me a troublemaker and feel good about doing whatever they want to to me.
But when I turn it into a nihilistic quasi-business transaction, they get uneasy. Power has been recognized and treated as a requirement, but without any particular importance given to its moral pretense. This is how a nihilist thwarts a society by slowly making it more neurotic and less able to explain to itself why its power is important.