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Beyond Despair, How Nihilism Can Motivate Us For Radical Systems Change

Garreffa, Nirvana (2022) Beyond Despair, How Nihilism Can Motivate Us For Radical Systems Change. [MRP]

Item Type: MRP
Creators: Garreffa, Nirvana

Nihilism is perhaps most popularly understood as a belief in nothing, and that life is meaningless. But of course, it is more nuanced than this.

Nihilism is not a belief that life is meaningless. It is discovering that the life you are living within the current cultural conditions does not feel meaningful to you. As a result, you go on living your life in ways that either try to evade reality or change it (Gertz, 2019). For years, I have noticed increasingly nihilistic sentiments online; nihilists dismissing activists for their ongoing attempts to organise, and even popular meme accounts based on nihilistic content; like “@cheerful_nihilism” which has almost 200k followers on Instagram as of writing this.

The goal of this research is to explore the prevalence and sources of nihilism today. I then want to look at how it relates to myself and other aspiring change-makers, as well as how we may channel our feelings of nihilism for radical systems change.

There are many interpretations of nihilism, so this research will begin by looking at how white western philosophers discussed concepts of nihilism, and then contextualising those ideas for considerations of privilege. I then go on to make a systems analysis of daily life under Western colonial capitalism, and argue that nihilism is a product of this system. In an attempt to determine if nihilism is becoming more prevalent, a netnographic scan will show some of the ways nihilism is rising in mainstream discourse online.
This paper goes on to synthesise the research, and discuss how it is relevant to aspiring changemakers. Since the Strategic Foresight and Innovation program at OCAD University is a microcosm of changemakers, I survey and interview my peers to see if there are shared feelings of nihilism amongst them.

To conclude, I look at how nihilism can inspire us to create radical systems change; with perspectives from non-white, Queer, Indigenous, Disabled, and revolutionary activists. In undoing aspects of colonial capitalism ingrained in us, such as toxic individualism, the commodification of everything, and the belief that capitalism is the only way - we may begin to create a world we can live more meaningfully in.

Date: 2022
Uncontrolled Keywords: Nihilism, Nihilist, Systems Theory, Systems, Systems Change, Activism, Change-makers, Radical Optimism
Divisions: Graduate Studies > Strategic Foresight and Innovation
Date Deposited: 16 May 2022 15:04
Last Modified: 16 May 2022 15:14
URI: https://openresearch.ocadu.ca/id/eprint/3771

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