Saturday, April 28, 2012

Final Draft- Patrick Kilduff

Patrick Kilduff
*some of the lyrics in the songs I used contain strong language*

Final Draft

            As long as I could remember, metal has been my favorite genre of music. My father and I would listen to rock and roll music all the time together when I was growing up, and progressively my taste changed. The talent that these musicians display is something that I have never seen in any other style of music before. We hear the guitars being played very articulately with mind-melting solos, the double base pedal of the drum booming in the background, and the lyrics of the lead singer really telling us what he feels and his ideology of many themes and of life itself. One of these themes that I find so interesting is the constant reference to Nihilistic ideology.
            This genre of music really articulates many philosophies and ideals of the band and the vocalist, and one of the prevalent themes is that of Nihilism. When listening to the lyrics, you can feel the passion behind a vocalist’s beliefs. Take this lyric from the song “Bay of Pigs” by The Acacia Strain. The lyric states: “Just because your breathing doesn’t mean that you’re alive. Just because you’re human doesn’t mean you have to die”. We see lyrics like this and many other ideals in lots of these bands. But what is a striking comparison to me is this belief, or moreover, theme in many of the books that were read in class, and that they reflect the same ideas and have overlapping similarities in that of metal music. But before going into that, what is Nihilism?
            According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated” (Pratt) The definition goes a bit deeper, and states: “a true nihilist would believe in nothing, have no loyalties, and no purpose, other than perhaps, an impulse to destroy” (Pratt) When one is interested in Nihilism, they would look at many different texts and statements made by philosophers, but the best-known and most famous Nihilistic philosopher is Freidrich Nietzsche.
Nietzsche is by far the most important figure in Nihilistic philosophy. To Nietzsche, he had the belief that everything was senseless in life; or rather that life had no inherent meaning, unless you were to give it meaning. In one of his most famous works, Will to Power, he describes Nihilism and conveys his own personal beliefs to the ideology. You could consider it the “Nihilist’s handbook”. In part 12 of Will to Power, Nietzsche gives us a definition of Nihilism, and how to achieve Nihilism for one’s self. He writes: “Nihilism as a psychological state will have to be reached, first, when we have sought a "meaning" in all events that is not there: so the seeker eventually becomes discouraged. Nihilism, then, is the recognition of the long waste of strength, the agony of the "in vain," insecurity, the lack of any opportunity to recover and to regain composure--being ashamed in front of oneself, as if one had deceived oneself all too long. --This meaning could have been: the "fulfillment" of some highest ethical canon in all events, the moral world order; or the growth of love and harmony in the intercourse of beings; or the gradual approximation of a state of universal happiness; or even the development toward a state of universal annihilation--any goal at least constitutes some meaning. What all these notions have in common is that something is to be achieved through the process--and now one realizes that becoming aims at nothing and achieves nothing. -- Thus, disappointment regarding an alleged aim of becoming as a cause of nihilism: whether regarding a specific aim or, universalized, the realization that all previous hypotheses about aims that concern the whole "evolution" are inadequate (man no longer the collaborator, let alone the center, of becoming).” (Nietzsche). In reading this quotation, it seems apparent that Nietzsche is saying that Nihilism isn’t a lifestyle one is born into; it is achieved, realized, and understood. And the annihilation that he refers to might not be one of anarchy and physical destruction, but of limits that can hold an individual back from what they are trying to see and believe. These limits could be one’s morals, their religion, societal norms, or even government. It is anything that can control how one feels and displace an individual’s emotions.
To me this branch or idea of philosophy is very interesting, for the simple reason that this is a belief of “nothing”. We see many great philosophers of our time and back in older times come up with great and very intellectual thought processes, but this belief is so fascinating because it is a belief of nothing, or believing in nothing. Now that there is somewhat of a background of Nihilism, lets look at one of the literary works read in class and analyze its Nihilistic qualities.
            In many of the books that we have read, we see a constant reference to Nihilism. In these references we can see a striking comparison to many of my favorite metal bands and the lyrics that drive their beliefs. For instance and a little overview, let’s look at Jimmy Corrigan and see how it compares just externally.
            We begin Jimmy Corrigan with the main character, Jimmy. He is a middle-aged man with no real “purpose” in life. He wakes up, goes to a boring job, daydreams just like any other normal human being, and comes home to an empty house. Then the next day, the cycle starts all over.
            Jimmy is an interesting character because although boring and plain on the outside, we can see a man with a troubled past and a complex of emotions that are just hard to find. Not knowing the real identity of his father, Jimmy is always in constant contact with his mother, driving him very bonkers at points. A very socially awkward man, it is hard for Jimmy to converse with anyone without making the situation a bit uncomfortable. The thing about Jimmy that makes him so interesting is that I think he knows that he is alone, but does not have the courage to stand up for him, or even try something new (at least in the beginning of the story).
The real key to this and what made it so obvious were the frames in which Jimmy makes soup for himself and sets out an extra bowl for a guest, although we know that he has no apparent guest. Maybe he was thinking about Peggy, his “crush”, because prior to putting away the dishes, he calls her to ask her about saving his mail, even though I’m sure he was trying to call her and talk to her, but his low confidence got the best of him.
Whatever the case, I believe this is the first prime example of Nihilism that we see in this book. We see the hopelessness that Jimmy exhibits, the aloneness that he lives with every single day. In the view of a Nihilist, this would be an okay lifestyle. There is nothing holding you down, no rules to live by except your own, and no one telling you what to believe and who to follow. One lyric from a band that really relates to this is scene in the book is Godsmack’s lyric from their song “I Stand Alone”. The lyric goes: “I stand alone inside. I stand alone. You let your string down inside me I’m not dying for anything.” Like a true nihilist, this song and this scene emphasize what it means to really be alone, and eventually embrace that you are the only one in control.
Another scene from Jimmy Corrigan that I would like to talk about is at the very end of the story when he finally gets back to his city and he looks up to his workplace building. After all the distress that he faced with his father’s death, he heads home in a very sour and terrible mood. He stands on the street corner in which the “superman” from the beginning of the story committed suicide. Jimmy then looks up to his building, the building in which he works in, and looks toward the top. If we think about it, this is the same exact view that Jimmy had of the “superhero” only reversed. And we can only infer that the same circumstance is running through Jimmy’s mind as well. This is by far (in my opinion) the most pessimistic part of the story, because Jimmy is contemplating death. In this state of mind Jimmy has, although it is not said, Jimmy is at his lowest of lows. To him, there might not be anything left to live for, his dad his dead, an important female figure is gone, and death might be the only way out. A Nihilist would see this situation in an interesting light. Death is a choice that one needs to make on their own terms. Since life is really not meant for anything, death might not be that bad of an option. But to the Nihilist, I would think that there would be no need to take their own life, for the simple reason that there is nothing to hold the individual down, they are free and on their own terms.
As we can see from Jimmy Corrigan, the scenes described and the apparent messages that are shown are very Nihilistic in nature. Also, we have seen from a few lyric quotes, that these scenes overlap with metal quite will. But what I would also like to take notice to are some cultural and societal factors that are found in metal lyrics that overlap in this story.
In this story, we see many instances of abandonment. Jimmy’s father abandoned him as a child, just like his older relatives before him. We see the daydreams of a man who wants to aspire to something great, something better than the status quo, but cannot muster up the courage to do so, dashing away any possibility of success.
In reading this story and comparing it to the world today, it is not far off from many of the metal songs that I listen to every day. Let us take for example a lyric from The Acacia Strain’s Song “Baby Buster”: “I don't sing fucking love songs because there's nothing in this world for me to love”. Now as pessimistic as this lyric might come off in the view of the common eye, this song has a lot of inherent meaning in Jimmy Corrigan. Jimmy was raised in a world without much love, assuming that his father left him at a very young age. Not to say that his mother did not love and care for him, but his childhood was shattered with the lack of no father figure to raise him. Along with this book, we see this problem in many families today. There are alarming percentages of single parent homes as well divorce rates being at an all-time high. This about society is really reflected in the lyric stated above. Could there be a little anger in this lyric: absolutely there could be, but I think the meaning that the vocalist is trying to convey is that he has nothing to love, because it has either been taken away from him or that he just simply has nothing to be happy about, due to his everyday struggles or potentially a troubled past.
Another lyric that I find semi-applicable to Jimmy Corrigan, more along the culture of today is a lyric from another song by The Acacia Strain. This song is called “Whoa! Shut it Down!” and the lyric states: “Sorry I'm not just like you. Sorry! Who are you again? Remind me cause I don't care”. What I find so interesting about this lyric is its reference to conforming and being what everyone wants you to be. Being very Nihilistic in ideals, this is lyric is stating that the vocalist is sorry for not being what everyone wants him to be, but he does not care what the world wants him to be, he is going to be his own person and live by his own philosophy. This is exactly what a Nihilist like Nietzsche would like, because there is no restraints on this individual whatsoever. I don’t think that Nihilism is about being different on purpose and just not conforming to make somebody happy, I see it as your personality breaking away from the norm without trying, and being happy with who you are, even if that is against the norm of society and what someone “says” you should be doing, without letting anything hold you down or tell you what to do. In essence, that is what this lyric is telling us.
Another direction I would like to take this paper in is analysis with Marcuse, the main philosopher we covered in class. If we read One Dimensional Man, we can definitely see many Nihilistic qualities in his work, or at least theories that Nietzsche or other Nihilists would agree with.
When reading One Dimensional Man, we are immediately thrown into some interesting theories in Chapter One, titled “New Forms of Control”. Already, we can see that a Nihilist would be interested in this reading, do to what Marcuse has to say about control, from many aspects of life. The most interesting aspect of this chapter is the section in which he talks about needs, “true” and “false” needs. In this quote provided from One Dimestional Man, we can see what Marcuse has to say about these needs. It states: “We may distinguish both true and false needs. "False" are those which are superimposed upon the individual by particular social interests in his repression: the needs which perpetuate toil, aggressiveness, misery, and injustice. Their satisfaction might be most gratifying to the individual, but this happiness is not a condition which has to be maintained and protected if it serves to arrest the development of the ability (his own and others) to recognize the disease of the whole and grasp the chances of curing the disease. The result then is euphoria in unhappiness. Most of the prevailing needs to relax, to have fun, to behave and consume in accordance with the advertisements, to love and hate what others love and hate, belong to this category of false needs.” (Marcuse).
Going a bit further from this quote, I feel that we need to recognize what are the “true” and “false” needs found in our stories. In Jimmy Corrigan, I feel that Jimmy has a pretty good sense of what these needs are and how they are differentiated. Although Jimmy ultimately does not find love and the story ends on, a pretty sad note, Jimmy does not gallivant around the story with things that he does not “need”, for instance, the flashy car, jewelry, the large house or anything substantial. We see a very modest life with not many expenses around him. In this sense, we see that the needs superimposed on Jimmy are not really noticeable in his lifestyle (other than government, and some societal norms). He owns his possessions, his possessions do not own him, and I think that is the main goal of Marcuse in this section, and to not be run by anything you do not feel comfortable with running you.
Any Nihilist would really enjoy Marcuse’s readings, because he talks about many issues in which the individual needs to be in control. Nietzsche would jump at an opportunity to read Marcuse’s theories, because some of them are synonymous with his own theories. Granted, some are a little different, but mostly they are the same. I wonder what Nietzsche would have thought of the technology in which Marcuse writes about (Nietzsche living in a time before such technology)? If you ask me, I feel that Nietzsche would not have like technology, because it would dictate many aspects of people’s lives. Some people are dependant on watching television to provide entertainment, thus the television has a hold on the individual and the individual relies on it.
Another interesting aspect I would like to bring into play is how metal music can also be applied to Marcuse’s theories, in a Nihilistic manner synonymous with some of our stories. Marcuse speaks of technology in Chapter 1, and he states: “Freedom of enterprise was from the beginning not altogether a blessing. As the liberty to work or to starve, it spelled toil, insecurity, and fear for the vast majority of the population. If the individual were no longer compelled to prove himself on the market, as a free economic subject, the disappearance of this kind of freedom would be one of the greatest achievements of civilization. The technological processes of mechanization and standardization might release individual energy into a yet uncharted realm of freedom beyond necessity. The very structure of human existence would be altered; the individual would be liberated from the work world's imposing upon him alien needs and alien possibilities. The individual would be free to exert autonomy over a life that would be his own. If the productive apparatus could be organized and directed toward the satisfaction of the vital needs, its control might well be centralized; such control would not prevent individual autonomy, but render it possible.” (Marcuse)
It seems here that technology could be detrimental to society if not channeled in the right manner. If we look at another lyric by The Acacia Strain, we can see the similarities between some of Marcuse’s theories and a band with Nihilism roots. The song is called “Unabomber” and the lyric states: “If your cable went out you would lose your fucking mind. If you lost all power you would end your fucking life. Dependency has come in place. Easy eradication of the human race. Technology has an iron grip. We are swimming against the tide in the sea of shit”. This epitomizes how a Nihilist would view technology and it also shows about what Marcuse is saying about how technology can be a bad thing and misguide an individual. This says how dependant we are on technology and how we need to break away, or technology could be the end of us (war or disease).
In conclusion, I feel that Nihilism can be found in many books and music that we listen to. Although this is not my main goal of the paper, we can certainly see many prime examples in the lyrics and text above. The main goal was to show the parallel between the novels we have read (specifically Jimmy Corrigan) and my favorite type of music, metal. We can see that through the lyrics that the vocalist expresses, the Nihilistic beliefs that he holds really do coincide with Jimmy Corrigan’s themes and the character Jimmy’s experiences.
It is really good to open your eyes and explore different philosophies. As I don’t necessarily believe in Nihilism, I can honestly say that it is very interesting and it does have striking similarities to the lyrics of my favorite songs and to the books we have read. I have really gained a lot of knowledge doing this paper, and I hope people can gain knowledge from my paper.

Works Cited

1.  Marcuse, Herbert. "New Forms of Control." One-Dimensional Man. Beacon Press, 1964. Web. 26 Apr 2012.

2.     Nietzsche, Friedrich. "The Will to Power." Athenaeum Library of Philosophy. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr 2012. <

3.     Pratt, A.. "Nihilism." Internet encyclopedia of philosophy a peer-reviewed academic resource. Embry-Riddle University, 2001. Web. 26 Apr 2012. <>.

      4. Prozak, Vijay. "Reality is Nihilism ." American Nihilist Underground Society. (2010): n. page. Web. 26 Apr. 2012.

      5.Ware, Chris. Jimmy Corrigan. 1st. Pantheon Books, 2000. 1-300. Print.


No comments: