First Lady Melania, while visiting a refugee center in Texas today, wore a jacket with the message ‘I don’t really care. Do you?’ written on its back. This fashion statement is really the culmination of ‘Lol, nothing matters’ type of public discourse. Today, it’s uncool to care. It’s as if the punk culture made it into mainstream and has then been hijacked and wielded by public servants. Those of us who do care – about conduct and norms and just basic human decency – are routinely mocked. That is, attempts of public to be citizens (and not workers/consumers) are mocked and ridiculed. Culturally, the virtuous are those who just shut up and go shopping and do brunch and pretend to ‘stay above’ the mud-wrestling below. Well, only dust floats above the battlefield.
“Lol, nothing matters” is an especially widespread sentiment in Russian community. It’s this strain of cultivated nihilism that we all saw living there, now made its way across the ocean. It’s this attitude that there’s no right and wrong, good and bad, that everyone is corrupt and that you can’t trust anybody. And if this is the case, then why not simply resign from public life? Why not bury yourself in work or pleasure? Which Russian among us hasn’t heard a phrase: A tebe eto nado? (Do you really need this?) from a friend or a colleague, as if the next trip to Italy or to a Michelin restaurant or Bergdorf Goodman will somehow cure that nagging but ungraspable disquietude.
‘Is shopping, and eating, and traveling not life?’ someone would ask. Tolstoy, in his treatise ‘On Life’ called these activities ‘senseless agitation’ – distractions with which we try to fill our lives so as to avoid thinking, to avoid having to define right and wrong, good and bad, and as a result, to avoid caring.
“Tunnelling through mountains, voyaging round the world, electricity, the microscope, the telephone, war, parliament, philanthropy, the strife of parties, universities, learned societies, museums – are not all these life?
All the feverish complicated activity of men with their trade, their wars, their ways of communication, their science, their art, is for the greater part nothing more than the senseless agitation of the crowd struggling on the threshold of life.”
Caring about a matter, in this case a public matter, puts you into an unenviable position of having to defend it from people who refuse to take a stand, as if that refusal gives them some kind of ‘above-it-all’ wisdom. But ‘Lol, nothing matters’ position is a comfortable spot, sort of like a financial talking head who always has an opinion on market but doesn’t have, well, a position, in the market.
But then again, when did Trump or his entire cabinet, ever took a position or held an opinion that lasted for at least a few days? Or when was he ever held accountable by his base for doing a 180? Lol, nothing matters. Suck it libs!