PZ Myers has an interesting post discussing the motivations of people who join ISIS, and which attributes similar motivations to the alt-right. In short, it’s about people “who feel a lack of significance in their lives”, people “who felt culturally homeless”. People start “from vague dissatisfaction, and desire for social status and sexual success” and become radicalized.
For the most part, I feel powerless to do anything about the radicalization of men. The world is big and incomprehensible–and also I live in California. So the reader may forgive me if I turn this more introspective.
What even is this desire for “significance”? I feel that we in the atheist community have been discussing it for years, usually in the context of discussing the appeal of religion, and calling for the atheist community to fill the void that religion has left. If PZ is correct, some of those atheists went on to fulfill that need by joining the alt-right. But for all that discussion of “meaning”, I don’t think I understand it. I don’t know if this is something I feel myself.
You might say to me, “But Siggy, you are clearly passionate about a wide range of interests, and identify with a number of labels as well as the communities they’re attached to!” Well, yes, perhaps I do not feel the pull towards greater meaning, because I already have plenty in my life. But for what it is worth, it doesn’t feel like I have meaning so much as it feels like I don’t understand what that is. It couldn’t possibly just be about having enjoyable things to occupy my free time?
On a related subject, don’t you find it fascinating how one of the biggest insults in the alt-right is “cuck”? Literally, it refers to someone whose wife cheated on them, someone who has spent their life raising children not their own. At first the insult seemed merely incoherent. But perhaps it names one of the greatest fears of the men who use it. They fear that their life lacks meaning, where meaning is apparently derived from a faithful wife and biological children.
Deriving significance from a heteronormative family–although this is a value I now abhor, I feel like I understand it better. I understand it because I had to abandon it in 2009–the year I came out.
Tangential thought: if meaning is often derived from people’s identities, calling for the end of “identity politics” seems an especially misguided way address the lack meaning in people’s lives.
My thoughts are all over the place, and I don’t understand anything. Dear readers, any thoughts? Does the idea of “meaning” make any sense to you? How do you fulfill it?