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Opinion - Existential crisis: The search for meaning

2022-12-14  Roland Routh

Opinion - Existential crisis: The search for meaning

Domingo /Goagoseb

We live in unprecedented times. Postmodern society is characterised by advances in science, technology, capitalism, individualism, legislation, human rights and hedonism; yet, there is so much uncertainty and prevalence of mental health problems.

Such widespread phenomena are witnessed by the almost daily tragic events against humanity in our local newspapers.

To name a few, an alarming escalation of horrific domestic violence against the most vulnerable in our society, especially our women and children as well as an unprecedented rate of suicide, or as the euphemism is used, “the opting out of life” among men.

Allow me to qualify the above in this profound statement. The civility of a society is not measured by its wealth, but by what it does to its weakest, especially its children, and at worst to its conscience. You see, the most pressing question here is where did it all go wrong, and how did we get into this existential vacuum if we only intend to build a civilised society?

After the horrific events of World War I, such as the loss of millions of civilians in Europe and the ensuing Great Depression of 1929, many people who witnessed and were affected by these events began to question the meaning of life. During this time.

Philosophers also recognised that essentialism, a philosophical view that essence comes before existence, was not an adequate view to logically and consistently answer the question of the meaning of existence after all the suffering the world has experienced.

This is how the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre revived existentialism. This concept was first used in the 19th century by Danish philosopher Sren Kierkegaard, a philosophical view that life has no ultimate meaning and therefore it is our sole responsibility to find our own to create meaning in life.

In addition, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche put the icing on the cake, he added his philosophical perspective and coined the famous phrase, “God is dead. God stays dead. And we killed him”.

Out of this emerged postmodernism, which is implicitly the reigning worldview right now. Basically, if we understand it, postmodernism means that there is no truth, no meaning, and no certainty.


The existential vacuum

Tragically, the aftermath of the idea that God is dead was the horrific events of World War II. It was Nietzsche who presented this idea to Hitler. Since God was assumed to be dead, Hitler instead chose to play God through his wisdom. Ironically, the same person who believed that moral absolutes did not exist and weren’t necessary enacted legal absolutes and then dehumanised and exterminated millions of people in the Dachau and Auschwitz concentration camps.

Does that ring in our conscience? You see, in a functioning society, there must be legal absolutes. However, legal absolutes must be undergirded by moral absolutes or we risk totalitarianism and, at worst, tyranny. receive attached to this email

The delusion of Nietzche is that we have only really killed God in our hearts, conscience and wisdom. Tragically, this phenomenon has pushed us into an even worse existential vacuum. A place where we lost our moral conscience and forgot what it means to be human. We must realise that we are the ones who died instead of God.

Even in today’s world, it’s ironic how much we care about human rights, seldom our inherent right to be human. Think about it...

Ever since existentialism, we have thought men could live off their existential bootstraps. So we became meaningless in our thinking, lawless in our reasoning, extremely nihilistic in our pursuit of happiness and ultimately weary of pleasure.

Finally, the Covid-19 pandemic has hit us in 2019, every foundation of our society has been shaken to the core and we realise life seems to be like a vapour, here today and suddenly gone. Here in this moment we again began to question the meaning of our existence. Is there anything more than the absurd pursuit of pleasure and happiness?

We all want life to have meaning. Therefore, it is not uncommon to question our existence. However, the problem is not in finding satisfactory answers to these questions. It is the lack of logically consistent answers to the meaning of our existence, pain and suffering that creates an inner conflict in most people, leading to frustration and loss of inner joy.

A notable philosopher who has attempted to respond to the existential crisis of postmodernism is Viktor Frankl.

He said, “We have been left in an existential vacuum, the crisis of meaning and mass neurosis of modern times is the unheard cry for meaning. Such widespread phenomena as depression, aggression, and addiction cannot be understood unless we recognise the existential vacuum that underlies them.

There is nothing in the world that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions as the revelation that there is a meaning in one’s life”.

Finally. Allow me to emphasise only one point. If we as a society cannot identify who we are and what is trying to threaten our civilisation, then we have already failed ourselves.


*Domingo/Goagoseb is a cultural apologist. His views are written in his capacity and do not represent any organisation. He can be reached at

2022-12-14  Roland Routh

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