Rust Cohle and Christian Subjectivity


McConnaughey’s character on True Detective has been the focus of no shortage of think-pieces and analyses that hinge mostly on a generic invocation of “nihilism”. Rust Cohle is a dark, bleak presence, but he’s not a typical antihero. Cohle is not overtly immoral, or, he’s not constantly overcoming serious character flaws to be effectively heroic. Cohle has a bit of a drinking problem, but his indiscretions pale in comparison to Harrelson’s Martin Hart, a serial philanderer/control freak with a temper. Compared to his partner, Cohle is downright ascetic.

The fact is that Cohle embodies something more akin to an ideal Christian subjectivity than any of the other characters who self-identify as Christian. In the first few episodes, no opportunity is wasted to frame Cohle with a cross, the association being his avowed contemplation of divine suicide or unintentional piety. It all stems from Cohle’s self knowledge: his sins and his ability to sin. This has given him a sort of preternatural insight into the workings of the human soul, and explains his effectiveness as a detective, and this is quite apparent in Cohle’s methods of interrogation. The interrogation room becomes the confessional booth, Cohle the priest, offering not eternal salvation or even forgiveness, but simple relief, relief from one’s own guilt. Cohle’s interrogations are undeniably pastoral, at turns wrenching and heartbreaking as criminals are coaxed into confronting their true selves.

What this means for the conclusion of the first season, I have no idea, but it has been a source of deep irony in the series so far. The man who affirms no meaning, views humanity as a cruel, cosmic joke, is the one who embodies what those around him consider the apex of their own beliefs.


Politics of Extinction

Upon finishing Thomas Ligotti’s The Conspiracy Against The Human Race, and being in the midst of Nic Pizolatto’s True Detective, I’ve found myself mired in pessimism. Ligotti’s viewpoint, espoused/parroted by Matthew Mcconaughey’s character in the show, is summed up as “being alive is not all right.”

Ligotti’s work, contrary to what one might think, is not an explicit apologia for suicide, or any other overtly violent prescription, but a thorough examination of the way things are (according to Ligotti, naturally). The two constants in history and human existence are death and suffering, and all of our problems stem from human consciousness’ apparent inability to adequately reckon with them. We trick ourselves into think we’ll never die, and everything will get better. The good, for Ligotti, is self-induced extinction: stop procreating, die on our own terms, end the horror.

These sentiments run counter to almost all of human thought and instinct. They will be called evil and dismissed by most.

Though deeply pessimistic, it struck me that Ligotti’s position is deeply ethical. Suffering is an absolute evil. So evil it should not be endured by anyone, and therefore, being alive is not alright.

Most, if not all of our political discourse turns on futurity, the idea that we’re acting in a kinda shitty present to make a less shitty future. Of course, an overwhelming amount of political action has no futurity whatsoever. Governments busy themselves with tragically shortsighted domestic and foreign policy, mostly, it seems, for the security and immediate and unreflective consumption of material resources. Cloaked in the inspirational poetry of futurity, the powers that be actively destroy it.

The present order also excuses mass suffering as endemic to “progress”; that veneer of futurity somehow the narcotic that makes this present toil somehow worth it.

A politics of extinction, the active denial of futurity,  a proposal of annihilation, at the very least would lay these contradictions bare, and force a true account of suffering.