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Liminality — An Anthropological Explanation (And Possible Solution) To Doomerism

For those of you that are fortunate enough not to know what Doomerism is, allow me to enlighten you. Doomerism, in this context, can trace its origins back to the Doomer meme, which centres around a male, typically in his early twenties, who suffers from depression, addiction, economic strife and more broadly speaking, a bleak, and nihilist approach to life.

It may come as a surprise to some, but this character, the Doomer, sometimes referred to simply as ‘Wojak’, has become increasingly popular among some of the more morally questionable circles of the internet. So, why is it that the Doomer has resonated with the hearts of so many young men?

What the Doomer represents

In order to really get under the skin of the Doomer, we must first understand his genesis. The Doomer meme first popped up on the equally feared and revered messaging boards of 4chan, where it quickly spread in popularity. It then became swiftly apparent that this meme, much like another other successful meme, had an element of truth that was hard to ignore — namely, that men are suffering. Rather than the short life-cycle typical of memes, the Doomer began to flourish as a vessel that enabled men to discuss issues surrounding their mental health and addiction, all under the guise of ‘comedy’ and internet anonymity — and just like that, a community was born.

The Doomer is often associated with dark, gritty films including the likes of Fight Club and Blade Runner 2049, and it’s no wonder. The protagonists of both these films find themselves on the fringes of society, living life either as a social pariah or flying low enough under the radar not to be noticed, all the while remaining untethered to the world around them. The true tragedy of these films however, is that despite their violence and gore, they at least provide enough of a visceral experience to temporarily cut through the growing numbness of a Doomer’s disconnect from the world. In fact, it is likely that this same brutality is exactly what is most appealing in these movies, offering a romanticised ideal of what it is to occupy the borderlands of our communities, when in fact, the reality is much more mundane, and significantly less exciting.

At the surface it may seem that the Doomer is merely a caricature of tragicomedy, but the real reason many men have found themselves relating to the Doomer is that he sheds light on the dark, hidden life that many men live, but seldom share — in essence, the Doomer represents the ugly truth of a well-guarded secret.

So, is the Doomer new?

Although many individuals, including some Doomers themselves, blame the current zeitgeist on more recent technological or political advancements, Doomerism, or rather the root of Doomerism, is anything but new. Doomerism, when compared to the Anthropological concept of Liminality, is remarkably similar. Victor Turner, a Symbolic and Interpretative Anthropologist, defined Liminality as those individuals who are “neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the positions assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention, and ceremony” (Liminality and Communitas 1967).

Essentially, Liminality can be thought of to be the space in between worlds and takes the form of the intermediary step in most cultural and tribal Initiations/ Rites of Passages. Additionally, the age bracket most self-identifying ‘Doomers’ fall into corresponds with when most Initiatory Rites take place. This time period is when most men begin exploring their identity, their place in the world and what value they intend to bring to those around them. In cultures long forgotten, men at this stage of development often spent a significant amount of time in isolation from their tribe, taking part in trials or tribulations designed by Tribal Elders to test their mettle, or in complete solitude, in pursuit of their own Vision Quest. How this manifests for the modern man however, is the post-university blues, the directionless of a high school drop-out, or the lack of fulfilment in the first internship ‘working for the man’.

What this boils down to is a lack of separation from the past, and a lack of orientation toward the future — it is almost impossible to let go out what is familiar, when you are stepping out into the unknown.

Shaking off the Tyler Durden Trope

As stated above, it is easy to see why many men who consider themselves Doomers find themselves identifying with characters like Tyler Durden from Fight Club; Palahniuk’s novel arguably portrayed a whole generation of men’s torment with identity and meaning. Despite its morbid allure, this philosophy of nihilism and anarchy is not the answer. This is not to belittle the suffering of these men — these ‘growing pains’ are natural and form part of every man’s lifespan development, but left untreated, these pains will invariably become more acute. So then, what is the answer?

Finding your place in the Tribe

The first step towards a more fulfilling life, and away from Doomerism begins with the mourning of childhood. This is no easy feat, however, once an individual has reconciled that the care-free attitudes of childhood are no longer indicative of the position they wish to hold in the world, they are then much more equipped, and much more motivated, to begin forging the life that they wish to create.

To do this, an individual must recognise that their desire for initiation, confirmation and a life with purpose are natural and should be pursued– in fact, they form the basis of all Hero’s Journeys. Accordingly, it is time both the men directly effected, as well as society at large, begin to take men’s suffering seriously in this regard.

Once an individual has sufficiently grieved, it is then time to begin connecting the dots of identity. Subtract all of the extraneous theories, ideas and materialism and consider, what is it that defines you? What is your personal through-line? Where is the overlap between what you enjoy, and what you’re good at? These are the questions, among many others, that countless men before us have asked of themselves.

Finally, you must find a community that supports your growth as an individual and recognises your inherent worth within the tribe. This is the community that Ignis Orbis intends to foster, because in the end, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom…



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