"The Cult of Kefka" -- Nihilism as a Spectrum
Updated: Feb 14
(Directory on Nihilism: https://www.philosocom.com/post/the-irony-of-nihilism)
By using the example of a certain video game character called Kefka Palazzo, I will try and show you how an extreme variant of nihilism can actually be very deadly. The term I use, "Genocidal Nihilism", is a term I made in order to define a form of purpose-defying belief that attempts to justify stuff like genocide, omnicide (the destruction of everything), and so on.
Take this article as a way of me trying to explain, through an allegory, why extreme nihilism is bad and even dangerous for humanity as a whole.
As usual and unless stated otherwise, I refer to video games as mediums to tell a story, so you can regard them as equal to a book, a play, and so on.
No knowledge of gaming is required to understand most of my articles where I refer to story-driven video games. Like with every article, feel free to ask for clarification if needed.
Kefka Palazzo is the main antagonist of the game "Final Fantasy VI" that was released in the 90s. He is essentially a psychotic clown and warlord who actually managed to win as a villain by taking over the world, only to be defeated around a year later.
In his last period of reign, he attempted to destroy his domain simply because he deemed life too meaningless to continue any further. Not only his own life, but all lives.
This isn't to say that every nihilist will become suicidal, let alone genocidal or omnicidal. That's why I regard nihilism as a spectrum, defined by deeds that were actually done because of one's nihilistic beliefs.
While many nihilists would live comfortable, peaceful lives regardless of the fact that they reject the existence of significance in our universe, there are extreme cases, at least in fiction, where the nihilist "attributes meaning" to his or her ideology, by weaponizing it against others.
Kefka here didn't care not only for his own significance but for the world's as well, so he was convinced by his nihilism to commit destruction with no regard for others, including his own followers.
There is some religious significance within Kefka's story because he managed to win by becoming a god. An occult ritual of sorts ascended him to godhood and made him design the world in his own image. In addition, he also formed a religion or cult under his name, known as "The Cult of Kefka," a secret society of fanatical cultists who sold their lives to their founder.
This is a very strange scenario because, in the real world, we usually associate religion with giving meaning to the universe.
Arguably, one of the reasons people join collectives and perform religious rituals is to attribute meaning to their own existence. To feel belong, and find a higher calling. If said meaning is not assigned to their current lifespan, then it is assigned to an afterlife, as presented in some religions such as Christianity and Islam, where the next world is highly desired and prioritized.
The idea of creating a nihilistic religion is very oxymoronic, as religion usually fills one's philosophical need for meaning and purpose. While I am not religious, I understand why some people value their religions so highly: they attempt to justify their own existence through faith. The attempt itself is noble in my eyes, and by itself, I wouldn't say there's something wrong with it.
Kefka, on the other hand, is not only a god in his fictional universe but also an enforcer of his own brand of genocidal nihilism. He could not care less for his zealous followers and would kill them if, for example, he were too bored and needed entertainment at the time.
He tried to justify his quest for world destruction by seeing nihilism as some cosmic, undeniable truth, so even when the people who resisted him tried to talk it through, the attempt at convincing him was fruitless.
That was his problem — his utter unwillingness to keep an open mind. After all, in his eyes, other perspectives are as useless as his own. He would prefer destroying everything instead (but why did it take him so long to reach his personalized philosophy's conclusion?).
I would not deem him a philosopher who is on par with Socrates' teachings. When you take a philosophy and believe it blindly, you risk treating it in a "religious" sense by looking at it with full bias towards itself. It's the difference between a philosopher and a religious authority, at least sometimes — the honest philosopher may be more open-minded and less biased than a public religious figure.
Although they are not opposites, one of the reasons that I don't really discuss or write about religion is because religious folk seem to be far more biased than I am, and thus some of them may not regard the opposite argument with the open-mindedness I think it sometimes deserves.
(I used to refer to my own philosophy as a religion, back when I wrote books, but changed my mind because greater understanding is more important to me than being a zealot of my own creation, but I digress.)
Kefka Palazzo is a fictional example of how anything can become a source of religious following, even if that source isn't strictly a religious concept. Be it a religion or something smaller like a cult, it does not really matter when it comes to people's inclination to follow and/or praise something or someone.
This is one of the reasons I myself do not brand myself as a "guru," because I have no desire to turn my readers into cultists. Unlike Kefka, I am open-minded enough to be exposed to other opinions and philosophies and would not do something major just because I was convinced of it at the time. I'll seek advice first and then reconsider.
We can basically conclude that a nihilist isn't necessarily open-minded and perhaps might view his or her nihilism like a religious follower would view their religion. When Nietzsche claimed that "God is dead," he didn't seem to have taken into account the fact that anything can be praised as if it were of godly significance to some minds.
So, if any of you encounter a nihilist, or someone who rejects meaning in reality, make sure you remember that nihilism is a spectrum that relies on the same premise. Not every nihilist wants to end the world, just as not every Muslim supports terrorism, not every Christian will try to convert you, and not every Jew is particularly bright.
I believe that people should be distinguished from their religions, ideologies, and philosophies, as they are usually more than their ideals. He was defeated by rebels, and with his death, the world was restored to its former glory.
I guess the game can be seen as the triumph of meaning over oblivion and despair.
Final Note: I did not mean to offend any religious person; I was only criticizing my impression of the religious world.