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Question: Looking for a word that implies lack of caring about the results / perception of others / ect... because you're already so far behind that you'll never really be significant.

It's not really 'nihilism' or 'ennui', because you still believe actions have "meaning", just compared to the vastness of existence, the enormous number of competitors, or the entrenched systems you're still insignificant.

In math, 'idempotent' and 'nullipotent' are kind of similar [from], except those imply you have literally zero effect on the world around you, not "you have a vanishingly small effect, that most creatures will never notice."

'Bǎi làn' (摆烂) in Mandarin, 'not to strive when knowing that one can't succeed' and leading to stuff like 'to smash a cracked pot' (破罐破摔) and 'dead pigs are not afraid of boiling water' (死猪不怕开水烫) is kind of the same modern idea. Why work 996 when I get food wages, and it adds a zero to someone else's account? Is there much like that in English?

Ex: Some humans already have $100B. Most humans have more like $10-100k. I can't really worry about money "that much" cause I'm already middle age and only have a 1/1,000,000th of the people at the top of the leader board. No matter how much I desperately hustle, I'm probably not making $100B.

Ex: I can't really worry about playing Counterstrike "that much", cause if I ever got anywhere Team Liquid they'd just stomp all over me.

Ex: The Earth and the Solar System are tiny specks even compared to the Milky Way. Before humans even reached the next star system, I'll probably be dead. I can't "really" worry about space travel that much.

Ex: I can't really worry about "that much", because there are 8,000,000,000 humans, who all want to prove they're better than me at everything.

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    My skills at playing Counterstrike are moot, cause if I ever got anywhere [near?] Team Liquid they'd just stomp all over me. Sep 26 at 21:14
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    Even if not idiomatic, "disillusioned passivity" may be a possibility.
    – Graffito
    Sep 26 at 22:56
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    Are you looking for despair, perhaps? Either way are there not two Questions here? Isn't the more obvious but prolly less important about 'lack of caring about the results / perception of others / etc…' Isn't the other, quite separately, whether that lack of caring is 'because you're already so far behind that you'll never really be significant'? How are they related? Sep 27 at 19:56
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    I once pointed out something to a young driver, who answered "no horses" and I didn't understand it at the time. Not posting as an answer because I still don't get it but think it's a shortened "I don't care because I have no horses competing in that race" which may fit your need.
    – Criggie
    Sep 27 at 21:50
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    "Most humans have more like $10-100k." - for what it's worth, I think sadly most humans have more like 0, or are in net debt. Sep 29 at 17:51

12 Answers 12

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moot dictionary.com, definition #2
of little or no practical value, meaning, or relevance; purely academic:
In practical terms, the issue of her application is moot because the deadline has passed.

And for OP's example context...

My ability at playing Counterstrike is moot, 'cause if I ever came up against Team Liquid they'd just stomp all over me.

Although I can't find a definition explicitly stating it, in my experience if we say some issue is moot that usually implies it was a matter of some importance in the past - but events have moved on, and it's no longer relevant.

That "unimportant now" implication is clearly present in the dictionary example above. It's not so obviously a factor in OP's context, but I can easily convince myself it is present (my gaming skills were significant when I played weaker teams, but against top-class opponents like Team Liquid it is irrelevant how skillful I was).

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  • Although it's not the most accepted term, I think I still prefer this definition. It's closer to the idea of "there's a million specks in the sky, yet I can't spend every day worrying about what's happening in other galaxies." The "it used to be important" is also related. "I used to worry about other galaxies...when I thought there was a chance humans might have commercial space travel in my lifetime."
    – G. Putnam
    Sep 28 at 18:38
  • ...then I realized how far way other galaxies are, and I understood that "faster-than-light" travel isn't even theoretically possible... Not only could we never go to another galaxy - we couldn't even have a conversation with any aliens living there (millions or billions of years delay between sending a message and getting a response). Sep 28 at 19:10
  • And if it somehow did get developed, or became even theoretically possible, the current social situation means I will likely not benefit, and most benefit will go to somebody else.
    – G. Putnam
    Sep 28 at 22:26
  • Note that although "moot" does correctly describe the thing you're asking about, it doesn't exactly mean that thing, because it applies to lots of other situations as well. You might say that "the outcome of the Second World War if Germany hadn't opened the Eastern front, is moot". It's a hypothetical, subject to discussion but not a definitive answer: moot. Sep 29 at 18:04
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Defeatism covers it pretty well as a single word. Dictionary.com has a good definition:

the attitude, policy, or conduct of a person who admits, expects, or no longer resists defeat, as because of a conviction that further struggle or effort is futile; pessimistic resignation.

If defeatism is too strong or you want a more everyday word, there is resignation also which is mentioned in the definition above.

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    I usually hear the adjective defeatist.
    – Laurel
    Sep 27 at 13:44
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"An exercise in futility" or "futile" is what comes to mind -- typically used to indicate something like the pointless of X, given the larger picture.

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They could be resigned to it, or just resigned. This could be resignation.

feeling or showing acceptance that something unwanted or unpleasant will happen or cannot be changed

Merriam-Webster’s examples include, “He was fifty-seven years old and resigned to the fact that the rest of his days would be spent in convenient bachelorhood …” and “… Mr. Ogata is resigned to his life rather than contented.”

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    While others may be more "dictionary-correct", I think this is the most realistic/practical term. Sep 28 at 9:15
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It's unclear if you want a phrase in a positive, negative or neutral light. A lot of the above suggestions feel quite negative. More neutral phrases would be "come to terms", or "acceptance"

I've come to terms with the fact I will never be the best counter strike player, but I still enjoy playing it.

or

I've gained acceptance that I will never be the best counter strike player, but I still enjoy playing it.

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  • Thanks Alex. I actually did want more of a neutral. The "lie flat" or "bai lan" thing is not realllly negative. There's actually a great ChannelNewsAsia Video where they have the 996 / bai lan argue with each other, and the bai lan representative is Not negative about bai lan. "I feel she'll (my 996 opponent will) be wearing office wear, to show she's a power woman."
    – G. Putnam
    Sep 28 at 18:45
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"It's not really 'nihilism' or 'ennui', because you still believe actions have "meaning", just compared to the vastness of existence, the enormous number of competitors, or the entrenched systems you're still insignificant."

I think the perfect way to express that heartfelt sentiment is by using, in the words of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, one of the most versatile words of the English language: "I'm fucked anyway."

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One word to consider is demoralized. Morale is the general sense that everything is going well or otherwise improving. A demoralized group or person is someone who feels that things will never improve. It is often accompanied by apathy. I often think of Don Piano from Sesame Street, who would get writers' block and, in comedic fashion, become instantly demoralized and give up. One of your example sentences illustrates that perfectly

I can't really worry about playing Counterstrike "that much", cause if I ever got anywhere Team Liquid they'd just stomp all over me.

Morale is often used in a military context. A demoralized soldier is unlikely to take up arms and fight, which is exactly what you're describing. "Team Liquid" is so good, you stand no chance if you fight them.

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I know you asked for a single word, but but short and very literal phrases like "You can't win so don't even try" or "Can't win, don't try" crop up in search results. So people (and TV shows) really have said them. Anything like that is easily understood.

I'd say such phrases are somewhat negative: this is not an entirely neutral acceptance of reality, it's an assertion that you can't win. But there is additional meaning there from the fact that they subvert the more optimistic (and perhaps better-known) saying, "You can't win if you don't try". So rather than defeatist they could be seen as pragmatic realism, with a bit of cynicism or irony directed at those who unconditionally try when they shouldn't.

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It's a fool's errand to contemplate such things out of the reach or realm of one's control. Though not one word, it's a common expression for a waste of time and brainpower. In one word, a fool. Like the Mandarin you quoted (I don't speak it), "not to strive when knowing that one can't succeed" would be "don't go on a fool's errand, don't be a fool."

fool's errand (plural fools' errands)

(idiomatic) A foolish undertaking, especially one that is purposeless, fruitless, nonsensical, or certain to fail.

It sounds rough to feel like you're the target of competition with eight billion people, but it is a fool's errand to imagine they are all trying to be better than you, more than discouraging. To spend time counting all the grains of sand in the oceans is just as foolish as comparisons are odious, just as it is a fool's errand to try to count (or refuse to accept) the things you cannot change.

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Apathy

Apathy set in towards the end of the 2nd round, realizing she could no longer pull out of the hole she dug for herself.

A sigh, no less a sigh of defeat, brought an apathetic lull over the contestant when he was too befuddled to score a comeback.

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    – Community Bot
    Sep 30 at 1:12
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Despondent Is a word indicating lack of concern or caring about anything, usually because of negative circumstances.

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    Sep 30 at 3:08
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This answer is unhelpful. Please ignore it.

I'll suggest "lie flat", "supine" or "prostrate" in light of those Mandarin expressions that you brought up to exemplify your ideal word. We have this lying flat Zeitgeist in China now, as you described. The vibe is similar to the word you are trying to conceive of in my opinion.

I tried them in your example sentences:

Ex: Call me supine about that Counterstrike thing if you want, anyways if I ever got anywhere Team Liquid they'd just stomp all over me.

Ex: The Earth and the Solar System are tiny specks even compared to the Milky Way. Before humans even reached the next star system, I'll probably be dead. I'm prostrated from it all.

Ex: I reckon I'll just lie flat here, because there are 8,000,000,000 humans, who all want to prove they're better than me at everything.

These all express "indolent or apathetic inertia or passivity" or "[a] lack of vitality" (M-W supine, M-W prostrate), but I can't really tell if they are informal enough to fit. Just my two cents.

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    These strike me as rather odd usages. I've rarely seen supine have anything other than a very literal connotation of physical position, and prostration often connotes a gesture of submission or reverence rather than resignation. A more natural-sounding word in the same vein might be "floored" to indicate something overwhelming you - "I am floored by the sheer scale of the Milky Way." Sep 27 at 13:32
  • @NuclearHoagie Thanks a lot. Your comment makes clear what I myself cannot grasp as a non-native.
    – magni
    Sep 27 at 13:59
  • Pretty sure "supine" can be used figuratively to mean someone who is "easy to walk over" - doesn't defend themselves. The opposite of "standing up for" themself, in fact. But not necessarily literal, but probably still not quite what the questioner wants. So, a "supine" counterstrike player is one who isn't fighting back, but it doesn't say why they're supine: that it's because they've achieved enlightenment that they're not good enough to win :) Sep 29 at 18:07

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