Happy Birthday Friedrich Nietzsche
“Some men are born posthumously” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
I came across his name for the first time in my 10th class Social Studies History textbook, a lesson about the World War II and if I remember correctly, the sentence was– ‘Hitler was inspired by the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche’. I underlined the sentence, in the presumption that it would come as an objective question and like always, I wanted to show my friends how good I am in Social Studies, especially in History. I did ponder about him for few seconds as he is one who inspired Adolf Hitler. This happened approximately 10 years ago.
I came across his name for the second time when I was in my final year of my Computer Engineering and read Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead‘, I was remotely fascinated to know her inspiration, I did some research and eventually discovered that she was inspired by writings of Friedrich Nietzsche.
I was able to comprehend the intellectual humor of Woody Allen and after watching all his films, I came across an article ‘Thus Ate Zarathustra‘ written by Woody Allen for ‘The New Yorker’ and thus I came to know about ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’. The admiration for Woody Allen made me look for his books ‘Side Effects, Without Feathers and Getting Even’ in book stores and luckily in the ‘Classics’ section of the book store my eye reads the title of a book ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra‘, I was thrilled for an intangible reason, I was not sure whether I need to buy it or not?, I was holding the book in my hand and decided to turn few pages, the introduction section had a quote
“A testing and a questioning hath been all my travelling — and verily, one must also learn to answer such questioning! That, however, is my taste –“,
I decided to buy the book – thus started my journey into Nietzsche’s works.
‘God is dead’, proclaims Nietzsche emphatically and philosophically, I often wonder whether he is an atheist by spirit, or is an atheist by choice, or is an atheist by compulsion due his contempt for Christianity? In ‘Beyond Good and Evil’, he postulates his views and compels us to question on, What is Good? What is Bad? What is Evil? Does a thing called ‘Evil’ exist? There is no synonym of the word ‘evil’ in Indian Languages.
Nietzsche is a near alliance to ‘Questioning’. I guess, he is one of the first to rebel against the church, against its doctrine and against its condescending views on humanity. If, ‘Freedom of Speech‘ has some meaning in the present world, then the substantial credit for it goes to Nietzsche. This 19th century philosopher still makes enormous sense in the 21st century with his shocking accusations, stupendous aphorisms and claircognizance for future.
The phrase ‘Original Thought‘ could not fit more appropriately any other than Nietzsche in the modern world; he influenced writers, filmmakers, philosophers, free thinkers and confusingly the ordinary man. I am very sure that he painfully confronts today’s left liberals, apostles of mindless equality and definitely the feminists. Perhaps, he is the first one who gave a positive meaning for the word ego which is later carried by Ayn Rand.
“Egoism is the very essence of a noble soul.”
As the word ‘Dharma’ is hard to translate in English, many philosophers and translators found it difficult to translate the word ‘Übermensch’ into English – some do refer it as ‘Superman’ and some prefer to use non-translated ‘Übermensch’ as they feel that it isn’t the exact word. The preamble for his definition of man can be sensed in most of his works, he despised every soul which undermines the ‘Will to Power’ in a man and his heroic imagination of what is, what man can be and man has to be a ‘Superman’. The thought of man as a Superman has given birth to Howard Roark, John Galt, Surya (played by Mahesh Babu) and probably many B and C grades heroes too…
In ‘The Antichrist‘, he talks about the renaissance which took place in Europe and he shows his anger on how the renaissance has been pushed away and how the next phase of the century was taken away by the Church. In the last lines of ‘The Antichrist‘ he says:
“This eternal accusation against Christianity I shall write upon all walls, wherever walls are to be found–I have letters that even the blind will be able to see. . . I call Christianity the one great curse, the one great intrinsic depravity, the one great instinct of revenge, for which no means are venomous enough, or secret, subterranean and small enough; – I call it the one immortal blemish upon the human race. . .”
Nietzsche has seen Nihilism as a necessity and not just a statement to endorse ‘Transvaluation of all values’ , he believed in Nihilism as a pure form of re-birth of thought and its existence and relevance in the contemporary world. For me, Nietzsche is ‘The Renaissance’, the thoughts, the aphorisms and he didn’t mince words to express them with alacrity.
Aristotle, Plato and Socrates: Criticism of Philosophers
Every eminent philosopher has been inspired by the early Greek philosophers and so did Nietzsche
but unlike many philosophers and thinkers, Nietzsche just didn’t interpret the texts of the Greek Philosophy but he actually questioned them, was hypercritical and challenged them with his perceptions. He had his own unique perspective on ‘The Greek Tragedy‘.
Nietzsche had his proximity and disagreement with Aristotle, his views of man, the greatness of soul, the brotherhood of man etc… he loathed Plato, I guess the real questions on Plato’s views and Nietzsche’s validation has made the term ‘Platonism’ romantic. In ‘Twilight of the Idols’ he says…
“Plato is boring. In reality my distrust of Plato is fundamental. I find him so very much astray from all the deepest instincts of the Hellenes, so steeped in moral prejudices, so pre-existently Christian – the concept ‘good’ is already the highest value with him, – that rather than use any other _expression I would prefer to designate the whole phenomenon Plato with the hard word, ‘superior bunkum,’ or, if you would like it better, ‘idealism.'”
His hatred for Socrates is quite fascinating, he chooses the words cleverly and scenarios perfectly. He drags Plato to bash Socrates and vice-versa.
“I realized that Socrates and Plato were symptoms of degeneration, tools of the Greek dissolution, pseudo-Greek, and anti-Greek.”
“Was Socrates a typical criminal? At least that would be consistent with the famous judgment of the physiognomist that so offended the friends of Socrates.”
“Socrates was the buffoon who got himself taken seriously, what really happened there?”
“How could the most beautiful growth of antiquity, Plato, contract such a disease? Did the wicked Socrates corrupt him after all? Could Socrates have been the corrupter of the youth after all? And did he deserve his hemlock?”
Comprehension of Nietzsche:
No wonder, the works of Nietzsche are misunderstood by many and some even tried to portray the misconception of Nietzsche in films and books. Alfred Hitchcock’s bold and experimental film ‘Rope‘ handles it and the abstract and the artistic take by Bela Tarr in ‘The Turin Horse‘. The Nazis took their own interpretation of Nietzsche and fascists misread Nietzsche.
Even the communists had their own inclination for his works. Of course, one needs to know what Nietzsche thought about Communism/Socialism and Hugo Chavez said “Zarathustra struck me once again in Havana” when he was coping with Cancer.
Nietzsche was a nationalist but was not a nationalist with socialist leanings, he a nationalist because of the culture which Germany once possessed; the German spirit etc… his praise for Germany can hardly be seen in his writings because it’s disguised in the hatred. He hated Germany for its growing bad influence, its education system, religion, politics, quality of liberals and its ability to produce bad intellectuals. He points out every possible thing which has gone wrong for Germany which indirectly points towards his concern.
“Are there any German philosophers? Are there German poets? Are there good German books?” they ask me abroad. I blush; but with the courage which I maintain even in desperate situations I reply: “Well, Bismarck.” Would it be permissible for me to confess what books are read today? Accursed instinct of mediocrity!
Nietzsche questioned the Western Civilization, its validity and perspective towards society. The conventional western thought process was in danger, at least academically. The dogma set up by the western civilization was critically exposed by Nietzsche. Nietzsche is one of the most earliest and important figures who challenged the western civilization, who predicted the future of society under western civilization, how Europe might sulk and importantly as I comprehend – he predicted the desperate need for a new civilization which departs from the dogma of western civilization and which recognizes the spirit of a man.
Nietzsche is more relevant today than any other period in the history. When Liberalism has prostituted itself to the left, when Marxism is being shown as an alternative to the current failures of nations, when the western code of belief takes higher moral ground and when righteousness gets escaped without any questioning. It’s the Nietzschean thought which confronts the above theologies which has the ability smother the individual with morality and dogmatic values.
“I Am Not a Man, I Am Dynamite!” he said in his last work ‘Ecce Homo‘. Yes, Nietzsche is dynamite, the dynamite which can destroy the values laid by phonies, the dynamite which forces us to ask questions, which in turn demands answers, the dynamite – whose aim is to destroy the sanctity of invalidated ideas, to create a foe when ideologies shamelessly celebrate for having no enemies. The self righteousness of this dynamite is the hope for future.
It’s an irony that I would use the excuse of Nietzsche’s birthday to have extra pegs of Scotch or Vodka, as he didn’t like the idea of alcohol consumption but as Zarathustra said “Now I bid you lose me and find your way”.