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Friday, March 28, 2008

MENSCH UND UBER-MENSCH

I wish they would just leave Friedrich alone. They can’t, of course, I understand that. And it doesn’t really matter anymore, I understand that too. He’s been dead a hundred years and what is left of him has long since turned to dust. What does it matter where his dust resides, or even if it all resides all in the same location? Clearly it mattered to his sister, but she was an anti-Semitic witch. She loved Friedrich but her attachment to his dust was her opiate, not his. He didn’t worry about such things, why should I? But it is a nasty joke to play on all of us. The very ground they buried him in is too valuable to be allowed to simply rest where it is with him in it. But it’s a nasty joke, and troubling. I care because although there is much about Friedrich that is troubling and contradictory, there was also one thing in particular which Friedrich wrote, words that spoke to me like a clarion call of honesty and integrity; and which dispelled half a lifetime of conventional pandering and route idiocy. His words that convinced me that intellectually I was not alone on this earth, Friedrich said, "Plato was a bore.” God, yes, he certainly was: a fascist, hate mongering snob and a bore; and Friedrich Nietzsche was the first man I ever read who was brave enough to say that out loud. Sometimes I feel like shouting it. PLATO WAS A BORE!Friedrich, on the other hand, was nuts; a literal raving lunatic toward the end of his life was what he was. He ordered the Kaiser to journey to Rome, and once there to be executed by the Pope. And Friedrich wasn’t kidding. He wrote to friends to explain why he had done this, as if they were going to disapprove of the Kaiser’s imminent demise and hold Friedrich responsible, as if the Kaiser was imminently about to demise. Maybe that is how you know he was crazy; he could not distinguish between what he wanted to do and what he could do.
Perhaps insanity is that simple, the inability to divide in the mind between what is and what ought to be, some kind of hormonal imbalance of the chemical hierarchy of the brain, encouraging you to stuff your pigeon into the wrong hole. It was probably a symptom of the syphilis or gonorrhea he had contracted as a young soldier in the service of the crown. He was a medical orderly who in retrospect hated war and all the justifications for it. The crown he served as a young man was the last thing he had believed in outside of his own brain. As Friedrich himself wrote, “A casual stroll through a lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.” And who would know that better than Friedrich?
But that was yesterday, the age of mensch and uber-mensch. Today the mensch (or men) of Germany are far from uber (0r super), with smaller minds and smaller dreams. Unemployment in what was once East Germany is now over 20%. And the little village of Rocken, where Friedrich lies in the church yard, buried next to his father, sits atop a vast reserve of lignite, also known as “brown coal”.
It is ugly and burns dirty. But Germany has over six and one half billion tons of such lignite reserves. The heat produced by burning lignite (as opposed to anthracite) is so low as to be uneconomical unless the power plants are built right next to the vast open pit mines. Twenty-five villages have already been eaten up by such open pits since World War Two. And it seems likely that Rocken will be number twenty-six or twenty-seven. And then, whatever will become of Friedrich? What a nasty joke on him.And it’s an old joke. A dead atheist is one all dressed up with no place to go. And there is the story of the rabbi, the priest and the atheist sentenced to death by the French Revolution. Asked if he has any last words, the rabbi proclaims, “I believe in the one true God!” The executioner yanks the rope and the blade flashes down and -Thud! - it stops just short of the rabbi’s neck. He is immediately released, much to the crowd’s disappointment. The Priest is next, and he proclaims, “I believe in the son, the father and the holy ghost!” The blade flashes down and – Thud! – stops just short of his neck. To the disappointment of the crowd, he is also released. Then the atheist is tied down and asked if he has any last words. And he says, “Oh, here’s your problem. You’ve got a bone stuck in the gears.”
And then of course there was the indecisive insomniac/dyslexic agnostic who lay awake all night, pondering the existence or non-existence of dog. Is Friedrich laughing yet?Friedrich Nietzsche usually gets the blame for providing the philosophical justification for Hitler and the “final solution”, but in fact Friedrich considered anti- Semitism to be foolish. He wrote that it should be “…utterly rejected…by every sensible mind”. He hated the ultra-nationalists, like the Nazis. That’s why he broke off his friendship with the composer Richard Wagner.
Friedrich called the idea of a “master race” “…a mendacious swindle” which was a polite way of saying that Hitler was full of manure, or would be full of manure, since Hitler was 11 ½ when Friedrich died in 1900. As Friedrich wrote, “Although the most acute judges of the witches and even the witches themselves were convinced of the guilt of witchery, the guilt nevertheless was non-existent. It is thus with all guilt.” Could a man who could write that really have condoned killing Jews for killing the Christ?Friedrich answered Rene Descartes bold claim of "God’s logic" (I think, there fore I am) with a desperate appeal for compassion: “I still live, I still think: I still have to live, I still have to think.” Meanwhile the logic of the situation says that eventually, someday, Friedrich and his father and all the graves in the church yard, and the church and the entire village, will have to be dug up. Every drop of oil that is burned makes each remaining drop that much more valuable, and increases the value of every ton of lignite beneath the little village of Rocken. The mining company, Milbrag, says they may start work to retrieve that lignite beneath Rocken by 2025; or, perhaps, sooner. It is another sign that the Oil God is dead. Long live lignite. And long live Friedrich Nietzsche’s ideas. If it gets cold enough, maybe we can burn his books. Again.

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