Saturday, 12 January 2008

Of the New Idol

From Nietzsche's chapter of that name in Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

The state is the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly it lies too; and this lie creeps from its mouth: 'I, the state, am the people.'
It is destroyers who set snares for many and call it a state.
Where a people still exists, there the people do not understand the state and hate it as the evil eye.
The state lies in all languages of good and evil; and whatever it says, it lies- and whatever it has, it has stolen.
Everything about it is false, it bites with stolen teeth, even its belly is false.
Confusion of the language of good and evil; I offer you this as the sign of the state. Truly, this sign indicates the will to death! Truly it beckons to the preachers of death! Just see how it lures them. How it devours them, and chews them, and re-chews them.
'There is nothing greater on earth than I, the regulating finger of God'- thus the monster bellows. It likes to sun itself in the sunshine of good consciences- this cold monster.
A cunning device of Hell has here been devised, a horse of death jingling with the trappings of divine honours.
I call it the state where everyone, good and bad, loses himself: the state where universal slow suicide is called- life.
Just look at these superfluous people! They are always ill, they vomit their bile and call it a newspaper. They devour one another and cannot even digest themselves.
See them clamber, these nimble apes! They clamber over one another and so scuffle into the mud and the abyss.
They all strive towards the throne: it is a madness they have- as if happiness sits upon the throne! Often filth sits upon the throne- and often the throne upon filth, too.

One element of focus I would like to add to this fine diatribe: the necessary expulsion of healthy disgust, that would otherwise gnaw away at one's insides. A poison should be vomited out. Before I disappear over the hill in pursuit of that tangent, the element of focus, which is the word state itself, which contains an unfortunate two-faced nature which surely works in the favour of Nietzsche's idol workers.
In the above usage we have the body politic as organized for civil rule and government, or the operations or activities of a central civil government. Though, as Nietzsche argues it is no longer connected to life, or the culture of a living people, but is an abstract and artificial behemoth imposed upon life.
However we also have state as the condition of a person or thing, as with respect to circumstances or attributes, or the condition of matter with respect to structure, form, constitution, phase, or the like.

The second meaning is in relation to the human condition itself, or life as is. One is born into the human state. However, the rulers of the body politic perpetrate a kind of intellectual or existential coup over pure reality, or 'the state'.. Instead one is born into the state in the political sense, and as Nietzsche says, "this lie creeps from its mouth: 'I, the state, am the people.'" One is not a free being of pure existence, an autonomous absolute value, but instead a property of the body politic, which places itself as the absolute in value terms, or even life itself. Reality is not 'the state', the state is 'the state'.


Anonymous said...

"Also Sprach Zarathustra", a magnificent piece of music

Andrew said...

It certainly is. Audaciously powerful.

Neil Forsyth said...

I find it hard to read Nietzsche these days. He makes me anxious, irrelevant and I smoke more.

He really wasn't at all keen on anthing that might thwart the artistic flourishing of the chosen few, was he? The state, democracy, social justice, in fact, anything that dealt in generalities was anathema to him and all he cherished. He made the choice to value the individual, or should I say, a certain type of individual, above everything else. It's a bit stark. Don't get me wrong, there is much in Nietzsche that we should take notice of, but like all polemicists he loses the run of himself.

While he wants us to say yes to life, he also wants us to say no to so much that the wound he calls life would take a long time to heal. Longer than any of us have.

I need a fag.

Andrew K said...

Though I'd probably share in reservations regarding aspects of Nietzsche's vision, Nige, I don't find that too off-putting, as I don't need to accept him in his totality. Maybe what he does is try to use contempt as what he mistakenly believes to be the necessary leverage to separate himself from what he sees as the fouling of the waters of life. Though I beleive he was supposed to be a much more warm individual in life than suggested in some of his writings, so this contempt in itself somethign of a posturing, and protesting too much.
Considering the very nature of human life and the dangerousness of ideas in the wrong hands, I wonder would he in a hypothetical hindsight consider it necessary to be a bit more careful in the outpouring of certain attitudes?