Who will guard the guardians themselves? Lately I have been fortunate enough to unintentionally overcome some of the barriers in my understanding of Nietzsche’s philosophy – or rather, my interpretation of his philosophy. Tonight I started down a new, previously unseen path.
My mother was on the phone when I left my room at 23:30… late, to say the least. My mother has been nothing if not adamant that we not ‘break’ her rules; although, quite confusingly, her rules seem to change daily. One such rule that hasn’t seem to alter much is the requirement that we not disturb her, or engage in any activity that precludes disturbance, after like 22:00. I can recall a few times being on the phone with my father at 23:00 only to be accosted by my mother the following day – and quite often, that very night. Tonight I found her talking and laughing quite loudly until shortly after midnight. But that’s my mom. She’s nothing if not inconsistent.
That made me think of Nietzsche. Why? Well, because I was offended and angry with her for not sticking to her own rules. I am always angry with my mother; angry with her for too many things to count. So, as I usually find myself doing when I encounter situations like these, I ruminate over how certain scenarios would play out if I were to ‘call her out’; to tell her how what she’s doing is hypocritical.
Tonight I imagined she was talking to one of her ‘girlfriends’ (she very well may have been… although I suspect it was a new guy). I imagined her girlfriend accosting me for not showing my mother the kindness and respect she deserves… and that got me thinking of Nietzsche.
Nietzsche believed that morality is defined by the weakness of man; the fear that perpetuates our ‘good and bad’ behavior, and dictates we act accordingly. He taught that man is only good insofar as he is also afraid; that man only performs what we consider ‘good and righteous actions’ because he is afraid of the consequences of not doing so… now a Christian may look at this rough sketch and claim that Nietzsche presupposses a morality akin to ‘natural law’… but I think Nietzsche would go on to explain morality as ‘well-being’ – much like myself.
So how is this relevant? Well, I always imagine in my mind replying back to the claim that my mom is a good and decent person with novel and correct evidence totally unforeseen. I would say that everyone is normal until you get to know them. That the easiest way to tell if a person is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is to test how they behave towards certain people in their lives.
- We can do so quite easily if we consider just two scenarios, each with two corresponding conditions: towards those they are familiar with, and those they are not. To the former: the person in question has power over. To the latter: the person in question is ‘beneath’ the benefactor – that is, they are at the behest of another’s ‘power’.
The answer becomes quite clear when we apply this formula to the life of my mother. And with some previous foreknowledge of morality and ethics, one can quickly discern that my mother is in fact a ‘bad person’. When my mother gets close to someone, she immediately looks for ways to gain power over them. In the case of my immediate family, she uses divide and conquer tactics; she tries her hardest to ensure alliances do not form between her children… completely disregarding the emotional consequences that surely follow; fomenting insurrection is strictly prohibited… In the case of friends who have wronged her, or strangers whom she perceives bode her ill-will (or boyfriends who have broken up with her), she will resort to direct emotional attacks. She will try and lower that person’s status in order to gain control over them; she needs to overcome the feelings of dissonance. She is a true Freudian patient. She accomplishes this unethical task by calling people crazy, and preceding to tell everyone of that person’s craziness… ensuring that if any bad-blood spreads, people will surely side with her… the ‘sane’ person…
I would say to my mothers friend that she only sees one side of my mother; the afraid, cowardly person. She perceives my mother to be a nice, good, genuine person because my mother is afraid of losing her as a friends and benefactor. But I would warn her that my mother’s true colors can only be seen by looking into her deepest most personal relationships.
That is the true mark of bad and evil persons alike; one who preys on the weak and bends-knee to the strong. That is my mother, and that is precisely what Nietzsche was talking about.
We need an ubermensch. The recipe for such a person is easy; only two-part.
overcome fear; that which does not kill us makes us stronger.
This ‘quote’ is a Riddle… a riddle cloaked in banality and presented as a platitude. What Nietzsche is really saying (at least, I think) is that in order to break the shackles chaining us to the ground, and rise to ascend the peak of existence, we must shed all fear. Fear will kill a man. If we remove fear, we will live. We ‘fear’ (quite ironically) that abandoning fear will have dire consequences. But Nietzsche tells us that if we make that leap of ‘faith’ (abandon fear) we will grow stronger than we could ever imagine.
Truly understand what quis custodiet ipsos custodes means. Understand that if we as as species are ever to advance we have to abandon master-slave morality. Nietzsche went to great lengths describing the parallels between religious morality (specifically of the abrahamic religions) and master-slave morality. He claimed that the fear of God, the fear of punishment characteristic of religion produces in man a weak form of morality; one that lowers man to an animal, incapable of rationally choosing right from wrong… reduced to doing right from fear of consequence.
Too many people think Nietzsche a cynicist… I think not. I just get the feeling that Nietzsche was frustrated beyond belief.