A State

In one passage in Zarathustra there is a comparison between the state (modern nation type state) and a sort of monster with unending hunger for its own aggrandisement. A monster which, in its desire for that glory-bedecking, effectively devours the people. A good comparison considering the way nation-states appropriate the very blood of people to further its causes, as well as laying claim to the achievements of its cultural and scientific geniuses, actions which are both monstrous and in bad taste. However, as I shall come to, a monster might be more palatable.

For those of us who are baffled by the idea that the achievements of someone else who may have been born in or at least associated with roughly the same geo-political entity and expanse are in any sense ours, this is in especially bad taste. This is not least because, should we achieve any such cultural or scientific zenith, then it too would be taken to further glorify the nation-state. This is compounded by the fact that membership of a nation-state is not a choice. I do not speak there of membership of an individual nation-state, since clearly people can choose to transfer from one to another, I speak of the complete lack of choice as to whether you belong to one or not.

For some reason the idea that some people might not wish to be part of the currently ubiquitous nationalist system is largely absent from the memetic environment, and to try and broach it brings little but immediate censure. Not wishing to work for a nation-state is laziness. Not wishing to contribute to a nation-state is selfishness. Not wishing to die for a nation-state is cowardice. That this comes from the nation-state, its mouthpieces or its indoctrinated, also does not seem to make many suspicious.

A monster might understand that there may be some who do not wish to participate in the monster/monster-slayer dynamic. The nation-state does not.

It is not terribly clear in Zarathustra if there is any solution to this, though there is more in Nietzsche’s wider writings. And it would simply be a world where there could be a separation. Not a physical separation, but a politico-conceptual one. No one wishing this separation would care if the mean and lacking could never lift their eyes and thoughts above the immediately phenomenal, such that the pointless and bloody business of the nation-state continued for the vast majority.

Nietzsche conceived that the few who could and would stand apart would be the geniuses, and the cultural productive excess arising from their being allowed to stand apart would be the recompense from having to depend on the material production of the… non-geniuses. Well, actually he referred to them as slaves. Property-owning, wealthier than the geniuses/masters, vastly larger in number and greater in material power (essentially your normal citizen body of today), but slaves nonetheless, being as they would be culturally inferior and necessarily so.

I have no hope for this. Some monsters can be reasoned with or overcome: the main point where the comparison fails.

People Rule…

I typically do not like to write posts prompted by topical issues but current events have made me ponder the nature of democracy in a particularly Nietzschean way. I have no time or inclination (or, let’s face it, knowledge) to go over his full thoughts on that system, so let me just say that contrary to those who consider democracy as telic, or those who simply have no historical sense and imagine current systems are persistent, that democracy is a transition for him.

Nietzsche seems to consider that democracies of the modern European mode are inherently sown with the seeds of their own destruction, since they at once encourage an endless pluralism and liberality (rather than a natural commitment to any ruling ideal) along with a degeneration in the recognition of normative authority represented by the state. This latter went along with the demise of theistic thinking for Nietzsche, but I think it can more generally be seen as a function of the self-questioning activities that seem to arise amongst liberal societies.

And so democracies are almost inherently divisive and divided. In an unstable way, since it results, typically, in majority rule over the minority. Where 52% dictate the laws and lifestyle for the other 48% you begin to see that this is not a society, and democracy is not a system that works for a people. For Nietzsche, the positive was that this necessary division and tension would ultimately result in a new form of aristocratic rule, where cultural, artistic, political and every other variety of genius would form a counterpoint to the much larger herd, the herd unable or unwilling to formulate any better type of culture than the present one.

To our ears there are distasteful elements to this thinking, containing as it does the assumption of a group inherently better than the other, an elite that seeks to stand apart. In any event, my objection is not that this does not sit well with our democratic, post-Christian senses, but that I cannot imagine such a rise. Or, at least, I cannot imagine such a rise forming any kind of stable replacement. The herd will always pull down any who seek to rise and flee. The herd does not recognise or tolerate any system other than its own. Even Nietzsche’s wish simply that those who wish to rise above could simply be allowed to stand apart a little seems too much to wish for.

Majority rule, the essence of modern democracy, is stifling for the minorities. And while the nature of societies, states, changes, and inevitably so, I have never seen that there is a coherent progression in their doing so. One thing becomes another, without purpose, without awareness, and without balance. And that the wish of some of us to stand apart, even just a little, is not allowed to be possible…