Categories
Non Fiction

Protect by the Sword, Win by the Intellect

Friedrich Nietzsche held more relevance in the thoughts of German intellectuals than any other philosopher on the eve of the First World War, partly because he had laid a dialectical basis for justifying conquest and power, but also because he asserted that life inherently had no meaning, which drove the German desire to reason that war was purposeful for a nation. To be clear, when Nietzsche wrote about war his connotation of the word was fitted under the context of individualism, in that instead of adhering to any idealism, a man should struggle through reality in order to reach his highest form, or, “Ubermacht.” Conversely, the German politician and historian Heinrich von Treitschke propounded national solidarity in a way that was inconsistent with, but still influenced by Nietzsche’s ideas. Treitschke advocated patriotism as a means to achieve a higher form of power. Treitschke’s piece, “The Greatness of War” asserted that the pursuit of peace was in itself reactionary, given the supposed natural inclination for war that superior races inherently felt. Treitschke even borrowed phrases from Nietzsche, such as “the Will,” which he used in a more simple manner by arguing that “Those that preach the nonsense about everlasting peace do not understand the life of the Aryan race, the Aryans are before all brave. They have always been men enough to protect by the sword what they had won by the intellect.” Nietzsche on the other hand, was not writing about war in a literal sense, but in a figurative way when he wrote in The Will to Power about the struggle to achieve a higher form of being, whom many Germans thereafter concluded must be none other than members of the Teutonic race. However, Nietzsche did not focus on Germans as a race as much as his fellow countrymen believed, instead, he was ambiguous and even at times ambivalent about German intellectual supremacy, rather choosing to speak in broad terms on the constant vying for power by the races of Europe.

Yet it was not far-fetched for contemporary German intellectuals to apply Nietzsche’s work to the idea of the German man’s ascendancy over other Europeans, as seen through an excerpt from The Will to Power, in which the philosopher seemed to call for: “The annihilation of the decaying races… -The annihilation of slavish evaluations. -Dominion over the earth as a means of producing a higher type…” It could be said that Treitschke offered the same argument just in different words- that Germany had an intellectual right to conquer other nations as a way of extending a higher being’s (the Aryan’s) influence over the world in order to better humanity. The Prussian general and military historian Friedrich von Bernhardi agreed with Treitschke, and even took the idea to a whole new level when he exclaimed in his famous pre-World War One book Germany and the Next War that “war is a biological necessity” -a concept undoubtedly conceived from late 19th century Social Darwinist notions of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. And yet, militarism and nihilism were not interchangeable ideas, but rather, the advent of nihilism as focused on by Nietzsche gave birth to an uncanny modern form of militarism that was meant to intellectually justify war -in that Christian notions of humility and compassion taught by Jesus were crushed altogether. Although some would argue this as irrelevant because war had been justified as a necessity throughout the era of widespread Christian intellectual dominance and even post-Enlightenment (which Nietzsche despised as much as Christianity). Thus, a militaristic mindset had been prominent in German and European culture for millennia, but Nietzsche was the first to apply it in the modern sense through existential thought, and in turn influenced the likes of Treitschke and Bernhardi to evaluate war in a new conceptual manner, albeit from a nationalistic standpoint.

Treitschke, as a member of the National Liberal party in the Reichstag, was particularly concerned with the individual putting his country before all else, and in this way he justified war, while The Will to Power focused on the individual exerting his strength over others so much as there would be a select few who exhibited power over the herds of commoners that were more than a nuisance in that they threatened the well-being of mankind. Treitschke and Bernhardi applied this struggle specifically to Germany’s diplomatic crises before the war, as France had complained to her allies about the longstanding German occupation of Alsace-Lorraine (which was annexed by Germany after the Franco-Prussian war). The situation worsened during the Moroccan Crisis, which was a result of Kaiser Wilhelm II advocating independence for the North African country in order to aggravate France and test the resolve of her allies. Hence, in the years preceding the First World War Germans felt that the multitude of weak European states were ganging up on the fatherland- just as Nietszche argued that the weak masses had culturally supplanted (through democracy and socialism) those who deserved power for themselves alone.

Nietzsche’s concepts have been widely misunderstood and oversimplified.
Categories
Non Fiction

Why the “Middle Class” is Revered in Anglo-American Societies

Great Britain’s liberal political structure in the eighteenth century provided a comfortable social environment for the first wave of modern industry in Europe.  British social customs were clearly more advanced than anyone else on the continent, and that could be seen in British social movability.  Those who could amass fortunes were able to represent themselves in the upper echelons of society.  The British parliament represented the people better than any other institution on the continent, and it was through this representation that the new middle class would be able to institute their values early in the nineteenth century.  No other government in Europe would allow such liberalization for decades after the British, and it was with this political power that Great Britain would be able to dominate economically for the next couple of centuries.

The British naval domination and mercantile power were prerequisites for the new industrial onset, but if it weren’t for the ingenious minds of John Locke and Adam Smith, these advancements would not have made it possible for the English to move past other European powers on the continent politically and economically.  John Locke planted the seeds for democracy in Britain through his writings on liberal politics.  Locke advocated freedom, liberty, and most importantly, private property.  Locke’s ideas on private property were perhaps his most strongly held and vehemently argued ideals -because he believed that in order for there to be progress, people should be allowed to pursue their own economic interests without government interference.  Adam Smith delved even more deeply into the issue, with his arguments on the “invisible hand” and laissez faire efficiencies.

The aforementioned British Enlightenment ideas were not the only advancements to allow the onset of the first industrial revolution.  The monarchial successes in the seventeenth century after years of civil war could be seen through bureaucratic enlargement and court efficiencies that allowed for the growth of London and her ports.  Ultimately, it would be rapid middle-class development that would allow Britain to dominate in the industrial revolution because the bourgeoisie would push for more rational commercial regulation and would be the class supporting the nation through expanded factory ownership in the following centuries.  This social factor, along with the aforementioned political ones, allowed the British economy to flourish when much of the continent would lag behind for as long as a century.

Categories
Non Fiction

Another Look at Karl

Karl Marx was not necessarily the last of the philosophes, but in contrast, he could easily be seen as the death of the philosophes.  Karl Marx was avidly opposed to anything having to do with reform, instead, he advocated the revolution of the proletariat.  All of the eighteenth century philosophes were in support of reform through already established governments in order to implement their own ideas.  Karl Marx was influenced by, but directly opposed to the political reform strategies and the internal reform ideas of the French Socialists.  Marx believed that only revolution could cause true reform through destroying the social class structure.  Piecemeal reforms would not be able to transform society because the class struggles that permeated throughout history were never accidental factors, but class struggle was in itself deliberate, and the proletariat would have to become class-conscious in order to overcome their oppressive existence.

None of the philosophes brought that much complexity into their political ideals solely because they were reformist in nature according to Marx’s taste.  He was influenced by them, yet he understood that he would have to oppose all of their ideas in order for him to create what he thought was the correct intellectual agenda and ultimately achieve the revolution of the proletariat.  However, Marx conducted political writing and research in the very same ways that French philosophes such as Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rousseau did.  He used a variety of directly opposing views as his resources, and he wrote his agendas in such an authoritative manner that would be reminiscent of Rousseau.  However, Marx’s nullification of all past political works including the philosophes and his radical, purely working class rhetoric would have been bizarrely foreign to the Enlightenment philosophers, and thus Marx only had abstract connections to them.

Marx’s theories were purely working class and revolutionary in manner.  Marx was indeed, the beginning of a new era in political writers who would write according to their own analyzations of events around them, (such as Marx’s reactions to the revolutions of 1848).  Marx utilized his own interpretations of Hegelian historical analysis in order to define and point out class struggle in the world around him.  Although Karl Marx absorbed influences and styles from the aforementioned great philosophers of the preceding century, his work can be more accurately interpreted in view of his contemporary surroundings.

Categories
Non Fiction

The Monotony of Life, A Brief Analysis of Waiting For Godot

Samuel Beckett has explicitly stated that the character Godot, in his classic play, Waiting For Godot, is not an allegory for God.  If Beckett’s word on his play is believed to be true, there are still significant biblical corollaries that need to be analyzed in order to understand the main existential theme of meaninglessness in the play.  The two tramps, Vladimir and Estragon, eternally wait for a man named Godot on the side of a road they never take.  In a Christian point of view, this could be seen as Vladimir and Estragon having the free will to take the path toward enlightenment, and yet choosing inaction instead (and thus never attaining salvation).

The parallels between Christian and Existential philosophy can be seen throughout the play, and if the reader is not aware of Becket’s statements on Godot, then they could come to the conclusion that Godot is indeed an allegory for God.  This reaction can be most easily understood through Vladimir and Estragon’s initial hypothesis as to why they are waiting for Godot, “Estragon: What exactly did we ask him for? Vladimir: Were you not there? Estragon: I can’t have been listening. Vladimir: Oh … Nothing very definite. Estragon: A kind of prayer. Vladimir: Precisely.”  One may argue however, that Vladimir and Estragon do not seem like reliable sources because of their flawed character traits, especially due to the irony of the play. However, there are many direct and indirect biblical references in the play that can support a Christian hypothesis.

The biblical references pertain to salvation and are allegorical, particularly in one conversation where Godot is Christ the savior and the two tramps are the two thieves, “Vladimir: Our savior.  Two Thieves. One is supposed to have been saved and the other… (he searches for the contrary of saved)… damned. Estragon: Saved from what? Vladimir: Hell”.  Vladimir suggests that if they do not find Godot, then they will be damned to the hell of living without meaning, hence the conflict of the play.  The mood portrayed just by the setting alone is depressing (a country road, a dirt mound, and a willow tree), but very plain, almost like purgatory.  Through a Christian interpretation, the main characters are the two thieves waiting in limbo to find out whether they will be saved.

Although Vladimir and Estragon wait and come across a few travelers on the way, none of them are Godot.  However, the tramps would not know that because they do not even know what Godot looks like.  The first act seems inconclusive until the end of the day when a messenger boy is sent from Godot to tell the tramps that he is not coming.  Interestingly enough, the messenger boy is none other than a shepherd, a recurring symbol in both the bible and Waiting For Godot.  Jesus was sent by God to herd the sheep and guide them to salvation.  Godot sends his shepherd to guide the tramps into inaction by not giving them any guidance at all.

The second act and day comes and goes the same as the last one, and the same as it always has gone and always will be for the tramps.  Vladimir and Estragon deconstruct linear time within the play by not taking action, and thus suffer through the same day every day.  The brother of the messenger boy from before comes to give the same news to the main characters.  This boy seemingly gives a hint of Godot’s identity, “Vladimir: (softly) Has he a beard, Mr. Godot? Boy: Yes Sir. Vladimir: Fair or… (he hesitates)… or black? Boy: I think it’s white, Sir. Vladimir: Christ have mercy on us…”  Through characterizing Godot as an allegory of a classical depiction of God, and then denying him being God, Beckett is saying that our perception of God is false.  The play connects to the philosophy of Soren Kierkegaard through the blending of Existentialist and Christian ideas.  An individual must find God himself in order to escape meaninglessness, and not fatalistically wait for a divine being to arbitrarily save him.

Categories
Poems

Rotting in a Bucket

Perhaps this nature is forced

upon ourselves.

Fantasy and reality collide.

A single idea indoctrinated by a certain privileged minority

cannot forever decide the fate, in a figurative sort of way, of our species.

There are (in secret) and will be a plethora of schisms in our general biological construct.

Unveiling to others the frail truth.

 

The naked boy is no longer green but faded black.

Why are statues of humans more beautiful than their creators?

All the cobblestones you’ve seen in this city

have been contemplated as weapons.

Paris no longer has the cramped streets fit for revolution.

No more gates, the city walls are only the limit of electronic dissonance used against us.

Hold us back, keep us in poverty.

Recurring thoughts have been warm. Survival is all that is left.