Friedrich Nietzsche and the Death of Morality

 

 

If there were a man, superior in intellect, superior in ability, superior in discernment, evaluation, devaluation, subtextual perception and a pure embodiment of power, what benefits will morality bring him?

This is the question that Friedrich Nietzsche brings to our attention repeatedly throughout his works.

This is the question with which Nietzsche destroyed morality.

Whether you agree with his view of life or not, this question brings into the spotlight in the most poignant manner the very essence of the crisis in moral integrity today.

Nietzsche’s view of nature was extremely aristocratic. Not the aristocracy of race or nobility, but the aristocracy of greatness. For him, the entire phenomenon of nature was geared solely to facilitate the existence of five or six truly great men (if even those many) in a generation. Truly great men, not the easy adjective which we would fain fling at any passing flash in the pan.

The peculiarity of genius is that it can take mankind in directions that no amount of coordinated and fraternal effort could achieve on its own. No mass of mediocre, or even highly talented minds put together can quite traverse that gap that exists between intelligence and genius. Only one mind can even fathom the idea, only one mind is capable of envisioning the path. Its execution may be left to the rest of man, but the power of its conceptualization lies with the genius alone.

Now conjecture the existence, if only hypothetically, of this great man within a civilized society with an established moral code. An education system trained to make a nation think alike, a religious ethic drilled into society from infancy to enforce and then reinforce one trait and one trait only, supreme above all others: Humility.

Consider now, what this worship of humility as a virtue and condemnation of hubris as a flaw will do to a mind that is, indeed above all others; a mind that can only function on planes and in dimensions not even visible, let alone accessible, to the average man. A mind that cannot afford to take on obligations and responsibilities lumped upon him by those below him. A mind that births ideas that cannot be encumbered by considerations of charity or sympathy.

Just as Niccolò Machiavelli demands that a ruler’s only responsibility be the welfare of the state, and that he may not be judged on a moral basis but only on the basis of his competence in maintaining the welfare of the state, Nietzsche demands a similar attitude towards the higher form of men.

Morals and morality were created to keep the raving minds of masses in check and channel their energies in a uniform manner. But one whose mind does not come of the same stock, must he be judged by the same standard? Must everything always be watered down to the lowest common denominator? Must humanity always gear itself to help the weakest at the cost of the strongest?

In most existing societies, the answer to the above questions are a resounding Yes. Nietzsche’s is a resounding No. The harmful effects of this sort of decadent morality, he would point out, is clearly demarcated in the chaos that follows every attempt at the introduction of democracy or socialism in a country. Both these forms of governments share one thing in common, the masses are handed the power of tyranny. The herd mentality plays dictator. Every decision, every policy, every reform would have to consider the lowest amongst us and set it to his levels. The best teachers are engaged in teaching the weakest students, the best students have to make do with the average professor. Public expenditure is lavished on sustaining those unable to sustain themselves. One may argue that this is what differentiates humans from animals, this ability to ignore the natural hierarchy and aid one and all as far as one finds himself capable of it.

Nietzsche’s point is that the system has been set in place by the lowest denominator, for the benefit of the lowest denominator. Individuals are crushed in the flood of downwards oriented societies, ideas are throttled before they can be fully developed, humanity, as a race, declines. He argues that a superior man should not have to adhere to a code agreed upon by lesser men. His means may be immoral, if there is any such thing as a unified moral code for mankind, but his end is justification in itself. If the man becomes an Overman, then he is, in Nietzsche’s words, beyond good and evil.

Thus morality, in this view, becomes a tool of oppression rather than a code of coexistence. It becomes the crab’s claws that stop the other crab from getting out. It is the yolk of decadence that the lesser men would wish us all to be mired in for eternity. This was Nietzsche’s astounding claim. And thus it is that Nietzsche destroyed morality.

I return to the original question.

If there were a man, superior in intellect, superior in ability, superior in discernment, evaluation, devaluation, subtextual perception and a pure embodiment of power, what benefits will morality bring him?

The answer is: None.

 

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Claws

It’s a gem! cried he, ecstatic.
Oh, look at it, is it not wonderful?
He held it aloft to family, friends,
Eager to share his joy, his pride.
I found this gem, he proclaimed.
It was all me, don’t you see?
This is my life. Can you see it?
My life, gleaming and glinting,
Sparkling stardust. Inanimate, you call it?
Fools! What know ye of life?
Where are your gems, may I ask?
Does any possess the sheer majesty,
The clarity, the quality of mine?
I thought not.

Yes, they said, yes, it is a wonderful gem indeed.
But, remember when, in your younger days,
When your mind was naive and vain,
When you understood far less than you claimed,
When you set about taking a hammer
To your own treasure trove – – yes, I see
You do remember – – Well, there was that
Stupid thing you did, you see.
There is that, they all said. That is undeniable.
And so, said they, and so why should you
Hold this gem? Are you not the squanderer?
Are you not the man of pilf, the creator
Of refuse, of waste, of negative energy?
Are you, then, deserving of this gem?
Do you not do it a disservice, coveting it,
Caressing it with your bungling hands?
Give it up, gems are not for you, dearest.
We know what is in store for you,
It may sound rough, but it is true.

Confound you! he cried. Beasts and parasites all.
A man hath done wrong, has he no claim
To righting himself again? Are you so pure,
Then, that you bear no blemish on your
Evil, conniving countenances? Is not your
Covetousness a crime more severe, done,
As it is, out of malice, not ignorance?
Come ye one or all, come ye to seize it
From me, and I shall show thee the wrath
Of Achilles. Hector, at least, had honour.
What honour in your actions? Beasts, I say,
And parasites all. Do I not see amongst
Your pretty words, the forked tongue
Of Milton’s serpent? Blind do you think me?

Round they crept, vermin of the masses.
Clawing, creeping, ever closer, groping.
Clutched he to his chest his gem, weeping.
Who could he turn to? Lord, he cried,
Save me, not for me, for I have forsaken thee,
But for thy gem, thy most wondrous creation.
Save it, and in saving it, save me.
Fool, they cried, there is no penitence
For the wrongdoers. Penitence comes
At a dear price, a price you are not prepared
To pay, turn you then to the Lord? Bah!
That brooding moisture you feel about you,
That is the the disgorged spit of contempt.
The Lord hath forsaken thee, now forsake
Thee this gem, that we may rightfully honour
It by virtue of souls more worthy.

The first of the masses, the friends he held dear
Clasped at his ankles, flaying skin
And severing tendons, causing anguish,
But no anguish compared to the prospect,
Nay, the now tangible fear of losing the gem
To the greed of the world. The question,
Never uttered, never proclaimed, burned
Through the windows to their wretched souls
And showed him, in all worldly lucidity
Their inmost thoughts.

If we can’t have it, why should he?
Are we not worthy, gem, of thee?

Flailing, he was brought to the ground
By the remorseless advance of the host.
Still he clasped, in hope, still they lunged
At it, probing, wrenching.

At last, naught was left of him but sinews
And dried blood. And search as they might,
They found no gem, only clay and death.