By Irina Bassina and Marcel Bas
THE UNITED EUROPE
AS AN ANTIDOTE
TO A DEMOCRATIC NATION-STATE
IN THE IDEAS OF F. NIETZSCHE
Published on Internet January 2002
·European Civilisation and Nietzsche
·Nietzsche's biography in brief
·An outline of Nietzsche's thoughts
·The cultural wish for European unity:
Nietzsche and his Beyond Good and Evil
Choosing for Nietzsche's philosophy as a research subject for this paper, we have taken the liberty of touching upon an interesting, complicated and important matter.
Why interesting? Because we have always found Nietzsche's way of philosophical thinking - this "labyrinth of audacious insights" - the most incredibly original and fresh ever.
Why complicated? Because Nietzsche's writings are sometimes no less controversial than they are gripping. His thought does change over the years, and at times it appears to change significantly. With his often apparent penchant for self-contradiction, Nietzsche withholds, but he also reveals. As he says in "The Gay Science", one wishes to be understood and one also wishes not to be understood.
Why important? Because the time is finally coming when some of his predictions regarding Europe are becoming really actual, if not turning out to be true; and that's the time we are living in…
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
"As little state as possible "
The Dawn, 1880)
The idea of determining Europe's true place in the set of human values has been bothering the world's intellects for centuries. This matter, vexed and attractive at the same time, has been keenly argued upon in the theories of the prominent thinkers claiming to finally puzzle out what Europe is ( Nation?.. State?.. Law?..) or what it will, or might, be. One question that can be posed is whether these claims still hold for the Europe of the 21st century (although, even if some of them seem not to, they are nevertheless worth attention). The philosophers' positions on Europe are sometimes partly coinciding and sometimes diametrically opposed, reflecting time's influence and own strong persuasions of their bearers, sometimes more of the former than the latter but sometimes vice versa.
Prior to making an attempt to define the place of Nietzsche's philosophy in the trends of European thought, let's take a more or less impartial look at the Civilisation, at least by briefly trying to 'sort out' what it is - Europe.
European Civilisation and Nietzsche
Europe is an ancient continent which is known for its host of different philosophies, movements, psycho-social processes and consecutive changes of power. Wars between nations have coloured the face of the continent and Europe has known phases of high cultural self-esteem with a feeling of prominence and cultural and philosophical righteousness among the Europeans, but also has it known eras of self-criticism and doubt about its legitimacy as a cultural entity. Some schools even want to make way for the concept of Europe being merely a result of geographical coincidence, where notions like 'Europe being a peninsula of the greater Eurasian super-continent' also arise. One of the most striking characteristics of the European civilisation is that its 'culture-bearers', i.e. the people shaping and being responsible for European culture, are highly self-critical to their own civilisation, whereas they have developed this same self-criticism because of views that they have acquired by means of European sciences and philosophies. Europeans have always been exposed to many other civilisations because of the European need to expand, to colonise and to 'convert' other peoples to European ways of thinking like Christianity and European ethics. After the loss of the colonies - but particularly after the acceptance of cultural anthropology as an important science - many European nations realised that the Western culture could very well be just one of the many civilisations of the world. European self-criticism as well as, in narrower cases, the dismissal of ethnocentrism gave the pas to a new concept: the unification of Europe, making use of the idea that there is one European culture as well as a great economic potential for a unified Europe. Friedrich Nietzsche was one of the philosophers who found themselves in between the notions of both the grandeur of ethnic nations - as nation-states - and the blessings of Europe as a coherent, powerful culture, because he embraced the view of the European civilisation being far better developed than others. Europe would therefore have to set the example for the world.
Nietzsche was clearly in favour of the idea of Europe
being more powerful and successful, if only it were united. In order to
accomplish that oneness, the nation-states had to make place for the
greater European concept. It seems as if Nietzsche did not fully carry on
thinking into the direction of the earlier Enlightenment, where people
like Rousseau already started doubting the blissfulness of the modern
times and in fact were longing for a more natural, less Western line of
thought, against the apparent line of what was called progress. In a way,
Nietzsche was a child of the Enlightenment himself, to the extent that he
believed in progress and the development of the human race without
religious imperatives, but he clearly dismissed the strongly rational
aspect of this trend of Western philosophies; Nietzsche didn't think that
all people were strong and capable enough to decide for themselves what is
best and he thought that people should listen more to their instincts
rather than only to their reasoning. He believed that the perfect scenario
for the future would be a society shaped by the rise of a noble person, a
strong, intelligent man gifted with the faculties of permitting his
instincts to steer his life. These instincts, according to Nietzsche,
would enable this strong man - the Übermensch - to save the human race
from further decline, as was initiated by Christianity, which had also
destructed the refinement of the Hellenic soul.
Europe of the nation-States, according to his views, has inherited the Christian tradition and thus fallen prey to the democratic virus. Being both anti-rationalist and anti-democrat, Nietzsche was a real pro-European, a 'good European', apparently because he was anti-rationalist and anti-democrat. In his days the idea of unification was not yet understood, but Nietzsche knew he was a prophet. He always thought that he was writing for a more appreciative audience, deeply convinced that his time has not yet come, since "some are born posthumously". So, hundred years later, perhaps we are that audience and he is the first postmodernist.
It seems amazing how a person living in the time of the purely nationalistic ideas (nationalism can be the deep love for one's own culture, ethnic group and fatherland - without considering all other nations de facto inferior - but in this case people believed only in their own state) manages to soundly reject ideas habitual and convenient to his contemporary society, so boldly treating the common values by putting them upside down and shaking the sense out of them. What made Nietzsche's genius develop into such a direction? Perhaps, one could figure it out by first tracing the life circumstances of the philosopher, considering them as the background of his thought.
Nietzsche's biography in brief
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was born in 1844 in the town of Röcken, Germany, the son of an austere Lutheran Pastor. He was a bit of an adolescent prodigy - a talented linguist and a gifted amateur musician. It was in the line of expectations that young Friedrich would continue in the family tradition, but this proved to be a most ironic assumption. His family background offers a striking contrast to his later thought, and, of course, it is tempting to construe his philosophy as a reaction against his childhood: his attitudes towards Christianity, Luther, small-town morals and the Germans may seem easily explicable in such terms. Yet one should be careful here, for this approach bars an adequate understanding of Nietzsche's philosophy. The thought of a philosopher may be partly occasioned by early experiences, but the conception of strict casualty is not applicable here.
As a student, Nietzsche lost his Christian faith quite early on, and gave up his theological studies to become a brilliant young classicist. At the age of 24, he was appointed professor of classical philology at the University of Basel. His life changed dramatically when he got hold of a copy of Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Idea (1818). It was a book that confirmed his own atheism and enabled him to systematise his thoughts into some sort of coherent world view. As a young man, he was introduced to Wagner and his wife, Cosima, and was bewitched by both of them during his early years. His first major book, The Birth of Tragedy (1872), is dedicated to Wagner. He subsequently wrote a series of aforistic books that criticise Western civilisation, such as Human, All Too Human (1878). In the late 1870s, Nietzsche's general health went into a gradual decline and he finally had to resign the professorship. Nietzsche was unwell for most of his adult life, and may have had syphilis. He suffered from a variety of ailments, including headaches, insomnia and near blindness. He spent much of the rest of his life in futile wanderings around Europe trying to recover his health. It's quite obvious that his own personal struggles against illness inform his philosophical message. Nietzsche thought modern civilisation was diseased, infected by the toxins of Christianity and nihilism, and his mission was to provide a remedy.
By 1882, he was writing Thus Spake Zarathustra, in which he put forward the two ideas for which he is most famous: the 'Overman' and 'Eternal Recurrence'. In the last years of his life he became increasingly isolated and ill, but amazingly prolific, with books like Beyond Good and Evil (1885), The Genealogy of Morals (1887), The Anti-Christ (1888) and The Will to Power (published posthumously in 1910). They're odd books, full of strange poetic aphorisms and ironic assertions, expressed in a language that seems neither literal nor figurative, but somewhere puzzlingly in between. Partly because of these stylistic excesses, his philosophy was largely ignored by most of his contemporaries, and his later work is often bitter and dogmatic as a result. However, he always remained confident that his day would come ("I want to be right not for today or tomorrow but for the millennia…"). By 1888, his behaviour had become increasingly bizarre, and he was finally diagnosed as insane. He spent the last years of his life being cared by his sister Elizabeth - an unpleasant woman who later edited her brother's works into crude anti-Semitic propaganda. He died in Weimar in 1900.
One of the central tendencies of Nietzsche's thought is the theme of the 'weak' and the 'strong', masters and slaves, the master-morality and the slave-morality.
In the historical evolution of Europe, he states, "the weak" tend to gain more power. The new philosophy of the weak (or ressentiment) is called Democracy, considered by him to be a perfect form of slavery when one becomes a slave to masses. Even leaders are weak in a democratic society, since they have to respond to the needs of the crowd. Ressentiment presupposes a drive to blame other people for all bad things happening. The weak may revolt against the masters and they may defeat them, but if they do, they won't manage themselves, for they don't have any idea of what to do with themselves. Democracy develops itself in the nation-States, transforming every human being, according to Nietzsche, into "a pygmy of equal rights", since this is one of the major functions of the nation-States' institutions. It is yet another losers' religion; Christianity in a profane coat, where even the most disabled are capable of telling the strong what to do because their number might be greater, and for that reason democracy is the system where 'right' and 'wrong' are determined by vote and therefore by number… 'Rebellion of the Hordes', philosopher Ortega y Gasset would say in the 20th century, being inspired by Nietzsche.
In the unification of Europe Nietzsche recognises the means to overcome the nation-State system, ressentiment and democracy altogether. Europe is opposed to the philosophy of the weak and he believes that strong leaders will emerge from "the swamp". 'Moralin' - indicating a term that is a crossbreed between 'moral' and 'virtue' - has to make place for the 'dominance of the winner'. Strangely enough, Nietzsche is convinced (and he predicts) that Europeanisation will first of all lead to a further democratisation. Later on, however, this process will undermine itself...
After this brief introduction into Nietzsche's philosophical concepts, the following will allow to take a more in-depth look at the line of his thoughts in connection with the posing of European unification as an antidote to the nation-State system.
An outline of Nietzsche's thoughts
All socio-politic history is characterised by Nietzsche as a struggle of two wills to power - the will of the strong ( highest species, aristocratic masters) and the will of the weak (mass, slaves, crowd, herd). Aristocratic will to power, according to Nietzsche, is the instinct of an upsurge, the will to life; whereas the servile will to power is the instinct of decline, will to death, to nothing. High culture is aristocratic, while the dominance of the 'crowd' leads to the degeneration of culture, to decadence. Moral is the main instrument of the slaves against their masters, and moral judgements and establishments allow to justify the flock's prevalence over the superior species. The history of humanity during the last few millenniums (from dominance of ancient aristocracy until modernity) is appraised by Nietzsche as the process of gradual devolution of healthy life principles, as an ultimate victory of vast masses of weaklings and suppressed over not numerous aristocracy of the strong.
With variations, Nietzsche repeats the key idea of his aristocratic conception - the high culture and the development of superior human species need slavery and forced labour of the immense majority in order to deliver the narrow privileged class from physical toil and the struggle for existence:
"In a better social order, the hard work and misery of life will be allotted to the man who suffers least from it, that is, to the dullest man, and so on step by step upwards to the man who is most sensitive to the highest, most sublimated kind of suffering, and therefore suffers even when life is most greatly eased". (F. Nietzsche. Human, All Too Human. 'My Utopia')
Nietzsche also develops an aristocratic notion of law. The law, according to this concept, is a derivative of the will to power, its reflex. From this position he rejects the ideas of freedom and equality in human relationship, grounding the relevancy of privileges, advantages and disparity. The inequality of rights is considered by Nietzsche as a condition of the fact that rights exist at all. A right is a privilege. Every type of entity has its own privilege. Nietzsche believes that injustice never lies in unequal rights - it consists in the claims for 'equal' rights. The justice is that people are not equal, and juridical justice, thus, stems from the principle of inequality of legal pretensions of different individuals - depending on whether they belong to the strong upper crust or represent the ordinary "nulls" of the throng, whose meaning and destination is serving the "chiefs" and "ministers" of the flock. A man in himself, taken out of the context of this serving, does not possess of neither rights, nor duties, nor virtues.
Nietzsche distinguishes two major types of state organisation: aristocratic and democratic. He considers the aristocratic states to be the greenhouses for the high culture and for the strong breed of humans, while democracy is characterised as the effete type of a state system. The Roman empire is estimated by Nietzsche as the "most magnificent organisation form" ; the imperial Russia is also highly appreciated. In his view, the existence of such genuine state formations as the Roman empire or Russia is possible only in the presence of anti-liberal and antidemocratic instincts and imperatives, aristocratic will to authority, to traditions, to responsibility for the centuries ahead and to solidarity of a chain of generations.
It is noteworthy that Nietzsche introduces a distinction between "democracy as something yet to come" and "that which is even now so designated and distinguished from older forms of government only by driving with new horses: the roads are still the same old ones, and the wheels are still the same old ones". While he evidently disapproves of contemporary democracies, he seems more sympathetic towards that truer democracy of the future which "wants to create and guarantee independence for as many as possible, independence of opinions, way of life, and business". (F. Nietzsche: The Wanderer and his Shadow)* He envisages the eventual "victory of democracy" and the rise of a "middle class that may forget socialism like a disease that has been weathered"; and he adds: "The practical result of this spreading of democratisation will first be a European League of Nations".
On the whole, though, Nietzsche remains an irreconcilable opponent to the ideas of public sovereignty. Realisation of such ideas leads, in his view, to the upheaval of the foundation and to the decay of the state:
"To differentiate between government and people, as if two separate spheres of power, one stronger and higher, the other weaker and lower, were negotiating and coming to agreement, is a bit of inherited political sensibility… When, for example, Bismarck, describes the constitutional form as a compromise between government and people, he is speaking according to a principle that has its reason in history (which is, of course, also the source for that portion of unreason , without which nothing human can exist). By contrast, we are now supposed to learn (according to a principle that has sprung from the head alone, and is supposed to make history), that government is nothing but an organ of the people, and not a provident, honourable "Above" in relationship to a habitually humble "Below". Before one accepts this formulation of the concept of government… we might consider the consequences: for the relationship between people and government is the strongest model relationship, according to which the interactions between teacher and pupil, head of the house and servants, commander-in-chief and soldier, master and apprentice, are automatically patterned. All these relationships are now being slightly transformed, under the influence of the prevailing constitutional form of government: they are becoming compromises. But how will they have to reverse and displace themselves, changing name and nature, when that very newest concept of government has captured everyone's mind! But it will probably take another century for that. In this regard, there is nothing to wish for more than caution and slow development." (F. Nietzsche. Human, All Too Human. 'New and old concept of government')
Admitting in principle the state's disappearance in a remote historical perspective, Nietzsche thought that least of all chaos will follow, yet most likely a more reasonable institution than a state will gain a victory over the state.
Giving a base for his future expectations, Nietzsche reckoned that the democratic movement in Europe will first lead to origination of a human type prepared for the new slavery, and then a "strong man" will emerge - unprejudiced, of a dangerous and attractive character, a "tyrant" unwittingly reared by the European democracy. This Übermensch - translated either as Overman or Superman - is a new kind of being, a superior character who will be able to leave behind the pull of human gravity. The term occurs in the work of the Greek satirist Lucian (c. 120-180 AD) as hyperanthropos, and in part one of Faust by J.W. von Goethe (1749-1832). It is usually understood in evolutionary terms - an inevitable development towards new life-forms. Nietzsche's Zarathustra sees the Superman as far from inevitable - rather as an extreme challenge to the human spirit. Indeed, the Superman may never be realised, but Nietzsche insists that we have an obligation to strive towards such a condition.
Overmen will be powerful, strong and healthy individuals, who live an earthly and sensuous life, free from the error of belief in some transcendent reality and from the restrictions of 'herd morality'. They will readily accept the absurdity of the human condition and will become artistic creators of themselves and a new pan-European society. Their robust culture will concentrate on artistic rather than metaphysical works. Rather more routine and mundane work will be performed by a slave cast. But Overmen will not be cruel fascist despots. Once they have conquered and recreated themselves, gone 'beyond' human nature, then they will be tolerant and decent to the lower orders they rule over.
Nietzsche's future society is splendidly vague on detail. It's a reactionary fantasy based on his own worship of pre-Socratic Greek culture. Nowhere does Nietzsche explain or discuss the legitimacy of his authoritarian political system. He offers no suggestions as to what kind of civil law would apply when the passionate and instinctive intensity of Overpeoples' lives led to disputes.
Nietzsche puts the rejection of his contemporary state - this "new idol" of the crowd - into the mouth of Zarathustra. He deplores the fact that in the modern world the state is taking the place once occupied by true peoples and declares the state to be "the coldest of all cold monsters":
"[it] speaks its tongues of good and evil, which the neighbour does not understand. It has invented its own language of customs and rights. But the state tells lies in all tongues of good and evil… Confusion of tongues of good and evil: this sign I give you as the sign of the state."
The meaning of this Zarathustra's anti-etatism apparently consists in the loss of hopes for the contemporary state as a supporter of a new aristocratic culture, insofar as - in Nietzsche's appreciation - it got into the 'worst' hands, the hands of plebeian majority. It's quite obvious here that Nietzsche is not against all states, not against a state as a general idea; he's against the modern nation state as "the new idol".
In fact, Zarathustra preaches the international creed: "Let him come to Zarathustra who has unlearned to love his people because he has learned to love many peoples".
Europe, in Nietzsche's own time being torn apart by the abnormal enmity of its peoples, had to, according to his expectations, become unified in the future. In this connection the European problem as a whole was viewed by the philosopher as the upbringing of a new caste ruling over Europe. Such an interpretation of the development tendencies also explains why Nietzsche constantly highlights the problem of aristocratic education and propagandises the peculiar supranational aristocratic solidarism which he stands up for. From this premise of beyond-national elitism he criticises nationalism and national narrow-mindedness, high self-conceit of Europeans in relation to the Asian people, national arrogance of Germans, teutonomania, anti-French, anti-Slavic and anti-Semitic moods and attitudes. He decries "nationalism" as "dangerous", advocated intermarriage between different nations, and expresses his hope for a "mixed race, that of the European man". He thinks that diverse people had through their history acquired and stored up various characteristics, and he thinks that the offspring of mixed races might be able to draw on the accumulated capital of many peoples. After the ideal of the "Good European" has been pronounced in these terms, Nietzsche's discussions of race for obvious biographical and historical reasons revolve, more often than not, around the Jews. It is folly, he says, to sacrifice Jews as the scapegoats of all possible public misfortunes. This he calls the "genetic fallacy" - to judge a person on their origins rather than on their actions:
"Every nation, every man has disagreeable, even dangerous characteristics; it is cruel to demand that the Jew should be an exception… I would like to know how much one must excuse in the overall accounting of a people which, not without guilt on all our parts, has had the most sorrowful history of all peoples, and to whom we owe the noblest of all human beings (Christ), the purest philosopher (Spinoza), the mightiest book, and the most effective moral code in the world." (F. Nietzsche. Human, All Too Human. 'The European man and the destruction of nations')
From the positions of the aristocratic revaluation of values and seeking the ways to the future order of the new aristocracy, Nietzsche denounces the policies of his contemporary European states as the petty politics of mutual hostility and discord among Europeans. "The time for small politics is gone", - he predicts, - "the next century will bring the fight for the dominion of the earth - the coercion to great politics". The spiritual warfare for the concept of politics will take place, and all the political establishments resting on the lies of old society will be blown up.
Much depends, though, on the form that a movement towards a united Europe might take. In this connection, leaving aside the German case, Nietzsche considers at least two possibilities. One of them he fancies and the other he doesn't: on the one hand it is a 'European noblesse' and on the other hand a 'European vulgarity'.
The first possibility is applicable to France, for "even now France is still the seat of Europe's most spiritual and refined culture and the leading school of taste". Napoleon is often appraised and admired by Nietzsche, but, however, not for his military triumphs or his imperial crown. Rather Nietzsche finds in him the antithesis of the German "Wars of Liberation", of the resurgence of German nationalism, and - besides Goethe - the greatest modern symbol of his own ideal: the Good European.
"…When Napoleon wanted to bring Europe into an association of states… they botched everything with their "Wars of Liberation" and conjured up the misfortune of the insanity of nationalities (with the consequence of race fights in such long-mixed countries as Europe! )."
The notion of 'European vulgarity', on the other hand, is ascribed to England, with its "damnable Anglomania of 'modern ideas' ". Nietzsche assumes that the 'European noblesse' is something that still has to emerge, develop and slowly but surely acquire dominance; while the 'European vulgarity' is actually accomplished and it's only a matter of its victory over the rest of Europe in making it liable to unification.
On the related issue of nationalism Nietzsche is quite clear. Few writers have had less respect for their country and its politics. A letter from Switzerland, 12 May 1887, can suffice to show this:
"I feel kinship only with the most cultivated French and Russian people, but not at all with the so-called distinguished elite among my own countrymen who judge everything from the principle: 'Germany above everything'… ('Deutschland über alles' - IB/MB)"
Nietzsche denounces "nationalism and race hatred" as a "scabies of the heart and blood poisoning", for which he is "by far not 'German' enough, as the word 'German' is used today"; he is "too well informed" and "in race and descent too manifold and mixed" "to share the thoroughly mendacious [verlogen] racial self-admiration and perversion which… displays itself in Germany…" Nietzsche states that he prefers to be an heir of the "European spirit".
The cultural wish for European unity: Nietzsche and his Beyond Good and Evil
In an earlier stage of his life Nietzsche used to associate a lot with his friend Richard Wagner: an intelligent, charismatic composer who had brought forth a huge oeuvre of sentimental musical pieces, in particular about Germanic gods. Wagner embodied the German longing for greatness and some ethnic predestination. At his house there were always people around who would listen to the maestro speak and play; philosophers were also invited and the tenor of the conversations would often be nationalistic and anti-Semitic, as was the case in most circles of intellectuals and the gentry in those days.
Nietzsche was often seen at Wagner's place and he was also impressed by the music and the feelings of nationalism and German greatness, that they aroused even in him. Nationalism was tearing Europe apart but at the same time the continent was becoming 'smaller' because of improving infrastructure. Wars could take place on a bigger scale, therefore expansive nations threatening others with war were sure of success, especially if they had organised themselves in monstrous associations with other nations.
It will be helpful to look at the political and intellectual background of the time in which the flamboyant philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had to develop his thoughts. The western world, the 'Abendland' (Evening Land), found itself once again in an identity crisis. Despite this, in 1882 French philosopher Ernest Renan wrote his famous, confident declaration 'Qu'est-ce qu'une nation?', glorifying the concept of nationalism:
"What is a nation? A nation is a soul, a spiritual principle. Only two things, actually, constitute this soul, this spiritual principle. One is in the past, the other is in the present. One is the possession in common of a rich legacy of remembrances: the other is the actual consent, the desire to live together, the will to continue to value the heritage which all hold in common. (…) The worship of ancestors is understandably justifiable, since our ancestors have made us what we are. (…) One loves in proportion to the sacrifices which one has approved and for which one has suffered. One loves the house which he has built and which he has made over. (…) Man is not enslaved, nor is his race nor his language, nor his religion, nor the course of the rivers, nor the direction of the mountain ranges. A great aggregation of men, with a healthy spirit and warmth of heart, creates a moral conscience which is called nation."
In those days, this nationalistic stance towards politics and culture was considered very progressive because it transcended religions, races and hitherto accepted political tendencies. The nations were growing more and more apart because of a common political philosophy, and politicians tried to fight each other by making use of nationalistic vocabulary and tactics. All these movements of intelligentsia and opposition groups were calling for the vernacular mobilisation of 'the people' against a variety of evils: autocracy, bureaucracy, capitalism, and western ways. But the latent danger of nationalism was that it could be appropriated by the autocrats, bureaucrats and capitalists. The classic instances were Germany and Japan. In the Germany of 1848 revolutions of the intellectuals were divided and crushed; the Prussian chancellor, Bismarck, swiftly pre-empted and tamed German linguistic nationalism in the service of a Prussian-led Kleindeutschland and a Lutheran Prussian monarch. Popular German nationalism accordingly migrated into Pan-German expansionism and the völkisch fantasies of an academic proletariat who dreamed of German conquest and agricultural settlement in the East, in the footsteps of Teutonic knights and medieval German merchants. Bismarck's famous exhortation to the German people, over the heads of their particular political leaders, to 'think with your blood' was an attempt to activate a mass psychological vibration predicated upon an intuitive sense of consanguinity. But Nietzsche stayed away from politics, although he disapproved of these developments on paper.
On the 15th of March 1886 a group of German labourers and farmers arrived in the harbour of Asunción, Paraguay, to found a colony of Aryan Germans on the continent of South America. Among them were Friedrich Nietzsche's sister, Elisabeth, and her husband, Bernard Förster, who had initiated this project.
In such an era Friedrich Nietzsche was developing his thoughts and giving publicity to them. His book Beyond Good and Evil, which was published in August 1885, contained quite a few unusual statements for a philosopher of that époque. Part Eight of the book, Peoples and Fatherlands, is probably Nietzsche's most political - or rather less apolitical - chapter ever written.
Peoples and Fatherlands starts off where it is once again demonstrated that he in fact is a child of the nineteenth century, because he describes with sincere admiration the beauty of Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg; a pompous, overladen work with spirit - at the same time seeming to have ripened too late - and of northern, almost barbarian emotionalism, without the finesse found in the south of Europe. This music is typical for the German soul, he says,
"…which is at once young and aged, over-mellow and still too rich in future. This kind of music best expresses what I consider true of the Germans: they are of the day before yesterday and the day after tomorrow - they have as yet no today."
Nietzsche doesn't like the gloominess and the unrefined character of German ethnic pride; he promotes the idea of the 'good Europeans', more cosmopolitan Europeans, who unite the good traits of various European cultures; but occasionally even these good Europeans have their hours when they permit themselves a warm-hearted patriotism, a lapse and regression into old loves and narrownesses. Such feelings he can fully ascribe to listening to musical pieces like Die Meistersinger , but when one is dealing with intelligent and well-educated people these feelings will undoubtedly dwindle. The intellectual capacities will finally take over. He is even honest enough to mention 'being moved by Wagner's music too much', as well as to succumbing to certain types of nationalism, while describing them as "…atavistic attacks of patriotism and cleaving to one's native soil". The Good Europeanism is a perfect alternative to this type of primitive nationalism.
It was the age of the masses and the mass fell for everything that was massive. Nietzsche alludes in Beyond Good and Evil that the popularity of statesmen would be proportionate to the greatness they had built, no matter how monstrous the outcome of greatness was. "Great politics" is a subject that many people would talk about and even disagree upon, as shown by Nietzsche when he overhears a discussion between two old patriots trying to shout each other down with their favourite arguments stating that Bismarck couldn't have done great things if he weren't great, etc., etc… As an antidote to this useless bickering and division among nations Nietzsche offers the inevitable coming about of a united Europe. He says that such discussions and the political situation of the day are merely symptoms, pains, for the birth of the united Europe.
Peoples and Fatherlands advocates a pan-Europeanism that carries forward the heritage of Greece and Rome and of Judaism and Christianity, the combined legacy of Asia and Europe. The preceding chapter in Beyond Good and Evil ends with Nietzsche crying out "Oh Europa! Europa!"- addressing Europe as if she were still the Phoenician princess carried off by Zeus transfigured into a white bull, the Asian girl who became mother by Zeus to the distinctively European. But even though Nietzsche employs that old fable, the Europa he addresses in Chapter 8 is no Phoenician girl, and "the great stupidity" threatening to carry Europe off is no god but merely a modern ideology. The mythic opening of the theme of Europe as a fusion of Asia and Europe is continued more prosaically in this chapter.
Both physiologically and spiritually an essentially different type of human will emerge from the new societies that will have come into being because of the European unification. The assimilation process of this unification will cause the gradual rise of a supranational, nomadic type of man, who will become the European. If the process is hindered by democratisation it only
"will… gain in vehemence and depth"; "this process will probably lead to results which its naïve propagators and panegyrists, the apostles of 'modern ideas', would be at least inclined to anticipate."
Most Europeans will probably be overcivilised, effete and weak, but they will be of the type prepared for slavery "in the subtlest sense".
Nietzsche highly promotes the idea of cross-breeding. His eurocentrism focuses on four components of this 'mixture' that will come: the Germans, Jews, French and English. According to Nietzsche, the Germans are ever searching for perfection and are always in a state of development. They are restless, their soul is too complicated (also because of a cross-breed with a possibly pre-Aryan element that is untraceable). They will always wonder who they are and in their enthusiasm of having found something typically German that makes them feel good, they can be dangerous. The Germans are the contrary of the great Antiques where eloquence and happiness were abundant.
About cross-breeding Nietzsche says:
"There are two kinds of genius: the kind which above all begets and wants to beget, and the kind which likes to be fructified and to give birth."
The Greeks were a people of the begetting kind, as well as the French. The more fructifying types would be the Romans and the Jews, and Nietzsche wants to add the Germans to this set of more masculine nations:
"…peoples tormented and enraptured by unknown fevers and irresistibly driven outside themselves, enamoured of and lusting after foreign races (after those which 'want to be fructified') and at the same time hungry for dominion, like everything which knows itself full of generative power and consequently 'by the grace of God'. These two genius seek one another, as man and woman do."
The Jews, this most internationalistic of all peoples within Europe, will be confronted by Nietzsche with the Germans when he writes in 'Part Eight', Peoples and Fatherlands, that it is the Germans again who are suffering and want to suffer from nationalistic nervous fever and political ambition. The Germans will therefore now and then feel strongly anti-French, anti-Polish, anti-Jewish and so forth. Nietzsche writes that he has never met a German who was favourably inclined towards the Jews and this anti-Semitism has crept into every corner of German politics. The Germans would rather expel the Jews; they have the instinct of a people whose type is still weak and undetermined, so that it could easily be effaced, easily extinguished by a stronger race. That race could be the Jews; the toughest and strongest of all. Somewhere later Nietzsche wittily alludes to the wondrous cross-breed one could get when the Jewish genius of money and patience would mix with the commanding and obedient character of the officers from the district of Mark Brandenburg. Quickly though, he points out that in fact we have to be serious about this because we must be "breeding a new caste which will reign over Europe".
Thus, Nietzsche clearly sees positive perspectives for Europe if the Germans would join the great cross-breeding. Continuing the nationalistic course, on the other hand, would be more 'like inbreeding'.
The English will have only little to offer the unification. This non-philosophical race without taste, gloomier, more sensual than the German is in greater need of Christianity, the 'philosopher-with-the-hammer' writes. The peasant features of their soul are too conspicuous. The need to reach happiness was something that Nietzsche disliked about them, and their morality always seemed too boorish to him.
France on the other hand, has always been the most spiritual and refined country in Europe, although this French taste, according to Nietzsche, is fading away because of English influences. The French have focused so much on keeping away the German, heavy culture that their own was infiltrated by the English culture. The few who have remained genuinely French are those who have the ambition to hide themselves; at least, not to be infected by maniacal stupidity of democratic bourgeois. What Nietzsche particularly likes about this contribution to the cross-breeding is that the French are very artistic, that they are superior by an ancient, manifold ethic culture, which makes them curious and unprejudiced in a wholesome way. Also nice about the French people is their being an interesting mixture of the North and the South. The French could be exemplary; the Born Middlelanders, the 'Good Europeans'.
The European peoples are obviously growing towards each other because they fear further mutual influences. It is time to acknowledge these events as symptoms of a wish and necessity for real unification.
Nietzsche is perhaps best known as the prophet of the great wars and power and as opponent of political liberalism and democracy. That is the idol of "tough Nietzscheans" and whipping boy of many a critic. The "tender Nietzscheans", on the other hand, insist - quite rightly - that Nietzsche scorned totalitarianism, denounced the State as "The New Idol" and was himself a kindly and charitable person. Actually, Nietzsche opposed both the idolatry of the State and political liberalism because he was basically "antipolitical" and, moreover, loathed the very idea of belonging to any "party" whatever.
"I know that in the not distant future many Germans will feel as I do: the desire to live for one's education free from politics, nationality, and newspapers…"
The leitmotif of Nietzsche's life and thought - the theme of the antipolitical individual who seeks self-perfection away from the modern world - is quite idealistic and reactionary, yet stemming from a progressive position. So are his pro-European ideas. They are far from being clearly defined in a purely structural sense (indeed, Nietzsche doesn't really elaborate on what the single Europe will ultimately become, what therefore enables us to pose such questions as: "What exactly will we get in the long run, after abolishing the nation-State system?"), and yet he's amazingly far-seeing, advanced and daring.
There is something shrill about much of Nietzsche's writings: he delights in antithesis to what is current; it is as if he were swimming against the stream for its own sake; and he makes a sport of being provocative. And even if one does not agree with him, one may yet value this aspect of his unique philosophical thought.
Do you have comments? You can send De Roepstem an e-mail:
|Table of contents of this web-site
| De Roepstem Hoofdpagina / Tuisbladsy | Bestel het boek 'Zwarte Piet: discriminerend of fascinerend? - Een pleidooi voor de zwarte Zwarte Piet', door Marcel Bas | Omstreden naamsveranderingen in Zuid-Afrika | Apartheid is gelukkig al lang afgeschaft | De snelle verbreiding van Engels voor academische doeleinden (EAP) | The rapid spread of English for Academic Purposes (EAP) | De eenzame strijd van Adriaan van Dis | Ter Verdediging van Zwarte Piet | Over Orania: een Nederlandstalige verklaring | Onderhoud met Marcel Bas in tydskrif In Diepte | Identiteitspolitiek in Nederland | Bezoek aan Zuid-Afrika in 2007 | Traditionele muziek van eigen bodem en van de Afrikaners | Menno van Coehoorn en de vesting van Namen | De Vier Heemskinderen | Wallonië is deel van de Nederlanden | Virginia Woolf's class consciousness | Boekbespreking: Hermann Wirth | Engelbert Dollfuss: corporatisme in Oostenrijk | António Salazar: corporatisme in Portugal | A la recherche du sens perdu? | De noodklok luidt voor het Afrikaans | De knieval van de Mondriaan Stichting | The Meaning of Tradition in Homer's Odyssey (English) | The demise of the Scots spelling system (English) | Waarom een Hollander een (halve) Vlaming is | Vlaanderen, de Calimero van West-Europa | Het Waalse aandeel in de Opstand | Haarlem heeft een Vlaams gezicht | Zannekin Jaarboek 2005 | Turkije is geen Europees land | Tegen EU-toetreding Turkije | Invloed van Afrikaans op Zuid-Afrikaans Engels | De Reformatie in de Nederlanden | Op besoek by die Boere-Sports in Patagonië, Argentinië | De Vlaamse Beweging en de (toekomstige) Macht | Verengelsing in Nederland en Suid-Afrika | Afrikaans, die Sondebok | Leiden, een Heel-Nederlands succesverhaal | Zuiderse kijk op de Nederlanden | Nederlandse handelscompagnies (1602-1795) en verbreiding v/d Nederlandse taal en cultuur | Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer en de Scheuring van de Nederlanden | Die trotse honderdjarige gemeenskap van Afrikaners in Argentinië (1902-2002) | De Engelse Ziekte van Tijdschrift Cosmopolitan | Van der Postgastehuis in Philippolis, SA | Pieter Geyl in Zuid-Afrika | Kleurrijk en Cultuurrijk Nederland / Kleurryk en Kultuurryk Nederland | De Nederlanden in de 21ste eeuw | Bezorgde kanttekeningen bij Euro en EU | De herrijzenis van de vertrapte Afrikaner taal en cultuur | "Er zijn geen Belgen!" | Bijdragen aan De Roepstem van Stichting Taalverdediging | Frans Vlaanderen | Prof. dr Geyl: "Zuid-Afrika in Heel-Nederlands verband" | Groot-Nederland versus Heel-Nederland? | Taalverslapping is Taalverloedering | Afrikaans - Nederlandse Valse Vrienden | De Nederlanden in het Verenigd Europa | Boere-oorlog: Genl. De Wetherdenking in Nederland | ANC-cultuurimperialisme bedreigt Afrikanercultuur | Paul Kruger en zijn Volk | "Julle Nederlanders vermoor julle eie taal!" | Afrikaans-Nederlandse opmerkelijke verschillen | De twee Nederlandse Volksliederen | Die Suid-Afrikaanse Volksliedere | Die Vlaamse Volkslied; De Vlaamse Leeuw | Die Volkslied 'Die Afrikaanse Leeu' | Het Wilhelmus, volledig en oorspronkelijk | Het Surinaamse Volkslied | Deel I Discussie: Prof. P.C. Paardekooper| Deel II Discussie: Hans van Zelsts Reactie | Deel III Discussie: Reactie Van Oostrum op Van Zelst en v.v. | "Die Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners" | Introduction to Afrikaans and the discrimination it faces (English) | The united Europe as an antidote to a democratic nation-state in the ideas of F. Nietzsche (English) | Het Gehele Ingescande Boek van Edmondo de Amicis 'Holland and its People' (English) |
This page is published on January 23, 2002