I’ve really been trying hard to understand the thought processes of people like our friend Karl, people who are completely convinced that freedom means that we should all be told what to do, when to do it and where it should be done. I just don’t seem to be able to equate that process with freedom but these are people who believe that people are much happier and life is fairer if it is all “planned” by some authority and some are prevented from being successful because they believe that success is a zero-sum game – if you have it, you obviously took it from someone else – and the way to make life fair is to make sure that there are no long blades of grass – everyone is at the same level.
What they can’t address is who is the one to cut the grass and how that entity can be prevented from standing above the grass when it is cut.
Karl’s response to one of my posts got me thinking about the philosophies of Freddie “God is Dead” Neitzche, Siggy “Sometimes A Cigar Is Just A Cigar” Freud, and our old friend Karl “Capitalism Is A Vampire” Marxy Marx.
What a fun bunch of guys!
…The collective is made of the people and so it follows it acts in the best interest of the people. Bourgeoisie concepts like freedom and private property be damned. Freedom is a myth, the right-wing goes on about opportunity and potential, concepts that don’t produce results. Nothing is funnier than a rich man telling a poor man that they have the same opportunity and potential, that they are essentially equal. Communism isn’t about fairness and equality it is about class conflict and the laboring class throwing off the parasitic capitalist. Capitalist want to keep the working class in ignorance, denying such things as differences in classes and power. Saying the parasite and his host are the same.
Well, I have to give ole Karl points for consistency and persistence.
But let’s have a look where all of this comes from. What is the intellectual basis for it and is it supportable?
First we can look at Freddie. He was undobutly the most fun of all because he would have fit in perfectly in Haight-Ashbury in the late 60’s. If he had a motto, it would have been “Let it all hang out” because that is exactly what he believed:
As a thinker, Nietzsche attacked the conventional opinions of his day because these opinions served as so many barriers to a fuller and richer human experience. He had no faith in social reform, he hated parliamentary government and universal suffrage. He hated liberals, conservatives, communists and socialists. He did not share in the vision of progress so characteristic of the western intellectual tradition for the past two hundred years. He condemned Christian morality. He mocked the liberal notion that man was inherently good. He hated Socrates!
What Nietzsche realized was that man must understand that life is not governed by rational principles. Life is full of cruelty, injustice, uncertainty and absurdity. There are no absolute standards of good and evil which can be demonstrated by human Reason. There is only naked man living alone in a godless and absurd world. Modern industrial, bourgeois society, according to Nietzsche, made man decadent and feeble because it made man a victim of the excessive development of the rational faculties at the expense of human will and instinct.
Against the tendencies of bourgeois society, Nietzsche stressed that man ought to recognize the dark and mysterious world of instinct — the true life force. “Du sollst werden, der du bist,” Nietzsche wrote. “You must become who you are.” Excessive rationality, an over-reliance on Human Reason, does little more than smother the spontaneity necessary for creativity. For man to realize his potential, he must sever his dependence on reason and the intellect and instead, develop his instincts, drive and will. Christianity, with all its restrictions and demands to conform, crushes the human impulse to life. Christian morality must be obliterated because it is fit only for the weak and the slave.
So Freddie hated rationality because trying to be rational in a world that he saw as irrational was just such a drag, maaaan. The real world was harshin’ his mellow, so he just figured, “Fuck it.” I mean, the dude hated SOCRATES!
And because he objected to the rules of polite society that prevented him from walking down the street with his penis in his hand and a chicken on his head, he decided to kill God.
Next we have Siggy. Siggy also believed that God was dead – but for man to be totally irrational and walking down the street with penis in hand and a cock on head was likely not the optimal solution:
Nietzsche glorified the irrational as only a poet could. Freud, on the other hand, recognized the irrational as a potential danger. He wanted to understand it scientifically. He also wanted to regulate irrationality in the interest of human civilization as a whole. As he told one of his friends, irrationality was a “comprehensible object of science.” Freud was convinced that man is not a rational being. Man’s behavior, guided as it was by inner forces, was sometimes irrational. Within the mind there is mental activity that is independent of consciousness. This is the unconscious mind. For Freud, the implications of such a discovery were profound: it meant that man’s actions are not always rational. And such an idea flew in the face of the ideals of the Enlightenment in no less a way than had Nietzsche’s notion that “God is dead.”
The “id” according to Freud, is the home of the instincts. The id constantly demands gratification and in this respect it is primitive and irrational. The id knows no values, only wants and desires. It has no awareness of good or evil. It demands sexual release and the termination of pain. When the id is denied, the individual is frustrated, angry and unhappy.
Freud argued that there was a conflict between our id or instinctual nature and the requirements of civilization. He developed this thesis in his short book of 1930, CIVILIZATION AND ITS DISCONTENTS. Influenced as he was by the horrors of WWI and its aftermath, the main theme of this book was developed before 1914. Man derives the highest pleasure from sexual fulfillment, says Freud, but unconstrained sexuality drains the individual of psychic energy needed for a creative and intellectual life. Hence, it was society, working through the family, the priest, the teacher and the police, who imposes rules and restricts our animal nature which, because it is animal, demands release. Such an existence is painful and so causes anxiety and frustration. But the violation of the rules of civilization also gives us guilt. Either way, we suffer torment and pain. Civilized life simply entails too much pain for people. It seemed, for Freud, that the price we pay for civilization is neuroses.
Not a very happy predicament! People are not good by nature, Freud argued. The individual is a creature whose instincts often provoke aggressiveness. The first inclination is not to love one another as brothers or sisters but to “satisfy their aggressiveness on him, to exploit his capacity for work without compensation, to use him sexually without his consent, to seize his possessions, to humiliate him, to cause him pain, to torture and to kill him.” Freud knew this by studying human neuroses and like Marx before him, by understanding that history is a story of conflict. Whereas Marx saw a dialectical conflict between social classes, Freud saw a dialectical conflict within the human mind itself. Civilization tries to combine individuals into families, races, peoples and nations — into one great unity. “But man’s natural aggressive instinct,” wrote Freud, “the hostility of each against all and of all against each, opposes this program of civilization.”
Freud believed that our conscious thoughts are determined by something hidden: our unconscious impulses – but where Siggy believed that these impulses and struggles for rationality were internal to the individual, our old buddy Marxy Marx saw another reality.
It was those damn bourgeoisies and their capitalist witchcraft, weaving that voodoo that we do so well, casting spells that were impossible to break by those little weak proletarian minds.
As our Karl pointed out:
Freedom is a myth, the right-wing goes on about opportunity and potential, concepts that don’t produce results.
Sometime in the late In the 1840s, his namesake of Communist Manifesto fame had argued that people only believe they think freely. The truth, as Marx attempted to demonstrate, is that their ideas only reflect those ideas of the ruling class, the dominant ideology, and are therefore false. Many scholars say that Marx called this “false consciousness.” He never actually used those words but his writings indicate that he did believe that the bourgeoisie somehow forced their beliefs on the proletariat, the minds of which were just too weak to withstand the 19th century version of a Vulcan mind-meld.
The other possibility that Marx rejected was that the reality of dominant ideology was, you know, actually real. Marx rejected it out of hand simply because it was the reality of the bourgeoisie without regard of whether it was true or not – and for no other reason.
So where does that leave us? Nietzsche thought that the creation of the “Übermensch,” the Superman, was the coolest thing since sliced bread:
With the PARABLE OF THE MADMAN, Nietzsche has established that Christian morality is dead and we ourselves are responsible. There are no higher worlds, no morality derived from God or Nature because “God is dead.” There are no natural rights and the idea of progress is a sham. All the old values and truths have lost their vitality and validity. Such an opinion is called nihilism. There are no moral values. Nietzsche said man could rise above nihilism. How could this be done? Well, first, one had to recognize the nihilism produced by everyday life. One had to become a nihilist. One could then rise above and go beyond nihilism by creating new values: man could then become his own master and be true to himself rather than to another. “Du sollst werden, der du bist.” Man can overcome uniformity and mediocrity, he can overcome socialism, democracy, trade unionism, progress, enlightenment and all the other ills so consistent with western civilization.
According to Nietzsche, man could be saved by a new type of man, the “Übermensch,” the Superman. These are the men who will not be held back by the hogwash of modern-mediocre-industrial-scientific-bourgeois-Christian civilization. The superman creates his own morality based on human instincts, drive and will. He affirms his existence not by saying, with the Christian, “thou shalt not.” No. Against the Mosaic law, the new man shouts, “I will.” The new man dares to be himself and as himself, traditional, Christian ideals of good and evil have no meaning and he recognizes them as such. His “will to power” means, for Nietzsche, that he has gone “beyond good and evil.” The enhancement of the will to power brings supreme enjoyment. The Superman casts off all established values and because he is now free of all restraints, rules and codes of behavior imposed by civilization, he creates his own values. He lives his own life as one who takes, wants, strives, creates, struggles, seeks and dominates. He knows life as it is given to him is without meaning — but he lives it laughingly, instinctively, fully, dangerously.
Think that Karl Marx thought of himself as an Übermensch?
Yeah, me too.
Note a heavy dash of unreality in both Nietzsche and Marx’s positions. There is also a significant component of narcissism because both men never believed that their genius was recognized and those who didn’t recognize it were just stupid.
As a matter of fact, Marx and Nietzsche share many similarities when it comes to killing God and elevating man as the supreme above all. They share a hatred of the bourgeois, Christianity, and any morality except that which is created by man himself. Nietzsche, Freud and Marx also all rejected the concept of natural law and they also share another characteristic – to believe what they believe, one must reject objective reality, as Marx did when declaring that freedom is an “illusion”, and create one’s own personal “reality”. For them, it was called “modernism”.
For the modernist, there was no one reality. Reality was personal — it was individual and therefore subjective. As a general rule, modernism was less concerned with reality than with how the artist or writer could transform reality. In this way, the artist made reality his own. Whereas the middle class industrial society of the nineteenth century valued reason, industry, thrift, organization, faith, norms and values, the modernists were fascinated by the bizarre, the mysterious, the surreal, the primitive and the formless.
What I find a bit confusing is that an ideology like Marxism – one that claims to be based on reality, scientific management, rationality and reason – actually depends on the denial of all four of them (via modernism and post-modernism) to exist.
There is no rational basis for communism.
Are collectivists, socialists, Marxists and communists suffering from a heavy dose of cognitive dissonance? I would say so.