Thursday, November 15, 2007

Land of Equals:The Coldest of All Cold Monsters pt. 2

“One still works, for work is a form of entertainment. But one is careful lest the entertainment be too harrowing. One no longer becomes rich or poor: both require too much exertion. Who still wants to rule? Who obey? Both require too much exertionNo shepherd and one herd! Everybody wants the same, everybody is the same: Whoever feels differently goes voluntarily into a madhouse.” (Nietzsche; Portable Nietzsche pg. 130)

The 21st century is a time apart from history, a time of supranational states and democracies. The mechanization of labor and production through industrialization, has increasingly led to what seems to be an infinite abundance, readily and plentifully available. Democracy and egalitarian idealism afford near equal socio political recognition to all persons. It would seem that all of our wants have been satisfied, save for the perfection of plenty and equality. So it should seem, but for the gnawing sense of impersonal isolation and malaise that afflicts us in the moment of our triumph. Why is it that we don't feel like celebrating the Pax Americana? Might it be because we know in our hearts that there will be no more battles, no tests of greatness to set apart patrician from plebeian, noble from commoner? Because we know that we've traded the our pride for equanimity and equality. And so the greatest objection a person can make to modern liberal democratic states, a system in which all wants are satisfied, is the objection of the spirit.“Nietzsche believed that no true human excellence, greatness or nobility was possible except in an aristocratic society. In other words, true freedom or creativity could arise only out of megalothymia, that is the desire to be recognized as better than others. Even if people were born equal, they would never push themselves to their own limits if they simply wanted to be like everyone else. For the desire to be recognized as superior to others is necessary if one is to be superior to oneself. This desire is not merely the basis of conquest and imperialism, it is also the precondition for creating of anything worth having in life, whether great symphonies, paintings, novels, ethical codes, or political systems. Nietzsche pointed out that any form of real excellence must initially arise out of discontent, a division of the self against itself and ultimately a war against the self with all the suffering that entails: “one must still have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star”. Good health and self satisfaction are liabilities. Thymos is the side of man that deliberately seeks out struggle and sacrifice, that tries to prove that the self is something better and higher than a fearful, needy, instinctual, physically determined animal. Not all men feel this pull, but for those that do, thymos cannot be satisfied by knowledge that they are merely equal in worth to all other human beings.” (Fukuyama; the End of History p.305)These are the philosophical objections to the democratic state. Far from being the endpoint and fulfillment of all political advancements, democracy is but one among many viable forms of government. The nature of the 'polis' (the city state) was understood in antiquity to both reflect and affect the 'demos' (people). Democracy was said to be characterized by th 'pathos' (bodily passions) at the expense of the 'logos' (logic) and most especially, the 'thymos'(spirit or pride). Because of this democracy was widely reviled as demagogic and unstable, interested only the immediate passions of the constituents. Plato wrote

“Democracy is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequal alike...the democratic man always surrenders to his desires, allowing those desires to rule over him... Whether it is a matter of art, music or politics, it is only the ‘best men’ who are capable of true judgment. The true judge must not allow himself to be influenced by the gallery nor intimidated by the clamor of the multitude. Nothing must compel him to hand down a verdict that belies his own convictions. It is his duty to teach the multitude and not to learn from them.”Alexis de Tocqueville wrote as much when he visited early 19th century America to study the effects of democracy and egalitarianism on the new American 'polis'.“The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men. All equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty paltry pleasures with which they glut themselves. Each of them, living apart, is as a stranger to the fate of all the rest; his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind. As for the rest of his fellow citizens, he is close to them, but he does not see them; he touches them, but does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone; and if his kindred still remain to him, he may be said to have lost his country.

Above this race of men stands an immense tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, it's object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood; It is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. (Tocqueville p.336)”Tocqueville like Nietzsche, understood that an Aristocracy('aristos-kratia' means 'the best rule') could have a potentially moralizing effect on society, because it is only in societies with a noble class that a person will have the social incentive to aspire to the highest degrees of excellence. The moral, intellectual, and spiritual perfection that the nobility of urban industrial societies so vehemently cultivated, was their claim to perpetual superiority. In an age when the aristocracy no longer decided battles through martial gallantry, the distinguishing mark of a nobleman became that of his gentlemanly character. The aspiring bourgeois who would have their name counted among the nobility must also have cultivated a nobility of character. In aristocratic societies, the aristocrats are the trend setters, and culture is modeled in their image.In a Democracy, no political party or ideology has precedence over another. The people are the sole arbiter of legislation. In the land of equals where no person can claim superiority, all mannerisms and lifestyles tolerated, and the number of voters determines our values. In this way democracy is closely linked to moral relativism, and the most profane ideas can be put to the ballot. The ballot! that unthinking, unwilled consciousness of a nation, with the guidance only of the majority.

"In a situation in which all moralisms and religious fanaticisms are discouraged in the interest of tolerance, in an intellectual climate that weakens the possibility of belief in any one doctrine because of an overriding commitment to be open to all that the strength of the community life has declined in America. This decline has occurred not despite liberal principles but because of them. This suggests that no fundamental strengthening of community life is possible unless individuals give back certain of their rights to the communities, and to accept the return of certain historical forms of intolerance. (Fukuyama; the End of History p.327)Tacitus said that “the Roman's created a desert and called it peace”. And in the same manner, in the “Pax Americana” we've created a desert of the spirit. So it is that the oppression of democracy makes the spirit weep. The spirited pride of man, which is loath to tolerate the indignity of equal dignity. The spiritual aesthetic which cannot applaud the minimalist egalitarian fashions of art and culture. The spirit of nobility which cannot celebrate the devaluing values of relativism and tolerance. The spirit of action which demands long lasting, virile leadership, in place of bourgeois consensus and majoritarian flippancy. And the spirit of faith, which will not recognize any form of legitimacy that is not oriented towards the heavens. These are manifold offenses against the spirit from which all men suffer in the coldest of all cold monsters.

“Somewhere there are still peoples and herds, but not where we live, my brothers: here there are states. State? What is that? Well then, open your ears to me, for now I shall speak to you about the death of peoples.State is the name of the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly it tells lies too: and this lie crawls out of it's mouth: “I, the state, am the people”. This is a lie! It was creators who created peoples and hung a faith and a love over them: thus they served life.It is annihilators who set traps for many and call them “state”: they hang a sword and a hundred appetites over them...” (Nietzsche, Thus spoke Zarathustra)[Thank you for reading the Second part of the series "the Land of Equals". I hope you'll continue to read my articles when I publish the 3rd part of this inquirery into the merits of Democracy and Egalitarianism when I publish "the Land of Equals: Divine Right of Kings".]

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