Pondering Nietzsche… over a wine… on a holiday in Rome…

New Years Day, 2007.

What else does one do for New Years other than book a lastminute.com flight to Rome for a brief visit? One did, and here are some of the notes from the diary kept by that one.

ROMA – A Brief Visit By a Verbose Man

While providing a local restauranti with fodder for its tourist-processing plan i managed to scoff down a few pages of Nietzsche…

If fairly quickly became lodged in my palate so i dismissed myself (with appropriate tip) to retire to the Hotel Mediterano Bar and the harsh smoothness of a Chivers Regal.

i just read Nietzsche relate how he has had these philosophical questions in him since he was a child. This struck such a chord – i don’t know when philosophical questions first formed themselves in the dark chaos of my inner mind but it feels like they have been there forever. i have not been able to stop them and sometimes they take so much of my mind that i can almost (nearly, maybe) believe that maybe it is not the case that everything we do is for sex…

Others expose themselves to social data like news, political comments, economic realities and theories and can simply listen and let it wash – sometimes i wish i could do this. i hear a comment and my mind immediately asks, “is that right ALL the time?”, “what happens if everyone does that?”, “who benefits from the idea?”, “whose perspective backs the idea?”, “is there a bias – even one hidden from the proposer?” (although most are, aren’t they?).

And so a simple process of watching the mainstream news results in hours of internal cogitation until the Greater Me stands aside and says, “enough!” and those neurons rest – or at least, they have my permission to try to do so.

Unlike Nietzsche i have not actually formed those nebulous processes into any order – my mind remains blissfully ignorant of the benefits of straight lines.

He (Nietzsche) has a go at Kant (apparently he was an Immanuel) for his First Categorical Imperative… “Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a General Law” (apparently from something called “Groundwork”, section 1).

i’m batting for Nietzsche even though i don’t yet know why he is anti… my own reasoning is mundane but compelling in the universe of my own lunchbox – if everyone does everything that is good for everyone, then how do we get change? Change is how we can move to anything better – sometimes it is change for the worse and sometimes it is just change but every now and then the change really is for the better…

Maybe it works because WHAT can apply as a General Rule is a different valuation in each human mind (unless you are a fundamentalist in which case your assumptions are the same as every mainstream-hating-individualist.. so busy striking for originality yet so lacking in independent thought that they drift into a social group of some sort so they can all be individual together). If you follow that logic through then you end up with a healthy mess of 4 billion General Rules.

i am sure Immanuel deals with this in some subtly clever manner…. but let’s leave it for the moment.

Brief interlude for randomly chosen Vodka Cocktail…….

Now he (Nietzsche) is having a go at Pity. Not pity itself but its value. And it is clearly making his crotch itch…

OK, so let my mind loose on that one before knowing all the facts…

Does value matter? i understand that this is a form of academic heresy… so how about i dwell on it a while until i am either dismissed as unreadable or until some germ of a reasonable thought gleams through the dark chaos…

What if you prove that pity has no value…? Who benefits? Not the poor unfortunate who will now be dispatched to oblivion rather than offered a modicum of assistance – going on the logic that if you don’t have pity you will never offer help.

The person who would have felt the pity is worse off – as they will not receive the self-satisfaction of feeling momentarily important owing to their ability to help (and therefore hopefully be thought well of by) another human being. There may be some who will offer help for another reason but they would be few, i’m guessing. They could do it out of a feeling of obligation but that doesn’t really work… you only have to look at the Roman traffic for a while to see how easily the majority will ignore obligations, rules laws or rules.

Hah! The taxi driver last night charged me double the standard price (which i paid as i guessed he would then take me the quickest way so he could move on to the next fare and earn more money), travelled at 150 km/hr (i don’t want to be proved that right too often) and fell asleep at three intersections and only managed to stay awake through the need to react to the life-threatening situations.

OK, so if pity has no value – and we therefore dispose of it as an appendix to our necessary emotions – how is anyone better off? My first thought is to argue that if there is no real benefit to forgoing pity then why lose it? And if that is the case does it matter if Nietzsche doesn’t like its value?

Think i had better read on…

Oh my God… He’s questioning the whole issue of morality! Better look at the introduction…

Oh my God… He’s referring to “the grand old writer of the comedy of our existence”, as a “He”… Is he a Catholic/ Christian/ Fundamentalist/ Forced convert?

Hope he is not a heretic to his own early education – nothing scarier than a reformed smoker!

Oh my fucking God! He is telling me that i need to be a cow to best understand the treatise which is, “a commentary on the aphorism that precedes it”… i have to admit that my brain could only ever deal with a certain number of “ism’s”. Add a new one and an existing one will fall out – the main problem being that i won’t realise which one is gone until confronted by it anew one day… And something important could fall out, like Hedonism or even Prism (who’s to say my mind would not get that confused)  in which case i will lose quite a bit of base enjoyment or even the ability to break down white light – which would mean re-learning the joy of ROYGBIV all over again.

Back to the book…

i do like the way this guy writes. Sparse in long words yet somehow dragging this particular ruminant through my own fields of ignorance – and holding up the light of hope that instead of being an “old, cold, boring”, frog i could actually be a “brave, generous and proud” animal…

OK, now i am dubious of Monsieur Nietzsche… what is all this talk about, “the noble, the mighty, the high placed and the high minded”? As contrasted with the “lowly, low-minded, common and Plebian”? Did he get rebuffed by royalty sometime? Is he some kind of social climber?

i would have thought that the acts of morality by the Plebs would be all the more noble as they have less to gain? (even fame or notoriety – as the noble will have such actions recognised whereas the Plebs’ acts is likely to be consigned to the Great Rubbish Bin of Non-Events… just witness the actions and subsequent historical recording of Peter the Hermit).

Unless i am misunderstanding something else for simple class distinction? Time to read on – and finish this buello! cocktail – as huge as it is.

Just read the whole of (3) without a comment coming to mind – yippeeee!!!

OK, he’s lost me on (4) and (5). How did we go from “noble” to “blond race”..? Think we are dealing with a piece of crap in this section… Still can’t connect noble with skin colour… another cocktail and another rumination, methinks….

i didn’t do that – couldn’t come up with the name of the cocktail and the Barista has changed…

Am i getting this right…? In (6) we leave skin colour and focus on whoever does the good act… but then the repression of “normal instincts” such as pride, acumen, debauchery, love and lust, power, virtue and sickness – by “priests” brings about another evil – the repression of these things.

Now i’m on (7). Let’s state my bias here. i HATE racism – in its many and varied forms (even being painfully aware of my own transgressions in this regard).

To me, the Jews have made a history out of celebrating their prominence as (their) God’s Chosen. But what is the big deal about that? They should be their God’s Chosen – it would be bloody funny if they were someone else’s God’s first chosen!

i’m guessing he is grumpy because a few well-placed Jews may have sentenced another rabble-rouser Jew to death one time. If so, we are on shaky ground Mr Nietzsche… If the Jews over-emphasise their importance in the tapestry of world events then you are adding fuel to the fire with your own version – which simply adds to the Jewish down-trodden, under-privileged (persecuted may be a better word) persona.

So the Jews are a “priestly” group who impose their underdog mentality on the rest of us? Pretty bloody unlikely. You can’t force a massive group of others to your way of thinking unless your suggestions have some validity to that group.

So we have a few tenuous links to the logic here – skin colour, Jews… but i can carry forward the “loss of lust” proposition… (i know that i have distilled that down to a particular area of interest but perhaps this is my form of bias?)… That just can’t be a good thing… i just don’t think we’ve established a viable cause.

i’m going to reduce myself to arguing against the Deliverer rather than the message here… (8) is a sad piece of foolishness. Take the fact that if Jesus of Nazareth existed then his death was inconsequential in the scheme of then-current world events – he was to all intents and purposes simply a rebel Jew after all. So no big deal if his death was manipulated by Jews. If he was the Son of a God then that God did a pretty deceptive act to hide his son as an ordinary man and allow him to be killed like a common criminal.

If Nietzsche is going to use this as the basis of his treatise then i think his foundations are incredibly shaky. i am going to move forward with the idea that he misses some of the more base human instincts and he thinks that they have the ability to be better if those were accepted as ok.

We might be getting somewhere with (10). He is respectful of the noble because their lack of concern for basic necessities lifts them to a higher plane of greatness.

Bullshit. He is happy because his basics are taken care of by someone else. Take away his material goods and he is no more than a plebian in comfortable clothes.

So, if we distill the story so far – the true greatness of the human spirit is that which is released when our material needs (at a basic level) are taken care of and we have such power at a social level that we can pretty much write our own rules and conventions.

Shred away the Judeo-Christian wrapping and we have gone through a prodigious level of thought to end up with the blindingly obvious – it is good to be on top.

i’ve held on through (11) – more deep thought to no further end. It is a horrific prediction of the acts of those polite, baby-faced, dutiful mass murderers of the Nazi era. It is not relativism (one of the few “ism’s” i remember – because the current Pope has declared it as his purpose to battle it!). It is simple Elitism (another “ism” that sticks owing to my hatred of the biggy, “racism”).

i can wear the logic that the repressed see “good” in whatever relieves their suffering – i just fail to see a valid connection with “evil”. It would probably have been better if the Big N stuck to what was good – and consider evil as an afterword.

We are now a day further advanced until my expiry from this existence and i am celebrating that fact by sitting down for another try at the Big N. This time capably assisted by the ever-helpful Vino Rosso (or is it Russo? i should know this by now).

My goodness this man draws a long bow… it may be a bow representing the every-ready resilient bow but it remains a long draw never-the-less. What is the man saying? That mankind has capabilities that are not being utilised? He is still afflicted with this European view of the world. Strange in someone who sets out to find philosophical direction for all mankind – because that is what it seems to me that he is attempting.

(13) and the issues of repressed not being capable of good raises its head again. It really does nose me how he can use this demeaning language when talking about those who are not “strong” – whatever strong, or nobility or whatever is, is.

i’ve read and re-read (14) but am left uninspired by it. So weakness has become entrenched… that pretty much sounds right if weakness if following the tenets of Christian dogma. It (the dogma) was used as a tool by the Strong (ala Constantine) to help keep the masses in check… but again, there has to be more to it than that or it would not have survived the early schisms in the Church. No, take that back… it was the strong who drove the development of the Church. Still don’t quite see his issue here. The Strong can (and have) use(d) the Church to further their ends. Surely if one is Noble (and whatever else is “good”) but not Strong enough to overcome the Church then perhaps one is not one of the “Strong” or blessed ones after all… because surely the perfect man that N sees would be capable of such a thing?

(15), (16) and (17) lead we ruminants to N’s conclusion. And what a conclusion. A bit like an Australian walking out of a theatre at the end of a foreign movie (most correctly, Continental) – shaking their head and wondering why the movie ended there..?

If i am to distill this first essay to what will reside in my little mind from here on in, it will be that N sees a problem with the Judeo-Christian dogma and associated social interactions. It sounds like his ideal would be Shogun Japan… the same ethic that found its greatest flowering in the capture and rape of Nanking.

So far, i think this guy has ruby glasses for a world he would not want to live in… (where does a philosopher fit in Shogun Society? Especially one prepared for – reveling in – agitation of the status quo?)

What has this stirred in my mind so far?

i guess the immediate response to that is to ponder the value of Great Thinkers… they are probably an accident of the gene pool. Great Communicators are far more likely to see their genes pass into the evolutionary chain.

How different from run-of-the-mill are the great? (whether thinkers or doers). Nobility and such concepts are lost on me. They sound good, they feel good – you could even picture yourself accepting the rule of a set of these golden individuals who strive to be the best themselves while doing whatever is necessary to achieve greatness for the society they dominate. It brings to mind the Numenoreans of Tolkien lore – physically taller, stronger, wise, knowledgeable and easy for the mild and meek to look up to.

As an ideal, i have no issue with that concept. A bit like Communism – great concept, it just lacks an understanding of the basic human characteristics when attempts are made to apply the ideology in any practical way. To some extent, even Tolkien recognises this when he has the Numenoreans eventually decline while they sit in high towers and ponder the stars – a fascinating insight into greatness.

i have embarked on Essay II, and, concurrently, on un altro vino (i am really not sure if i got that right – the staff here just let we tourists pester them with our ridiculous attempts at perverting their native tongue – with no real attempt at correcting our mistakes).

We are at the point where N is back on his nobility bandwagon – comparing the social hierarchy nadir with the ultimate autonomous individual. Another spurious claim, methinks. i am brought to mind of that magnificent “Heiro the Tyrant”. That individual does not have the autonomy N is seeking – rather, all the golden attributes are convincingly displayed as weaknesses… a point that reflects my own thoughts (so it has to be true).

“… and all religions are, at their most fundamental, systems of cruelty”. Even the atheist in me finds that one a bit tough. i do subscribe to the idea of religion being, “the opiate of the masses” and i do think that religion in its formal state – survives only because of the lack of individual thought – but i am not so sure about a “cruelty” label. Maybe the cruelty is not being free to see the world that could be if you were outside of a religious order…. but even then you could find yourself experiencing incredible personal growth in the ordered stability of a formal religion – after all, religion is only one aspect of the full experiential circle of the individual.

This may be a rather tart observation, but i wonder if Romans will ever tire of putting so much energy into “strutting their stuff…?” The city is a mess but the individuals are magnificent. In Perth, the individuals are not used to strutting their stuff – their strutting tends to be at the materialistic end – hence, fairly scruffy individuals (know that as i say that methinks Australians – specifically Perthites – have more truly beautiful people per group than this city could stir up) i wonder if there is a society that has managed to find a balance of this part of societal displays…?

(4) has me ruminating quite a bit… “Debtor” and “Creditor”… Doer and Doee… i guess. Looking around this loungeroom i am distracted by the scenes unfolding in front of me… quite a bit of posturing and strutting but not (seemingly) much real discussion.

Actually, that was a fairly arrogant statement given i can neither hear nor understand most of these conversations.


So there you have it… as much as was written on the visit to the tourist city of Rome…


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.