From the Right: And then we blinked...
Published: Friday, November 16, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
My thoughts in the early morning hours of Nov. 7 brought me back to a passage in a book I read some time ago. The passage from Walter Krauffman’s translation of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra reads:
“Alas, the time is coming when man will no longer give birth to a star. Alas, the time of the most despicable man is coming, he that is no longer able to despise himself. Behold, I show you the last man.
‘What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?’ thus asks the last man, and blinks.
The earth has become small, and on it hops the last man, who makes everything small. His race is as ineradicable as the flea; the last man lives longest.
‘We have invented happiness,’ say the last men, and they blink. They have left the regions where it was hard to live, for one needs warmth. One still loves one’s neighbor and rubs against him, for one needs warmth...
One still works, for work is a form of entertainment. But one is careful lest the entertainment be too harrowing. One no longer becomes poor or rich: both require too much exertion. Who still wants to rule? Who obey? Both require too much exertion.
No shepherd and one herd! Everybody wants the same, everybody is the same: whoever feels different goes voluntarily into a madhouse.
‘Formerly, all the world was mad,’ say the most refined, and they blink...
One has one’s little pleasure for the day and one’s little pleasure for the night: but one has a regard for health.
‘We have invented happiness,’ say the last men, and they blink.”
In this passage, Nietzsche develops the last man, a thinly veiled and brutal critique of bourgeois society. Here, he cites the absence of creativity, a tendency toward materialism, and the exhibition of herd behavior to demonstrate the weakness of man in this stage of human history. Perhaps the most disturbing quality of the last man is his ability to convince himself that he has found happiness in these qualities. Are the results of last Tuesday’s election indicative of the fact that modern America has now come to epitomize the last man’s reign?
“Who do we love?!” the campaign staffers asked. “Maggie for Gov!” the poll standers shouted back. That was the scene in Exeter a little after 7 a.m. last Tuesday. In the weeks before Election Day, I couldn’t help but notice the manifestation of “Obama Cares” stickers adhered to the bumpers of Honda Civics and Volvos around the state. This is the state of contemporary American political discourse: Who cares about me? Who loves me? Who will take care of me?
Could it be that the denigration of the family and the breakdown of the community have given rise to an age in which citizens now look to the government for these commodities of human emotion? Could anything be more masochistic than looking to politicians and bureaucrats for the sort of support that only family members and neighbors can provide? And what are the values of this new age of paternal government? One might say we are now living in the midst of an envy epidemic.
Rigid class structure and permanent class struggle are not features of American life, but the rhetoric of economic division, too, has now entered into the realm of American political discourse. The stillborn Occupy Wall Street movement gave us the absurd 99 percent -1 percent dichotomy, while politicians like Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren have attributed the accomplishments of every successful man and woman in this country to the government.
The president: “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
Senator Warren: “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own – nobody! ... You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless – keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
Crippling taxation and regulation are a small price to pay for utilizing one’s innate abilities and sharing one’s creativity with others via a market system. The wealth created by some, said the politician, ought to be rendered to the state for the material comfort of others. In this way, human happiness will finally be achieved. The herd agreed and then we blinked.
Nick Mignanelli is a senior political science major and a former intern at the Heritage Foundation.