By Chet Yarbrough
Written by: Friedrich Nietzsche
Narrated by: Alex Jennings with Jon Cartwright
The famous literary announcement that “God is Dead” releases the ape in the city. “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” argues that human beings have moved away from God; particularly a Christian God. Friedrich Nietzsche is saying that without God and the church, a new morality must–needs to be designed by man. The ape is the ruler that thinks he/she knows better than his/her citizens. In the 21st century, humanity has generally moved away from organized religion.
To Nietzsche, humankind’s quest is to evolve beyond populism; beyond reliance on majority opinion and theological teaching, and toward a belief in the ability of individuals to rationally order the world. However, Nietzsche’s idea of liberating what he believes to be the potential of mankind, historically leads to the ape in the city; i.e. leaders like Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin who slaughtered millions during and after WWII.
One should not be comforted by belief that it is only WWII’s ape creations. Nietzsche’s idea in “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” strikes at the heart of all known forms of government and organized religion. Whether democratic, fascist, communist, Catholic, Islamic, Judaic or any other major government or religion—each makes and enforces plans for others. As is shown in all histories, when plans are made for others, they inherently discriminate against individuals because of either race, color, or creed. All known forms of government and religion create apes in the city because of what Nietzsche identifies as “a will to power”.
Nietzsche’s philosophy is grounded in individualism. Every human being has a “will to power”. The exercise of that power is to evolve, in Nietzsche’s mind, to create a society that is ruled from the bottom up rather than from a higher-power down.
Nietzsche became a seer for anarchist philosophers that carry the idea of socialist anarchy to the same extreme that capitalist ideologues like Ayn Rand carry the idea of “self-interest”.
Both views of the world are coming from an absurdist idealist’s perspective. Both ignore the truth of human nature. The difference is that Nietzsche believes humanity will evolve beyond history’s apes in the city. He believes the weak will parish and only the strong-willed will survive. Nietzsche ends “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” with a poem that professes his greatest love is for future generations and his belief that the “will to power” will evolve into an empathetic care for all humankind.
Evidence for empathetic care for humankind seems scarce considering the world’s current leaders. Humankind remains driven by money, power, and prestige and those in the driver’s seat rule in what they perceive is their best interest; i.e. still built from the top down; not from the bottom up.
Nietzsche may be right; i.e. growth of human care for others may be a matter of time and human evolution. Maybe, our greatest love should be for future generations. However, considering how society treats youth throughout most of the world today, love seems wanting.
There is little historical proof that bottom up power structures create either social, economic, or political harmony; let alone unity over extended periods of time. Even familial relationships continue to break down in modern post-industrial societies. Families have been the first and oldest form of social organization. But, the exigencies of modern living require both parents to work, divorce to proliferate, wars to kill, and children to be left behind.
Human nature seems immutable. If “will to power” is an individual characteristic, historically, it lends itself more to hierarchical than egalitarian societies.