The Superman is Dead. Long Live the Superman!

August 4, 2005 § 1 Comment

Maclin Horton is brilliant on the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. I can’t improve upon it, and if you only have time to read one post right now go read his and skip the rest of this one. If the topic interests you and you want more of the best that has been said on it, don’t miss William Luse’s blog entry of nearly a year ago.

I do have a comment – my own elaboration, not in any way an objection – on something Maclin Horton says as he is laying his groundwork (alas it is in my nature to fumble around with foundations). First, the excerpt:

“Liberal self-loathing” is the term sometimes given to this contempt for one’s own cultural past when it’s found on the left, but that doesn’t seem really accurate, as the condemnation is not directed toward self either individually or collectively: the judges do not really view themselves as being part of the culture they condemn. They themselves belong to the new, all-tolerant, all-liberating, all-knowing culture toward which evolution has been working for millennia and the main task of which is to finish off its mortal enemy, the old stupid vicious culture. And besides, a variant of the phenomenon can be found on the right, although it is less straightforward.

I agree that the self-perception as free and equal ubermensch, juxtaposed to the backward and oppressive tradition-bound untermensch, is not limited to one or the other of what we today call the political left and the political right. The belief that modern man has in the political aspect transcended or nearly transcended the oppressive past, and good riddance to it, and what remains of it must be stamped out, is perhaps one of the most commonly shared beliefs in the modern world. The notion that people could actually live happily and well under monarchy or feudalism or oligarchical Judges is unthinkable: we are so much better than them, so much more free, so much more equal.

This overblown conceit is not a good thing.

It seems to me that in all its forms the belief in the free and equal new man, emancipated from the chains of history, always results in viciousness towards the oppressor-untermensch, whomever he is defined to be. The untermensch is always someone else, not a member of the class of free and equal new men. Even the most extreme believers in the ubermensch, the Nazis and the Stalinists, professed belief in perfect equality of rights among citizens. The belief in the ubermensch is the dehumanization of the dead, and when we dehumanize the dead it doesn’t take long before we start dehumanizing some of the living. Real humanity is always in the way of the superman: that is, real humanity always oppresses the superman and keeps him from achieving his perfectly free and equal triumph of the will over nature.

Belief in the superman necessarily entails belief in the subhuman. Each and every one of us is somebody’s untermensch.


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