Nietzsche for our times

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) is best known for his declaration that “God is dead”. These words appear in his allegorical master- piece Thus Spoke Zarathustra, a book in which he warned that even though many people no longer believed in Christianity, our moral system was still underpinned by moribund Christian notions of “good” and “evil”. It was thus imperative that we should rethink our values. Nietzsche foresaw a crisis in civilisation as the foundations of a moral system based on Christianity was collapsing. He correctly predicted that after him “there will be wars the like of which have never been seen on earth before”.

Nietzsche believed that life was inevitably about struggle and suffering. But he proposed that instead of trying to diminish pain and unhappiness, or try to avoid it, we should instead embrace strife and
woe in order to overcome it. His idealised person, his Übermensch, or “Superman”, is a radical individualist who triumphs over obstacles and difficulties, who liberates himself or herself from religious dogma and secular “herd” mentalities, and who eternally strives to become a better and higher version of themselves. “What does not kill me makes me stronger” is one of his most enduring sayings, as his maxim: “Live Dangerously!” Get Over Yourself takes Nietzsche’s philosophy to understand our society, and takes our society to explain his philosophy. In our age of identity politics, therapy culture, safe spaces, religious fundamentalism, virtue signalling, Twitterstorms, public emoting, dumbing down, digital addiction and  the politics of envy, the book introduces Nietzsche’s philosophy by putting the man in our shoes.

The 21st century has seen the dawn of
the new digital age of hyper-connectivity, censorship on campuses, religious funda- mentalism and political populism against “the elites”. It’s an age in which Nietzsche’s ideas are acutely relevant. He was a radical individualist who scorned the base thinking of groups, who spurned resentment and ideologies. If Nietzsche railed against the “herd” mentality, lamenting the expansion of democracy in his own times, he would today be aghast at the incessant chatter of social media today. “O you poor devils in the great cities of the world, you gifted young men tormented by ambition who consider it your duty to pass some comment on everything that happens”, he wrote in 1881.

In an age of Twitterstorms and trolling,
his words on the dangers of mob-rule are pertinent. He had warned of the “lustful greed, bitter envy, sour vindictiveness” that characterised “mob pride”. He would have agreed that we needed “digital detox”, esteeming as he did quiet and solitude.
“Live dangerously” is a declaration that students of today with their “safe spaces” and books with “trigger warnings” would do well to take heed. Nietzsche wrote about the aggressive morality of self- proclaimed victims, which we should bear in mind when people complain about being “offended” and their feelings being “hurt”, and demand censorship as recompense.

 

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