Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Was Friedrich Nietzsche Anti-Semitic?

Given that most of his fans are Jewish Ivy-League philosophy professors in America, was Friedrich Nietzsche really anti-Semitic even by today’s standards?

By: Vanessa Uy

Many Jewish Ivy-League philosophy professors – especially in America – very much admired the late, great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Especially when it comes to his insights on the true essence of morality. Anti-Semite or not, this haven’t prevented Nietzsche from having a Jewish fanbase. But is it really the fault of his contemporaries – as opposed to himself – that made Nietzsche harbor anti-Semitic thoughts?

Anti-Semitism was very much in the air during 19th Century Western Europe. The great German Classical Music composer Richard Wagner was very much influenced by the preexisting culture of anti-Semitism at that time. Wagner has probably little choice in avoiding it to influence much of his operatic works, which then became as an artistic recreation for much of Friedrich Nietzsche’s life. Even though Richard Wagner passed away before the height of the Dreyfus Affair engulfed much of Western Europe, Wagner’s anti-Semitic views nonetheless influenced Nietzsche’s.

But Western European anti-Semitism that lasted for almost half of the 20th Century can trace its origins on the Dreyfus Affair. The Dreyfus Affair was a scandal that stirred French political, social, and intellectual life during the 1890’s with repercussions felt long into the 20th Century. September 24, 1894 marked the beginning of the affair. On that date a list of military documents known as the bordereau was obtained from the office of the German service. The nature behind the transfer of the list indicated that a French officer – Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish army officer – was named after a brief and hurried investigation. Captain Dreyfus was a member of The General Staff, was arrested and charged with treason. Captain Dreyfus was accused of supplying the Germans with important military information. The affair probably renewed and reinforced the preexisting endemic anti-Semitic culture of Western Europe. The anti-Semitic aspects of the Dreyfus Affair also very much shaped the personal, creative, and artistic outlook of the great French Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro toward the rest of his life.

Friedrich Nietzsche, as seen from the politically correct and egalitarian 21st Century perspective really passes muster as anti-Semitic. But when compared to the genocidal level of anti-Semitism being practiced by Adolph Hitler, Nietzsche like his contemporary Wagner, would seem “cartooned” in comparison. To me, the anti-Semitic conversation between the late, former US President Richard M. Nixon and Tele-Evangelist Billy Graham about the “Jewish stranglehold of the American economy” easily trumps the anti-Semitism expressed by both Nietzsche and Wagner. Friedrich Nietzsche’s anti-Semitism probably originates from his frequent critiques over “organized religion”. Especially on the Jewish Orthodoxy placing undue emphasis on the “letter of the law” rather than the spirit of the law. As an ironic twist, Friedrich Nietzsche’s anti-Semitism hasn’t deterred him from having a Jewish fanbase.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Did Friedrich Nietzsche Loved Valentine’s Day?

Even though he’s no longer with us and given his views on human liberation and salvation, did Friedrich Nietzsche ever looked forward to the annual arrival of Valentine’s Day?

By: Vanessa Uy

“Everything done out of love is beyond good and evil.“ Thus spake Friedrich Nietzsche, but have you ever wondered if he ever looked forward to the arrival of Valentine’s Day during his lifetime given his liberating view on the nature of love? Given that during Victorian Times, the wanton commercialization and the overblown vulgar - make that ithiphallic - display of “Romantic Love” have yet to reach our contemporary idiocy in exploiting something that’s both sacred and beautiful. Then ipso facto Nietzsche must have seen Valentine’s Day during his lifetime as just another holiday, but did he really?

When Friedrich Nietzsche got preoccupied about the nature of “societal deception” during the “Gay Nineties” – i.e. the 1890’s. He often quotes about one does not want to be deceived, under the supposition that it is injurious, dangerous, or fatal to be deceived. Plus that other one that goes: “Do not allow yourselves to be deceived: Great minds are skeptical.” If all of this sounds like the inspirational sales pitch of your typical business savvy divorce insurance sales agent, then Friedrich Nietzsche must have been very concerned on how one of mankind’s most beautiful and transcendental life-experiences – namely love – is prone to corruption and manipulation. Given his concern for humanity going down the path that’s riddled with heartache and emotional blackmail, should Friedrich Nietzsche be honored during Valentine’s Day? Well…

Given that the people who supported the massacre at Wounded Knee in the name of Manifest Destiny – or the disastrous Operation Iraqi Freedom of recent times – are still in control when it comes to these things. Friedrich Nietzsche being a “heroic fixture” during Valentine’s Day is something that won’t happen within the foreseeable future. Which is kind of sad really, given that Hallmark, a greeting card company who has their own TV channel can’t capitalize on this. Imagine Nietzschean Valentine’s Day greeting cards, or a mini-series about the life of young Friedrich Nietzsche starring Orlando Bloom being aired on Hallmark’s prime-time scheduling block during Valentine’s Day.