Black Violence and the Cult of the Superman

Some time ago I was reading the Belmont Club and Wretchard brought up Goethe’s Faust in some context.  It was something I had been meaning to read for some time so I went ahead and got Part I, then Part II from the library.

Part I is a pretty straightforward tragedy, a good but not great epic poem. The devil helps Faust seduce a poor girl, Gretchen, with a series of horrible consequences for her. Ultimately she is facing execution for drowning their illegitimate baby; Faust tries to rescue her with Satanic assistance but she refuses his help, accepts judgement for her sins and goes to heaven. It’s strongly Christian; the message is people shouldn’t try to get around God, and should follow the rules because they can’t predict the consequences of breaking them.

Part II is really a completely different thing, and why Goethe even brought Faust into it, except that he had an established character he wanted to use. It’s not very good; I pretty much just skimmed through it. The important parts are the beginning and the end.

It starts out right after the death of Gretchen. Faust is sleeping in some supernatural location. He is cleansed of all his sins and awakened. Think about this; he has made a pact with the devil and caused the deaths of Gretchen, their child, and her brother and mother. But, with a snap of the fingers, that’s all gone.

Faust has various adventures and dies. Gretchen comes back into the picture, asking for his salvation. It is granted, because all is forgiven for the man who strives. All is forgiven for the man who strives. This is a massive moral change from traditional recognition of the limits of human agency, whether ancient Greek or 19th century Christian. This seems to come from the Romantic movement, but whether this is more Byronic or German, although I would say German, because Byronic romanticism seems to have been more limited to art, while German romanticism was more interested in politics and society.

I must qualify myself here by admitting I wasn’t paying much attention in college, even if they had been covering anything like this. All my real knowledge comes from bits of reading here and there.

Nietzche developed this further with the idea of the “superman”, who placed himself above the rules followed by the common herd. Like the Byronic hero, he might be moody, volatile, misunderstood, guilty (in the traditional sense) of various crimes- but it didn’t matter, because he was after something more, something higher.

This inclination to leave behind traditional morality and limits may have been a big force behind Bismarck and the establishment of the modern German state. The first modern, nationalist state was Napoleonic France. As bloody and disastrous as the Napoleonic wars were for Europe, the consequences of German unification were worse. The Franco-Prussian War, World War I, the Russian revolution, and World War II all ultimately came from this.

In the 20th century the two primary ideologies bred by this new lack of restraint were Nazism and Marxism-Leninism. Nazism was destroyed; Marxism-Leninism as a political philosophy is dead, although all kinds of leftism still find the idea of a higher morality convenient.

So what in the Sam Hill does all this have to do with black punks looting electronics stores or randomly attacking hapless whites? It has everything to do with it.

Mainstream opinion is starting to get used to the idea we have a problem, but they can’t get past traditional explanations for bad behavior of this sort as coming from anger over deprivation (the preferred liberal explanation, although as we see on VFR the British unemployed are far from deprived) or poor parenting and lack of Christian morality (the preferred conservative explanation.)

But the criminal does not operate under a lack of morality, he acts under a supermorality. The idea of the criminal as superman- as a revolutionary attacking the system through crime- seems to date from Antonio Gramsci in the 30’s, but became very popular with black American criminals in the 60’s. Any black person attacking a white person is a revolutionary superman asserting the power and beauty of the black counterculture against the bourgeoisie.

This is difficult to deal with because one, the idea of the criminal as a rebel is popular with all lower-class and many middle-class and upper-class people and all leftists. The idea of blacks as victims- and so legitimately inclined to rebel against their victimization is even more pervasive.

The simple truth behind this is that black people more than any other group benefit from bourgeous morality, and their rebellion against it is less than ridiculous. Only under such a moral environment are white people inclined to protect and care for black people. In a white atmosphere of violent romanticism or an honor culture black people are dead or slaves.

The reason that the typical person- particularly the type of middle- or upper-class person who makes decisions for society- doesn’t understand violent and manipulative people is that they haven’t had much contact with them. This is their great good fortune, but creates great suffering for the people who are victimized by criminals.

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About thrasymachus33308

I like fast cars, fast women and southern-fried rock. I have an ongoing beef with George Orwell. I take my name from a character in Plato's "Republic" who was exasperated with the kind of turgid BS that passed for deep thought and political discourse in that time and place, just as I am today. The character, whose name means "fierce fighter" was based on a real person but nobody knows for sure what his actual political beliefs were. I take my pseudonym from a character in an Adam Sandler song who was a obnoxious jerk who pissed off everybody.
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12 Responses to Black Violence and the Cult of the Superman

  1. RS says:

    I’m not 100% sure but I do think German romance (I like to just call it romance for some reason) has more violence, and more Sturm und Drang (tension and anxiety), than Brit romance. Rötes fischlein, rötes fischlein, steck dich, steck dich. My sense is that there are a number of German romantic artworks where men of romance literally attack men of Enlightenment and modernity.

    One reason for all this might be just the basic German problem of modern and particularly industrial times: the fact that Germany was stuck in the middle of other powers who wanted to keep it down, all of which seemed to have far greater scope for expansion of their power: Britain (& Empire), Russia, and America most obviously, but France also had much more unused agricultural capacity than Germany and may have had certain other advantages. In addition to a lack of remaining unexploited land, Germany had no oil or iron ore to speak of, so it had a hard time ensuring a supply thereof without either granting some concessions and/or finding a way to exert some direct or indirect domination abroad.

  2. RS says:

    I’m not real familiar with Goethe, but Nietzsche’s overman was not just anyone, he was an ultra-disciplined man of congenital genius. Normal people were supposed to follow orders. To deserve a very high rank and deserve to ‘create values’, one had to join a minute caste by ‘being able to demand much from oneself’ – basically, more than almost anyone. But to N’s mind most men of congenital genius wound up degenerating at some point.

    Considering the importance of ‘the genius’ in romance, I wouldn’t be surprised if Goethe’s amoralism was similarly restricted to very few individuals. “He who striving, exerts all his might, we are permitted to save” – right? Something like that. Doesn’t really sound like just anyone.

    Nietzsche, having gone through and permanently assimilated a positivist pro-Enlightenment phase, as well as a lifelong study under the Greeks, was not quite that high-flown. Though it wasn’t a central aspect of his work, he strongly criticized the idea that the value of an act should be conditioned to any great extent on anything other than its results. A pretty pragmatic take.

    N by the way would not agree with your view that he was going against the Greeks with his kind of amoralism. Perhaps he was opposing Socrates/Plato, and Christianity most certainly – but he considered Plato and Socrates subtly but decisively decadent, ‘anti-Greek’, and ‘pseudo-Greek’. He would claim that the funeral oration of Pericles or the rather predatory attitude of the Homeric heros were more ‘Greek’ ; he enjoyed quoting the funeral oration on the fact that “our [Athens’] goodness and our wickedness have seized the attention of the world”. That’s a paraphrase by me, with emphasis added by Nietzsche when he cited it.

    The kind of morality or mores that Athens’ greatest men imposed on its people for /practical/ purposes, namely strengthening Athens and elevating its life, is not the kind of morality N opposed, as long as it was intelligently constructed (he considered Christianity to be anything but), and subject to revision by superior thinkers according to the change of circumstances. He did not consider these moralities (or most cosmologies/religions) to have any objective truth, but it was perfectly fine for great men to create myths and mores and call them true, and certainly no society or culture could be organized without them. A polis can and should erect a law and mete out punishment, but superior men should make sure that this body of law promotes flourishing under the circumstances that prevail ; bad mores should not be perpetuated. Regarding Christianity, N claimed that it was dysgenic, for one thing, by giving comfort to weak and sick individuals, who should be permitted to despair and die through suicide or neglectfulness.

    What N energetically opposed was a universal morality wherein Athens, or Odysseus, or other ‘strong’ individuals and groups, are castigated for attacking and exploiting other individuals and groups. N said conflict, exploitation, ingroupism, and injustice were inherent in the world, and enhancement of power by way of attacking and exploitation was in the nature of ‘life’ in the most general sense. The exploitation of subject lands by metropoles like Athens or Rome, and the exploitation of ordinary Athenian citizens by the most superior individuals – treating them to a large extent as a means not an end – was essential to the flowering of high culture and the creation of the cultural patrimony we still enjoy today.

    Such universal moralities which attacked exploiters – ie attacked the strong – were considered disastrous by Nietzsche. They tended to seriously cut down on strength – greatness – and foster weakness.

    • Yeah, you’re right, Nietzche is a lot more sophisticated than generally understood. I guess what I’m talking about is not Nietzche, but the way his ideas- and those of the Romantics in general- percolated into the consciousness of people who wanted to overthrow society.

  3. RS says:

    > N said conflict, exploitation, ingroupism, and injustice were inherent in the world, and enhancement of power by way of attacking and exploitation was in the nature of ‘life’ in the most general sense.

    I’m not sure how true this is by the way. Obviously it was pretty true in malthusian times. In our day and N’s it may be considerably less true. You as a polity can defend yourself perhaps without expanding.

  4. Ian says:

    The right wing error is to mistake that the trans-civilized for the barbaric; e.g. Dad says, “You want to be a what? Some sort of … aaaartist? I’d say it’s high time you got your lazy ass back to accounting school.” Or the administrator in movie Avatar who thought of the super-spiritual Na’vi as mere barbarians.

    The left wing error is to mistake that the barbaric for the trans-civilized – that graffiti is art, that criminals are revolutionaries, that looting and burning will somehow improve society more than getting a job and obeying traffic laws, that not bathing is “being authentic”, the ugly noise is music and ugly images are art, and that any tribe of indigenous people could ever be one-tenth as spiritual/un-barbaric as Cameron made the Na’vi out to be (and as so many lefties believe native people without contact with Western Civ somehow were).

    • Steve Johnson says:

      “The left wing error is to mistake that the barbaric for the trans-civilized ”

      Nonsense.

      Some leftists make that mistake but the left is quite sure that it and only it is civilized. At best they believe that the noble savage can be tamed by the sheer beauty of progressivism – case in point Barak Obama. Much more commonly the noble savage is viewed purely as a weapon against the most hated people in the world – anyone to the right of a progressive.

  5. RS says:

    > I guess what I’m talking about is not Nietzche, but the way his ideas- and those of the Romantics in general- percolated into the consciousness of people who wanted to overthrow society.

    Yeah, I see your point there. What he intended isn’t necessarily what happened.

    Nietzsche definitely did influence both the radical left and the radical right. The Frankfort School, or Foucault, absolutely loved his belief that propagation of mores or norms was just a way of creating power. Of course, N wanted to defuse moral attacks on the strong by the weak, so that the strong would be able to have more great art, great men, great love affairs, etc — whereas Frankfort etc used N’s works to defuse moral power-projection on the part of the strong. Naturally N hated such people like poison ; indeed he was very interested in attempting to provoke mass suicide among them, and hinted at future warfare featuring their ‘annihilation’.

    N believed that the strong, the healthy lovers of life and makers of great art, were in some sense simple, open, and not conniving — hence his belief that exposing moral claims as mere power-seeking would aid his side more than it would aid the Foucauldians and Frankforters.

    However, radical left amoralism has other sources as well, such as Marx who advocated terrorism, and who in general envisioned ‘millennarian’ ends so superior to present conditions that they could justify very extreme means in the minds of many people.

    N probably came down rather too hard on the bourgeoisie, constantly ‘flaming’ them as extremely boring, lifeless, and worthless. As far as I can tell, he was probably the primary ultimate wellspring of the verve of hippie anti-bourgeoisism, and the corresponding hippie obsession with art and creativity — the influence flowing largely through Hesse. Hesse mostly presented this rather Romantic fragment of N, whereas N himself repudiated pure romanticism and balanced it with a strong devotion to classical-masculine ideals such as discipline, hardiness, war and heroism, and personal growth through suffering and risk. These elements are maybe not really stripped away in Siddartha, but in Steppenwolf they are.

    I haven’t really traced N’s influence on the revolutionary right in this post, because it’s more obvious than his influence on the rev left. He was read to at least some extent by Mussolini and was almost a bible to a number of NS and Italofascists, one of the earliest of these being d’Annunzio.

    I do think N erred quite severely by taking his amoralism so very far. It may be true that “there are no moral facts whatsoever, only moral interpretations” if you take some super-objective view that makes no reference to human beings. However, men have evolved innate moral drives, which despite some variance are substantially similar across most individuals, especially within a race. N virtually denied this fact or at least radically ignored it, and this rather distorted his views.

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  7. Rich Rostrom says:

    The romanticization of criminals and rebels is very old. It correlates with the Western tendency to glorify dissent and criticism. This tendency has been very valuable to our civilization: it enables the destruction of corrupt and obsolete institutions and practices. But it has become reflexive over time – becoming a sort of autoimmune syndrome.

    In this case, it attacks the moral matrix that makes people citizens instead of criminals. Which, as noted, is especially dangerous to social groups for whom that matrix is already weak.

    “the consequences of German unification were worse. The Franco-Prussian War, World War I, the Russian revolution, and World War II all ultimately came from this.”

    I must disagree strenously with this. The Franco-Prussian War resulted from an operational decision taken by one particular leader in the pursuit of German unification. That is to say, it was a means, not a consequence, and not a required means. If Bismarck had not been in charge, it would have happened some other way, with very different incidents.

    Nor was World War I a direct consequence. Incidents and personalities contributed – the long reign of Wilhelm I, a passionate military fetishist, the early death of Friedrich III, and the immediate succession of Wilhelm II, trained up in his grandfather’s militarism instead of his father’s liberalism all contributed.

    The Russian revolution? Russia was twitching with revolutionary agitation against the often-oppressive Imperial regime long before Germany unified, for internal reasons, and the agitation increased steadily for internal reasons. The February Revolution was in large part triggered by personalities: the well-meaning incompetence of Nicholas II and the malign influence of his devoted but stupid consort, the illness of their son and the resulting prominence of Rasputin. The October Revolution of the Bolsheviks was a coup d’état by a clever opportunist.

    World War II was even more dependent on personalities: in particular, on Hitler, who led Germany into a war that almost no one else in Germany wanted. Yes, it would not have happened had Germany remained disunited, but that’s true of a lot of things.

    • You’re talking about the specific causes of specific events, I’m talking about the overarching cause.

      The romanticization of criminals and rebels is very old. It correlates with the Western tendency to glorify dissent and criticism. This tendency has been very valuable to our civilization: it enables the destruction of corrupt and obsolete institutions and practices. But it has become reflexive over time – becoming a sort of autoimmune syndrome.

      As a matter of folk culture, that’s one thing, when the upper classes pick this up, that’s trouble.

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