Pity Me, Smart People!

I think I’m just too dumb to read Nietzsche. Not to dumb to get it of course, but too dumb to read it. Wordy stuff like Friedrich Wilhem is a real headache for this uh, wizard. I make super slow progress through his translated works.

Personal shortcomings aside, his whole schtick about pity got me thinking. You know where he talks about how the master classes pity the slave classes, and the slave classes pity themselves so they create a new imaginary value structure based on divine salvation, which excludes the master classes and condemns them? Of course you do. What he’s saying is that the slave classes are inferior in their strength of will and cannot be considered as equals by the master classes, because the master classes gauge everything by strength of wills. Indeed, the master class’ very existence and position in life is dependent upon their strength of will, so they cannot compromise their drives to let a weaker willed person survive. And likewise this would merely betray a weak drive… Survival of the strong, etc.

Of course, this exists in modern society, but not so blatantly (i.e. with physical violence). And it also made me think, isn’t everything just a case of one duality pitying the other? ‘Cause you know, slave and master classes are just another duality. They’re just another dancing cosmic pair who need each other, who have the explosive love-hate romantic relationship that functions relatively smoothly but occasionally gets nasty with bumps in the road when one side gets too greedy.

Think about it (I sure hope all you smarty-pants who can read Nietzsche already have): Master classes pity slave classes, humans pity animals (particularly dogs!), the smart pity the dumb, the strong pity the weak, the beautiful pity the ugly, the happy pity the sad, the talented pity the clumsy, man pities woman, the rich pity the poor, and on and on and on and on. Not that this is empathy, oh lawd no! This is pity, which means there is a notion of pathetic qualities of the pitied party which the pitying class is aware of. And in each case, the pitied class also pities itself! I mean, this was Nietzsche’s whole complicated point, so I don’t need to really expound upon it.

Oh hell, I can’t help myself! The master class, or class that pities the other, in pitying them manipulates them by pretending to be empathetic to their plight! That is, if they truly felt empathy for the slave classes, they’d be of the same class! They’d be manipulated into that pitied position! It’s kind of like one of my classic intuitive insights: in order to rule people effectively, one must separate oneself from them. One cannot be emotionally attached to or tied to anyone they rule over. Imperium indeed! Hitler and Goebbels knew what this was all about…

This leads me to some dangerous conclusions about religion. I say dangerous because knowing this stuff can make a person nihilistic or incapable of following religious practice. So, if you practice religious stuff right now and don’t want your mind to be smooshed into jelly at the revelation of intuitive cosmic truth, stop reading here.

For you brave, foolish souls left — I am thinking that religion serves the purpose of gradually boosting the pitied/slave classes’ morale and emotional balance until they themselves can arrive at the point of being members of the master classes. The problem is that a lot of people don’t have the karma or chutzpah to get there in this current incarnation, and a lot of people have to be excluded from the master classes, so most of us are stuck in the slave classes. But the goal of religion as a tool for the common person (of effective, honest religion, anyway) is to create a healthy view of self in the practitioner.

Hmm, I guess that’s actually not so profound. Isn’t that what I believe about everything? Martial arts, religion… they’re all supposed to teach a person how to be independent from others, how to rely on oneself, without being manipulative of others. So… yeah, I guess I’m not an evangelical Christian or anything since I don’t think blind faith will really help you unless it develops into something more pristine. Blind faith is for the slave classes. But what is crazy is how there are a lot of people in powerful positions that don’t care about other people that do have the blind faith of the slave classes.

Another headache, am I right?

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4 Responses to “Pity Me, Smart People!”

  1. “Alas, where in the world has there been more folly than among the pitying? And what in the world has caused more suffering than the folly of the pitying? Woe to all who love without having a height that is above their pity!”

    My lack of smarts notwithstanding, I refuse to pity you. The utter condescension involved in pitying is the clearest symptom of the false heights of one’s morals. Feigning compassion is a cheap way to feel good about yourself. Thus spoke Nietzsche.

    Also, I don’t think I agree with the idea that the goal of most religions is supposed create a “healthy view of self” in their adherents. Nietzsche certainly wouldn’t think so. Religion only provides certainty of some sort, and the effect of being relieved of doubt manifests differently depending on the faith and character of the believer. That, at least, is why I’m envious of religious people.

    I do agree, however, that Nietzschean morality is a useful counterpoint to all the Eastern talk of duality. Most of the New Agey pseudo-interpretations of concepts like yin and yang forget that the “union of opposites” is hardly some comfy metaphysical palliative. Really, it is this very clash of dualities that makes samsara such an existential bummer to live in–endless cycles of oppression and destruction and whatnot.

    If you’d care to relieve/worsen your headache, Walter Kaufmann’s book on Nietzsche provides an excellent overview of his philosophy and significance. You know, in case you wanted some homework from a would-be hermit.

    p.s., Where’s that post on karma? *prod prod*

  2. wizardsmoke Says:

    I think Nietzsche’s views on religion as a structured organization are pretty accurate, but my criticism or observation was that the slave/master duality exists simultaneously in every duality.

    Whether or not that was his intent, I have no idea. But any group that feels threatened or pitied by a condescending group creates some sort of buffer zone in which they can comfortably exist in with their own peers, in turn isolating the condescending group. The religious example is a pretty decent one, but it doesn’t explain all religious views.

    I also think that as soon as one makes any conscious judgment of another person (good or bad) they’re pitying them or acting pitiful. This is why I don’t think Nietzsche, or most academic philosophers, ever came up with a serious practice strategy to help a lot of people. I would like to think the Buddhist concept he is pointing to at the end of Genealogy of Morals is a truly compassionate state, referred to in Buddhism as a state of equanimity. One possesses no preconceptions of other people and doesn’t harbor opinions. This view is achieved by taking the requisite faith in the Buddha/Dharma/Sangha in Buddhism and practicing steadfastly. But once the goal is achieved, one no longer needs to cling to that faith in the triple gem, for one has arrived at a state of self-awareness which includes self-love and independence. This is the logical progression of faith in religion, but most religions (including much of Buddhism) don’t want to admit that. This kind of faith is much stronger than mere blind faith of the masses.

    If you recall we had that pretty decent discussion over on ‘Diary of a Daoist Recluse’ where Bill Hulet emphasized how the true Dao in Daoism is impersonal, unlike the Judeo-Christian-Muslim concept of God/Allah. And so I was saying that’s why Daoism may have trouble functioning as a mainstream religion outside of its ethnic origins; it provides no illusory deterministic comforts to those who need them. Daoism seems to throw the individual head-first into the idea of self-empowerment. It’s very similar to Confucian values, where a person must be strong and self-determined, but ethics are kept in place by the ebb and flow of the environment (in Confucianism this would be social ties and commitments). Karma functions in this way and I don’t think Nietzsche’s religious explanations really cover this deeper base of faith.

  3. Yes, it certainly seems true that Nietzsche does not address that different type of tripartite faith of Buddhism. The certainty of faith doesn’t come cheap with the Buddhists, and I think that was what Nietzche was railing against in his attack on Christian and post-Christian morality. I’d imagine that even Nietzsche couldn’t reject the necessity of temporary faith in Buddha or Dharma until one realizes either. Sangha is a bit trickier, though, since, due to its human aspect, it is potentially corruptable.

    Although I’m pretty sure if Mr. Hulet thought my questions were, um, stupid, I still thought that his point about the impersonal nature of the Dao was very well put. That’s honestly one of the things that makes me feel more attracted to Daoism than Buddhism. I’m an elitist, what can I say? Speaing of which (though not to be a complete bastard), why should we help people who cause their own problems? If my desire causes my suffering, aren’t I the only person responsible for alleviating that suffering? I mean, not that I don’t sincerely appreciate the occasional angel who drops down to help out; it just seems like I should be the one to clean up the mess I made, so to speak.

    That being said, I’m not against compassion, but I don’t really understand it, I guess. As I mentioned on Mr. Hulet’s blog, compassion without pretension or alterior motives is certainly a fine thing. It’s also a tall order, however, so that’s why I’m a little skeptical whenever I hear it mentioned.

    I’m not particularly knowledgeable about Buddhism, though, so I don’t want make any pronouncements against it (as if I could). I worry that all of the angry, dead white guys I enjoy reading may have given me a faulty interpretation of it. Careful with that Nietzsche…

  4. Yeah, that facet of Daoism does seem attractive. However, there are various branches of religious Daoism that surely have their own beliefs and rites and rituals. For most educated people, or those of us jaded by our own western religious backgrounds, the formal or religious aspects of eastern religions are less appealing than the philosophical sides. But yeah, there does seem to be some kind of “pagan” theme to Daoism, one not necessarily exclusive to its native landscape (i.e. Shinto), which makes it alluring in a different way than the more formalized religions. Not that Daoism doesn’t have formality, but it seems like much of that sycretism arose in response to the arrival of Buddhism.

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