Friday, 28 July 2006

The Birth of Tragedy

"Oh wretched ephemeral race, children of chance and misery, why do ye compel me to tell you what it were most expedient for you not to hear? What is best of all is beyond your reach forever: not to be born, not to be, to be nothing. But the second best for you, is quickly to die."

I've just finished re-reading my favourite philosopher's first major work, The Birth of Tragedy and the above statement profoundly touches me, once again Nietzsche cuts to the very essence of human existence with his fluid, beautiful language. It somehow seems to ring true in the current world environment.

He also offers some wonderful insights into art that seem particularly relevant to the actor's trade, especially concerning the spectator's perception of the work:

"Thus all our knowledge of art is basically quite illusory, because as knowing beings we are not one and identical with that Being who, as the sole author and spectator of this comedy of art, prepares a perpetual entertainment for himself."

Nietzsche is of course talking about God but this stands true for the perceptual divide between creator and spectator and the decision whether to guide/assist/support their understanding of the vision or whether to disrupt/deceive/destroy their appreciation. There is a third way: abivalence to the spectator's efforts to achieve union with your vision, a path seemingly chosen by much modern art.

As always Nietzsche provides a wonderfully choice quote:

"We talk so abstractly about poetry because we are all bad poets."

He also talks in some detail about 'transformed beings' ie: the actor becoming immersed in the character and losing oneself (in this case the unity of the chorus, which in my experience as a performer is incredibly powerful as many become just one, as if connected by some intrinsic sense of humanity and physical/physiological bonds formed in the mists of time) and all social markers being discarded in this trance like state.

One section really struck me in relation to the current worldscape, it is where Nietzsche blames Socratic culture for the creation of optimism (for me, the United States of America is the nation of optimism) and his words resonate powerfully with what is happening around us:

"Optimism, with its delusion of limitless power! Well, we must not be alarmed if the fruits of this optimism ripen, if society, leavened to the very lowest strata by this kind of culture, gradually begins to tremble with wanton agitations and desires...Let us mark this well: this culture, to be able to exist permanently, requires a slave class, but, with its optimistic view of life, it denies the necessity of such a class...There is nothing more terrible than a barbaric slave class, who have learned to regard their existence as an injustice and now prepare to avenge, not only themselves, but all future generations."

How prophetic is this, of the world we have made and that the US is a personification of? That is a world built unrealistically on the idea that everything is possible, that you can achieve that dream with optimism and hard work. This is simply an untrue and as Nietzsche points out this breeds a resentful underclass, that can not only be seen in the 36 million US citizens living in poverty but the whole countries that regard their very existence as an example of injustice.

The haves and the have-nots.

The gap grows wider.


  1. The only slave class in America are those that choose that life. The American dream is possible, how do I know you ask? BEcause I live it everyday. See thats why my views are so strong, I know what anyone, excluding the handicapped, can have anything they want. If that wasn't the case they wouldn't be flooding across our border by the millions. I can't recall anyone swimming the Rio Grande going south, in the dead of night, or anyone making the treacheruos trek through the mountains to Canada or boarding a shipping container to get into China, Korea, Britian, france, spain, sweden or any other country, or boarding a dingy and trying to get to cuba. Whenever they do that faster than they come in then you might have an argument until then the facts are clear. Evidently it is better to be a "slave class" in america than it is to have to live in Mexico. They prove that every single day.
    your fave maniac

  2. Once again you're embarassingly misguided on this matter.

    The US has the greatest gap between have and have-nots of any developed nation, it has the highest poverty rates of any developed nation, indeed it has the most poverty stricken place in the entire Northern Hemisphere (the name escapes me but it is an Indian Reservation town). 36.5 million people can't just be lazy (and that excludes those that live just above the poverty line), the US is not the land of dreams, it is the land of exploitative labour.

    As Nietzsche pointed out (and he was a far clever man than you or I) optimism is not always a force for good.

    As for immigration you are once again sadly mistaken, as I did research on this in some depth for a post on US immigration, many other nations far exceed the US in terms of people attempting to get in to work, the UK for one, never mind the many European nations that act as a magnet for the Middle East, Eastern Europe and North Africa.

    Your justification of the slave class concept is crass and sums up the failed economy of the US.

    Take care.

  3. Nobody made any trek through Canada's mountains except to get the fuck away from the Northwest Mounted Police, which is to say some dickhead American being chased back to his shithole gun country.

    That being said, on the topic of optimism, connecting the dots between hope and stupidity gives us a better vision of what Americans call "democracy," and the fallacy of The American Dream.

    A dream, by definition, is a mystical, mysterious experience which, as with Christian mythology, promises something better at a different time than now--after much laborious and often-unprofitable work for some asshole who sells you on an idea.

    That idea is like Jack's magic beans. Remember that Jack had the money in his hand, and was on his way to get practical comestible goods when Uncle Sam tricked him out of his lucky charms.

    Forget that Jack's magic beans actually worked.

    Remember that Jack's magic beans, although they worked, led him to a heavenward kind of hell where an ogre tried to eat him.

    Forget that the ogre didn't eat him, except in the original story, which was written as a caution to those who listen to fairytales.

    The American Dream is a product, a manufactured good, which is marketed to people as replacement therapy for the real life that you exchange when you surrender your originality and unique human self to join the ranks of corporate zombies whose main purpose is to stay out of the way when their bosses fight with each other.

    The unreal, sappy middle class lifestyle is sort of the soundtrack to this latter-day nightmare. Take your 2 cars, fuck a fairly good looking chick for a few years, pop out a few kids, buy a (hopefully) sturdy home, and just throw away any chance of doing something exciting with your life.

    Then, after you've been culled via the popular culture to expect more from your shitty life, buy a Corvette, or better yet, join a pilates class, or Jenny Craig, or Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

    Basically, you're a mental patient who is being "managed" through a right proper bilking. Just keep following the nurse around the ward, take your sedatives which make you feel more sexually potent, with more vibrant, younger-looking hair.

    Ride the trike all the way to hell, and while your government kills off the people they deem unnecessary, wave your hands in front of your face every four years and claim to high heaven you live in a democracy.

    Yes, little one, off to sleep for you now.

    To sleep, perchance to dream.

  4. Why not a whole nation of have nots, a nation of slaves ruled by an extremely rich and of course, small group of oligarchs. A la Marx?

    It's very telling of what moves you.

  5. UL - You need to go back and read Marx again. Your ignorance is showing. Are you really in grad school? Do you really study philosophy.

    It boggles the mind that your are so poorly read. Please don't tell me you teach and if you do please say it is in a private school, one of your "seg" academies.

    Please cite one example where Marx espoused the society which you describe.

  6. Um, Cranky, the last paragraph of the Communist Manifesto celebrates the coming dictatorship over the peasantry.

    Marx was " this close to nailing it, and we should shoot UL and his oligarchic segregationists, and turn to India's example, and maybe a little ANC with less American exploitation.

    Maybe a whole lot of shooting of the oligarchy.

    Yes, that's called for if democracy is ever going to become a reality in this world.

  7. The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims.
    They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by
    the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.
    Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution.
    The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains.
    They have a world to win.


    I don't read it that way. In fact I don't see anything in the Manifesto that even comes close to the social order describe so ignorantly by UndergroundIllogician.

  8. The problem with Communism is the path to the utopia "where the government withers away" is through a totalitarian dictatorship that never seems to decide that we have reached said utopia. Like theocracy, which would also work well if everyone was honest, good and fair, it fails to take human nature into account. There have been attempts to change this, to "cure" human nature, but it has always turned to blaming some group, and perpetrating a holocaust.

    Capitalism provides much more feedback in making an economy work (supply and demand more directly affecting each other), than the central planning involved in "pre-communist" totalitarian dictatorships. Even when implemented in a democratic setting, capitalism too is flawed and is best tempered with a co-existing social "safety net" type of system, which in many countries is inadequate.

    Then democracy itself gets compromised by those who believe "one person, one vote" means "one person, one vote, one time". The argument is you already voted once, why should you need to vote again? The other argument is "you don't need multiple parties, it is inefficient".

  9. For democracy, the most important thing "the people" must do is be physically involved in the vote counting process, like counting pieces of paper with representatives of candidates watching them. Do not leave this to machines. Machines are good at doing the bidding of one person.

  10. I see you chose not to address the masses flooding into the us. Thats ok see it any way you would like
    take care.

  11. JS: what? UI addressed it in massive detail, ie: America is land of exploitation of labour and it doesn't take as many immigrants as you think.

    Dealt with. Can you not read?

  12. Beware of Nihilism!!!!!


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