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Ubermenschen or Just Bohemians?
by Friedrich Hansen
Is it permissible to compare Russia with the US, as Trump has done recently? Well he just parodied the liberal fondness of moral relativism and equivocation – the kind of “reality check” which is core business of President Donald Trump piercing the carapace of liberal self-righteousness and their claims on the moral high-ground. What comes into daylight here is the liberal mix of fun & fiction, which has been around from its very early days, going back to Nietzsche and Freud as we will see. Sigmund Freud, the designer of liberal fiction, famously said, “the opposite of pleasure is not seriousness but reality” turning the personal attention permanently inside-out and away from personal guilt by thoroughly rationalizing Protestant inwardness. He fostered the culture of dis-inhibition, enshrined in “anything goes,” with no inner moral compass to live by other than their malleable version of reality.
A good example to start with are recent bouts of liberal fake news, according to which seventy years after the Holocaust winners and losers of WWII seem to have swapped roles, so that the fascists are suddenly residing in all the wrong capitals: Putin’s Moscow, Trump’s Washington and May’s London and the defenders of Western civilization are residing in Berlin and Paris. Puzzling about this conundrum what came first to my mind was a quip by Joseph Addison (1672-1719), the co-founder of the Spectator in 1711, who argued, if in doubt, we should trust the populace rather than the elite, because the latter tends to have special interests.
There are other paradoxes surrounding the issue of fascism. Soon enough after WWII liberals began embracing the radically organic features of the Nazi elites, corroborating their modernity. It began with the Western embrace of an uncompromising anti-nuclear bias, followed by militant anti-smoking policies, first introduced in 1930s Germany. Then same-sex attraction, vegetarianism and whole grain bread began booming – a denial of human animal instincts camouflaged with overstated animal rights. All this was casually wrapped up in an escapist hip hop lifestyle - a variety of the Boheme of old. As with the 1930s the demarcation of progressives and conservatives became blurred and just like Hitler, English-speaking conservatives turned themselves into champions of homosexuality, by that virtually abandoning the family.
Today like in the days of Thomas Mann’s “Felix Krull” we are living in a world dominated by impostors, the difference being, today few are aware of this because the elites themselves are living in bubbles of fictitious truth as reflected in issues with “fake news.” How did we get there? Well according to Philip Rieff, Western history has been shaped by the “three Fs: fate, faith and fiction. The latter has ruled the West since the Belle Epoch with fiction being embraced by Friedrich Nietzsche who expanded on Schopenhauer’s “world as will and imagination.” The preceding medieval millennium had attached itself to “faith” and was dominated by monotheism whereas the world of antiquity had been dominated by Greek “fate.”
Friedrich Nietzsche’s Zarathustra can be taken as the template for modern fiction even if subsequently refined by Sigmund Freud, the father of the sexual revolution. Freud attempted to appease the rampant anti-Semitism in Vienna by producing a secular Jewish-Protestant theology called psychoanalysis. A few decades later in 1937 and facing Nazi threats, Freud budged in again by appeasing his tormentors with the claim - outrageous to his fellow Jews in times of extreme distress – that Moses had been an Egyptian all along, just as “Deutsche Christen” had proven, Christ to be an Aryan from Galilee. Keen on explaining away Jewish guilt feelings imposed by Christians, Freud also theorized on the ancient Israelites as murderers of their own prophet Moses, a variety of Christian deicide, as the “cause” for their being haunted by repressed guilt otherwise known as monotheism.
It is important to recognize how Freud, following Nietzsche’s “eternal return of the same,” would privilege imagination over memory and tradition, the most cherished Jewish asset. In fact he conceived of the deep and mortifying Jewish memory as the unconscious part of the mind, substituting Jesus with Oedipus.
The deep instincts according to Freud were ruled by “eternal repetition of the same” personified by Greek half-gods. Freud did not shy away from seeing himself on the same level as Moses and claiming nothing less than having created a modern version of Judaism. Combining the Pauline and Lutheran tradition, Freud delivered a sort of Judaic Protestantism, tied to prophecies and stripped of the Old Testament, Jewish genealogy and divine law. From that naturally flows the preference of narcissist or wishful thinking of the voice of conscience, later to become the “fiction absolute” of liberalism. It is therefore no coincidence that Freud would in particular aim at destroying the oral Jewish tradition, crucial for transmitting authentic mosaic revelation at Sinai through the generations. He replaced it with his victimizing psychology which emulated the Christian gospel. The latest rendition of this is the feminist vagina dialogue which aims at de-legitimizing the survivors of Auschwitz.
This train of thought was sort of being frozen by the shock from being diagnosed with cancer in 1922 that left him with an oral disability after radical surgery of the throat. Subsequently Freud could barely eat and speak without pain or great discomfort but nevertheless could never in his remaining seventeen years bring himself to quit smoking. Ensuing relentless suffering might well have influenced his rewriting of the biblical Moses-biography in terms of the passio Christi. With his cigar addiction in mind, which the doctors said caused his cancer, he would expand on the legend that young Moses burnt his mouth with charcoal, which meant the great Jewish prophet was tested for telling the truth after an old Arabic custom - and would emerge as guilty. This can be read as a reference to the swindler “Felix Krull” of the eponymous novel by Thomas Mann, with whom he corresponded occasionally. Freud shared with Mann and his version of Moses an ongoing identity crisis sustained by doubts about the validity of their ideas.
Italo Svevo even thought Freud could not stop smoking because he relied on this lifelong victimizing ordeal for his creative output as it were. His ongoing “fire probe” granted him the secondary gratification from his cancer in terms of a Christological verification of his purely putative psychoanalytic speculations. To be sure Freud was flabbergasted to discover a hidden burnt mark with his alter-ego Moses, to whom some insignificant legend ascribed a disability of speaking properly making him the perfect vessel for higher revelations. This seems to have inspired Freud himself after the surgery. In summary, Freud’s philosophy is extremely modern since it captured the essence of the consumer society: his psychology celebrates egotism and self-consumption in equal measure being intrinsically bound to self-victimization through addiction and finally self-destruction. In addition to drug-dependency Hitler shared with Freud the bohemian Viennese lifestyle before his rise to celebrity.
A Couple at a WWII cemetery in Russia
Yet ever since Vincent van Gogh, Charles Baudelaire and Oscar Wilde developed the bohemian lifestyle it would be symbolized by the sunflower, which happened to later decorate the Eastern cemeteries of the Hitler’s Wehrmacht and SS. This symbol of romantic organicism even survived the Holocaust and would be chosen soon enough by the German Greens for their party logo. In other words it took the Greens and their political racket to finally cut off German guilt feelings just like Van Gogh, the impressionist wizard, who had cut off his right ear in 1888 after a spade with Paul Gaugin. Luckily for us he had just about finished five paintings of sunflowers in a vase, one of which would fetch a totally unexpected and record breaking 40 million dollars at Sotheby’s in 1978. This was one of the most conspicuous signs of the upcoming green gravy train and an early indicator of the upside-down world we are now in. For the sunflower is the symbol for the German attempt, inherited by the greens from the Nazis, to blackmail the West into forgiveness after the Holocaust – a kind of last retribution for Versailles and perhaps Hiroshima. This is the green revolution in the West that is now being scuttled by President Donald Trump.
Not least the German Wirtschaftswunder proved that the green recycling of German Holocaust guilt back into Western capitalism ran smoothly. It has been sustained with Van Gogh-style windmills and Wildian solar cells followed by the same-sex assault on the Christian family. Green climate alarmism is about little else than allowing Angela Merkel, who studied in Moscow under the Soviet tyranny and never thought about emigration, to religiously preserve Hitler’s anti-nuclear bias and her lecturing the Trump administration about immigration and democracy. Chancellor Merkel like Vincent Van Gogh and the vast majority of the Germanic intellectual elite for the last couple of centuries hailed from Protestant Rectories.
Gender like Race is Uprooting the Family
As a painter van Gogh came to concentrate himself entirely on romantic organic innocence as cover for guilt feelings, represented by the sunflower stimulating creative imagination and eclipsing unwelcome memories. Before him Oscar Wilde had done the same by lifting the innocent sunflower to cult status for the late 19th century “aesthetic movement.” The classicist Wilde knew the game of substituting the sublime with the mere beautiful. The cartoon reproduced below appeared during Wilde’s stay in San Francisco. What looks like the first Gay Pride Parade depicts a crowd following Wilde’s steed, among them members of San Francisco’s honorable society who could well have attended his lecture at Platt’s Hall on March 27, 1882. Wilde, at the time leader of the aesthetic movement would always wear the sunflower on his lapel. The money bag in the picture tied to the steed’s tail shows Wilde’s generous fee of $ 5000, the fee for ushering in the brilliant organic lifestyle to the New World.
“The Modern Messiah,” Wilde in the San Francisco Wasp, March 31, 1882.
The huge fee actually paid for Wilde’s total American tour on behalf of Gilbert & Sullivan. If I remember him right it was the prescient Alexis de Tocqueville who predicted the demise of the socialist quest for human equality, saying it would eventually wear thin and make space for an inward turn “in search of difference.” This phrase would be more than lived up to by the bar-bucked bohemian revolt and its self-advertised sexual liberation. It would soon finish off the much derided Victorian age. On principle the same dynamic is still playing out today in the West albeit finally triggering what I call a veritable Anglo-phone counter revolution, called populism and even denounced as fascism. Curiously enough and quite similar to the collapsing Soviet Empire, the new “populism” emerged against an asphyxia of common sense by political correctness. What returns with President Trump’s rhetoric is the inevitable swell of restoring a lively language. Surely it was relentless posturing by liberal-Protestant Ubermenschen, wallowing in discrimination of the disenfranchised blue collar workers or the “deplorables” by bawling them out as xenophobes, homophobes or Islamophobes that woke everybody from the slumber of political correctness. It also rekindled long gone sensibilities toward the spoken word and the tyrannical strangulation of ones own culture, upbringing and mother tongue.
A premonition of this could be gathered from the Jefferson Lecture in 2006 on the “Human Beast,” delivered by conservative thinker Tom Wolfe who focused on the still virulent bohemian identity crisis. It is basically about liberal Protestant anti-Papists, distancing themselves from their own parents by posturing as victims in the vein of Freudian anti-authoritarian new speak. While this is being aggravated by infantile consumerism in the digital era, the root of it lies in the Victorian upheaval. Back then had been generated all the meanwhile notorious minorities addicted to la difference, comprising the Nietzschean pageant of the “last men (and women)” of cultural Protestantism: dandies and snobs, feminists and anarchists, artists and impostors, pedophiles and gays, nudists and naturalists. Wolfe reminded us that as a matter of fact, the Darwinian evolution has been arrested about ten thousand years ago with the emergence of language. Therefore it is to be expected that down the galleys with PC is likely to be Darwinism as the misapplication of Charles Darwin’s findings on humanity, which might then restore the legitimate place of language and culture instead of crude bio-politics.
Given the unbreakable popularity of Nietzsche on American campuses today, the concomitant ascent of genderism provides us a deja vu pointing back to the Belle Epoch’s racism, both representing a biologistic trap and a failure of enlightenment and inevitably foster anti-Semitism. Racism and genderism are just twin versions of what Nietzsche anticipated as the bohemian Ubermensch. Just as we were pushed to recognize fifty races in the past so we are today to celebrate fifty sexual identities. In biblical terms race did not trump human religious equality and gender was defined as binary or complementary and only after the attacks against monotheism in the 14th century male and female became “gendered” or centrifugal and the family shattered. We have also to remind ourselves that Oscar Wilde in his “Hellenistic Doctrine” was prepared to embrace Aryan chauvinism in order to support his claims on a return of Greek love. Among his mentors were the extremely decadent Guy de Maupassant of “Boule de Suif” and the Protestant social-darwinist Friedrich Nietzsche. In this context it is important to realize that the bohemian revolt is not merely an inversion of Marxism unfurling its cultural potential, as postmodern theorizing has it. Rather then from social utopia of Marxism, gender just like race is the brain child of biologist epistomology. Gender studies as part of the postmodern fad received a devastating blow by Alan Sokal in 1997 who exposed them as fiction.
Vincent van Gogh: Six Sunflowers, August 1888, destroyed on 6.8.1948, the day of Hiroshima
Genderism represents the ongoing bohemian identity crisis that began in the Fin-de-Siecle by substituting a social-economic with a biological-therapeutic paradigm. It focused on the alleged antipodes of race and gender that would go on to reshape the 20th century. This sea change was supported by a return of the medieval subjective value theory of the School of Salamanca, seized upon in the 1860s by Habsburgian thinkers. They would recast it into the “marginal utility” theory also known as “Austrian economics.” The greater picture here is the 19h century decline of Western colonialism, just like today’s globalism, and an inward turn towards domestic economic intensification, based on mass consumption. This inward turn came to materialize itself with the transformation of the proletarian into the bohemian revolt with “marginal utility” as the new business model for extracting a quick buck from all those emancipating minorities. The renaissance of Austrian economics in the 1970’s, spearheaded by Milton Friedman, would somehow repeat this economic pattern in order to get out of the doldrums of oil-shock. For this purpose the shadow markets of rap, porno, drugs and gay prostitution would be lifted into the official economy. In the years following the financial crisis of 2008, this added between five and ten percent to GDP figures in Europe alone. As the London Telegraph reported a couple of years ago, the gains ranged below five percent in the Catholic Mediterranean and closer to ten in the Protestant Scandinavian peninsula, somehow contradicting Max Weber’s ethic discourse.
Back to Wolfe with another illuminating quote from Weber illuminating bohemian economics: ”Status groups, Weber contended, are the creators of all new styles of life. In his heyday, the turn of the 19th century, the most stylish new status sphere, no more than 30 years old, was known as la vie Boheme, the bohemian life. The bohemians were artists plus the intellectuals and layabouts in their orbit. They did their best to stand bourgeois propriety on its head through rakish dishabille, louder music, more wine, great gouts of it, ostentatious cohabitation, and by flaunting their poverty as a virtue. And why? Because they all came from the bourgeoisie themselves originally and wanted nothing more desperately than to distinguish themselves from it.”
Yet Weber being a Protestant himself overlooked what pertains to the heritage of Luther here: the liberal poseur, lecturing others by his moral grandstanding. Wolfe hit on the same issue in his essay, giving us several examples of posturing sustained by fiction absolute. Let’s see what Wolfe has to say about the run-of-the-mill liberal impostor: “Even before I left graduate school I had come to the conclusion that virtually all people live by what I think of as a ‘fiction-absolute.’ Each individual adopts a set of values which, if truly absolute in the world--so ordained by some almighty force--would make not that individual but his group . . . the best of all possible groups, the best of all inner circles. Politicians, the rich, the celebrated, become mere types. Does this apply to ‘the intellectuals’ also? Oh, yes. . . perfectly, all too perfectly. The human beast's belief in his own fiction-absolute accounts for one of the most puzzling and in many cases irrational phenomena of our time.”
Well as it happens we seem to be witnessing right now before our very eyes the fight for survival of this fiction-absolute defended by the “death-wish liberal.” An earlier account of this species of self-hating liberal impostors, clinging to the moral high ground, has been spotted shortly after WWII by Lionel Trilling in his book “The Liberal Imagination” (Penguin, p.100). Upon reviewing the novel The Princess Casamassima by Henyy James, Trilling points to the modern liberal commitment to “honesty and sincerity” simply made up to conceal a naked will to power as conceptualized by Nietzsche. Trilling’s exemplary protagonist is “the very embodiment of the modern will which masks itself in virtue, making itself appear harmless, the will that hates itself and finds its manifestations guilty and is able to exist only if it operates in the name of virtue, that despises the variety and modulations of the human story and longs for an absolute humanity, which is but another way of saying a nothingness.”
The talk of “last things” and “nothingness” came up in the 1930s with the Nazis and continues today with the gender freaks. Most of these minorities comprising the rainbow coalition, a Nietzsche term as it happens, are driven by the reformatory impetus and in particular by this genuine Lutheran concept called eschatology, also known as the gospel of the “last things.” The prime example again would be Freudian meta-psychology unfolding along the “causal knot” of the Oedipus-complex which works by associative, repetitious circular thinking. Its main effect was to block the stir of human conscience and dispel the natural craving for justice by getting people to muse over little more than their early childhood. The highly politicized concept of “sexual identity,” just like the metaphysics of racial identity, is subject to the “causalistic fallacy.” For the human mind is not to be understood in mechanistic terms of causal chains. It is for this reason that the disruptive potential of the bohemian quest for non-identity should not be underestimated. Probably no one captured the bohemian Zeitgeist better than Thomas Mann in his autobiographical novel about the con artist “Felix Krull.” The novel was the “last word” of the scion from a wealthy Protestant Lübeck family that had greatly mortified its author, a man with lifelong scruples regarding his genius as well as his gender. Mann struggled with his identity crisis for more than fifty years between 1905 and 1955 when his “impostor novel” was finally published. It is important to note that such impostors tend to multiply in times of democratic crisis. The hype surrounding the candidate Obama in 2008, a community organizer from Chicago, has some echoes of this.
Political Priapism? Obama 2008, City Journal Winter 2016
In 1883 Nietzsche introduced his concept of the “eternal return of the same” in the 3rd chapter of his Zarathustra, a chapter titled in compliance with the physiognomic trends of the time as “Face and Miracle.” Basically an esoteric anti-aging narrative, it dwells on outward permanent sameness just like the novel Picture of Dorian Grey does, published 1890 by Oscar Wilde. Nietzsche‘s idea of Being as “endless repetition” refers to the natural cycles of seasons and belongs to the organic leanings of the decadent Belle Epoch. It became problematic with regard to human free will, when it later advanced to Spengler‘s concept of cyclic-deterministic history. For the unmarried bachelor Nietzsche “eternal repetition” initially was just an affirmation of the self, his esoteric Wheel of Being. However Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchick has exposed in his book “The Halakhik Mind” of 1983 (p. 98) the reasoning behind Nietzsche’s social-darwinist “nausea” upon the sight of weak human beings, which he blames on a “causalistic fallacy” of Nietzsche’s metaphysics generated as it was on circular thinking.
Ouroboros- self-consuming circularity
With Zarathustra for whom the mystical experience of “eternal repetition of the same” was central, Nietzsche creates the “nodes of causes” entangling the streams of thinking into what the medieval Maimonides had described as “metaphysical clutter.” Let’s hear Nietzsche himself: “The souls are as mortal as the bodies. But the Knot of Causes keeps returning, in which I am engulfed, – it will create me again! I myself belong to the causes of the eternal parousia. I will come back with this sun, this earth, with this eagle, with this serpent– not to a new or better life or even similar life. I will eternally come back to the same and equal Life….that I again herald to the people the Ubermensch (Wikipedia).
Judaism has taught us something else: in the human mind opposites and contradictions can best be managed under the notion of self-transcendence which is known as the sanctuary for non-causal thinking and the place where identities are forged. By contrast metaphysical causal-chains either suck us into circular reasoning resulting in megalomania or in spatial panic and madness. The biographies of German Hellenic thinkers succumbing to madness are manifold and frightening as shown by the famous examples of Winkelmann, Hölderlin and Nietzsche.
By declaring god dead, Nietzsche lost the divine agent for change and spontaneous reconciliation. For according to classical reasoning the things marked by repetition were associated with nature and science whereas the surprises, the unusual and miraculous were signs of divine intervention.
Nietzsche was initially committed to the sublime concept of religious equality but then lowered it from transcendence towards metaphysics aiming at certainty of truth, but instead found himself mired in repetition, sameness and circularity. Here shines through his Protestant eschatological thinking of “everything remains the same in a lifetime” as implying only through reincarnation, or the wandering of the soul, a new being can emerge. This is the key to understanding our sexual identity enterprise with all its commercial potential: it is a myth of being born again in a shame culture tied to visibility and without any sacrifice - well except the children will probably pay the price, but that is an issue for another day.
However we need to take this criticism a step further. Plainly speaking gender theory is a hoax just like racial theories eventually turned out to be fraudulent. It simply emerged from circular thinking of Nietzsche’s provenance. We need to put this in context, for like race, gender is just a virtual echo-chamber for collectivist narcissism in the same way that Facebook is today a more physical echo-chamber for group narcissism. The Ouroboros metaphor points to the most characteristic feature of the modern person mired in self-absorption and gender is just an extension of it. It runs counter to Descartes’ discovery of the essential bifurcation of the Western mind between res cogitans versus res extensa, which is the first impression of what Heidegger would later work out comprehensibly as the ontological difference, the gap between inner and outer perspective of any person. The Hebrew Bible conceived of this as inner dualism between righteousness and wickedness. Now on this view the ideas of gender and race both share the same purpose: the denial of inner dualism and its projection on the outer world, creating unmanageable divisiveness and social conflict. The late Stephen Jay Gould has shown us in the 1970’s that race is not even a consistent concept, because individual differences in our genome are so abundant as to overplay or marginalize any racial differences of peoples. The same is true for groups according to gender theory. If this is right it pulls the carpet from under any scientific claims of genderism. Fundamental to our Judeo-Christian civilization is the the claim that every human being is unique, created in divine likeness as we used to say. Hence there is no point in undergoing sex-reassignment surgery, for you remain the same person anyway.
Dr Friedrich Hansen is a physician and writer. He has researched Islamic Enlightenment in Jerusalem and has networked on behalf of the Maimonides Prize. Previous journalistic and academic historical work in Germany, Britain and Australia. Recently he has published in the Adam Smith-Blog in London, essays in the Asia Times in Hong Kong, in the Times of Israel in Jerusalem and recently in the Russian-Orthodox magazine Katehon in Moscow. He is currently working in Germany.