The Charlotte News
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 1937
The Synthetic Supermen:
Europe's Ku Kluckers
They Invoke Nietzsche
By W. J. Cash
Site ed. note: Cash revered Nietzsche as a poetic writer and thus was all the more incensed by the coopting of the Superman myth into Nazi dogma. Though Cash never mentions the notion, it is worth considering whether Nietzsche's cold, sterile, nearly robotic "Superman", so supremely analytical as to have eschewed love, hate, sadness, and happiness--a statue of human perfection--whether this image presented by Nietzsche in Also Sprach Zarathustra was in fact meant to be ironic, a reminder to his fellow Germans that the striving for perfection could produce only one being, when taken to its logical extreme, that very loveless, emotionless, sterile creature presented as the Ubermensch. One can argue, in any event, that the quintessential Nazi became just such a creature, albeit not through any analytical or rational thought process, but rather, as Cash instructs, just as with the Ku Klucker, through the power of "frightfulness"--hardly what one would call a superman in the abstract. (For more by Cash on the Nazis' coopting of Nietzsche, see "Poet and Superman" - March 27, 1938.)
Does civilization, western and, since World War II, eastern, still strive, after a century of industrialism, for Nietzsche's Superman, quite unaware of the peril the goal poses? Is the very computer on which these words are composed and transcribed our anthropomorphized Superman? To be or not to be...
I IMAGINE that in whatever corner of hell he may be inhabiting, Friedrich Nietzsche is most sadly writhing these days and making bitter noises anent the unhappy fate of a man who is so fiendish as to launch ideas into the world.
It would be difficult, indeed, to think of a more savage irony than the spectacle of Heel Hitler and Puffer Mussolini setting up in the world as the main exponents--the living incarnation--of the philosophy of the Superman. For what Neitzsche really worshipped was the natural aristocrat, the strong bold intelligence which dared to look at the shape of reality, and which ruled through its inherent force--not Ku Kluckers appealing to fools with lying clap-trap, and ruling through stupidity in the fear of a beating--or death.
As a matter of cold fact, Hitler is a somewhat inferior Grand Dragon Clarke, who has drawn his inspiration at third hand from the old nonsensical Nordic school of historians which flourished in Germany before the World war knocked their theory into a cocked hat. And Mussolini, far from drawing his real inspiration from Nietzsche, actually gets it from Machiavelli's "Prince." The hero after whose image he is formed, is not the Superman spanning the future with his head in glory, but that cheapjack assassin, Cesare Borgia, whom the cold old Florentine set at center of his famous little book. His murders in Ethiopia and Spain and Italy--like Hitler's in Spain and Germany--are strictly in the vein of the murders at Singaglia, at once wanton and senseless.
How, indeed, must the old philosopher writhe when he gazes upon this lovely pair! And that either has a brain is a preposterous proposition which will not stand up under analysis. For what has been some of their boasted policies? Why that the internal economy of both countries has proceeded always more and more rapidly toward ruin--that they have been out to stave off that ruin only by turning their nations as wholes to the making of war materials and to war itself--that they are plunging every day closer and closer to the time when they must stand up and baldly challenge the power of the mightiest nations of the earth, with little more chance of winning than the Hon. Mr. Ford, black man and Communist, has to be Vice-President of the United States. Brains? Their whole stock in trade is--the rule of force? Not so. It is simply the rule of frightfulness. And the slightest realistic capacity for understanding the history of the human mind should have warned them that the answer to frightfulness is always more frightfulness, and the thing has never long ruled, and cannot ever long rule, any portion of the race. Reality in these men? They have not only talked their dupes into believing that they are going to win the war they are making, they appear to have talked themselves into it--to be utterly gone in wish-thinking.
Nevertheless, if they have nothing to do with the essential figure Nietzsche had in mind as the Superman, it is easy to understand how they themselves say and apparently think, they represent it--how their dupes universally believe as much--and how there are even the idiots in these States who believe it, and pant for another like them to rule over ourselves. For Nietzsche all his life was subject to fits of the cloudiness of mind which ultimately ended in insanity. And in those cloudy periods, his writing suffered. In those periods, he now and then actually got himself on record with something that seemed to mean that he subscribed to the Teutonic myth--as for instance his lambasting of Englishmen as [unobservable words] power which under a natural order ought to belong to the Germans--a favorite theme of the chauvinistic historians who shaped Hitler. And with something, too, that seemed to mean that he believed in the power of mere brute force to impose its will by use of the whip. And with something yet again, which might be made to lend aid and comfort to the comic-opera effort of Alfred Rosenberg to restore the gross old gods of the Teutonic mythology as the national gods of Germany.
Elsewhere, indeed, he made abundantly clear that he had no sympathy with such positions. No one can read any considerable part of him in fact, and suppose that there was anything of the Klucker or the mere assassin in his make-up. As I have insinuated, what he really worshipped was the vision of a great mind in a great body become the prevailing rule for humanity. But--few people have read any considerable part of him. Nearly all Americans who bandy his name about know him only by isolated quotations come by at second hand, and the same holds true for the great body of Germans. I have my doubts that either Mussolini or Hitler have ever actually read him. But it doesn't matter whether they have or not. Essentially, they are too dull and too obsessed with themselves really to comprehend him. What they comprehend is with characteristic low cunning that they can use him to bump the boobs.
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