Monday, October 5, 2020

Don't fight monsters by becoming them.

 


     Most folks don’t proofread remarks tossed up on Facebook. But this was Nietzsche, and I didn’t want to get Nietzsche wrong, lest the forces of darkness he dabbled in come flapping out of a fissure in the earth and get me.
     I had posted my Saturday column about Donald Trump coming down with COVID-19. It skewed toward kindness. Sorry, I had to work quick, and find decency a handy default position, particularly now. You rarely regret kindness. Rarely slap yourself on the forehead the next morning and wonder, “How could I have been so decent?!?”
     Yes, it bothers some. “We’re showing him more empathy than he’s shown us,” complained an assistant professor at Loyola. “He has never called for any kind of remembrance of coronavirus victims or personally sought to console survivors.“
     True enough. But since when did Donald Trump become our moral pole star?
     “That’s how it should be,” I replied. “‘When battling monsters,’ Nietzsche tells us, ‘make sure that you do not become a monster.’”
     Quotes have a way of being distorted. So I checked the source, “Beyond Good and Evil.” Easy enough to find, aphorism No. 146: ”Whoever fights with monsters should make sure not to become a monster in the process.” 

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11 comments:

  1. Thank you. Dismissing something entirely based on the source does us a disfavor. That in itself turns us into a mirror of what most of us claim to despise. Like art, sometimes you must divorce the creation from the creator in order to comprehend.

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  2. music , art, literature, films. is it possible to separate the work from the creator ? can't you still enjoy, learn from and indulge in the work yet not revere the individual? should you change the station when Michael Jackson plays?

    I think people who celebrate reprobates are in some instances as bad as the author of the work . cancel culture demands we reject the person and their work. I think condemning the artist is sufficient and that watching , reading, or listening to them is not the same as approving of or justifying their behavior as individuals. and then there is Mengele

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    1. Of course there is. To answer your question about Michael Jackson, ask yourself: who is harmed by you turning the station? Jackson? Of course not. He is beyond hurt or harm. The person you harm is yourself, assuming you enjoy his music. Cancel culture rewards ignorance—I don't know who composed this song, so I can hum along. It's also very random. People scorn Woody Allen movies because of Mia Farrow's allegations and his marrying her daughter. But Charlie Chaplin married Oona O'Neill when he was 54 and she was 18. Yet he skates—safely in the past, when people didn't care so much about that kind of thing. It's a pointless exercise in projection, virtue signaling and empty judgment. As if we don't get enough of that already.

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  3. Hard lines are possibly our biggest problem, stumbling blocks to rational solutions. Some people have trouble maintaining two thoughts at a time. I can believe that all scripture is man made, much of it useless and/or dangerous, yet still appreciate the wisdom of some passages. I have only a passing familiarity with Nietzsche, yet nothing else he could have written would negate the wisdom of his monsters theory. Woody Allens transgression wasn't the age difference, it was the obvious impropriety of sleeping with your wife's daughter. That doesn't bear on the quality of his films, and the offended can skirt their conscience by not paying to view his work.

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    1. They never actually married. It's obviously yicky, from a distance. Not so obvious to him, or her I should point out. They've been married, what, 20 years now? So at some point I'd say it worked out.

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    2. I've seen every Woody Allen movie ever released, and have long been a fan of his work. That doesn't keep me from acknowledging that he's got some pretty strong credentials as a creep. A lifetime of top-grade NYC psychotherapy boiled down to "The heart wants what it wants," when push came to shove, way back when. Uh, that didn't cut it, IMHO. Having gone down many rabbit holes trying to decide for myself, I don't believe that he molested Dylan. Unfortunately, the only 2 people who could ever know for sure are the two of them. I understand why many folks would choose not to watch his movies, but I don't agree with them.

      "But the 'battling monsters' trope is very useful and doesn’t become less useful because a syphilitic sexist said it and not Martin Luther King." Indeed. Adapting that rationale for my own purposes, blog comments are either worthwhile or not. With some exceptions, such as an expert in a specific field commenting about the area of one's expertise, attaching one's real name to a comment does little to make it more valid. (This is a general observation, responding to the attitudes of many who think that the big problem with the state of discourse in America is anonymity, and doesn't refer to anybody within the friendly confines of EGD, I gotta say. Among the many things made clear by the Trump era is that there are plenty of folks who are happy and proud to attach their names and reputations to repellent opinions.)

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    3. From a distance most things look different. In that moment, a partner, married or not, who takes up with a daughter, born to or adopted, is a despicable toad. Mia's actions since then could also be called into question, but Woody's action will always be improper in my opinion. That doesn't prevent a smile when I think about a cello player in a marching band.

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  4. When you wrote that “Americans are staring into the pit we’re dangling over and, darn it, the pit is looking back,” I couldn’t help but picture TV viewers looking at Trump in the backseat of his limo during his infamous Covid joyride and his looking back!

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  5. The ambivalence inspired by the cognitive dissonance re a creator and his creations was well expressed by Leonard Bernstein's comment about works he frequently performed: "I hate Wagner, but I hate hem on my knees."

    Getting back to Trump, looking at news coverage of events leading up to his hospitalization made me wish I owned a supermarket. So I could post a big sign saying, "This aint the Rose Garden. Masks required."

    Tom

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  6. Is he a danger to himself or any other person?

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  7. I like to spy on some conserv. sites that are public and it's amazing what they think of him as a Savior and all he does that is wrong is spun into whacko excuses.

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