On August 17th of the year of our Lord, 2017, I became 26 years of age. This is worth even less in the grand scheme of time than the average human lifespan is but through my wide traveled and reasonably well read experience, I believe I have devised something approximating a moral philosophical framework that I would like to share with you. Even if what I say doesn’t count as philosophy, I do think it is a sound worldview to expense to others.
Those of you who have read Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra may be familiar with a particular aspect of the Ubermenschen’s moral core. Even if you haven’t read it, most have heard of that term and it’s simplified or outright inaccurate “interpretations” over the years. While I would consider Nietzche’s overall model for this kind of human being to be more a destructive and negative than praiseworthy, and even the man himself merely postulated the possible existence of such a person but he didn’t necessarily endorse this mode of behavior, there is one facet that stuck with me. According to Nietzsche, the Last Man, the figure who is the antithesis of the Ubermensch, has no true morals. He only has an instinctual desire for comfort. And what morals he does have are defined by his society and what society deems an “other.” In contrast, the Ubermenschen has his own set of morals that he abides by, even when said morals throw him into opposition to society. So much so is his will and his conviction that society changes to reflect him, and the Last Man must either capitulate or be crushed as nature demands.
There’s more to it than that, but that is my own gross simplification and I’m not giving a treatise on Thus Spoke, merely outlining what about it influenced me the most. Over the short course of my adult life, I have seen so many people decry others, movements, and even mere viewpoints detached from practical implementation, as evil. They may not say “evil” for most who take such stances couch themselves as enlightened thinkers and moral absolutism as narrow-minded and obsolete but their outrage always comes from a place of (supposedly) moral offense. When they don’t take action themselves against their enemy, anyone who expresses sympathy with their enemy is placed on a lower intellectual rung. Alternatively treated with scorn or having their stances dismissed. One might hear the person out but anything expressed by the sympathizer to the enemy will be treated with much harsher scrutiny than One would give anyone else.
It all comes down to a simple, fundamentalism. Rarely elucidated but deeply and widely felt. “X person type, faction, or ideology is the Enemy. Anything outside of the Enemy is good.” My name for this is “Antagonist Dependent Morality.” It’s a working title but that’s what I’m calling it for now.
This is a dangerous way of thinking.
First of all, it is not conducive to Socratic or Platonic thought. Or really, thought at all. Socrates said, “the unexamined life is the unfulfilled life.” Plato once asked, “why should we not calmly and patiently review our own thoughts, and thoroughly examine and see what these appearances in us really are?” What does having the Enemy have to do with self-reflection though? How does it go against that? See, when One has the Enemy in mind, they have a certainty. The Enemy is gawked at, only entertained long enough to refresh the sense of disgust that grants conviction to declaring one’s allegiance against them. How then, can One really examine themselves? Their own morals and ideals? One “know’s” what is right. The Enemy believes NIGHT, One believes DAY. The Enemy believes COLD, One believes HOT. As long as the Enemy is opposed in thought, if not action, then One is under no obligation to question their own stances, morals, or ideals.
Having the Enemy also helps relieve One of their own responsibility, both moral and practical. Someone hurt One’s feelings? They are the Enemy. One’s attitude doesn’t need adjustment, the Enemy will always be cruel no matter what courtesy is extended. One didn’t get the job while someone did? The gatekeeper is one of the Enemy. One wasn’t simply outdone in qualifications or made a bad impression at the interview, the Enemy has it stacked against One. Not only does having the Enemy make self-examination more difficult, it makes societal examination overly simple. Everything from corruption and conspiracy to mundane inconvenience can be traced back to the deeds of the Enemy.
On the flip side of the coin, this leads One to be overly generous and welcoming to those One might actually have some problems with, in the Enemy’s absence. After all, anything not of the Enemy is good. The Enemy wears hats, so anyone not wearing a hat is good because they aren’t wearing one. Never mind if One loves Dubstep music and their erstwhile ally despises it. Never mind that another non-hatter actually is married to a hat wearer and shares a lot of their spouses’ views, One only sees their non-hatted friend. Never mind if One themselves wears a hat for work and profits from the Enemy, because One takes their hat off and then talks about how evil the Enemy is. This is especially ironic when One accuses the Enemy of their apparently primitive and tribalist thinking, that’s at odds with a complex world. Therefore having the Enemy, actually makes the real negatives of the category harder to recognize. If someone doesn’t match the category of the Enemy, or worse if they do “but they’re cool,” then One doesn’t recognize that someone AS the Enemy and therefore won’t call them out on what One supposedly thinks is worth taking a moral stance on.
So what? One should believe in nothing? Have no stances worth taking and be all friends to all people regardless of morality? No, not at all. It’s merely a matter of One really asking themselves if they believe what they believe or they stand for it because someone they think and/or are told is bad by others takes the opposite stance. Most importantly of all though, does One’s morality require the Enemy’s existence and continued function AS an adversary in order to call themselves moral for opposing it? Coming back around to Nietzsche, he wrote that the Ubermenschen’s morals don’t come from an Other and that’s what separates them from the common man and especially the Final Man. However, the Ubermenschen then has the responsibility as the only truly moral authority, to force their true morals upon others. Taking a less aggressive stance than Nietzsche did, and employing a more Taoist approach, One’s morals don’t need to require taking charge, societal change, or beating others in any form. The only thing One is required to do is decide; through meditative self-reflection, studious research, continued re-examination, and simply living. What do they themselves believe? One’s stances may mean that they are still in conflict with other people, but now One’s moral code doesn’t require that conflict to exist. It is independent and self-sustaining, as now is One. One might find time and again that they are questioning themselves and re-examining now. Without the Enemy, the world is more complicated and they now have to abide by a code of ethics more stringent than “just don’t be X” (or “just say you’re not X”). It’s harder to live like that and that’s why the initial maxim is so easy to fall into, it is a fundamental so base and instinctual many follow it without realizing they are doing so.
In summation, if you have an Enemy, lose them fast. Life is more complicated than that and you will be overall more happy, fair, and wise.