Whoosh! Issue 76 - March/April 2003

IS THERE AN ÜBERMENSCH IN THE HOUSE?

Page 2


Notes

Note 01:
On German television, where Xena: Warrior Princess has been aired since 1996, the last season has not aired yet (and I think will not at all), probably because of dropping ratings in Seasons Four and Five.
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Note 02:
In this sense, Mr. Danbrook gets away a little bit too easy when he writes, that

"It must be added that, although this term (i.e., Übermensch) may carry with it certain unpleasant and destructive ideas associated with eugenics and racial theory, this is not the intention here. The idealization of Xena's essential being is spiritual and not racial in nature."
Race as the idealization of the essential being of the Aryan is a spiritual matter that has to be realized in a concrete way with concrete measures.
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Note 03:
Richard Wagner is one of the most significant historical examples for a reactionary anti-Capitalism that nowadays has a broad comeback (it is one of the many shortcomings of Marxism-Leninism to completely neglect the anti-capitalist character of movements like National Socialism. Of course, this shortcoming is the result of a certain ideological similarity).
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Note 04:
One of the most important German writers of the last century, Thomas Mann, had a similar history with Wagner as Nietzsche did. In his early years, Mann was a great admirer of Richard Wagner, and this admiration got along with a political standpoint which has been described as conservative revolutionary (Konservative Revolution - other authors linked to this notion are Ernst Juenger, Carl Schmitt, or Oswald Spengler). In his book Reflections of a Non-political Man (Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen), Thomas Mann puts German culture with its dedication to spirituality, rank, and aesthetic value in sharp contrast to Anglo-American civilization, which is based on money, equalization, and mass-culture. In this sense, World War I was understood as a war of German heroes against Anglo-American merchants - Helden gegen Haendler, in the infamous words of Werner Sombart, a back then influential German economist. This conception was called the Ideas of 1914 (Ideen von 1914), and it was these ideas that the Nazis radicalized, especially by turning its virulent anti-Semitism into external practice. The rise of National Socialism out of the Ideas of 1914 was the turning point in Thomas Mann's development, who became one of the most vigorous enemies of the Nazis. It brought him to the conclusion that there was much Hitler in Wagner (es war viel Hitler in Wagner).
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Note 05:
Contrary to classic German authors like Winckelmann or Goethe, for Nietzsche the Greek antique was not simply the realm of harmony and cheerfulness. Rather this harmony and cheerfulness was born out of despair, as a remedy to bear the pain of life. This is the greatness of the early Greeks, according to Nietzsche.
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Note 06:
Contrary to Christianity, the Islam for Nietzsche is a religion that says yes to life, because it is a culture based on noble instincts, the instincts of males (weil sie vornehmen, weil sie Männer-Instinkten ihre Entstehung verdankte), as he writes in one of his latest works, The Antichrist, published in 1894. Nietzsche here refers to the Islamic culture of Spain in the Middle Ages as an ideal and goes on to say, that there should be no decision necessary between Christianity and Islam, as well as between Jew and Arab. According to Nietzsche, no real choice is possible: "You are a Chandala, or you are not..." (Entweder ist man ein Tschandala, oder man ist es nicht..., Der Antichrist, 60). Tschandala is a term Nietzsche borrowed from the Indian caste-system, where a Tschandala is a member of the lowest social class. For Nietzsche, the Tschandala marks the notion opposite to the Übermensch (den Gegensatz-Begriff). The Tschandala is a product of the uncontrolled mixture of races and classes, he is a hodge-podge human (Mischmasch-Menschen). According to Nietzsche, Christianity, born out of Judaism and only understandable by this origin, is the adequate religion of the Tschandala (cf. The Twilight of the Idols/Die Goetzendaemmerung).

In 1897, Swedish author August Strindberg wrote a short story called "Tschandala," in which the female devil Eve is the mother of all subhuman creatures like Jews, Gypsies, and Blacks. A little later, the term Tschandale became a central notion in Joerg Lanz von Liebenfels' Theo-zoology (Theo-zoologie), developed in the early years of the last century in Austria. The Tschandale here is a product of the mixture of the divine Aryan race with a race of apes, and the only way to free humankind from this disease (of which the degeneration of modern culture is only a symptom) is the extermination of the Tschandalen and the cultivation of a race of blond Aryans (Liebenfels' periodical was called Ostara, journal for the blondes and the defenders of the rights of the male. Liebenfels proclaimed that the male has to control female sexuality, because it was the sexual greed of women that led to race-mixture). This newborn Aryan race to Liebenfels is the Second Coming of Christ (according to Liebenfels, Jesus was not a Jew, but the pure Aryan). The gnostic myth of the origin of humankind here is transformed into a racial ideology. One of Liebenfels' readers back then was a poor wannabe-artist and wannabe-blond named Adolf Hitler.
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Note 07:
The desperation of modern man can be found in a statement made by mad Xena in THE FURIES:

"Did you know that sanity is just a veil that the gods throw over our eyes to stop us from seeing the truth?"
When her mother asks: "What is the truth, Xena?"
Xena replies: "That life is a joke! It's a bar room joke at that! And you know what the punchline is? The punchline is that no matter what we do, we still end up as food for the worms."
When you replace the veil of the gods by god as the veil itself, you have the condition of modern man.
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Note 08:
In one of his early works, On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life (Nutzen und Nachteil der Historie fuer das Leben), Nietzsche claims that man envies the animal for living without history, because it has no memory. Nietzsche calls that the paradise lost. It is the condition Gabrielle rejects in FORGET ME NOT.
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Note 09:
The idea of the predestination of the soul is a Manichaean idea. St. Augustine was a member of the Manichaean sect before converting to Christianity.
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Note 10:
In his sociology of religion, Max Weber differentiates between a type of religion who is basically passive and turns away from the world and where the believer understands himself as a vessel of the divine, and a type of religion, where the believer has an active, appropriative relation to the world and where the believer understands himself as an instrument of god (Werkzeug Gottes). The ideal form of such a religion for Weber is Protestantism, and here, the ascetic denying of the world is inseparably connected to the desire of mastering the world.
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Note 11:
Contrary to common opinion, Marx does not simply reduce religion to superstition or a great betrayal of the masses by the priests in favor of the ruling class. According to him, religion has to continue to exist as long as it satisfies a need in the life of humankind. This will be as long as the practical relations of every-day life do not offer to people intelligible and reasonable relations concerning his fellow human and to society.
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Note 12:
This does not mean that there was a Golden Age in which humans were identical with their social relations. It means that the relation between individual and society in a capitalist society is specific to all other historical forms of social relations.
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Note 13:
For Hitler, these two essentially different classes of people are, of course, the Aryan and the Jew. For him, this is Gottesmensch against Satansmensch.
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Note 14:
The heroic individual is willing to sacrifice its life for a higher cause. That is what gains him immortality. This logic produces the cult of heroic death in National Socialism.
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Note 15:
In times of war, this leads to conclusions expressed exemplary by Heinrich Himmler, the head of SS, when he said, that the fact that thousand Russian women have to die while building a road for German troops matters only insofar as the road is finished on time.
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Note 16:
The idea of amor fati reveals itself as the violent idea of the construction of a new society. The Übermensch is fulfilling his fate by functioning as an instrument of this fate.
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Note 17:
Nietzsche's standpoint towards the Jews is ambivalent. The fact of the survival of the Jews throughout time is proof of the strength of this people, but this strength is based on a slave-moral, designed to weaken the heroic individuals. Nietzsche's sister on the other hand, who later became his legal guardian and falsified his work, was married to the famous anti-Semite Wilhelm Foerster (who founded an 'Aryan colony' in Latin America) and adored Hitler (who provided her a state funeral).
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Note 18:
This connected process of the development of human capabilities and needs is a side effect of capitalist production and the necessary basis for a communist society, according to Marx. In the Russia of 1917 there was no basis at all for such a society.
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Note 19:
For the capitalist economist, says Marx, all historical forms of society are only deficient compared to capitalist society, which reflects the true nature of humankind. Therefore, in capitalist society, history had ended (as Francis Fukuyama declared explicitly after the breakdown of the Soviet Empire).
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Note 20:
Robinsonaden is the term Marx uses for the capitalist illusions of the independent, isolated individual. But even Robinson needs a Friday, like Tom Hanks needs at least Wilson. Only a god or an animal can live all by itself, according to Aristotle.
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Note 21:
One should remember that Robinson himself is the product of a historical process. The knowledge and skills that enables him to survive are the product of the accumulated historical knowledge and skills of previous generations.
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Note 22:
For Marx, Christianity, which believes in the abstract equality of man before god, is the adequate religion in a capitalist society (which is based on the abstract equality of money and law). This is obviously also the reason why Nietzsche, who despised this equality as negation of ranks, hated Christianity (as well as the modern society) so much.
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Note 23:
This does not mean that there is no violence between people in a capitalist society. It means that the particular interests of individuals are mediated by the exchange of commodities and money, wherefore overt violence between people seems to be irregular. The right to conduct overt violence is monopolized by the state as the particular form of the general interest of society, i.e., as the overlooker and guarantor of capitalist reproduction. Therefore, wherever capitalist reproduction becomes critical, state violence increases manifestly, and where capitalist reproduction becomes impossible, the state as the monopolizer of violence vanishes and overt violence becomes commonplace (as it is in the so-called failed states). Xena: Warrior Princess foreshadows a future where the capitalist state as the mortal god is dead and the war of all against all has returned.
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Note 24:
The notion of capital has to be grasped as the totality of social relations in modern society. Capital is not simply an economic category, but the notion of an organic but contradictory whole, which reproduces itself through the internally related forms of its own differentiation, like economy, politics, jurisdiction, science etc. In this sense, Marx's critic of capital is deeply influenced by the philosophy of G.W.F. Hegel. Lenin was right, when he wrote, that Marx's Capital can only be understood if you are understanding Hegel's Logic. The only problem is Lenin did not understand either Hegel or Marx sufficiently.
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Note 25:
Marx and Wagner shared both the idea of money as the true god of capitalist society. Both men were strongly influenced by German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach's criticism of Christianity. For Feuerbach, the Christian god is the alienated projection of human nature. According to Feuerbach, man has to free his nature by overcoming the idol of god. This essential notion of nature is the crucial point in his philosophy, and it was Marx who criticized Feuerbach for his abstract and ahistorical idea of human nature. Whereas it was Wagner who filled this empty concept with the idea of the liberation of the Aryan nature from the Jewish idols of modern society. Of course the only content of the Aryan nature is its battle against the Jewish principle. As Jean-Paul Sartre wrote: if the Jew did not exist, the anti-Semite would have to invent him.
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Note 26:
Margaret Thatcher once brought capitalist ideology to the point: there exists no such thing as society, there are only individuals.
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Note 27:
Sensuality implies vulnerability, which is why becoming a soldier is always connected to the production of insensibility. No accident, the Hercules: The Legendary Journeys episode GAUNTLET was titled in German Eine weibliche Kampfmaschine, 'a female battle-machine'.
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Note 28:
In DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN this concept is brought to its essence, when poor Gabrielle (is this all the wisdom you get by talking to philosophers?) has to tell us: "Life is eternal. It has no beginning and no end... We never die, because we were never really born."
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Note 29:
To quote Diane Silver's commentary (http://www.whoosh.org/epguide/ ides.html). And she goes on to say: "No escapism here, just hard realities: Sometimes you win the war by dying." But unfortunately, in reality you will not be resurrected the next day.
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Note 30:
To preserve the pure image of the hero, the sacrifice of Gabrielle (who, by the way, gets turned from a sectarian pacifist into a vicious killer in the blink of an eye) is blamed on the satanic emissary Callisto, who has to play the role of the scapegoat in this plot.
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Note 31:
The storyline of Dahak already introduces Manichaean ideas into to the show, which become virulent with the introduction of Eli, who seems to be shaped after the model of Mani, the historical founder of Manichaeism (in the third century C.E.). Mani saw himself as the Paraclete (the Holy Ghost as the bringer of the truth), which was promised by Jesus in the New Testament. As such, he is the righteous heir of Zarathustra, Buddha, and Jesus (which are precursors of him) and the accomplisher of the true religion (because he amalgamates Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and Buddhism). Before being killed because of his belief, Mani acted as a miracle-healer and recruited very successful disciples. The idea of knowledge of the truth (i.e. the meaning of Gnosis) as the way to salvation and the war of the principles of good and evil (both ideas are proclaimed by Eli in THE WAY) are Manichaean basics. And when Eli says about himself and Indrajit (who is presented as "the incarnation of evil itself"), that, although they "may be here in mortal bodies", their war is a spiritual one, so is this nothing else than the Manichaean negation of the material world.
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Note 32:
One might say that there is still ambivalence in Xena, when it is said that she cannot live without her dark side. But it is not a conflict anymore, instead a pre-stabilized harmony, and that is a crucial difference.
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Note 33:
This dualistic turn can also be illustrated by the Manichaean view of history presented in IDES OF MARCH, where Julius Caesar functions as an instrument of satanic machinations. Another example of the narrow-mindedness towards Roman history is the episode WHEN IN ROME with its glorification of the Gallic resistance. If one considers the fact that today the role of the USA often is compared to that of the Roman Empire back then, the partisanship of Xena: Warrior Princess with the homogenous, autochthonous community against the multi-ethnical, pluralistic society (which is presented as brutal, greedy and decadent) has some interesting ideological implications.
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Note 34:
One could also argue that the need for sacrifice is a retraction of the primary thrust of the Old Testament, which replaces the sacrificial violence by divine law. This was nicely told in ALTARED STATES, where god even plays no role in the demand for the sacrifice. Whereas in IDES OF MARCH the sacrifice becomes necessary, because Xena had to have her temptation before she can become the "defender of faith," a title belonging to medieval kings where there was no separation of church and state. I wonder if that is the ideal order of the world to the producers of Xena: Warrior Princess.
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Note 35:
Like in a capitalist society, where capitalists and wage-laborers are mere embodiments, personifications of capital and wage-labor, as Marx says in Das Kapital.
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Note 36:
This is one of the reasons for the growing dullness of a once so great character as Gabrielle (I have never found her irritating. I liked her in SINS OF THE PAST and I loved her since the line "If I die, I'll never talk to you again" in CHARIOTS OF WAR). The Gabrielle of CHAKRAM may be much sexier and a much better fighter than the one of SINS OF THE PAST, but she lost her charm and wit proportionately. But the more important reason is that Gabrielle had to lose her personality and had to be transformed into a lesser duplicate of Xena because the original Gabrielle had turned the natural fact of her 'blood innocence' into a social code and therefore was an obstacle in Xena's path of becoming a hero again. A hero now legitimated by divine morality.
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Note 37:
Callisto is the Italian version of the Latin name, Calixtus, one of the first bishops of Rome, who died as a martyr. When in Rome, you can visit the catacombs of Callisto.
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Note 38:
The Christianism of FALLEN ANGEL is obviously mixed with gnostic elements (as the title of the episode already indicates), like the fight between light and darkness (who are separated in paradise and hell), the idea of reincarnation as the path to purity, the devaluation of the material word (Gabrielle has to eat to become a demon), the idea of salvation by a charismatic savior (in the scene with Xena and Callisto, which could have been touching if the whole story would not be so crappy - even the special effects are lousy), the seduction of the light principle by darkness resulting in the downfall from heaven, which leads to the birth of humans. Of course, in the Gnosis, this is the myth of the origins of humankind, whereas in Xena: Warrior Princess, it is squeezed into the biography of two women, and therefore becomes rather an involuntary parody of religion.
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Note 39:
These apparent oppositions are in fact only the two sides of the same coin. In this sense, Nietzsche's self-centered Übermensch and Wagner's self-sacrificing hero represent the ambivalent aspects of capitalist individuality.
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Biography

the author Robert Boesch
I am 35 years old and although I live in Zurich, Switzerland, I sell no watches and I do not work in a financial institution, though I once worked in the same psychiatric clinic as C.G. Jung did. As a kid, I liked to read Marvel comics (my favorite one was Spiderman - yes I saw the movie; it wasn't Evil Dead, but alright. If you want to see a really good movie with Tobey Maguire, I recommend Pleasantville [Editor - that was filmed in Malibu Creek State Park -- SEE IT!] and watched enthusiastically Star Trek (the original one with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock). Xena: Warrior Princess reaffirmed my love for popular culture and made me watch a lot of TV again. But I have never been a hard-core nutball. I have never read fan fiction or visited a convention and I will not start watching the X-Files only because Lucy Lawless has a part in it. But I always will remember the inspiration the show gave me once.


 

 


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