THE BRILLIANT MR. NIETZSCHE
"Truth, beauty, and morality are all in the eye of the beholder." "One culture is no better than another." "How dare you attempt to place the United States of America on a cultural pedestal." These are, one and all, forms of the relativist mantra. Say what you will, they echo through the corridors of American culture and politics and form the basis of an ideology of appeasement and weakness.
Cultural relativism is the prevailing mindset of the Obama Administration. Consider the manner in which our silver-tongued President recently played the sychophant in the presence of Hugo Chavez and other third world thugs. Think about Mr. Obama's anti-American pronouncements in Europe, which were uttered to the itching ears of countries so pusillanimous that they have practically relinquished any reason for being.
Friedrich Nietzsche, a nineteenth century German philosopher, pictured above, was a cultural relativist. He called our attention to the evolution of morals. He argued that the meaning of good and evil is not eternally etched somewhere in stone. He offered us a critique of truth itself, questioning even the principles of natural science, which "always requires," he pointed out, "a normative value outside itself in order to operate securely." He wondered aloud how we could place our wholehearted trust in an endeavor that is directed by a cultural value or a "metaphysical faith"? These doubts about "truth" are part of his legacy to us.
Another part of his legacy, the part on which we tend to turn our backs, concerns "the will to power." As a relativist, he had to answer the question, "Why these particular values and not others?" The values that occupy center stage, Nietzsche insisted, represent not a triumph of intellect, but of will. Those of us who are unhappy with the way in which American culture is souring before our eyes should take note. There is nobody to blame but ourselves. We have willfully capitulated to forces militating against our culture. Period.
Nietzsche recognized, in the thoughtful words of the late classicist Allan Bloom, pictured below, that "a cultural relativist must care for culture more than truth, and fight for culture while knowing it is not true." "Culture," according to Bloom, "is a synthesis of reason and religion . . . ." Yes, religion! Fighting for a culture means defending a religion. This comes hard for intellectuals who despise anything that hints of religion. They dislike advocating for American culture by supporting, overtly or otherwise, a "public faith." "How primitive and even dishonest!" they groan. So one goal, perhaps the primary one, of taking back America must be to empower the cultured despisers of religion to fight for what they "know" is not true. Nietzsche recognized the importance of faith in the struggle for culture, but do we?
The second challenge facing those who want to keep American culture safe and sound is equally daunting. It is to empower the Christian himself. The "will to power" does not feel Christian. One has a tough time imagining Jesus imposing his will upon another, especially in a forcible way. Nietzsche thought this a shame. Christian faith embodied, for him, the essence of "slave morality." It represented a mindset, he believed, for servile sheep. So how do Christians retain what they cherish? How did they do it during the American Revolution, the Civil War, and World War II? The answer is that they fought to the death.
Christians must, I urge, be encouraged to do the same now. Christianity has never opted for peace at any price nor always endorsed conscientious objection. It is time for Christians to assert their corporate will in support of their values, even if this means war.
Defending American culture is the task before us. Every battle that is or will be fought -- with respect to health care, the environment, public education, abortion, euthanasia, or any number of other issues – will be undergirded by a larger, more momentous struggle, which is the life or death of American culture. Never lose sight of the bottom line. It concerns CULTURE.
I need not add that those who support traditional American culture cannot expect to be aided in their struggle by Mr. Obama or his administration. If his political positions, impromptu statements, background, and associations reveal anything clearly, it is that he has been waging war against American culture his whole life. That is precisely why he is an abysmally weak defender of it now.
The good news is that the will of the people in this country is slowly building. We are witnessing it in many townhall meetings and in the righteous indignation with which citizens are confronting their sorry representatives, those like Senator Arlen Specter, who has won the Most Transparent Opportunist of the Year Award. Enacting the Administration's health care proposal will further incense and empower the people, while defeating it will serve to defeat an arch-enemy of American culture. As things stand at the moment, it is a "no-lose" situation for the people.
August 12, 2009