Nietzsche and the State

“Where the state ends—look there, my brothers! Do you not see it, the rainbow and the bridges of the overman?”

Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a prolific writer on just about every subject. His views on the modern state, however, have been largely overshadowed by his critique of morality. Nietzsche held a very clear and consistently critical view of the subject throughout his adult life. In his more sober moments, he saw the modern state as nothing more than a vehicle for mass power and as a squanderer of exceptional talent. In his most feverish moods, the state was “a cold monster” and a base falsehood.

During his lifetime, Nietzsche bore witness to the rise of statism in central Europe, and his disgust with nationalism, liberalism, and mass politics led him to live most of his life in self-imposed exile in Switzerland and northern Italy. Even after resigning from the University of Basel in 1879, he took to living in cheap boarding houses rather than return to his native land, which had undergone a dramatic transformation.

When Nietzsche was born in Saxony in 1844, the German Confederation consisted of 43 duchies, principalities, kingdoms, and free cities. He was only four years old when liberals and nationalists began to agitate for the creation of one unified German state. They succeeded in 1871, when Prussia defeated France in the Franco-Prussian War (in which Nietzsche briefly served as a medical orderly).

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Nietzsche on the Origin of the State

In the mind of Nineteenth Century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, the growth of the state (Staat) was one of the most alarming developments of the modern world. Where others saw the promise of a new democratic age in which “the people” ruled, Nietzsche saw a “cold monster” that was destructive of creative and independent forces. He described the state as a “clamp-iron” pressed upon society, shaping and harnessing it.

Artist's impression of Çatalhöyük, a Neolithic settlement
Artist’s impression of Çatalhöyük, a Neolithic settlement

The modern state was particularly problematic because it potentially recognized no limits in its efforts to satisfy the wants and desires of the common man. To fully understand Nietzsche’s pessimistic understanding of the modern state, however, it is important to understand his beliefs about the origin of that state. Why is the modern state so different from what came before?

Prior to 4,000 BC, most if not all of humankind was organized into tribes and extended families that engaged in herding, hunting and gathering, trading, and subsistence farming. Some lived in cities like Çatal Höyük in modern day Turkey. According to archeologists, Çatal Höyük (7,500 – 5,700 BC) was absent of any public buildings. There are no signs of rulers, social stratification, or classes.

Then, around 4,000 BC, city-states began to emerge in Mesopotamia, and with them, hereditary dynasties. With some exceptions, the basic nature of these dynastic kingdoms, or states, did not change very much for the next several thousand years. In modern times, however, there has been a fundamental revolution in the nature of the state. Nietzsche’s perspective on this revolution, and why it occurred, is as challenging as it is insightful.

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Deadwood’s Bullock Hotel

The ghost of famed Western lawman Seth Bullock is believed to wander the halls of this historic hotel.

  • The Bullock Hotel was originally built by Seth Bullock between 1894 and 1896.
  • A mysterious “tall man” matching Bullock’s description has been seen strolling down the hall on several occasions.
  • Seth’s Cellar Restaurant, located in the basement of the Bullock Hotel, is supposed to be one of the most haunted areas of the hotel.

The historic Bullock Hotel, located at 633 Main Street in Deadwood, South Dakota, is one of the most famous haunted hotels in the United States. In 1992, it was featured on the TV program Unsolved Mysteries. It is reportedly haunted by none other than the ghost of its namesake, Seth Bullock, the first sheriff of Deadwood, as well as a host of other spirits. A friend and I recently stayed at the Bullock Hotel on a trip through South Dakota, and although we didn’t experience anything unusual, we did learn a lot about this historic place.

When you enter Deadwood at night, down the brick street lined with softly glowing lamps, it is easy to feel transported back in time. The Bullock Hotel was originally built by Seth Bullock between 1894 and 1896 and contained 60 luxury rooms. In 1976, the Aryes family purchased the hotel and turned it into a hardware store. Unfortunately, they auctioned off all the antique furnishings. 15 years later, a company called Bullock Properties purchased the building, began reconverting it into a hotel, and tried to restore its former glory.

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Hearts of Iron IV Minor Nation Strategies: Ukraine

screenshot-92Welcome to my second in a series of posts looking at minor countries in the game Hearts of Iron IV by Paradox Entertainment. Hearts of Iron IV is an epic historical simulator that allows you to experience the events of the Second World War as any country, and perhaps, change history. These articles examine the benefits and drawbacks of playing as any of dozens of minor countries in HOI IV. In this article, I’ll be looking at Ukraine. Ukraine is not a playable country, unless released by a player. Hearts of Iron IV lets you start the game as a major power, release a country, and then continue playing as that country. Neat!

If released by the Soviet Union, Ukraine starts the game in 1936 as an authoritarian democratic state (no elections) with 70% national unity. It has a volunteer army, export trade focus, and civilian economy. The fascist party, led by Stepan Bandera, has 30% popularity, the ruling democratic party, led by Kost Levytsky, has 15%, the communist party, led by Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, has 53% support, and the nonaligned party has zero support.

Ukraine is divided into sixteen states, with predominantly plains and forest terrain. Its resources are located in Kharkov, Kiev, Kherson, and Dnipropetrovsk. In terms of industry, it has 5 military and 7 civilian factories, and 1 naval dockyard, plus 57 additional open slots, 22 chromium, 56 steel, 20 oil, and 12 aluminum. There are several helpful ministers to choose from, though their names appear generic. Peter White, captain of industry, grants +10% construction speed bonus to civilian factories, infrastructure, and refinery construction. Jim Jones, war industrialist, grants +10% construction speed bonus to military factory and dockyard construction. These may be randomly determined.

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Barbarian Virtues: An Incomplete Critique of American Imperialism

barbarian-virtuesIn Barbarian Virtues: The United States Encounters Foreign Peoples at Home and Abroad, 1876-1917, Mathew Frye Jacobson explored the American perception of ourselves and the foreign peoples we came into contact with at the turn of the last century, as empire building and immigration expanded our interaction with the outside world. The title comes from a quotation by Theodore Roosevelt calling on Americans to not abandon their hearty roots in the quest for civilization, and to “keep the barbarian virtues” in order to escape from decadence.

Anxiety over civilization and barbarity characterized American culture at the end of the nineteenth century. According to Jacobson, political culture during this period was “characterized by a paradoxical combination of supreme confidence in U.S. superiority and righteousness, with an anxiety driven by fierce parochialism.” The paradox stemmed from the United States’ economic dependence on an influx of labor from peoples that were considered to be inferior. Popular media characterized these people as barbarian others in need of the fatherly hand of the civilized United States. The labor and resources of the “barbarians” were invaluable in propelling this country to a position of power.

It is not the uniqueness of this relationship that Jacobson finds interesting. As he points out, these attitudes have long roots in American culture. The scale of these endeavors is what sets this period off from the past. Industrial production, mass population movements, expanding and active government, and a developing mass media characterized this time of explosive growth and involvement in the world. But in order to facilitate such involvement, the old attitude Americans had taken toward American Indians and, to a lesser extent, Mexicans, needed to be refashioned for use overseas. The people of Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Panama all had to be seen as “pawns in a vast geopolitical game.” This shift in perspective took a conscious cultural effort to accomplish.

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Bread and Gravy

On my recent trip through the South, I played some folk music for the ride and came across this catchy tune, “Bread and Gravy.” I found several different versions online, but couldn’t find the lyrics to this particular one, performed by J.E. Mainer & The Mountaineers with Morris Herbert on the album Appalachian Mountain Bluegrass – 30 Vintage Classics (2007). The song laments the effect of high inflation, as the dollar becomes so worthless his family can only afford to eat bread and gravy, even though everyone is working. At a time when everyone has a smartphone, it’s hard to imagine being so poor things like meat, milk, and butter are unaffordable luxuries. When you think about it, gravy is just melted fat thickened with wheat flour or cornstarch. My grandma used to save the grease from cooking bacon and other meat and reuse it. Imagine pouring that on dry bread for flavor every day of the week!

bg3I read in the paper this mornin’
That a dollar just ain’t worth a dime
We used to pay cash for our roast beef
And can afford pork chops sometimes
We used to eat liver and onions
With these two we never went wrong
But lately I’ve noticed a difference
And that’s why I’m singin’ this song

On Monday we have bread and gravy
On Tuesday it’s gravy and bread
On Wednesday and Thursday it’s gravy on toast
But that’s only gravy on bread
Friday it’s rye bread ‘n gravy
On Saturday it’s whole wheat instead
Sunday’s a treat, ’cause we can’t wait to eat
We have gravy without any bread

[We’d settle for beans after this Sunday.
Kinda cheap, you know…]

My pa’s making more than he ever
My ma’s babysittin’ at night
My brother’s a working, he’s raking in dough
Somehow the picture ain’t right
Now everyone’s working at our house
You can’t count the money we’ve made
The high cost of living has got us
Say, Bill, could you spare a steak?

On Monday we have bread and gravy
On Tuesday it’s gravy and bread
On Wednesday and Thursday it’s gravy on toast
But that’s only gravy on bread
Friday it’s rye bread ‘n gravy
On Saturday it’s whole wheat instead
Sunday’s a treat, ’cause I can’t wait to eat
We have gravy without any bread

Split Rock Quarry’s Terrifying Crusher

The site of a tragic and deadly accident at a quarry in central New York has become a popular destination for legend trippers and outdoor enthusiasts.

  • The Solvay Process Company built Split Rock Quarry to mine limestone west of Syracuse in the 1880s.
  • A massive explosion at the quarry in 1918 killed upwards of 50 workers.
  • Since the accident, some visitors have reported strange encounters in the abandoned quarry at night.

On July 2, 1918, a terrible explosion at a munitions factory outside Syracuse, New York claimed the lives of more than 50 workers, injuring dozens more. 15 men were incinerated beyond recognition and over 20 reported missing and presumed dead. Today, Split Rock Quarry is largely abandoned, taken over by hikers, urban explorers, curiosity seekers, and partiers.

Evidence of late night excursions abound, and some of these nocturnal visitors have brought back stories of strange sights and sounds around the old rock crusher. Dark, graffiti covered tunnels excite the imagination. This sinister reputation led the site to be featured on the Travel Channel’s Destination Fear in October 2012.

Split Rock Quarry was originally built by the Solvay Process Company, which was founded in 1880 by Belgian chemists Ernest and Alfred Solvay, American engineer William B. Cogswell, and businessman Rowland Hazard II. The Solvay Process Company manufactured soda ash (sodium carbonate) through the Solvay Process, which combines salt brine and limestone. The limestone was quarried at Split Rock near Onondaga, New York and pulverized in a giant rock crusher.

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Miss Sloane: Anatomy of a Failure

Miss Sloane (2016) stars Jessica Chastain as a high strung, pill-popping Washington DC lobbyist who takes on the Gun Lobby in this dead-on-arrival political thriller. Elizabeth Sloane is the most sought after and formidable lobbyist in Washington, D.C., but when her firm agrees to take on an effort to convince women to support the 2nd Amendment, she has a change of heart and joins a lobbying firm fighting for gun control.

According to IMDB.comMiss Sloane had a budget of $18 million and made an embarrassing $59,797 in its opening weekend. As of December 14, the movie had grossed $2.6 million. Ouch. All indications point to a decent film. Good pacing, unexpected plot twists, solid acting–so what went wrong? Well, audiences don’t really want to sit through a 132 minute commercial for gun control.

Let’s start there. It’s not surprising a political thriller would have a political message, but this film wears its bias on its sleeve. It is replete with left wing stereotypes of conservatives, who it portrays as elderly white men enthralled to the gun lobby. When confronted with a plan to create a pro-gun women’s group, Miss Sloane is flabbergasted, unable to believe any woman would support an originalist view of the 2nd Amendment. (Oops, those groups already exist, WAGC and AFA to name two.) Through Miss Sloane’s later exposition, the audience is actually treated to a point-by-point refutation of arguments against gun control, making you feel like you’re attending a lecture rather than watching a movie.

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