I think that many misogynists take themselves far too lightly. They must have grown up in a cultural milieu where contempt for women was accepted pretty much as common sense. This unexamined attitude has always prevented them from getting too close to actual women, but it remains an unexamined attitude. Anything that individual women might have to say about it merely confirms the already internalised prejudices: namely, “Women are mean. They say things just to make me feel uncomfortable.”
The mistake that leads the misogynist into most trouble with women is a very human one. He really doesn’t understand that he has crossed a line by expressing his contempt for women. Perhaps he supposes that he is merely expressing his freedom of speech.
A misogynist, to my mind, is a cultural dupe, a victim of right-wing talk radio. He has internalised particular values that will get him into trouble, but he knows not where they came from. Certainly, he did not come up with these ideas about gender by himself. He considers them to be “common sense”.
Because he really is a babe in the woods concerning his own values and motivations, one can become friends with a misogynist. Only, his apparent capacity for friendship with a woman is likely to be misleading — that is to say, merely apparent. The misogynist sees to this, and here is how he does so.
So long as life remains simple and there are no bumps along its road, the misogynist attempts to get along on the basis of canned meaning (fantasy and ideology). That is, he sees the relationship he has as necessarily unfolding according to a very particular script — one that he likely takes as “universal” (for he doesn’t bother communicating its content to anybody.) It’s only when life is unpredictable, when unscripted events occur (as they do), that canned meaning no longer seems to be useful anymore. As a consequence of being at a loss about how to make sense of unpredicted and contingent reality, the misogynist starts to cast aspersions around. That is when he alights — as if by “common sense” — on the view that he had internalised a long time ago. “It is all the fault of a woman/women that nothing makes sense to me anymore. My applecart has been upset by female emotionality.”
Thus a woman who had unwittingly befriended by a misogynist finds herself blamed not only for the varying contingencies of life, but also for the fact that the misogynist has not been able to understand them. In the middle of a crisis, she also has to deal with the misogynist gesticulating and waving about how she actually produced the uncomfortable situation through her putative female states — the nebulous powers of her “emotionality”.
It is true that a woman has to have unusual levels of tolerance to allow the relationship to have proceeded to this point. More than likely, the misogynist has already engaged in offensive boundary crossing a number of times. For instance, he has typically taken what were intended to be ironic statements on her part, or even just general comments about engaging in an aspect of life, as if these were “confessions” on her part.
“Confessions concerning what?”
Why, confessions concerning “typical” feminine weakness — of course!
Let me start by saying this: I’m not fan of “evolutionary psychology” in general because I consider that if people were to take seriously, in any way, the blueprint it gives for normative human behaviour, then we would do better to commit mass suicide than proceed along that path. After all, who wants to be treated like among one’s hidden motivations were a drive towards pink and compulsive shopping? The patterns of one’s individual behaviour should tell enough about what sort of person one is. Positing hidden motivations, based on gender, makes a mockery of actual human lives.
Sometimes, however, one simply runs into some useful terminology as I did recently. Then there’s nothing for it but to let it rip.
I refer to the term “alpha behaviour“. Immediately, I will clarify that in my experience alpha behaviour — especially as it is defined in the link, is not limited to males alone. Indeed, in Rhodesian civil society women very often maintained that kind of power. But let me proceed by way of a tangent.
In Nietzsche’s GAY SCIENCE, he speaks of the nature of power and how it can be mishandled. His example is that of Luther and the Church. Luther, according to Nietzsche, wanted to save the Church from the impending secularism of its evolution towards the Enlightenment. That religious power should find the maturity of its ultimate expression in secular enlightenment was beyond Luther’s power to see. He rushed to “save” the Church, by “reforming” it, and thus undermined its authority in the broader scope of life. After Luther’s intervention, the influence of the Church became narrower; its authority diminished. Nietzche effectively chastises Protestant reformer Martin Luther for being of the lower classes and hence not understanding how power actually worked. By virtue of his lack of knowledge and experience of power, he achieved the opposite to that which he had set out to achieve.
One way of looking at Luther and his intervention is that Luther was a “Beta” male. He didn’t understand that power, in order to maintain itself as genuine authority, has to exert itself with in subtle ways. Luther’s efforts therefore made the Church’s influence appear cruder and more harshly defined. This was the means by which he stripped the Church of power — by defining power too narrowly, and by not understanding that authority can only develop as a feature of power over a long time. Instead, Luther only understood power much as a “Beta” male understands it according to my link above. That is, as something to be grabbed at, and imposed by force, rather than as something that gradually develops, along with the relationships that allow it to justify itself.
Which brings me back to my main point: Beta males, to the extent that I have encountered them, appear to lack any but the crudest conceptions of power. For this reason, they undo themselves. They do not seem to understand, either, that almost anyone can be an Alpha, so long as they adopt the attitudes and behaviour of one. They tend to believe that power must be something necessarily obvious and in your face and not something as intangible as “authority”. When those who think this way reveal their lack of knowledge about the role of authority in establishing power, they represent themselves most patently as “Betas”. (The fact that they don’t ever recognise that they are doing this, but in fact believe themselves to be establishing their Alpha credibility, is a significant and defining part of their problem in terms of working out why power so easily slips through their fingers even when they have it in their grasp.)
Another observation about Beta males: They think that women do not like them, and that it is imperative to remedy this by controlling women by sheer force. (One of the most common ways of doing this is by trying to assure, by means of law, that women will have no choice but to accept one of them as a mate — not only that, but to stick with him, whether she wants to or not.)
Betas, it would seem from my experience, are not quite heterosexual — or if they are, they do not believe in natural powers of attraction. (To accept that such a force like genuine attraction even exists would be like accepting the existence of “authority” — being the hidden means by which power legitimates itself. Betas however, act as if their rights are assured to them only be means of overt force.)
A Beta male, when asked for assistance by a female, will often turn on her, revealing huges waves of pent up aggression, intending to cover for that fact that he feels himself genuinely powerless to act within the world at large. By means of such an disproportionate reaction, he reveals that his relationship to power was merely a bluff.
Professor Zero has asked me to elaborate on what often happens to women in the workplace. They are pressured to play a role that is in principle self-contradictory — that is, they are tasked with performing femininity.
The psycho-dynamics that permit certain workplaces from engaging in this kind of hostage taking are of course hidden from view from those who are not being pressured to perform femininity. They are the ones who are, for reasons of gender and social status freed from this imperative:
Just knuckle down and perform femininity and stop being a cry-baby, seems to be the basic response. In other words, “be butter in our hands, and stop resisting. Start being a cry-baby, and at the same time stop being one, on command! We need you weaker than you are — but also for you not to show it that to the public, only to us.
The one who is being pressured to perform femininity is alone in her predicament of facing contradictory imperatives in order to fit in. The contradictory nature of these external expectations about her attitudes, postures and general behaviour will eventually turn her into a complete nervous wreck — thus confirming patriarchal prejudices that women are in fact, in general, cry-babies, and tend to mess up wonderful opportunities to get ahead, even after they are given so many chances to do so.
Cause and effect are thus reversed in the minds of onlookers, and victims of workplace hostage taking are blamed for being victims.
It is for due to this ideological invention of femininity that women regularly face different issues, in terms of self defence, than males do.
I read last night, with interest, one man’s very well considered views of what is and what is not “self defence” in everyday life. He is very clear that only the defence of one’s physical being is to be considered self defence. Emotional states have nothing to do with self defence, but confuse the issue, according to him.
The problem he doesn’t recognize is that when women are taken hostage, they are trapped into a dire situation by being put in emotional contradiction with themselves. To state it slightly differently, her emotional integrity is attacked as a way of putting her in self-contradiction with her stated aims — i.e. to get ahead. She is supposed to get ahead only by accepting criticism and condemnation of her integrity. Thus she is trapped into a self-defeating posture, which for all the world looks like something merely of her own making (although, quite patently, it isn’t. She has rather become the victim of patriarchal imperatives imposed systematically on women, especially those considered to be of low socioeconomic status).
A woman who would defend herself against the contradictory demands of femininity is not going to be defending her physical body so much as the integrity of her mind — and, in a sense, her “emotions”.
Since it is her emotional integrity that has been violated by patriarchal imperatives, she must count her emotional integrity as something that needs to be defended in the future.
What if she did as she was pressured into doing, and gave up her emotional integrity, casting it to the winds in blind trust that “everything will work out in the end”?
At that point of trust (resignation) she loses her primary buffer against hostile forces, and her body then becomes easily available for rape and abuse.
Women’s first line of defence is the first line of patriarchal assault. She must defend her own emotional integrity as if it’s something that matters — for assuredly there are material consequences if she doesn’t do so: In short, it matters.
I think we need to claim Nietzsche as one of ours, a fearless liberal. His idea of the superman is of someone who dares to think for himself. He hated the right-wing anti-Semites of his sister’s circle, which is why he broke with Wagner; it was quite an unusual attitude for his time.
Well, he wasn’t a liberal as such either, and clearly says so. That is, he wasn’t much for the improvement of society by trying to introduce more equitable laws. What he was for is the exploration and investigation of “natural laws”. Unfortunately, natural laws are by their nature not easy to pin down with the intellect. We tend to oversimplify and thereby draw wrong and damaging conclusions on the basis of our logic. One erroneous conclusion that many draw from Nietzsche is that he favoured (and so what if he did?) the existing social elite—the moneyed uppercrust. They are at the top because they deserve to be, according to many Nietzsche supporters. But the error is to transport a moralising point of view into an otherwise more naturalistic (Nietzschean) paradigm. Those who make this error are inclined to presume that the de facto elite are our MORAL superiors, when they are just de facto superiors based upon some largely unknown (and unknowable, in total) principles of natural law.
As I said, the main error that Nietzsche’s followers make is in believing that these principles of natural law are in principle knowable in whole, or that they can be harnessed by those who get inside knowledge by reading Nietzsche. This turns Nietzsche’s ideas into the basis for a cult mentality. It also gives conscious knowledge the exact inverted status to that which Nietzsche gives it. (To Nietzsche, consciousness is a limitation, an inclination towards illness, not the basis for asserting one’s superiority.) But the authoritarian Nietzscheans nonetheless have Nietzsche exactly upside down—and they will rail at you for not submitting to the authority of your “superiors” or not obeying narrow gender role parameters, and so on. This means that they are still reading Nietzsche in a moralistic way, and not understanding that the whole point of Nietzsche was to question these moralistic strictures, and try to understand how reality actually functions—according to natural laws.
Ugh, scratchy888. That sort of “natural law” sounds a bit like EvPsych. (My acquaintance with Nietzsche is rather shallow.) Your account of his critique of liberalism reminds me of much of radical ideology, the idea that there’s no point in ameliorating present conditions since the inevitable revolution will resolve everything. I accept that much of my activity is more or less predetermined, but I still have to decide everyday what I’ll have for lunch, therefore I still have to send checks to Democrats in election years,
Jennifer:No, no, no, Bad Jim! But your misreading is precisely the misreading that is most common with regard to Nietzsche. No, the natural laws are not known. They belong to the unconscious and its states. What evolutionary psychology does is to try to make out that these laws are knowable and positivistic, and that they have certain logical parameters. But Nietzschean “law” simply says that how things are, and how they appear to be to our moral sensibilities are two entirely different things. How things actually are is determined by natural law. How things appear to be is determined by human consciousness (and, I would add, such things as wish fulfilment, self-deception, wilful superficiality, unfounded optimism, and so on). What you really have to do is get away from thinking of Nietzsche’s writings as providing moral and intellectual parameters for certain kinds of behaviour as the Ev Psych’s do when they try to normalise gender roles. Nietzsche’s writing does exactly the opposite to this. What is “natural”, according to Nietzsche is not necessarily useful to humanity, or on the side of its development, nor does this notion of natural give us parameters that we ought to stick within, (as in serving for instance, our own moral edification). The exact opposite is rather true. Nietzschean thinking is not prescriptive.
Jennifer: Also, natural law pervades everything in an active way. We do not passively submit to it and decide “there is no point in ameliorating anything”. Rather, if we do in fact decide that there is a point in ameliorating something we are enacting this natural law on one particular level. The point is that reality is more complicated than moral precepts or logical precepts can account for. That is why I have suggested this broader concept—which I believe to be Nietzsche’s own—of a kind of natural system of laws.
I would consider some of the main points about my memoir to be:
1. The extreme difficulty I had in forming an emotional bridge that would link my past (in Zimbabwe) with the post-migration present. My inability to form this bridge meant that the past and the present were two entirely different worlds for me. My inability to emotionally link them meant that I could not speak coherently and convincingly (even to myself) about my experiences in the past. The language that I had developed to communicate, as an adult, was too abstract and detached from natural emotion for me to be able to convey much about down-to-earth things, like human relationships.
2. The lack of a “bridge” between my experience of the past and my experience of the present wasn a result of others’ antipathy towards my putative identity. Most displayed indifference mingled with hostility, rather than empathy towards the white African migrant, and this meant I was unable to map any of my previous experiences with anything that had a rough equivalent within the culture that was new to me. So the past and the present were thoroughly discontinuous in my mind, and emotionally I was very pent up.
3. Since I had a lot of pent up emotion for which I couldn’t find any social or cultural outlets, I directed all my energies inwards, and became ill.
4. I redeemed my self by reading Nietzsche, who gave me a bridge towards understanding the psychologies of those who live in modern industrial societies. I also understood from him that my aggressive energies ought to be directed outwards, if they were not to make me sick.
5. Nietzsche’s writing was directly (and despite his tendency towards an antiquated view of women) relevant in compelling me to see that personal autonomy is not a negotiable matter — one must certainly take it, if one wants to have it.
6. I discovered that patriarchal values had set me up for a fall, by placing me outside of history, in such a way that I couldn’t competently answer for it or effectively refer to it. I had almost no historical knowledge when I left Zimbabwe — just a smattering of “Modern [European] History”.
7. I discovered that I was blamed — both by the ex-Rhodesian patriarchs and by the authoritarian liberals of Australian society — for my lack of historical knowledge and my inability to build an emotional bridge to connect the past with the present in my own mind.
8. I discovered that my gender seemed to serve as sufficient explanation for most people as to why I was in a psychologically distressed state.
9. As new migrants themselves, my parents lent on me to provide an emotional bridge between the present and their pasts, which I was unable to do. This caused their anger and hostility towards me to grow. As a female, I was deemed to be inherently equipped to solve any sort of emotional problems, and yet emotional issues (especially those concerning identity) caused me the most amount of pain, and hence I strategically avoided having to deal with these.
10. I more or less “adapted” to the new culture in a rather maladaptive way, by switching off my emotions.
11. The more I switched off my feelings and soldiered on, the more my father felt let down. He had never seen me as anything but quintessentially emotional — the stereotypical female according to right wing valuations. Yet I was the exact opposite to this. I had learned one lesson above all — that was how to detach.
12. In order to resolve this incongruity between my actual demeanour and behaviour, and the ideology of female emotionality, my father began to project his own distressed emotions into me, and calling them mine. His emotions were also pent up — from the war, as well as from the sense of his defeat in that war. They were far more explosive than mine, but he couldn’t express them whilst owning them at the same time. He had to make out that they were coming from me.
13. It was his (patriarchally engendered) explosive hostility towards me that pushed me more towards a leftist and feminist position over time. It also drove my need to create a different identity from the one that I’d grown up to have — that of the white, colonial woman-child. Transforming my identity, I was much akin to an an animal chewing off its paw in order to escape the iron jaws of a trap.
14. I had acheived the task of severing myself from the patriarchal conditioning of the past, which had caused me to look up to males who were inclined to abuse me. At the same time, I achieved an intellectual and asocial quality.
15. I was able to come to terms with the past, and finally create the necessary emotional bridge between the past and present through re-entering the trauma of the war, via the works of Marechera. So I was able to recover an aspect of myself that had become asocial, and to make it social again.
Turning my attention to my training these days — but it’s not as much as I want to. My lower right leg, the knee, and part of the calf is somewhat numb. This causes me concern, as it is the result of doing a rather easy isometric exercise about two weeks ago. Meanwhile, I try to adjust mentally from a fast, efficient first-world pace to something rather more suited to the Zimbabwean culture. Or at least how I imagine it will be. Today (let me put it this way) is my adjustment day; a day to ponder every sort of vaguely imaginable contingency, and to come to terms with it.
I reflect today on how I often employ the most anomalous paradigms to deal with the unknown. When I was writing my thesis, it was like, “Okay, let’s do another round with this thing. Plan the strategy and pursue it. Enter and exit as hard and as fast as you can all on the basis of the single strategy. That way you will get the better of it, rather than it dominating you.”
And then I think of this horse-riding safari at the beginning of the trip, and I realise I have been making preparations for boot camp. We will be sleeping outside and doing an exercise I haven’t properly trained for — horse riding. Squeezing a beach ball with my knees for about an hour was when I obtained the strange numbing in my knee and calf. A partial tendon dislocation? (I’d torn a ligament on this knee as a child, and then re damaged it as a few times as an adult, once by learning leaping crescent kicks.) “Horse ball” seems unwarrantedly violent.
Communication, however, also seems redundant, post Ph.D. With the vessel of communication having been so thoroughly emptied, I’m down to focusing on the pure physicality of my being. It’s me against Myself.
The Icarian complex involves a determination to reach the heights through intellectual measures. It is not a complex if it is balanced with an ability to stay “down to earth”. If not, however, it is very much a part of patriarchal religious measures. Let me try to explain how.
One edifice of patriarchal ideology is the always indirectly stated notion on the part of a patriarchal male that “women are responsible for my thought processes.” As a structure of thought, patriarchal thinking always that it remains itself forever impure because of this tacit premise: the patriarch asserts: “My masculinity would be more pure, more virile, if women were not interfering in my thought processes. Only then would the world really see what I have to offer to it — my magnificence!”
Patriarchal cultures therefore seek to purge, to cleanse, patriarchal society of this putative, insidious “woman influence”.
Various methods are tried, some with greater success at eliminating women than other methods have been. Shaming women, forcing them to cover up, treating them as if they were intellectual infants, killing them because one feels “shame” as a result of their attracting dishonour, forcing them into the house and into silence — all such methods are supposed to release the transcendental male spirit, so that we can see it once and for all.
Despite his often ferocious methods of trying to disentangle himself from his necessary social and historical contingency, which the patriarchal male associates with “femininity”, he is unable to purify himself using his chosen methods. He wants to fly up above the contamination of the fleshly body, but he is heading for a shock. This is because his impurity does not come from women, but from the his own mind, which projects non-transcendent aspects of experience outward and downward appears to see them as if they came from there. The insidious influences of life do not, after all, come from women, who are the assumed source of his distressing feelings, his “impurity”, but from himself alone.
Overall, it is hard for people to get themselves out of the position of needing approval from their authorities. If they were easily able to:
1. see that they were reliant upon approval
2. find a way to get out from under that need without suffering ferocious attacks from superego –
we would be able to have a much more humane society.
But these two things are the most difficult of all things to do.
And they are both linked to each other. We fear to see that we are slaves because of what this perception would require us to do as the next step towards freedom. We would have to confront our own already formed superego and bring petitions against it as to why we should be “free” to do something different.
But superego never values any argument to do with “freedom”. One can only become free by asserting one form of mastery against another.
The other aspect to be aware of is not being interpellated into a dominance and submission relationship, on the basis of subtle psychological cues. For instance, when somebody implies you are trying to dominate, when you are really only interested in communicating something in a far more open-minded and negotiating manner than is being implied. Or alternatively, the speaker could talk down to you, by implying that you are the kind of person who needs and desires pats on the head. In such instances, you have to really see clearly enough, and have enough will power to ignore these cues and stick only to the facts.
What is actually happening is that a person who is invested in authoritarianism in one way or another is capable of infecting you with their perspectives, via their lizard brain convictions. (You pick up on the cues with the deepest part of you mind, and feel interpellated into different roles, depending on how the authoritarian sees you.) You need to deflect this interpellation like you were deflecting a punch in sparring. You need to realise that it is not friendly, but that it isn’t necessarily consciously intended on the part of the other person either, to interpellate you.
I would have said I found the communicative situation difficult because it seemed my interlocutor assumed in me interests, beliefs and values I do not hold and that ze seemed unwilling to recognize this.
This is a big one. The other issue is the one of the culturally engendered need (and avenues) for projection, as you can see in the link I posted.
But I think the patriarchal distortions come in on the basis of attributing a false character to women. It is akin to the virgin/whore dichotomy, whereby neither is true, but the person being projected upon can at times seem to be the “opposite” to what they previously seemed, according to the logic of this dichotomy.
So women are perceived, according to the moral dichotomy of Christian civilisation as “good” women — meaning women who will suck it in without complaining — or as “bad”/damaged women. In the second case, these are women deemed to be “shrill” because they speak up for themselves. This is understood as “complaining”. To speak in a non-prescriptive way at all is FELT to be complaining about the patriarchal system, as this system is FELT by patriarchal thinkers to be both good and just. (So , it is never actually justified for women to “complain” about it — that is to speak in a non-prescriptive way about it.)
So women are not just virgins or whores, they are well-adjusted, good, rationally compliant (although never actually rational) and refined, OR they are whining, complaining, incoherent, mad, bad and sad.
And this dichotomy — this outcome of false representations of women’s characters — is why individual women are so rarely actually heard or understood.
Morally speaking, I am a pagan, which is not to say that I believe in preposterous and odd things, as some have painted me as doing, but rather that I do not believe in a morality of shaming.
Perhaps this is the aspect that has set me most apart from others in the contemporary First World. I do not believe in shaming others, I do not know how to do it, I do not think it has any point.
I recall that when I was trying to be a middle school teacher, one of the mechanisms of control I saw teachers using was in making implicit suggestions that certain actions were shameful. This was not the mechanism that was imposed on me, whilst growing up. I learned, rather, that as a student one must understand that there is a system of power — a hierarchical system — that rules over one, and that one disobeys authority strictly at one’s own risk. Power, then, rather than morality, was my yardstick that determined the DOs and DON’Ts of my childhood thinking.
By contrast with this mode of pagan upbringing, shaming seems very Christian. One is supposed to internalise fear and self-doubt in order to fit in. Furthermore, if I may put my finger on another hot button of Christian consciousness, the only real power that women have in a society that is governed by Christian morality is the power of shaming. Apart from being guardians of morality, they have no means to hold sway over the males of that society. To lack power in life is to withdraw into self-hatred, and to generate a toxicity that destroys all happiness and pleasure.
Christian society, however, is based on shaming. In general the dynamic is thus: Women shame others in order to get some semblance of power, no matter how toxic. Men avoid being shamed by projecting their negative and uncomfortable emotions back onto (and into) women, by claiming they emanated from women in the first place. Thus males in Christian society have no capacity for introspection, no insight.
Christian males, however, are permitted to express an aspect of character that is denied Christian females. They may express themselves egoistically as a way of trying to deny, or avert shame. Women are not supposed to do that, but to take it to the Lord in prayer.
When I think of all the right wing trolls whom I’ve run into over the past ten (or so) years on the Internet, the views of women they espouse seem to be fundamentally based on the principles I have outlined above.
This DUAL series of experiences, ths access to apparently separate worlds, is repeated in my nature in every respect: I am a Doppelganger, I have a “second” face in addition to my first. And perhaps also a third.”
3, “Why I am So Wise“, Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, p 225.[my bolds]
All in all , Nietzsche’s aristocratic posture of naivety needs to be understood as the redeeming factor of his work. Those who turn to his work in order to know facts, as such, about human nature, will surely end up being disappointed — that is, if they are capable of having the kind of integrity and intellectual rigour that will allow them to think things through. Nietzsche’s work aims for deeper truths than those about some kind of static “human nature”. If you are looking for these, you will surely find reasons to bolster various dogmatic positions, but you will be left empty.
Nietzschean naivety, however, takes things lightly, and is not dogmatic. Whilst I am on the subject — patriarchal ideology, if you have swallowed it, is anything but naive and has all sorts of hidden agendas. One of its major ones is for males to cast off bad feelings by projecting them onto and into women. This is the opposite of aristocratic self-transcendence of bad sensations or self-mastery. It’s conniving.
Nietzsche’s writing is “perspectival”. That is, he acknowledges that it doesn’t aim to be objective, indeed that being objective in a positivistic sense is not only impossible, but that attempting it would be to the detriment of humanity.
The problem with Nietzsche’s writing, which I hinted at earlier, is in terms of his lack of recognition of many of the other dimensions of knowledge that we take into account, in the 21st Century. For instance, he sees that power leaves an imprint on those who are its charges. More than that indeed, it gives them form and content. Power, therefore, in terms of Nietzsche’s formulation, has a necessarily benevolent attribute. It may also, for sure, be mean and nasty, and destructive of its charges, rather than simply benevolent. But this is an aspect to power that Nietzsche clearly wishes to de-emphasize. In so doing, he asserts his implicit principle — namely that nobility does not come from those who have been relatively disempowered. It comes only from those who relatively empowered, which — in order to maintain logical consistency — might also be damaging and hostile to those whom they rule over. Such hostility, however, has no legitimate meaning that isn’t given by the powerful ones themselves. According to Nietzsche’s broad psychological schemas, the “weak” tend to give moralistic meanings (if we apply Nietzsche’s perspectives in terms of a broad sweep, which is the manner in which they are given.)
Since Nietzsche is a philosopher who takes it upon himself to address, specifically, the issue of how power expresses itself in the world (Bataille refers to hm as a “philosopher of evil”), one wonders how Nietzsche could have avoided observing that power can sometimes abuse its power – a Nietzschean impossibility. As the paragraph above suggests, a certain sweeping reading of Nietzsche can be logically consistent with the view that Nietzsche certainly did not overlook such issues at all. Rather than accuse this philosopher of ignorance, let us suppose instead that Nietzsche wrote in such a way as to undermine any countervailing “moralistic” theory that might oppose his reductionistic notion that power is the irreducible cause of everything good.
Just as Nietzsche’s philosophy tacitly makes it nonsensical to talk about the “abuse of power”, it is also a feature of Nietzsche’s philosophy to hold that a retired professor of the middle classes (i.e. Nietzsche himself) could nonetheless gain access to power by means of expressing ideas alone. That Nietzsche could barely afford his own heating bills, and had to be subsidized by his mother who sent him a heater, is indicative of the dimensions of power that Nietzsche habitually overlooked. These are material dimensions. Also, in as much as he relied upon his mother and his sister’s charity, Nietzsche would also have had experience of the moral dimensions of human behaviour, which in an obvious sense (to us) maintained his form (if it did not, originally, actually formulate it).
But it is the undermining of the possibility of speaking about an abuse of power, in terms of Nietzsche’s theories, to which I return. As I have noted — if one wants to put an end to moralistic discourse, one can only speak about different contending forces of power, but never about an “abuse” of power, which is self-contradictory, for power alone gives meaning, and only when that product of power, meaning, mistakes itself for “power itself” does there arise the tendency to question power from the point of view of demanding an account of its meaning.
I have drawn a picture of Nietzsche’s paradigm of power and morality, and how they work together, and how Nietzsche wants to deny the latter its metaphysical force in society at large. The problem with all this is that the term, “power” is too narrow, in most people’s minds, as compared to how Nietzsche intended it to be understood.
If we are to imagine that the philosopher was logically consistent, then even “ideas” — that is without their material correlate of money and social status — can be powerful. (In other words, Nietzsche himself, deprived of money or very much social status, could still see himself as powerful, by expressing his ideas.)
Despite the subtly that could be recognised more as part of Nietzsche’s intentions when communicating about power, a reductionistic notion of power (as that which is expressly “non-moral”) remains his legagy.
It’s the reason that contemporary male Nietzscheans express the attitude, “Women have had it easy for too long, and now we are taking the gloves off.” (This attitude reflects Nietzsche’s aphorism in Gay Science that the Church has been too easy on women, historically, and that they need to learn how males are the boss. In the material sense, however, the Church has never been easy on women. Its misogynistic tendencies are well documented.)
When the contemporary male reader of Nietzsche thinks that Nietzsche wants him to take the gloves off when it comes to punching up women, because Nietzsche wants that, he is actually sneaking in a moralising justification of his own. “Nietzsche wants the strong males to beat up on the weak females in order to impose on society a ‘revaluation of values’.”
When the contemporary male reasons thus, the long legacy of his Christian training towards hating women rises to the surface in him. He is on a crusade.
The way that all forms of patriarchy are in collusion with each other is that, from what I’ve noticed and experienced, they all tend to deny females the right to make any firm claims about reality.
For women who live under a patriarchy, the ability to draw a line between what’s real and what isn’t is what patriarchy tried to take away from them. The limit of female freedom therefore tends to extend to permitting women to “decide” which male authority they choose to stand behind — for males alone are allowed to differentiate what should be taken as reality from that which deemed to be false, fantastic, or unreal.
Women can try to take on this authority that patriarchy has appropriated for its own use, but they will be punished for sticking their necks out. The punishment is that they will be deemed to be false and fantastic in their thinking and unreal, themselves.
Watch out, women! Your eyes are not your own! The patriarch sayeth, “pluck them out!”
There is a really good way to gauge how much the patriarchy is ruling over you; how much it is filtering your perceptions.
Ask yourself this:
How much of what women speak is sheer nonsense?
If the proportions are high, then patriarchal value judgements are ruling over you a great deal. If the proportions are low, then the degree to which patriarchy rules you is only a little.
Of course, some people really do not have much interesting to say, but that is different from speaking actual nonsense.
The gauge of how much you are influenced by patriarchy is whether you can make head or tail of what women are saying to you at all. If you are one of those who resorts to platitudinalising with your notion that females are basically incomprehensible as such, you are, most certainly, dead in the water.
It strikes me that positivism and dichotomised thinking work hand-in-hand in populist “Western” discourse. In other words, specific buzz-words are utilised to indict people. Or if the buzz-words are not used, then plausible deniability is invoked. In the meantime, one is either represented as a “winna” or a “losa”.
But all of this denies even the possibility of real communication, whilst maintaining the appearance that people are vying for places within an objective scheme of things.
Critical thinking has no place — none whatsoever — in conventional (populist) Western discourse.
Re-reading Nietzsche’s GAY SCIENCE, I’m much more aware of his blindspots — the most significant one being that he supplies no dialectic, no conceptual linking, between various expressions of power and the psychological outcomes of these. I guess this is his Germanic Idealism (which he never left behind): everything takes place on a plane above the material world. Characters spontaneously appear and form on the basis of manifesations of the Unconscious mind, or of instincts engendered through history (via the medium of culture).
It’s a naive perspective. Is it okay to be so naive as a philosopher and writer? He understands psychology only within the narrow confines of what constitutes culture. This is like understanding reality in two dimensions, when it actually takes place in six.
His understanding that witches and heretics were evil because they considered themselves evil is an extreme example of Nietzsche’s psychological superficiality. He believes that they spontaneously decided to consider themselves evil in accommodation of their evil instincts, which demanded that they attack whatever was upright. How is Nietzsche’s way of thinking any different from the criticism that he levels at Kant, namely that the capacity to think in a certain way is engendered by “a faculty”?
Nietzschean “engendering” however would appear to come from gender.
Let us restate Nietzsche’s original opinion to make his conceptual framework a bit clearer:
“Evil springs from ‘a faculty’ — known as the feminine gender. This faculty in turn created witches and caused them to try to destroy everything that was good and proper.”