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Nietzsche’s Bridge to Nowhere

Or Thus I Answered Zarathustra

Firstly may I apologize for the tardiness of my reply, but I wasn’t born for nearly 100 years after you spoke, and even after that auspicious event it took me a while to get round to reading you.

I’m not normally a fan of New Age drivel but I have to say I really enjoyed reading Thus Spoke Zarathustra

(to be precise I actually read Adrian Del Caro’s English translation), your turn of phrase was fantastic, I particularly loved ‘in the mountains the shortest distance is from peak to peak, but for that one needs long legs’, it conveys so much.

Your description of the last human beings captures so much of contemporary America; additionally you also seem to anticipate the forthcoming explosion of the green movement and environmentalism. But what captured me was the struggle between you and the world, and that your greatest enemy, indeed your greatest betrayer in this struggle, was you.

You seem to recognize that all humans are fundamentally flawed, and further that only some humans realize that they are flawed. You seem to believe that recognizing these flaws is the first step to correcting these flaws, that we, humans, individually or collectively, have to take responsibility for these flaws and fix them by the undefined process of going beneath, transitioning to the overman.

Thus you declare god to be dead, because it is only in the absence of god that we can take responsibility for our nature, and therefore take steps not merely to alter our behavior, but to change our very nature. If there was a living god, we can surrender to its will and be as it wills us, and if it wills us to be different then it will make us so.

What I am not clear about is what this process of crossing over entails. You talk about creating, at one point you allude to evolution suggesting that if a human cannot create an overhuman, then perhaps one can create the parent or grandparent to the overhuman.

It seems that you think that somehow by passing through the fires of nihilism a new, ‘better’ human will be forged. I have to say that I do not share your optimism. I think humans will continue to evolve, as do all species, until they disappear up an evolutionary cul-de-sac.

By evolve I mean Darwinian Evolution. Random changes leading to a short-term reproductive advantage. What I think you are grasping for is some kind of conscious evolution based on non-random changes leading to a long-term perceived improvement in human nature.

This is where you lose me. Humans are animals; we are mammals. The difference between humans and chimps is no greater than the difference between bottle-nosed dolphins and fruit bats. The similarities between all mammals are greater than the differences. For all our sentience as humans, we have this amazing ability to deny that we are animals. Sure we have the potential to evolve as humans, but we are still restricted by the fact that we are animals, mammals.

Think of us as an invasive species that has developed a neat behavioral trick that has removed us from the reach our traditional predators. We will continue to breed and expand because we can. At some point we will have so fouled our pond that a new predator will be able to exploit our weaknesses, and our bubble will be burst.

That does not mean that we should not try to postpone the inevitable. When an individual human realizes that he or she is mortal that does not necessarily mean that they immediately go out and commit suicide just because death is inevitable.

This realization can lead to behavior modification, decreasing the consumption of damaging quantities of foods(cholesterol, trans-fatty acids, refined sugar…)and drugs(alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, ecstasy , cocaine…) and converting leisure time towards more healthy pursuits - less hours on the sofa watching tv, more hours on the golf course in the pool or at the gym.

These changes are usually based on some kind of risk reward analysis. By making a sacrifice now I will enjoy a longer better quality of life, which is fine if you are educated and have the opportunity to make these choices. When the individual has less ability to perform this kind of analysis, either because of lack of information, or a lack of understanding of how to use this information, they are less likely to modify their behavior. Equally, if the individual does not have sufficient resources to make the changes even if they have the will to then behavior changes will be limited. When the two are combined, the likelihood of behavioral change drops dramatically.

The average cigarette smoking, hooch drinking, coca chewing, slash and burn farmer in Central America is unlikely to change his behavior in a manner that will be neither improve his perception of his quality or quantity of life, just because of some UN sponsored environmental conference in Fresno, Frankfurt or Phoenix.

Humans, like other mammals, have a habit of following the course of perceived least resistance to their perceived maximum benefit. Sometimes this can manifest itself in behavior that can be mistaken for altruism.

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