Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Misunderstood Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the most misunderstood geniuses in history. He had a great fear of being misunderstood, which unfortunately came true. He is considered by some to be anti-semetic and the godfather of anti-semitism. I was doing a concert with my colleagues Patrick Durek, and Iris Chen a while back for the New York Composers Forum. We proudly have an ensemble called The Nietzsche Ensemble. However, certain composers such as Mira Spektor and Joyce Suskind were angry because we have this name. As a matter of fact Mira Spektor had been complaining about the name since we first met her. Nietzsche loved music, so I wondered what she was so upset about. Nietzsche said "life without music would be a mistake." That is an incredibly profound statement. So, why do some people hate this man? Well, they are misinformed. The issue is that his reputation is all out of whack. Let me explain how that happened. Nietzsche had two siblings. A brother who died at the age of two, and a sister named Elisabeth. Friedrich was a good brother to Elisabeth, and tried to teach her philosophy. She did not have the intellectual capacity that her brother had so I would assume she was jealous of him. Elisabeth outlived her brother by thirty five years and although she took care of him when he was mentally ill, she stabbed him in the back. People think that Friedrich Nietzsche was anti-semetic. Well, listen to this. Elisabeth Nietzsche married Bernhard Forster who was very anti-semetic. Her and Friedrich were close up until this point. When she married this guy, he drifted away from her. He himself wrote about this. "It here is a matter of honor to me to be absolutely clean and unequivocal regarding anti-Semitism, namely opposed, as I am in my writings… I have been persecuted [pursued; verfolgt?] in recent times with letters and Anti-Semitic Correspondence sheets; my disgust with this party … is as outspoken as possible, but the relation to Förster, as well as the after-effect of my former anti-Semitic publisher Schmeitzner, always bring the adherents of this disagreeable party back to the idea that I must after all belong to them…. Still think he is anti-semetic? If you do, wake up! Elisabeth treated him like dirt after his mental collapse and after his death. While he was mentally ill, she invited guests up to his room so she could show him off as a museum exhibit. Meanwhile, she was tampering with his writings and making up ridiculous stories about him. For example, Mussolini, she declared, was “the genius who rediscovered the values of the Nietzsche spirit... Nietzsche would have regarded him as the splendid disciple”. Nietzsche would have despised him and most certainly Hitler. Hitler and Nietzsche were polar opposites. Hitler was anti-semetic and hated Jewish people. Nietzsche hated anti-semitism in all its forms, not to mention any type of racism. Hitler believed in nationalism. Nietzsche was disgusted by it. Hitler believed in the superman, whereas, Nietzsche believed in the overman. These are very different concepts. The idea of the superman pertains to gaining power over others. The overman has to do with gaining power over yourself. Gaining power over yourself could be a wonderful thing, because it could be the key to getting out of depression. Philosophy is all about interpretation. Nietzsche's philosophy could be interpreted as anti-semetic. However, he clearly hated the idea of it. He said it himself. I do not think that Nietzsche would have appreciated having his name associated with a man who was responsible for the deaths of millions of people. Hitler and Elisabeth Nietzsche were friends. In fact, he attended her funeral. Nietzsche hated her guts. He called her "a vengeful anti-semetic goose.". Need I say more? When Nietzsche died in 1900, Elisabeth thought it would be good to have him buried next to his father in a church cemetery. Also, she orchestrated a Lutheran funeral for him, and during the funeral his name was regarded as holy. He specifically said that he did not want that, so therefore, he would have been deeply offended. His sister had herself buried next to him. She should be moved to a galaxy far far away.

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