Grandson, Nephew, Son

I know two women who have lost a daughter.  My Grandma and my Aunt Susan.  More than my own mother, these two women raised me and made me the person I am today.  They both need me, and I do not know how to be there for both of them.

Long before I was ever born, a story of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse was being told.  When my Grandma married my grandfather, she had no idea what a paranoid schizophrenic is.  So untreated mental illness added to the tapestry of dysfunction that would be passed down to her own children.  My Grandmother could not help my grandpa cope, she did not know how to cope herself.

They raised five daughters.  These daughters were taught that they had to fend for themselves.  Some of them like my mom would spend their entire lives looking for love, looking for someone to be the parents they never had.  My Aunt Sue took a different lesson from this.  She was just as quick as her mother, my Grandma, to fight and stand up for herself.  This was a wonderful skill when she needed it.  She never let people walk over her.  Unfortunately neither she nor my Grandma were able to feel secure when there was no one to fight.  They looked very hard for enemies.

As I child all I knew was faction.  Sometimes someone was our best friend, and then the next week we had to disown that person, or that person disowned us.  I was always confused as to how people who we had always loved were now enemies to be hated.  I went along with it though, assuming there was some logic to it that I had not discovered.

Several years ago my Grandma stopped talking to my Aunt.  There were a lot of family problems going on.  My Grandma and her other daughters decided my Aunt must be at fault.  Since I am close to my Aunt, they stopped talking to me as well.  It was never announced, I just was not invited to my Grandma’s birthday, when my other Aunt’s talked about their family, I was not included.

Earlier this year in January, I found out that my mom was unresponsive in the hospital.  It was the first time I heard about her in a few years.  Days later she was dead, and my Grandma needed me back in her life.

She needed me and not my Aunt.  My Aunt has been the only constant in my life.  She along with my Grandma were my rocks, until my Grandma stopped talking to me.  Then I had to look at how to live life with just my Aunt.  Now, I suddenly have my Grandma back, an old and sassy woman who goes back and forth between lucidity and seeming senility.  


My Aunt’s daughter died when she was only four years old.  After her death my aunt became pregnant several times.  Inexplicably, they all ended with miscarriage.  Sometimes my Aunt calls me her son, sometimes she calls me her nephew.  I am always proud when she calls me her son.  When she calls me her nephew, I know she is just not in a mood to be so bold.  Over the course of her life, she has lost the people she loves most.  Some of them have been lost to death, most of them have been lost to the dysfunction we were born into.


When my mother died, I got a phone call.  My Aunt never received a phone call letting her know that her sister had passed away.  When my Grandma told me that she needed me back in my life, she did not mention needing her daughter who is still alive.

If my Grandma was younger, if she seemed to better understand the few conversations we have had on the phone since my mom died, I would expect her to talk to my Aunt.  My Grandma is dying herself.  She is her most lucid when she tells me on the phone that she is hungry for death.  She has lived too long, hurt too much.  She does not fear death, she wants the peace that it guarantees her in her mind.  She wants me to visit her.  To hold her hand and let her know what I am doing with my life now.  She wants me to talk to her about the books I am reading like I used to years ago.  She wants me to go out and pick flowers I know she loves.  I knew her tastes better than any of her other grandchildren.

I can do this, I can be there for my beautiful, loving, aggressive, and dysfunctional Grandma.  When I start making that drive to my Grandma’s, I fear my Aunt will only be able to call me her nephew.

How do I tell my Grandma and my Aunt, that they are both my mom?  How do I tell them that I cannot dispense justice or fix anything.  All I can do is give them the love I have always had for them.

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A Letter to Walter

Dear Walter,

You were too good to realize that I was not.  You laughed at everything I said and in talking to you, I started thinking I had something to say.  When my cousins taunted me, I learned to be quiet.  I became someone in my head.  That inner dialogue kept me alive.  It kept me occupied at least.  You were unintimidating enough that at some point, I trusted you enough to talk.  I think you said, “he is quiet at first, but once you get him to talk, he won’t shut up.”  You were trying to convince your friends that I was worth talking to.  If they just gave me a chance, they would see how cool I was.  I tried.  I tried talking to them because you wanted me to.  I tried being as quick with my responses as I was when it was just you and I.  I simply could not talk in front of them though.  I saw your confidence leave your face, but you insisted on keeping a smile there.  You were not mad at me.  You did not understand why I clammed up, but once they were gone, you just went back to joking with me.  You saved me.

Before you realized you were the only one I could talk to, you idolized me.  Every day after school you would drone on about your friend Patrick.  I know because once your sister realized she was friends with my cousin, she told her.  My cousin said your sister was sick and tired of hearing about this Patrick.  When your sister finally met me a few years later, I wondered how horrified she was.  The hilarious and genius person you went on and on about was an awkward mute.

Our friendship survived all of that.  When you realized I could not throw a ball, and that I was just as likely to kick a soccer ball into my team’s goal as the opponent’s, you did not know how to verbalize your reaction, but I saw it.  Well intentioned bewilderment, on the face of a boy who was too young and good to know what to do with a freak.

I remember talking to you about my mom.  You knew what she was doing.  You did not pity me and you did not challenge me.  Instead, you were engrossed in the story of my life.  You gave what I was going through a narrative form.  The actions my family misinterpreted and ignored only became a unified whole when I explained them to you.  I understood myself and my goals with you.

You are the most homophobic asshole I have ever known.

I felt normal when I was with you.  When I was around anyone else, I had to hide myself.  With you, I forgot that I was gay.  I thought I could be more than that.  So fuck you for taking that from me.  Fuck you for not letting me be whole in the context of the one friendship I ever had.  I resent that you found out.  I am angry with you for not going along with the narrative you let me have for all those years of our friendship.

You stopped talking to me.  You did not say anything, you just disappeared.  I saw your mom, and over the next few years, she would let me know how you were doing.  When I ran into you and the son you had, you were happy to see me.  You gave me your phone number.

And I am glad, because I want to tell you about my mom.  I want to get you caught up.  She is dead.  I was just as indifferent to her undignified death as thought I would be.  When I tell other people that, they think I am cruel or cold.  That or they think I must need help.  I want to tell you so you can giggle your innocent and naive response.

I want to tell you what it is like to not have a family.  I am revising this a little.  I had thought of telling you that I blame you.  I blamed you, because once you found out I was gay and stopped talking to me, I had no one to run to.  No one with which to be different than who I really am, that is to say, the same as everyone else.  I wanted to blame you, because even if you could not have kept me from losing every single person I loved, you could have shielded me from it by being the exception.  So I blamed you for everything wrong in my life.  I blame you for my failing school.  I blame you for being depressed and fat.  I blame you for being poor and disconnected.  I blame you for being dyslexic and awkward.  I blame you for any accident of my life, because I would have been immune from them if I was with you.

I wanted to feel my anger dissolve.  It might be better now that you know, now that you have had time to cool off.  You gave me a fake number.  

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The Genealogy of Morals: Understanding Good & Evil — PRESENTATION

Nietzsche heralded the death of God with his famous “God is dead.”

This pronouncement concerned our belief in God and the value of the concept of God.  Nietzsche’s intended audience — philosophers and scientists — were no longer in a position to maintain belief in God.  Just as importantly, the concept of God held no net positive value in the for the individual or society in the eyes of Nietzsche.

The concept of God — specifically the Abrahamic God as propounded by Christianity — was a cultural and societal sickness.  In the history of the West, Nietzsche felt we had a healthier example in the ancient Greeks and Romans.

“A person is thought to be great-souled if he claims much and deserves much.  He that claims less than he deserves is small-souled.  The great-souled man is justified in despising other people–his estimates are correct; but most proud men have no good ground for their pride.  He is fond of conferring benefits, but ashamed to receive them, because the former is a mark of superiority and the latter of inferiority.  It is also characteristic of the great-souled men never to ask help from others, or only with reluctance, but to render aid willingly; ad to be haughty towards men of position and fortune, but courteous towards those of moderate station.  He must be open both in love and in hate, since concealment shows timidity; and care more for the truth than for what people will think; he is outspoken and frank, except when speaking with ironical self-depreciation, as he does to common people.  He does not bear a grudge, for it is not a mark of greatness of soul to recall things against people, especially the wrongs they have done himself, even of his enemies, except when he deliberately intends to give offence.  Such then being the great-souled man, the corresponding character on the side of deficiency is the small-souled man, and on that of excess the vain man.” (Aristotle, The Nichomachaen Ethics)

The Jewish religion propounded weakness and a hatred for this world.  It was a spiritual contempt.  Through the person of Jesus Christ, these values ended up overtaking the Western world.  Nietzsche saw irony in the Church leadership being based in Rome.  It was in his view an inversion of values by which slave morality triumphed over the master morality of the classical world.  The notion of an all powerful God dying on a cross was antithetical to the nobles of Rome and Greece.

If we are to speak culturally as opposed to theologically, many of us would locate the positive power of Christianity in its concern for the lesser and its encouragement that we help them.  We tend to see a spirit of charity and perhaps even tolerance in the Christian ethos.  Thus, many people, even those who do not have a literal belief in the bible or Christian God see it as benign.

Nietzsche did not see Christianity as a religion of compassion.  He saw it as one which seeks to glorify weakness and ressentiment against those who are stronger.  Christianity is a religion which seeks to ameliorate the individual in favor of what Nietzsche calls the “herd.”  This is all rooted in what Nietzsche calls slave morality, as opposed to the moralities we saw before, which he would calls master morality.

What exactly is master morality?  Master morality springs naturally from those who are positively inclined towards life and themselves.  Master morality affirms the world we live in, and the natures we have.

Masters may be physically or economically strong.  The notion that “master” is synonymous with “dictator” or “brute” is erroneous though.  A master is not necessarily in charge of anything.  Nietzsche uses the term in a psychological, not political sense.

The defining mark of master morality is gratitude.  Specifically, gratitude for life and this world.

If masters have a fundamentally positive view of themselves and their world, they will tend to have a set of ethics which encourages their human nature.  Things like strength and success will be seen as good.

Masters will seek power in a very open and honest manner.  Their enemies will not be objects of hatred but of competition.  Their enemies will not be imagined to be evil or weak.   Rather, their enemies will be fellow nobles.  In defeating their enemies, they will be doing themselves honor, because they have accomplished something great.

The weak, the contemptible, these sort, are simply beneath the masters, they are not worthy opponents.

The masters are capable of great love and great cruelty.  They are willing to destroy and take down.

Does this make them evil?  According to Nietzsche, not at all.  In fact, progress is necessitated by the willingness to destroy.

All of existence for Nietzsche is will to power.  This means that all life strives and must strive for power.  This includes humans, other animals, and plants.  Both masters and slaves seek power.  They just do it differently.  Masters seek power more openly, which is in Nietzsche’s view, more healthy.

Destruction has a negative connotation though.  Is Nietzsche just fundamentally segregated from reasonable individuals when he makes these sorts of claims?

I would argue he is not at all.  Nietzsche had good reason to argue for a willingness to destroy.

Democracy in the Western world has destroyed tyranny and the former grip of absolute monarchs.

Technology and enterprise has destroyed many industries, fortunes, ways of life.

Science ruthlessly attacks and questions its own theories.

This is all destruction.

This does not mean that all destruction is good.  Certainly, when Nietzsche called for a willingness to destroy, he was not asking for us to be needlessly cruel.  Rather, he was reminding us that cowardice is not in and of itself a virtue.  We must be willing to overcome ourselves, to destroy what must be destroyed to allow for innovation and renewal.

Yet, culturally, we are quite hesitant.  This explains in Nietzsche’s view the durability of Christianity.  Christianity, something which at this point offers nothing positive in his view, is still alive and strong.

Nietzsche stated that it is not about having the strength of one’s convictions, but the strength to overcome one’s convictions that is important.  Tearing down the edifice which has sustained Western civilization for centuries with no clear alternative could indeed be scary, and uncomfortable.  That is not an excuse for intellectuals, and overmen to ignore the challenge.

Only in tearing down these edifices, can new possibilities become clear.  Our first commitment must be to the truth, even if that means admitting we are not in full possession of the truth, or that our most basic values may not indeed be supported by the truth that we do find.

Can we overcome it?

Slave Morality

As opposed to master morality, is slave morality.  This is the morality which springs from the weak.  Again though, we must remember that through this sort of morality may exist among those who are politically or economically disenfranchised, it does not necessarily.  Nietzsche is using the term in a psychological sense.  The best way I can phrase it is by saying that those who inherently have a slave perspective are slaves to their own ressentiment.  Their view of the world is fundamentally defensive.

Being defensive, they seek and desire the collective protection of the herd.  Going even further, they are quick to ostracize any member of the herd they feel  might be too strong.

Hence the notion that the weak will inherit the earth and such.  Nietzsche feels that as the most notorious incarnation of slave morality, Christianity is teaching people to hate and fear this world — including even our bodies and minds as being inherently sinful.  We are all sinners as compared to a perfect God outside of this world.

Nietzsche pointed out that the Greeks often saw their gods as obnoxious and devious.  If someone did something horrible, they would assume that a god must have been manipulating her.  They did not ascribe her misdeeds to her character.  Christianity does the opposite.  Our goodness comes from a God outside of this world, and all of our sin is of this world.  It is a very pessimistic view of our natures and our world.

We tend to view — by “we” I am just talking about general contemporary society — the promise of heaven or an afterlife as an essential comfort to believe in, regardless of if it literally exists or not.  Nietzsche did not have this positive view of heaven.  Nietzsche felt Christianity served two primary purposes: the first being to a method of rewarding the faithful outside of this world, since their God could not make their lives better in this world and more importantly, the afterlife was about punishment.  Today, I get the sense that the afterlife is primarily perceived as being about Heaven.  Nietzsche’s views based on his readings were that the primary purpose of the concept of the afterlife is placing in hell those people which Christians felt deserved it.

A great comfort for many early Christians was that their enemies, those who often had much more power than they did, would suffer in another life.  This is ressentiment.

The blessed in the kingdom of heaven will see the punishments of the damned, in order that their bliss be more delightful for them.—To be precise, what we find in Summa Theologiae, III, Supplementum, Q 94, Art. 1, is this: ‘In order that the bliss of the saints may be more delightful for them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, it is given to them to see perfectly the punishment of the damned’”

Since slave morality is about weakness, the first and foremost consideration is protection.  The value of society is collective protection.  We will do for others, so that others will do for us.


So is Nietzsche calling for us to return to ancient Rome and Greece?  No.  Nietzsche detested faith in “opposite values”.  This is important to discuss here.  Certainly Nietzsche sees master morality as the type of morality exuded by the strong and slave morality as a sickness.  However, sickness is not always bad. When speaking about the bad conscience, Nietzsche said it was an illness, but an illness in the sense that pregnancy is an illness.  This can easily be extended to his views on slave morality in general.

Slave morality is not necessarily all bad.  It is certainly all unhealthy.  That does not mean we cannot grow from or learn from some of it.

Nietzsche is not calling for us to choose between master and slave morality, though in fairness, he certainly wants us to err on the side of master morality.

To be more specific, I would say that Nietzsche wants us to embrace the mentality of master morality, while reflecting and learning from what we can of the tenets of slave morality.

A good example of this was the Renaissance.  He felt the Renaissance was just this, a return to master morality, albeit, a more complex and reflective than the classical version

Sadly in his view, this spirit was crushed by the Reformation.

Human Nature

“Jesus said to his Jews:  ‘The law was for servants–love God as I love him, as his son!  What are morals to us sons of God!’”  (Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, page 91)

Slave morality assumes a sinful nature for human beings.  If we continue with this assumption, then moral obligations are very important.  We need a method by which to obligate people to act contrary to their sinful will.

This is not an assumption that Nietzsche was willing to accept.  Yes, we strive for power.  Striving for power need not be about injuring others.  In fact, such injury is much more likely to inflicted by the defensive type who fears her fellow human.

If instead we look at people as fundamentally good we can look to their natures as a guide for behavior.  For instance, as far as I know, no non-human animal has any system of morality.  None act out of moral obligation.

Animals kill and love absolutely innocently.

In many ways, our dogs are the overmen Nietzsche famously speaks of.

Should we all seek to become dogs then?  Is this Nietzsche’s great answer?  Not entirely.

The key difference between us and dogs is our intelligence and ability to reflect.  I am not suggesting we sacrifice our intelligence or reflective capabilities.

However, if we move beyond the intellectual realm, there is much we should imitate from our dogs.

Our dogs are not kind or loving because they have an obligation to be such.  They simply are such.  It would be superfluous to have a moral system which obligated dogs to love the people they are cared for by.

Yet, dogs can also be vicious and violent.  Dogs will attack, harm and perhaps even kill a stranger.  This might be an unknown other dog or a human intruder.  Dogs are predators and might also take joy in perhaps killing a cat, duck, and plenty of other small animals.

Nietzsche would say such violence is a healthy expression of the dog, or a healthy discharge of power.  As I said earlier, it kills innocently.  There is no shame or regret.  The dog forgets quickly.

Certainly, earlier in our prehistory — not that modern humans do not kill wantonly — tribal warfare and fear of the other was quite common.  If we were competing with other predators — say bears — or with another tribe of human beings, we would be quick to kill them if we could.

Even if we now recognize that goodness is innate to at least some extent in human beings, as it is in dogs, we still have this problem.  Our ancestors and our dogs are both quite willing to kill and inflict pain on the other.

Is this where morality and moral obligations are needed?  To perhaps enforce consistency?

In my view, this is where our intellectual awareness and ability to reflect is of decisive importance.  

Hume said that the intellect is a slave of the passions.  Nietzsche agreed with this.  Nietzsche would also agree when Hume went on to say that it is a very useful slave.

In my own words, our intellect is our most powerful tool at our disposal.  I do not believe it can create values though.  It can only help us to understand the values and inclinations we already have.  To the extent that we have conflicting values — say of empathy and lust for dominance — it can help us negotiate between them.  Its role as a mediator in these situations is still not tantamount with being the creator of values however.

Throughout human history, I believe we have shown we have the capacity to extend our natural empathy and compassion to wider and wider communities.  For instance, we have broken down barriers that have existed in our history of tribe, race, nationalism, gender, and in some cases, species.  (for clarification, I am not pretending that any of these problems have been solved or are close to being solved.  Rather, I am simply stating that we have numerous examples of progress on these fronts at least being possible, and in some cases, that progress seems to be resilient through time.)

Can these barriers only be solved by convincing ourselves that we are inherently evil or sinful?  For instance, that our desire for power is evil?

As stated earlier, Nietzsche was against faith in opposite values.  One of the reasons this is so alarming to Nietzsche, that we would call some things good and others evil, is that many “evil” actions are necessary throughout history.

Without the American Revolution, French Revolution, American Civil War, WWI, WWII, and many others, our world would be much different.  We might not all agree with these wars, but can we say the world would be fundamentally better if we refused to fight all wars?  All wars, regardless of how noble, require the taking of human lives, including civilians.

For Nietzsche, such discussion loses the subtle distinctions and nuances needed to in a sophisticated manner determine what will be the best path forward for our society.

Our drives, including our aggressive ones, are not so easily repressed.  A healthier alternative is to sublimate or direct our aggressions towards creation and inquiry.  For instance, philosophers have a warlike zeal for truth.  So is a warlike inclination always bad?

“There are no moral phenomena at all, but only a moral interpretation of phenomena.”  (Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil page 85)


If we end up deciding that moral obligations are necessary to curb human evil, then a discussion of punishment is called for.

Nietzsche points out that punishment did not originate as a means of justice or rehabilitation.  Punishment often included gruesome torture.  The goal being to humiliate and weaken as opposed to rehabilitate.

Nietzsche saw the original relationship being a relationship between creditor and debtor.  If I kill a member of another family, I or my entire family is now in the debt of that family.  In order to make the debt even, they have the right to kill me or a member of my family.

Since the creditor tends to be more powerful, the revenge could sometimes be absolutely unchecked.  With the maturation of the state, different laws and such were put in place to codify just exactly what punishments could pay for which debts.

Eventually, we saw that the person owed a debt not just to the creditor but to the society.  Hence the notion that “he has paid his debt to society.”

Though of course, how does one pay a debt by suffering?  This certainly goes against the philosophy of Socrates and Plato.  The persona Socrates certainly makes this clear in the Republic when he says that punishment only makes weaker and to make someone weaker is to make them less good (this by the way, is master morality.  An association of power and goodness, versus slave morality, which equates the good with the weak).

Only later does punishment to at least some extent become about rehabilitation.  This only makes sense if one is posited to have free will.  So the notion that the criminal should be punished because he has free will is in Nietzsche’s view an afterthought or attempt at rationalization.  

We want to separate the offender from his action and say he could have chosen differently.  For Nietzsche this is like saying that the cougar could have chosen not to kill the deer and thus stands to be justly punished by a tribunal.

Though determinism is a whole debate unto itself, I will point out that Nietzsche saw determinism as being real and felt that there were no serious arguments for free will.  He felt the persistence of free will as a stance owed more to the value the concept has in society — for instance, in justifying punishment — versus any convincing reasoning for it.

Nietzsche also pointed out that the stronger a society becomes, the more confidant it becomes, the less severe its punishments become.  Nietzsche felt that this at least was a positive sign.  As we become more powerful, those who harm us impact us less and less.  It is like an animal deciding she can live with her fleas.

There might be an implied contradiction here.  Nietzsche wants us to be willing to destroy, to attack our enemies… but not to punish?

What is punishment other than trying to make someone repay a debt to society or trying to make someone suffer?  There does not seem to be much positive value in this.

Does this mean that we cannot seek to stop someone from committing murder?  Not at all.  Just as we relocate bears, sometimes shoot and kill cougars, et cetera, without calling any of this punishment.

Certainly, if someone is a danger to our society, and we are not strong enough to ignore it, it makes sense that we would stop it.

To pretend we are doing this for the offender, to rehabilitate him, is laughable though.


Nietzsche encouraged forgetfulness.  Nietzsche felt that the overman would not forgive.  Rather, he would simply forget.  Forgiveness is just one more aspect of slave morality.  It is the notion that others owe us a debt, and we can makes ourselves stronger by forgiving them.  To believe you can forgive someone is to believe that at least in that scenario, you are superior.  The other person may not be able to offer you anything else, but in accepting your forgiveness he can at least accept your superiority.  This is an example of how the weak pursue the will to power.

A more noble view would simply be that the other person owes you nothing.  Nietzsche once said that Jesus should not have died for our sins — he simply kept us in his debt by doing that — what would have been truly noble would have been if he died for our guilt, for our shame.  If he died and said we had nothing to be forgiven for.

So to be clear, I am not talking about intellectual forgetting.  Rather, about the willingness to let go of perceived wrongs and slights against us.

Nietzsche felt a society with the best sort of memory for these things would be most unpleasant and unhappy.  It would be focused on sacrifices and on reliving the pain and suffering.  The process he describes strikes me as societal trauma.

It reflects almost perfectly what some contemporary researchers have to say about trauma in the individual.  That trauma is a residual energy in our physiology that for whatever reason has not been discharged.  In seeking catharsis, we simply relive this trauma –and ritualize it as a society might — and make it worse.  We never overcome it and instead become engrossed in it more and more.

We should forget the wrongs done to us, to the extent possible.  We should care for others.  Not out of obligation or “selflessness”.  To do good out of obligation is very contractual in nature.  The point might be to get into heaven, to ensure that those we help will help us in return, or simply to makes us feel less “animal.”  The very best and most compassionate actions we perform should be the ones in which we are mindful of ourselves.

We should care for others because we recognize ourselves in others.  If we love ourselves, we will not want to harm what we see of ourselves in others.  For Nietzsche, the slave defined what was good as being whatever is not evil.  His first focus is on what is evil.  The master or overman however defines first what is good.  Good is anything like him and those he respects.  Bad is whatever is lowly, whatever is not good.  

Nietzsche said that in master morality one only has obligations to one’s equals.  Without context this might sound terrifying.  He qualifies this by going on to say that, without such obligations, one will treat all those who are weaker than him in accordance with his nature.  If he is a noble human being according to Nietzsche, this will she treats them with kindness.

Who are those who are weaker?  Nietzsche specifically includes animals, “A noble person has no duties to animals but treats them in accordance with his feelings which means, if he is noble, with pity.”  Like Schopenhauer, Nietzsche is a well-known animal lover.

Sadism, cruelty, et cetera springs from dysfunctional people, or sickly people, not from fully realized people.  Thus the overman, would lack any spirit of sadism, or cruelty.


I agree with Nietzsche on atheism and determinism.  It is hard for me to see how someone could be an atheist and determinist and still disagree with Nietzsche’s critique.

For those who do believe in God or free will, there is obviously much ground for disagreement with Nietzsche.  Neither of these topics are anything Nietzsche ever argued much about.  He took both atheism and determinism to be given.  It is my belief that this is because he felt Kant and Schopenhauer had been authoritative on the matter (for clarification Kant was not an atheist, but his philosophy was further developed in that direction by Schopenhauer who was both atheist and determinist).

Since they were givens for Nietzsche, I did not find it appropriate to try to prove God does not exist or that determinism is real.  These are both very important topics in and of themselves and deserve to be treated on their own, and not merely as an aside in a presentation on Nietzsche.

For me then, we should today focus on the societal implications of Nietzsche’s thought.

As opposed to asking if Christianity can be justified scientifically or theologically, I believe we should ask what has been the influence of Christianity on society?

Is punishment humane, especially within the context of determinism?

Is human nature fundamentally good or evil?
Thank you.

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Compassion Isn’t Moral

“You don’t believe in God?  Where do you get your morality from then?” Is a question atheists are often asked.  Most of my atheist friends reply along the lines of, “God and the fear of punishment is the only thing keeping you from committed violence?  I do not need God to be moral.”

I agree with my friends, that you do not need God to be moral.  The more important question to me is, without God, why would you want to be moral?

I am a loving person.  This is not to whitewash my many shortcomings.  Certainly, I have done many things which have caused others — including myself — pain.  On balance though, I believe my actions seek to foster love, compassion, and understanding.

At this point, I find the notion that I need morality or should seek to be moral rather offensive.  If I am a good person, it is because I have a good nature.  I want to be sweet for the same sorts of reasons our dogs are sweet.  Because we are loving and happy.

If there is a man or woman out there, who needs an arbitrary external moral system and moral obligations to keep him or her from causing sentient creatures needless pain, then certainly, let us make sure he or she has morality.

If you do need morality, just do not pretend this somehow makes you superior.  If you do not need morality, if you want to live your life as both a theological and a moral atheist, I welcome you.

I want to be around more nice, loving, amoral people.

Next time someone asks “You don’t believe in God?  Where do you get your morality from then?”  I am going to respond, “What in the hell makes you think I have morality?”

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Too Much Weakness

Many of my liberal friends seem to worship weakness.  Maybe they are more Christian than they realize?  Is not the 99% Movement a lot like the sort of grassroots movement that Jesus Christ might have organized?  Gather up all of the weak, convince them that the only reason that they are weaker than the strong, is because they have moral superiority over the strong.

Then again, I see a lot of my liberal friends point out that if Jesus was alive today, he would be considered too liberal by Republicans.  So perhaps I am just late in realizing something, both liberals and conservatives are proud to worship weakness in the United States.

They focus on different aspects of weakness.  Liberals fear rich and strong human beings.  Conservatives fear God and death.

Let me be clear about something, I am not calling 99% of Americans weak.  I am just rejecting the dichotomy that some want to impose.  I am also not trying to demonize those who need help or ask for help.  I am after all, a quite proud liberal.

Why am I a liberal?  Because I think that the more we help others, the stronger we are proving ourselves to be.  Investing in others and allowing others to invest in us is all about strength in my view.  It is all about having compassion for each other and positive goals for ourselves as individuals and as a society.  I want to increase taxation on the rich, because I think they are strong enough for it.  I do not want to punish them.  I want to increase services for the poor, because I think such services are investments in people with a lot of potential.  I do not see a person who has lived through homelessness or poverty as weak.

I have known too many people who have gone through the worst forms of abuse and poverty to say that they are weak.

I have also wanted to find solutions to problems and understand this amazing world we live in too much to ever be convinced by simple solutions.  The simplest solution for any problem that I have ever known involves finding a villain.

I do not want to make my liberal friends into a collective villain right now.  I want to do the best sort of battle with them, a battle that is fierce and respectful.  I want to empower.

The 1% is not the cause of our problems.  If it was, I would be very scared.  External threats are the worse.  How can we control what is outside of ourselves?

Introspection is really the solution in my view.  I want to see how I can change and how we can change to overcome whatever obstacles we have.

This does not mean I think the 100% or any percent should blame themselves.  Regardless of if you have done everything wrong or nothing wrong, self-blame helps nothing in the long term.

Rather, we need to look what we can do to help chart a more positive future.

This is by the way, the sort of advice we often give to those we love.  If your loving parents were homophobic and they are starting to realize they were wrong, I imagine you do not try to make them feel bad.  You do not say, “Mom, Dad, you are evil.”  You do something much more powerful, you offer understanding.

This is not so easily done when it comes to people we do not actually know though.  Why?  Because we forget they are human beings?  I wish!  It is because we enjoy having villains and actively want to forget that they are human beings.  It is just not so easy to do when it comes to people we know.  It is a sort of xenophobia of the soul.  The chance to pronounce someone with no connection to us a villain is too good an opportunity to pass up.

I am not suggesting wealth worship.  That is silliness.  There is a lot more to a person than if she is rich or poor.  Also, if someone is rich or poor in your view, has a lot more to do with your own economic state than it does with theirs.  I venture to say, that if you are reading this online, you are rich to more people than you are poor.

If someone makes a lot of money, they should pay more taxes than those who are relatively poorer.  I strongly support progressive taxation.  I strongly support regulation and egalitarianism.  I already mentioned my support of more social services.  No one in America should be homeless, malnourished, without healthcare, or unable to access higher education because of financial reasons.

I am all for doing battle with those who oppose these principles.  If you think this means just doing battle with those who are richer than you, you are silly.  It will involve doing battle also with a lot of people who happen to be poorer than you.  Stupidity finds its ways into all levels of the economic spectrum.

Since I have been implying and am now stating that Republican economical ideas are stupid, I am sure this post will leave everyone annoyed with me.

Almost everyone.  I think I am okay with that though.  I hunger for the exception that I know lives out there.  I know she is much rarer than 1% of anything, and that makes her much more valuable.

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I Let Things Die

I let things die.  When I do not see a clear path forward or fear humiliation in a possible defeat, I come to a standstill.  It is the only way of coping I have ever perfected.

Almost every single familial relationship I ever had has disintegrated into nothing.  Many of the most important ones, before I turned the age of eighteen.  I refused to show my weakness.  It is not that I am above forgiveness, it is that I am above fighting for something I think I might lose anyways.

If I think I might be a couple minutes late to class, I do not show up.  If I might not get the job, I do not apply.  If I am not going to be able to get the physique I want, I just binge eat and think about achieving something else.

I am letting you die.  I feel the panic coming on, that I imagine most people feel during these situations.  Just as quickly, I feel it being shut off by a malignant resignation.  I feel myself calming down.  The crisis is not averted, but it is suppressed.  I am unable to do anything other than go back to thinking about politics.  You are unable to do anything either.  Right before the resignation set in, I noticed how sunken in your eyes are.

If you look back over your life, I think you will find I was there for you, for most of it.  You always threw up a lot.  I cleaned it up, I put you on specialized diets.  I did everything I thought I should or could.  You were strong and resilient then.  I saw a path to victory.

A few years ago, not long after Stella died, you began losing weight.  You were constantly hungry.  I feared you had cancer and were doomed to die just like Stella did.  I was a bit slow to act.  I knew how it ended for Stella.  The resignation was already coming over me.  Somehow, I fought it enough, and we got you in to see the doctor.  It was not cancer.  You just had a thyroid problem.  We put you on medication.

You responded wonderfully.  You were the fat guy again that you had always been.  It was great.  Then when it was time to refill your medication, that was pricey, but still doable, they wanted to run the exact same tests over again.  So we did.  Your levels came back fine, we got some more medicine.  Then they wanted to do it again.  I knew it was going to end up being more money than I could afford.  I finissed them, got them to give you refills without the tests.  They would only go along with that for so long.  If I would not pay for you to get more tests, you would not get your medicine.

So you went without, until I was able to find a nonprofit to take you to.  They were much less expensive, but still not cheap.  The tests added up, especially when I was not getting many hours at work.  There were gaps here and there.  Nothing major.

Then you started losing weight again.  We upped your dose.  Your new doctor gave gave you a long supply.  The last month or two, you had been losing weight.  I knew we would probably have to up your dose again when we checked your blood.

T you ran out, and I did not have money to have your blood checked.  So you went off your medication, and you continued to lose weight.  I knew this was a problem, but in the past when you were off for a week or two, it was not that big of a deal.  I did not worry about it.  I put the fact that you were off of medication out of my mind because there was nothing I could do about it.

I did briefly entertain going to the doctor and saying that I had no money and needed to get your levels checked.  I could appeal to her and our personal relationship.  I could convince her that I would pay her back if she provided the services upfront.

I thought this might work, but I also knew it might not.  So I decided just to wait for a more sure thing.  I would get money soon and then we could pay for all of your tests and get you taken care of.  Until then, there was no point in worrying.

Please understand, I knew this was all wrong.  I am just telling you how I rationalized it.  I do not want you to believe any of this, because I did not entirely believe any of this.  I was letting you die.

Once we got you tested and the results came back the doctor called, frantic.  “His levels are through the roof!”
“Well he has been off of the meds for about two weeks.  I did not have money for his medication, but even before that he was losing weight again.  I got him in as soon as I could.”

“Patrick, never do that again.  I will be so mad if you do.  I would have given you medication and done the tests and you could have paid me whenever you got the money.”

I told her I understood and in the future I would do that.  I told her that other than you losing weight, you seemed to be doing well.

Here is where I really fooled myself.  For a brief moment, I thought you were doing fine.  Somehow I convinced myself that another crisis had been averted.  I got you your drugs just in the nick of time, and I would be able to smooth this one out and pretend like nothing ever happened, just like I always have before.

Once I started getting your medicine into you, you just started throwing up more.  I do not think you have eaten in a couple days.  You throw up so much.  You are tripping now, when you try to walk.

I thought about texting the doctor right now.  Letting her know you are not doing well.  Then I thought “what can she do now?”  So I will call first thing in the morning.

I am scared she is going to realize that you are in worse shape than I let on before.  I am thinking of explaining to her, that I did not realize what bad shape you were in.  I thought you were just losing weight.  I did not realize you would stop eating, even when food is offered to you.  I did not see how sunken in your eyes are.

I am rubbing your bony body, yelling at myself.  I have let you die, and I am thinking more about what the doctor will think of me.

You.  I have been in love with you for a long time now.  You are so beautiful.  You are just a cat, and Merrick, you are so much more than that.

You are a strong, pissy creature.  You never take shit from anyone.  Now though, you are so much weaker than that.

When I was little, I wished for a fucked up world.  I wanted enemies I could battle and overcome, just like I thought members of my family did.

Only in adulthood have I wanted a more perfect world, one that we do not have to fix.  I think people want a perfect world, when they lose faith in the characters of this story to battle the imperfections.

I am imperfect.  I have holes and voids in me.  I know how to spin narratives in which I make others think I have made progress.  I forget to let them know that I let you die.

    I so sorry.  I love you so much.  I do not know if you are in pain or if you are scared.  I do not know if rubbing you hurts you.  I do not know what the fuck I am doing.

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Mexican or Un-American

There was a family of evil, vengeful chameleons. Two of the most evil chameleons went on to breed with each other and see to it that the ensuing generations continued this incestuous trend. Their descendants could claim to be a distinct representation of either of the two original ancestors, while still having the characteristics of both. This made real confusion and perceived knowledge very easy for those who can only be enlightened by what they were taught before they began puberty. I am mythologizing a simple problem which owes its survival to the complexity of human psychology. I am mythologizing it for a very practical purpose. If I started this argument of mine by saying that the concepts of nationality and ethnicity are often impediments to our understanding of ourselves and others, it would be hard to convince the reader to continue on to the the second sentence.
I was once having a conversation with a Chinese-American friend of mine. His blood is Chinese, apparently. He does not know his family tree, except that his parents lived in China and consider themselves Chinese. I explained that his family may not have been in China for very many generations or considered themselves Chinese. If it turned out that five generations before settling in China his ancestors had come from Japan, what would that do? “It would make me Japanese.”
The real conversation was much longer. After asking him to suppose his family came from Japan five generations ago, I emphasized that since then, his family had lost any cultural connection to Japan. They had learned Chinese, assimilated to Chinese culture and utterly forgotten that they had ancestors from Japan. Certainly this would not make them any less Chinese now, right? Well, as you see, it apparently would.
Our very American conception ethnicity and nationality views both as inherited, as going back to our “ancestral roots.” Of course, we as a species originated in Africa. A consistent application of this logic would render us all African American. People readily assent to this and then just as quickly dismiss it as a joke, as opposed to fact and say “but my family really comes from (nation or region here).”
What they mean when they talk about what country they come from, is that they are of Mexican blood, French blood, Nigerian blood and so on. These national bloods are fictions though. You cannot assume that any two people who happen to be in Mexico or happen to consider themselves Mexicans are genetically more closely related to each other than either one might be to someone who does not consider themselves Mexican. For instance, over the years, Mexico has had immigration from European nations such as Spain, Portugal, France and the United Kingdom, as well as the continents of Africa and Asia. Add this to the the indigenous peoples who already lived in what is now considered Mexico and you have a mishmash of families with very different family trees going back quite a few generations (of course, we all eventually are related to each other). What makes them all Mexican then if there is no single Mexican blood? Well the fact that they are citizens of Mexico and consider themselves Mexican. In other words, exactly what makes both Barack Obama and George W. Bush equally American. Though it is hard to convince many Americans that there is nothing genetic about ethnicity or nationality, they readily assent that there is nothing genetic about being American. There is something special about being American. Our nationality alone seems to surpass the limitations of all other nationalities.
The hegemonic discourse in the United States says that we are all different. Quite ironic, eh? In order to be the idealistic and accepting nation that our national mythology describes as, we must be incredibly diverse and tolerant. The best way to make sure we are all diverse and tolerant is to say that we are all different and other. We become American by accepting this essential difference, not by losing it via acculturation. Since this is part of what makes us unique, a “nation of immigrants” we have to assume that the case is quite different for other nations. Other nations cannot be credited as being made up of immigrants. Two English people share the same family tree, because if one of them actually emigrated from France and the other emigrated from India, it would take away what we think makes us uniquely American. This is very similar to well-meaning Americans saying that are grateful to live in America, because they love democracy. Which is kind of like saying they love living in America, because countryside is important to them.
I used to be Mexican when I was younger. Granted, I was American, but in the cool sense of being an immigrant, who knew I was accepted despite this. Even better, I was an immigrant despite the fact that I, my parents and my grandparents, along with a couple of my great-grandparents were all born in the United States. I considered myself Mexican because that is what I was told I was. I assumed that I had Mexican culture and inclinations. I had light skin, could not speak Spanish, and did not have much more exposure to Americanized Mexican food than any of the white kids I knew who frequented Mexican restaurants. In the eyes of some, this made my Mexican membership rather tenuous. Their considering themselves more Mexican, simply entrenched me in the conviction that I was Mexican. It made my nationality that much more important to me. After all, if I was not Mexican, what was I?
It took many years for me to become comfortable with the notion that I had Mexican ancestors but am not myself Mexican. This does not mean I turned my back on my culture or am ashamed of it. It simply means that I was not content to allow my fellow Americans to foist a nationality on me that began to feel more and more arbitrary. I never really was Mexican, I just used to be slightly more of an uncritical American when I called myself Mexican.
Yet, I have plenty of friends who feel a real attachment to nations they have never actually seen. Am I now telling them that they must give up their national identity? Not at all. We need to begin defining national identity by how the person chooses to identify herself, not based on her family tree, or the few generations of that tree we have bothered to look at. Someone who is born in America to Ethiopian parents, may grow up to feel a very strong attachment to the nation of her parents. If this attachment leads her to call herself Ethiopian, then she is indeed Ethiopian.
There should be no criteria for nationality or ethnicity other than the personal criteria we set for ourselves. An ethnicity simply refers to a smaller group within a larger group. This is why Mormons are often looked at as an ethnicity. Other groups of people may also grow to have an ethnic identity, regardless of if they have nationality or race in common. What makes someone feel that they are punks or Spaniards is variable. If someone does not feel an ethnic attachment to any group, then that person is by definition assimilated. If one is a fully assimilated American, their nationality is American. Just American. Not _______-American.

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