Friedrich Nietzsche On The State, 'The Coldest of All Cold Monsters'
"State is the name of the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly lies it also; and this lie creeps from its mouth: "I, the state, am the people.""
Friedrich Nietzsche is without a doubt one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted philosophers ever, but for those who truly understand his message, his statements and aphorisms were quite prophetic.
Nietzsche's words are still relevant to this day, his words describe our situation regarding many aspects precisely even after more than a hundred years. In one of his most influential books, Thus Spake Zarathustra, composed in four parts between 1883 and 1885, and published between 1883 and 1891, Nietzsche deals with ideas such as the "eternal recurrence of the same", the parable on the death of god, and the prophecy of the Übermensch.
And in this brilliant philosophical novel, Nietzsche delivers a stark passage discussing the state, the new idol, as Nietzsche describes it. It should be remembered that Nietzsche was experiencing a young German state seeking unity by promoting an intense form of nationalism that would eventually involve two self-destructive major wars in the 20th century.
Although in his youth a supporter of Bismarck, the famous Prussian conservative statesman who unified Germany in 1871, for having a nationalistic approach and calling for racial purity, he came in his later years to reject his militarist politics, whom he called “the idiot ‘par excellence’ who only fought wars in favor of the dynastic politics of the Hohenzollern, instead of aiming for ‘great missions, universal and historical goals of a supreme and refined intellect.’”
Nietzsche describes the state in this passage as 'the new idol', a new idol that the masses worship. It encourages uniformity and mediocrity, pandering to the masses. Freedom can only be found outside the confines of the state.
Nietzsche starts off the passage with harsh words targeted at the state:
Somewhere there are still peoples and herds, but not with us, my brothers: here there are states. A state? What is that? Well! Open now your ears to me, for now will I say to you my word concerning the death of peoples. State is the name of the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly lies it also; and this lie creeps from its mouth: "I, the state, am the people."
It is a lie! Creators were they who created peoples, and hung a faith and a love over them: thus they served life. Destroyers, are they who lay traps for many, and call it the state: they hang a sword and a hundred cravings over them. Where there is still a people, there the state is not understood, but hated as the evil eye, and as sin against laws and customs. This sign I give to you: every people speaks its language of good and evil: this its neighbor understands not. Its language has it devised for itself in laws and customs.
Nietzsche held the state o be a monster, the coldest of monsters even, a lying monster spewing the most despicable li that "the state is the people". Nietzsche found that to be pure nonsense and an illusion. As long as individuals believe this lie, there will be no prosperity.
But the state lies in all languages of good and evil; and whatever it says it lies; and whatever it has it has stolen. False is everything in it; with stolen teeth it bites, the biting one. False are even its bowels. Confusion of language of good and evil; this sign I give to you as the sign of the state. Truly, the will to death, indicates this sign! Truly, it beckons to the preachers of death! Many too many are born: for the superfluous ones was the state devised! See just how it entices them to it, the many-too-many! How it swallows and chews and re-chews them! “On earth there is nothing greater than I: it is I who am the regulating finger of God.” — thus roars the monster.
The state thrives through illusion and trickery, it invented morality on its own terms to justify its acts, it created forms of good and evil, confining the masses, and forcing them into its will. The majority of victims of the state's lies and treachery are the simple folk, but Nietzsche states that also people with high intellects and 'great souls' fall prey to its lies.
And not only the long-eared and short-sighted fall upon their knees! Ah! even in your ears, you great souls, it whispers its gloomy lies! Ah! it finds out the rich hearts which willingly lavish themselves! Yes, it finds you out too, you conquerors of the old God! Weary you became of the conflict, and now your weariness serves the new idol! Heroes and honorable ones, it would rather set up around it, the new idol! Gladly it basks in the sunshine of good consciences, — the cold monster!
Everything will it give you, if you worship it, the new idol: thus it purchases the gleam of your virtue, and the glance of your proud eyes. It seeks to allure by means of you, the many-too-many! Yes, a hellish artifice has here been devised, a death-horse jingling with the trappings of divine honors! Yes, a dying for many has here been devised, which glorifies itself as life: truly, a hearty service to all preachers of death! The state, I call it, where all are poison-drinkers, the good and the bad: the state, where all lose themselves, the good and the bad: the state, where the slow suicide of all — is called “life.” Just see these superfluous ones! They steal the works of the inventors and the treasures of the wise. Culture, they call their theft — and everything becomes sickness and trouble to them! Just see these superfluous ones! Sick are they always; they vomit their bile and call it a newspaper. They devour one another, and cannot even digest themselves. Just see these superfluous ones! Wealth they acquire and become poorer thereby. Power they seek for, and above all, the lever of power, much money — these impotent ones! See them clamber, these nimble apes! They clamber over one another, and thus scuffle into the mud and the abyss. Towards the throne they all strive: it is their madness — as if happiness sat on the throne! Often sits filth on the throne. — and often also the throne on filth. Madmen they all seem to me, and clambering apes, and too eager. Badly smells their idol to me, the cold monster: badly they all smell to me, these idolaters.
Nietzsche see the masses worshiping the state as the new idol, and the state promises them prosperity and the good life if they confine, and stick to its rules, regulations and morality. But everything given by the state is stolen, the state is nothing but a thief, a thief that expects praise for its theft, thief of the most disgusting kind. The state knows that human beings are corruptible and willing to give up everything in exchange for power. The state creates idols and deems them honorable, idols that are not worthy of honor at all. The state elevates the dying for its sake as an honorable act, the most honorable act and calls those who are willing to give up their lives for it ‘heroes’ and men of honor, men worthy of the highest form of praise. In this sense, the state is a preacher of death, and despiser of life.
My brothers, will you suffocate in the fumes of their snouts and appetites! Better break the windows and jump into the open air! Go away from the bad odor! Withdraw from the idolatry of the superfluous! Go away from the bad odor! Withdraw from the steam of these human sacrifices! Open still remains the earth for great souls. There are still many empty seats for the lonesome and the twosome, fanned by the fragrance of silent seas. Open still remains a free life for great souls. Truly, he who possesses little is so much the less possessed: praised be a little poverty! There, where the state ceases — there only commences the man who is not superfluous: there commences the song of the necessary ones, the single and irreplaceable melody. There, where the state ceases — pray look there, my brothers! Do you not see it, the rainbow and the bridges of the overman? — Thus spoke Zarathustra.
Nietzsche talks preaches against the state, and warns people of its destructive nature and the bleak outcome of becoming a slave and worshiper of this idol. The last part of this passage is quite strong and prophetic, in which Nietzsche states clearly, when the state exists, we all perish, and when it ceases to exist, the road to the Übermensch begins.
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