Definitions, Limitations…Contemplations

It was the late 1800s in Germany. Automobiles that had internal combustion engines powered by gasoline started to take off. The Reinsurance Treaty between Germany and Russia was signed in the shadows. A particular manuscript was published at the personal expense of a renowned (and infamous during his time) philosopher. The year after it was published, this philosopher suffered a mental breakdown and the nation had just chosen a leader who will begin a reign of terror that will last decades.

Such was the environment for Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil.

Published in 1886, Nietzsche presents a critique towards the philosophers before him. He charges them with merely following the “status quo” regarding morality. He charges them with basing their philosophical musings from religious dogma, a more traditional perspective of morality where good is the total opposite of evil. His premise in the book then is to create a morality that goes beyond such dogmatic limitations through a more “individualistic” perspective. It’s quite a lengthy document, spanning nine sections that further explore this premise. It is in these sections that he breaks down how the history of philosophy, for one, has been flawed into looking into what defines “good” and “bad” into what constitutes “good” and “evil,” a profound concept that is entirely different from just being “bad.” This continues into his exhortations of how science, European cultures and even religion have succumbed to what he believes is a “mistaken” view of how life is ordered. Though it is written in a scholarly fashion (meaning there are a lot of highfalutin phrases like “tyrannically ruthless and inexorable enforcement of power-demands” and “from every point of view the erroneousness of the world”), Nietzsche goes straight for the heart and rips off the aorta. He makes no qualms of his opinions and is clear on what needs to be changed. Most striking is this particular statement: “The time for petty politics is past: the very next century will bring with it the struggle for mastery over the whole earth.”

And this, I believe, is where he hits it. Many of the ideologies right now are mostly political in nature – a push-pull of influences and power-plays that, sadly, still exist today. For a lot of countries that are held under religious influences, the perspective of what is good and what is evil mostly remain the same. “Free spirits,” as Nietzsche calls them, are still few and far in between. Nevertheless, it’s slowly getting there.

If you would like to look at how Nietzsche thinks, this is a good starter. Too bad that a year after this was published, he began his mental breakdown until he finally needed assistance and eventually died from his mental condition. The world needs another Nietzsche. 

Manifesting the Communist Manifesto Today

In an article in About.com, it’s said that there are only five countries left that practice communism in their central governments now: China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam.  And though there may still be other countries where communist political parties exist, the ideology itself looks to be more of a textbook concept rather than a social reality. This is especially true with the highly capitalist and democratic free trade global policies happening right now, along with the virtual reality of the online global community, where information is key and king. There is then that concern if the Communist Manifesto can still be called relevant in today’s times.

True to its name, the Communist Manifesto is the go-to document to practice an ideology where the production of goods are distributed equally to the population, and thus, removing the idea of class. The manifesto is divided into five main parts: the introduction, the differentiation between the bourgeois and proletarians, the similarities between the proletarians and the communists in their goals for the working class, the presentation of major socialist literature, and the comparison of the practice among selected countries during the time of the manifesto’s first publication. From here, we see the foundations of what Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the manifesto’s authors, would like to see in an effective communist society.

What is remarkable here is the passionate language used in presenting the communist ideals. Marx and Engels have placed the socio-political ills straight into the bourgeois’ lap, the financial and political elite of the society. In their eyes, it is the bourgeois that controls the capitalist movement that has made the working class suffer with their greed and manipulation. In turn, the whole society suffers as well as the working class constitute the majority of the population. They use the manifesto as a call to action; the working class are to take up arms and overthrow the ruling class with violence. The manifesto then mostly presents its arguments of equality and a class-less society over an emotional base. It is seemingly logical, with the presentation of historical facts in Part II, but it is seen to incite feelings of resentment and anger, which would be needed if you would need to have a violent revolution.

This same manner of argument is also seen in how Marx and Engels compare communists to proletarians and the different countries that have gone through similar ideologies. It’s curious to see how they laud Germany as the only country to have practiced the “true Socialism,” which is ironic today as Germany has one of the biggest capitalist markets in Europe.

Perhaps the danger here is that since the manifesto is a “foundational” document, it can be seen as a “dated” one. True, there is still the divide between classes, but the manifesto has failed to take into account technological advances that have begun to make the world even smaller in terms of political, social and cultural aspects. Moreover, the advent of the internet and social networking sites has given the illusion of equality: events in Egypt are seen all over the world, a good deed seen in a backwater county in Thailand is shared in thousands of social networking accounts. The call of action for change now looks to be no longer through violence (though it is still pretty much part of today’s climate), but through the Matrix and the combined voices of the public. All may not be lost for the manifesto, though.

Most of the world today have more or less shed the cloak of communism (particularly in Europe, where it all began, oddly enough), but the ideology may still be held true in smaller, more intimate societies like communes. Rather than undergo the “violent overthrow of the bourgeois,” though, there is a complete or near-complete shunning of the current society and the formation of isolated communities that will practice a more equalized sharing of labour and production. To bring it up to a national (or even international) level, though, will face quite a more daunting challenge. Unless there is an individual who has the balls and enough military chutzpah to do it, communism will continue to be seen as a historical curiosity or a niggling, disturbing thought at the back of the majorly capitalist world.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels would have their hair torn out if they realize just how “far” their ideology has reached.