Nietzsche’s superman

Though when most people think of superheroes they think of the type with super powers, the original idea of the ‘ superman’ was developed by Friedrich Nietzsche in the 1800s. The ubermensch (literally overman in German) never had extra-ordinary powers and wasn’t developed as the protector of man. Instead, the superman is a person who has overcome all the flaws of mankind and is essentially ‘ perfect.’ This idea, though it was thought of as an ideal goal that all people should strive for, has almost completely been used for less-than-good agendas. The details of what Nietzsche’s superman is supposed to be and how that compares with how it was used to the advantage of many dictatorships and other oppressive leaders is amazing and in many ways disgusting. What Nietzsche tried to create with his idea of the superman was human perfection, but what it actually created was fuel for evil in the world. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) developed his idea of the superman after many years of studying and teaching philosophy. It was a culmination of many ideals that Nietzsche felt were the ideals a person should follow to lead a perfect life. The superman is essentially his own society, determining his own values, finding his own happiness, and finding joy in being the one to control all of this himself. He doesn’t believe in a God or a soul or an afterlife, and therefore makes the most out of his life since he has no one else’s morals to follow. One interesting aspect of Nietzsche’s superman is his lack of compassion for the weak. Nietzsche believed that any pity felt for the less-abled only hindered the growth of the superman. This is very much like survival of the fittest that has allowed animals to evolve into better and better creatures. Though it seems uncaring and thoughtless, in some sense the idea makes sense because the superman is a type of evolution of man. Without the need to support the weak, the superman can rise above the common man and evolve into a greater being. These ideas are strictly philosophical and were most likely not meant to be used in the real world. There are many people and societies, however, who believed that Nietzsche’s writings should be followed strictly. These include Adolph Hitler, National Socialism, Fascism, and even the rock star Marilyn Manson. Just like many texts, though, Nietzsche’s writings are up for much interpretation. Hitler, for example, was a very strong believer in the philosophies of Nietzsche. He felt the idea of the superman as well as other Nietzsche writings gave him and the Nazis the right and the reason to take over what they wished and impose the beliefs they wished. In fact, Hitler believed himself to be a superman. This belief is evident by the way Hitler acted during his reign as the leader of the Nazi party. The attempted destruction of the Jewish people as a race was actually based on writings by Nietzsche. In Hitler’s mind the Jews were inferior and therefore no compassion should be given to them. Hitler, of course, took this once step further and actually killed many of the ‘ weak.’ During World War II Hitler even issued every German soldier a copy of one of Nietzsche’s writings, Thus Spake Zarathustra. National Socialism and Fascism also spawned from Nietzsche and his thoughts on society. Nietzsche himself was very much socialist in his beliefs which is evident in much of what he wrote. Though socialism may seem far from Nietzsche’s idea of the superman, it is actually very close because the ruler is looked at as a superman who makes all decisions and knows what is best at all times. This can be seen in many societies such as Italy and Germany in World War II, and to some extent The Soviet Union. In each of these cases the ruling party or man used Nietzsche’s beliefs to rationalize their rampant wars, hatred, and genocide. A third and different example of the beliefs of Nietzsche being used to the extreme is Marilyn Manson. Though Manson doesn’t use his ideas for spreading evil across the globe, he very publicly shows his following of Nietzsche’s belief in the superman. Manson dresses any way he wishes and seems to act any way he wants. Though this appears to be in defiance of culture, it is simply him following how he feels and what he wants. This belief can also be seen many times in his music and statements he has made. Marilyn Manson certainly is not evil, but he is looked down on for being so against society and not following how others believe he should act. As it can be seen in many examples, Friedrich Nietzsche’s writings have fueled much hatred and given an excuse for murder by many men and societies. The influence of Nietzsche is not all bad though. Many current values found in societies around the world can be traced to Nietzsche. In America these include: listen to the wisdom of your body; the highest virtue is to be true to yourself; sexuality must be included in a healthy, rounded life; the goal of life should be to find yourself; a high self-esteem is needed for good growth; the mind and body make up a single whole; you can’t love someone else if you don’t love yourself; and challenge yourself and don’t live passively. These beliefs, especially in the last fifteen to twenty years, have shaped America and many other cultures into what they are today. Nietzsche was in some ways a very modern thinker and can be credited at a minimum with creating change in the world. His idea of the ubermensch was very revolutionary from the ideas at the time put forth by the Christian church and other facets of society. Though it seems extreme, many of the ideas about how the superman should be are built into the core of modern societies. None-the-less, men such as Hitler used his ideas against the rest of the world and caused much mayhem and destruction based on these ideas. It is hard to say whether Nietzsche’s idea of the superman had an overall positive or negative impact on the world, but it is for sure that society would not be where it is today if it were not for Nietzsche.