A Nietzschean Critique of the American Left
Eric Lendrum, Politics Contributor
In all of political philosophy, one of the truly most complex and difficult thinkers to understand is Friedrich Nietzsche. Naturally, he is only one of the most significant philosophers in the history of Western Civilization, so it makes sense that he is one of the harder thinkers to get a good understanding of. This challenge almost makes it a sort of dare for political philosophy students, to overcome the thick language and decipher his greater meanings.
As such, one major concept of his is actually pretty straight-forward: Priestly Morality versus Slave Morality.
In essence, Priestly Morality dictates an outlook on life where the subjects (the “Priests”) see themselves as “good,” and judge everything else around them by whether or not they are also “good,” or simply “not good.” Therefore, as they progress through life, they view the world through an optimistic lens, and can either seek out the other “good” people or try to change the “not good people.” But at the end of the day, they will always know that they are “good,” and that there is “good” in the world.
Conversely, Slave Morality dictates the opposite outlook, where the subjects (the “Slaves”) see themselves as simply “not evil,” while their enemies are “evil.” Thus, their worldview is inherently pessimistic and cynical; even if they seek out the other “not evil” people like them, they will still have to eventually deal with the “evil” people sooner or later. Even if they successfully convert or defeat an “evil” person, they believe that there is still some other “evil” out there to be similarly defeated or converted. Quite simply, because their metric of judgment is “evil” versus “not evil,” then there always has to be some kind of “evil” in the world, or else they cannot exist.
With that, it is all too easy to make a comparison between Nietzsche’s Slave Morality and the attitude of the modern American Left, particularly as observed on American college campuses.
The current rabid manifestation of the Left – social justice warriors, keyboard warriors, campus activists, what have you – consistently find some “boogeyman” to rail against, and accuse of being responsible for all the world’s problems. From “the patriarchy,” to “white privilege,” to “institutional racism,” to “microaggressions,” the list goes on and on and on. They consistently make up an entirely new concept just to target and attack it.
This goes perfectly with their very negative, pessimistic, and cynical (sound familiar?) attitude, as they spend far more time criticizing and complaining rather than actually presenting solutions and positive ideas. Even if they appear to knock down one idea (with “white privilege” being thoroughly disproven by the rise of America’s first black President), they either continue to rally against the idea as if it is still alive (or was ever real to begin with), or they find something new to create and attack.
Now that’s not to say that the right is 100% “Priestly” as a polar opposite to the Left – the Right definitely has its demons that it seeks to destroy, both in our society and abroad. But the Right ultimately, and more often than its opponent, does cling to actual solutions, and positive ideas and promises to promote itself in addition to attacking the ideas of the Left. So the Right is definitely more “Priestly” than it is “Slave,” and is by far more “Priestly” than the Left could ever dream of being.
It is all too ironic that Nietzsche himself would most likely more align with liberalism than conservatism, what with his more secular approach to such issues as religion. Yet, even by his own analysis, he would surely agree that in modern-day America, it is the Left that more perfectly personifies the Slave Morality, and thus, lives the inherently more miserable day-to-day experience. After all, how can one ever truly be happy or satisfied if they perpetually believe that there is always some kind of evil in the world?
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