Nietzsche is wrong
January 2, 1984
Nietzsche once said that laws were made by the weak to limit the power of the strong. He thought such limitations were wrong.
Being one of the weak, being a man without means of expression and voice, I refute Nietzsche if only because the weak need laws to protect them from those with unbridled power.
The problem in America is that so many small people want to become big and powerful people, it is difficult to develop laws that actually curb the abuse of power.
Power comes in many packages: political, economic, cultural, intellectual, etc. Sometimes, those in one power group disagree with Nietzsche’s advocates in other power groups – except when it comes to maintaining power in their own group.
The most dangerous power comes in so called radical structures such as unions, anti-nuclear, anti-war, women’s groups. These groups use a structure that is much more democratic than the so called democratic system we claim our government is based on. Radical groups go back in time passed the 1960s and even passed the communist groups of post World War I. Some have roots in the French Revolution and evolved in America in the decades prior to the War Between the States.
These are seen as dangerous because they do not base their model on the same power structure as traditional power, and often are born on campus where corporations have less say. (this is changing as corporations begin to move right wing forces onto the campuses and increase tuitions so that students have much too much to lose by becoming radicalized. Keeping people enslaved with student loans forces them to seek out places in the corporate structure where they can be better controlled.)
Colleges are particularly good breeding grounds for radical groups because they deal with intellectual concepts rather than power relationships. Kids foolishly believe they can make a real difference in the world, and this foolishness sometimes evolves into reality when there is no thumb of power pressing down on their backs. Over the last few decades, some movements born on campus succeeded – such as the environmental movement, while others failed as kids grew up and became fully incorporated in the corporate structure and began to seek personal and political power for themselves.
Backlash against reformers, of course, is inevitable as has been seen over the last few years with the anti-affirmative action movement in which already privileged whites seek to maintain their economically superior position. Power does not recognize equality. Those who willingly give up their advantage risk subjugation by those previously subjugated.
The problem is radical or not, power corrupts people so that even so called democratic grassroots groups are often infected by the desire of a few to become superior to those that put them there. This is true of many of the political radicals as well as women’s rights groups, as previously unimportant people find they have influence and get drunk on power.
A lot of this has to do with media and human nature, and the fact that radical groups often mirror their enemies in tactics, or leaders become celebrities no longer accountable to the membership in their particular group – such as Jerry Rubin and Abby Hoffman.
Even the intellectuals from whom many of the radical thoughts emerge turn their noses up at ordinary, working class people, treating a blue collar white man as if he was retarded and an urban black man as if an unguided child. Women movements have no room for men unless they are emasculated men. Anti-war protestors begin to treat the people they are trying to win over as enemies, and resort to the same techniques of violence they cursed the system for employing.
The idea of power corrupting goes to the heart of why Nietzsche is so dangerous, and why we need laws no matter how flawed the laws are. We can’t trust human nature to police human nature, and so need some artificial element to set the rules by which powerful and powerless must comply. Unfortunately, those who make the laws are often the most guilty in abusing power.
And so even the laws become incapable of containing those who think they are above us all.