I am not sure if I taught Nigel Hinds at UG when he was a student there and I was a lecturer. Most Social Sciences undergraduates had to do the first year course in philosophy taught by me. They would have been introduced to the history of philosophy from early Greek times right up to the late 20th century. Nietzsche was definitely on my reading list.
If Hinds had, then, he would have known that any philosophy teacher has to compulsorily inform his/her students, that since early times, philosophers’ works have been conveniently used by politicians and leaders, and countless distortions have resulted. Nietzsche is no exception. In fact of all the philosophers throughout history, Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche have been the two whose works have been extensively distorted through terrible misunderstanding.
The leaders of the 1917 Russian revolution and the 1959 Cuban revolution have mauled the philosophy of Marx through their ignorance of two Marxian concepts – the “vanguard party” and “dictatorship of the proletariat.” The Nazi regime and its leader, Adolf Hitler, did not understand the essential meanings behind the crucial concepts of Nietzsche.
I doubt an untrained mind like Hitler understood the writings of Nietzsche. For me, far more than Immanuel Kant and Georg Hegel, Nietzsche is more difficult to read. It is not easy at all to understand which direction he was going in. If any university graduate tells you that they comprehended Nietzsche on their second reading of his works, they are blatant liars. No human mind can comprehend Nietzsche in the first and second attempt.
In a letter in the newspaper last Sunday, Nigel Hinds, prime ministerial candidate for “Change Guyana” in the forthcoming general elections wrote; “Instead of servant leadership for the inclusive development of Guyana, we have a political leadership class making truth of a quote from Adolf Hitler’s favourite philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche that “The love of power is the demon of men.”
With so many students set to enter UG with the deluge of petro-dollars and the coming of free UG education, many of these students may take what Hinds had to say of Nietzsche seriously. Nietzsche’s philosophy can end up being distorted by young minds at UG. Because of Hinds.
Nietzsche was not Hitler’s favourite philosopher. He didn’t even read Nietzsche. It was the surviving sister of Nietzsche that gave Hitler a caricatured version of his unfinished book long after her brother had died (he died in 1900, she gave Hitler her edited publication in 1938) that she completed and made substantial changes to, due to the influence of her anti-Jewish husband. I don’t think in any biographical work on Hitler after World War 2, Nietzsche is referred to as Hitler’s favourite philosopher.
Hitler’s Nazi colleagues found two useful concepts of Nietzsche intriguing. They became emotionally attached to them and employed them in the policy-making machinery of the German government. The first one is “Will to Power.” Nietzsche’s sister gave the book that title and deliberately and grievously caricatured the meaning of “Will to Power.”
The Nazi devotees internalized the meaning to be that there is inherently the drive to have power and use it as the holder sees fit. This was not what Nietzsche meant. His thinking, that inherently there exists in the human the will to go beyond the banal and achieve meaning in their lives. The individual must at all times strive to have the “will to power.”
The other concept is the Übermensch. It was translated to mean the “superman.” Hitler completely missed the meaning of the Übermensch. It tied in with his megalomania of wanting to be the superman to save and conquer the world. This was a vulgar, jejune interpretation by Hitler.
By the Übermensch, Nietzsche was referring to the eventual saviour that will emerge after the Will to Power is achieved. He meant an eventual liberating force that will cleanse the moral bankruptcy of civilization and replace it with a liberating spirituality.
I am not sure if Nigel Hinds thought it was necessary to just write about Nietzsche without a Google search. Maybe he just accepted what he read – that Nietzsche was Hitler’s favourite thinker. I penned this column, as I stated above, just in case young minds hooked on to what Hinds wrote and the brilliant thinking of Nietzsche is lost to these young students.
Nietzsche was a deep existentialist. His body of work is worth reading if you are going to pursue a higher degree in the social sciences and humanities. It was Nietzsche who gave us the famous statement, “God is dead” to which the French added,” Marx is dead and I’m not feeling too well myself.”
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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