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122. Waiting

Nietzsche always set out to be self-contradictory; he prided himself on stepping in one direction and then turning back in his traces and crisscrossing himself. For Nietzsche, life should be a dance: the dancer moves across the ballroom or dance floor in a rhythmic pattern, and yet they will recross areas that they have already trod, in a new way. There has to be a rhythm—it is not complete chaos—and people move within certain variations, within beats or notes, that are bounded by extremes while containing variations within each moment.

Nietzsche’s contradictory nature is no more evident than when he is talking about the Jews. In one turn, he blasts the anti-Jewish opinion of his times, but in another moment he invents a new kind of anti-Jewish outlook. Nietzsche, being anti-Christian, had no time for the long-established hostility to Jews that came from Christianity: the priests who noted that the Jews killed Christ, called His blood upon their heads, and had taken up the profane activity of usury. This view was, even in Nietzsche’s time, dying off; and it was a view that held Jews could redeem themselves by conversion. The new hostility towards Jews, exemplified by Nietzsche’s quondam idol Wagner, was purely biological. It had no path to redemption for the persecuted; it carried over many elements of the old Christian view, but took a simple biological approach which held that the Jews were a racial threat to Europeans.

For his part, Nietzsche had no time for this biological view, a view he associated with Germans: a nation he considered stupid and addled with carbohydrates, particularly beer. He saw them as a sentimental race; and he so despised them that he pretended to have noble Polish blood. His “blond beast” was a Renaissance prince, not a Teutonic forest-dweller. Wagner—a musician for homosexuals and women—was, for Nietzsche, the chief exemplar of Germany’s limp-wristed sensuality. He laughed at the bank managers and clerks dressed up as Siegfried in their Wagner fan clubs; they were the LARPers of their day. They subscribed to Schopenhauer’s gloomy philosophy and renounced life as tragedy: Nietzsche wanted people to embrace life; for people to live, love, laugh. Hitler, a huge Wagner fan, represented the very feminine, sentimental, and hysterical aspects of Wagner’s music that Nietzsche despised; thus Spengler observed, regarding Hitler, that Germany needed a real hero, not a heroic tenor.

By contrast, Nietzsche asserted that the Jews were the strongest race in Europe—certainly better than the melancholy and self-pitying Germans. “Vhy no vorld empire for Fritz? Boo hoo! English and Jews took it from us. I shoot myself vith revolver, ja?” Being Nietzsche, he also wheeled round and attacked the Jews in the most unsparing terms; for Nietzsche was interested in values, not race as such. He said the Germans put loyalty and honour above all; the Jews obedience to the patriarch above all; and the Aryans truthfulness above all. Judaism was bad because it poisoned classical values through Christianity, an ideological revenge weapon, with its ideas of an afterlife and celebration of everything womanly and resentful; and so a Wagnerian opera with its Christian-Buddhist themes was the apotheosis of Semitic values, albeit hostile to Jews as a race. We despise people who are similar to us, hence brothers fight vociferously; the National Socialists, seeking to copy Jewish racial strength, acted in an extremely Jewish way by tribalising the Germans: this is why they sought to exterminate the Jews completely; we destroy what we resemble—we destroy what we imitate, our fathers.

If the Jews invented Christianity as a revenge on the Romans who dominated them then it was a mistake; for surely no religion has persecuted the Jews as much as Christianity. In fact, the last pagan emperor, Julian the Apostate, saw the Jews as an ally against the Christians; he even started rebuilding the Temple: contra Nietzsche, the pagans and Jews were simpatico. So, in this respect, Nietzsche was quite wrong—though interestingly wrong.

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