Aug 5, 2009

nietzsche and the whip

Being some kind of Nietzsche scholar, with my forthcoming book on the Last Disciple of the Philosopher Dionysos, I feel I have to do some posts refering to good old Fritz here, too. First and main objective: Do away with some of the long lasting prejudices concerning the philosopher. He was no fascist, not even a proto-fascist; he was no anti-Semite, and his negative statements on anti-semitism could not be reduced to the idea of him being merely an anti-anti-Semite and so on.
Then, Nietzsche and women. Not an easy one, so I will start with it. To have a rousing starting-point, let's take the whip. Sensational. Rendered like that in online-versions of "Thus spake Zarathustra": "Thou goest to women? Do not forget thy whip!"-- Thus spake Zarathustra.
Now, this is a widespread rendering, and it is wrong, at least an erroneous translation. It does not read: "thy whip", but "the whip". It is not Zarathustra, the protagonist of Nietzsche's book, who brings forth that "little truth". It is an old woman. One like truth (on certain occasions Nietzsche makes fun of the eroticist Plato by using the metaphor of "old woman" for "truth"). The story goes like that: an old woman asks Zarathustra to give a speech on women. He refuses. She convinces him to do. He utters some commonplace "wisdom" on gender-relationship according to the bias of his time (we know, what he has thought about the latter in principle). She thanks him and, in return, whispers a "!little truth" into his ears (the one rendered above). She admonishes him to hold its mouth, so that it will not scream too loudly, that little truth.
And how that big falsehood has screamed! Screamed in the name of Nietzsche, as if he had said that. He has not. He has written a book, the protagonist of which has not uttered it, too. So even if we thought, that Zarathustra was Nietzsche's alter ego, we were wrong to say, that the whip-sentence was a comment from Nietzsche's perspective. That is the milk for the beginners. Meat for the adult: No clue is given in the text about who is holding the whip and what the person is doing with it. "Do not forget the whip" - as Annemarie Pieper (a woman) has pointed out in her commentary on "Thus spake Zarathustra", it could be the woman holding the whip and she could use it in different ways. To the left we see a picture of a woman holding a whip. This is a nowadays-style of depicting a woman with a whip. What is she about to do with it? Punish the poor man? Use the crack of the whip as a rhythmic device for danceurs? Draw a circle of reverence around herself? Annemarie Pieper suggests the latter, if I remember it rightly. May be an idealistic interpretation. What we do know, is, that in Nietzsche's writings, we find the first use of the whip as a practice he ascribes to the moralistic interpretation of the world. He does not like that world-view, as we all know, and he has some pretty good arguments, too, as some of us might know after having read the Genealogy of Morals. On the right, we see a woman holding a whip in her hands, an image more likley to be one that Nietzsche in his time could have had in his mind. What he could have had in his mind when relating to the use of the whip, is supposedely the rhythm of the dance. At least, we find that metaphor in his writings used in an affirmative way. The same holds for the practice that Annemarie Pieper has in mind. Whatever interpretation we tend to, we must be aware of the fact, that it is "the whip", which according to the old lady the man that goes to women should not forget, not "his whip". We cannot be sure, that it is her whip, but Nietzsche - giving us a rather harmless version of the use of the whip - makes sure it is in the woman's hand, as we can see on that famous photograph on the left again, that he has arranged. It features Paul Rée and lovely Lou Salomé. I would have liked to go on with some remarks on gender-construction chez Frédéric, but this will be another post, albeit not another topic. So I close with popular culture again. The song that first came to my mind was the Rolling Stones' When the Whip Comes Down, a two-chord rock'nroller from "Some Girls" (A-D; changing to G-D for one chorus). For the sake of featuring good music here, I decided to bring in Beast of Burden from the same album. In first place, it fits with the picture of Lou, Paul and Fritz, and secondly, beasts of burden (the camel and the ass) are prominent as caricatures of the representatives of the moralistic world-view in Nietzsche's writings. Although I do not agree with his overall interpretation of the "doctrine" of eternal recurrence, I still do think that Gilles Deleuze has given insightful comments on the donkey and the camel as metaphors in Nietzsche's works.

For all the scholarly stuff (quotations, refined arguments and the like), read my book!!!

1 comment:

  1. This post came in so handy; in part as percpective on "the whip" for a seeming endless paper on Nietzsche and the feminine, and also for your unique intertwining of Nietzsche, Doms and the Stones which made me smile. What an interesting mind! I will read your book.
    Miss Kier