Thursday, 16 June 2011 10:45
In Part One of Friederich Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra there is a particularly provocative section entitled ‘Of the New Idol.’ Remembering that this pivotal writing of the great German thinker/philosopher, so often misinterpreted, was written in 1881, it is surprising how relevant and invigorating its strong language remains in 2011. In his Introduction to the Penguin edition of Zarathustra, R.J. Hollingdale, the distinguished Nietzsche scholar and translator writes, “[t]he book’s worst fault is excess.” But excess can also be constructive, making us think harder. The cultural historian, Norman O. Brown, once remarked during a lecture that “[i]n psychoanalysis only the exaggerations are valuable.” Why? It makes us consider even awkward realities beneath the surface that are usually outside the box of what is treated as ‘responsible debate’ according to establishment pundits who set themselves up to be the arbiters of convention at a given society, at a given time. The dynamics of denial, so well known to psychologists, are a particularly virulent mechanism by which we protect our comfort zone from intrusion by inconvenient truths.