But when he [Ernst Jünger] finally realized what Hitler had done in pursuit of the same ideal of strength that he had himself cherished, even he was obliged to consider that his espousal of Darwin (the struggle for existence) and Nietzsche (the will to power) might have depended on some sort of liberal context for its rational expression.
— Clive James, Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts
That’s a very astute way of putting it. I’ve always interpreted Nietzsche within some sort of liberal context. I’m not a scholar, so I don’t know, and even less do I care, whether he truly, in his heart of hearts, believed in his illiberal, amoral rhetoric, or whether he was just idly playing with ideas that would become compact and explosive in the coming decades. I’m not interested in divining the quiddity of the man’s philosophy; I’m only interested in what use I can make of him, what his writing can suggest to me. I suppose in practice, this could reduce the Overman to little more than a motivational slogan, or worse, a marketing catchphrase, but I also suppose we have little choice but to steer a middle course between the Scylla of bovine domestication and the Charybdis of megalomaniacal destruction.
As this morning’s Interlude suggests, I enjoy listening to “pagan folk,” to use a catch-all term. Aside from the occasional black metal extremists who burn down churches, most of these modern pagans present themselves more like bardic historians, or musical scholar-reenactors, rather than rampaging barbarians. Today’s Mongols ride Harleys, sport leather jackets, and bang their heads on a steppe to blues riffs played on really cool-looking instruments. Today’s Vikings are “custodians of Norwegian traditional song” who describe lyrical themes in terms familiar to connoisseurs of buffet mysticism: “It’s basically a song that tells the story of a conversation between a man and his shadow. It kind of questions our modern Western ideas that knowledge and confirmation is something predominantly acquired externally instead of internally. The story is basically: A man is asking his shadow a question and gets no answer. Then the sun goes down and of course his shadow disappears—into, in this case, a mountain. And then the man starts shouting at the mountain and the shadow replies in echoes with his own words. So the answers are within.” Any Lululemon liberal with a COEXIST sticker on her Prius can get behind that message.
I don’t say this to mock or lament. I’m not young or jaded enough to entertain the notion that it might be a spiritual or cultural tonic to have bloodthirsty marauders occasionally pillaging the suburbs instead of touring behind their new releases and selling their merchandise. I just wonder, human nature being what it is, how long people will be content to play nicely within the confines of Fukuyama’s End of History theme park. Forget explosive ideas; never underestimate the destructive power of affluence mixed with boredom.