Chasing Greatness Often Leads to Hate, not Love
Commentary by Ernesto Tinajero
It is a mystery about chasing human greatness. Why do many of the totalitarian movements — whether the dreams about the Third Reich of the Nazi Germany or messianic dreams of a Proletariat Paradise of International Communist movement — always start with idol of restoring or increasing human greatness?
Restore the greatness of the German people or elevate the workers of the world to create a utopia leads to the idea of certain groups needing to be eliminated for the dream to come into being. Why do those two movements seem to power their building of their tower of greatness by violence? We have witnessed the history of those dreams really leads to the Gulags or concentration death camps rather than a grand garden of greatness.
Beyond history, we see this dynamic working today, as when Russia invaded Ukraine for supposed the reason of restoring Russian Empire’s greatness. Such dreams seem only to lead to needless death and destruction. Why does the drive to imagined greatness, to build a name for ourselves tend to lead to violence, death and hate as the path to this imagined paradise?
Many may think this connection as happenstance and not really connected; correlation and not causation. Building the Tower of Babel for the glory of making a name for the nation does not necessarily lead to a barbed wire and striped uniforms. The bricks of the pyramids can be laid by others and not necessarily by oppressed slaves. Yet, our history as humans reveals the search for own greatness does, more often than not, lead to violence and genocide. It seems when we want to become supermen, we tend to build this greatness on the chains of slaves.
Nietzshe’s and the Superman
So what may explain how the search for making our own name great sets us to follow path of hate? Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher who is best known for his controversial ideas about morality, power and the individual, offers a clue. His idea of the “Übermensch,” or “superman” offers the key to our mystery.
For Nietzsche, the superman was someone who had overcome all obstacles and achieved greatness over the mass of humanity. They were individuals who had achieved their goals, while also inspiring others to do the same by stepping on the fools below the supermen. Nietzsche argued that these individuals should be admired and respected, rather than hated. Once one achieve greatness, they became a supermen. The seductive power of his superman ideal has motivated many in the modern world. It also is the backbone of his ideas about hate.
Nietzsche’s philosophy of hate is closely tied to his ideas about the superman. He argued that hate was a necessary part of the human condition and that it was important to recognize and despise those who could not overcome their obstacles.
At the same time, Nietzsche argued that the superman should be admired and respected, rather than hated. He argued that this was the only way to truly achieve greatness and become the Übermensch.
The Prison of ‘Supposed Greatness’
Hate for the “weak” was necessary. Hate being the dream of the many who see those weaker have to be at minimum, suppressed, and, ideally, eliminated for man’s greatness to manifest.
These dark ideas can be seen in history of eugenics where the goal was to eliminate criminality by making the criminals not breed, to breed out immorality, stupidity and inferiority. This view of greatness has no need of love your enemies and only to identify those who held back greatness and rid the world of them.
This reach for greatness without love can only lead to hate. For greatness to manifest in our world, the idea goes, then, those — whether the Jews for Nazis, or the Capitalists for the communists — have to be eliminated. The rock that is destined to be stained of the blood of the weak who stand in the way of utopia has to be raised in ready for the blow in the name of greatness.
But, what if we instead of raising the name of greatness, we take up love. Love, even the most challenging of love — the love of enemies — can help us escape the madness of chasing greatness.
If we take up love seriously, then we have to find a way to live even with those we see as enemies. We find ourselves living in a messy world rather than in a prison of the deluded imagination of supposed greatness.
Art, says Ernesto Tinajero, comes from the border of what has come before and what is coming next. Tinajero uses his experience studying poetry and theology to write about the intersecting borders of art, poetry and religion.