He, what’s coming there?
O… it’s you, my good friend.
What have you been doing lately?
You don’t know… how strange.
I always like to know where you are,
and what you are doing… sense of mine.
My good thought, friend, please…
let me know when you leave me next time.
Human all too human
By the waterfall. – At the sight of a waterfall we think we see in the countless curvings, twistings and breakings of the waves capriciousness and freedom of will; but everything here is necessary, every motion mathematically calculable. So it is too in the case of human actions; if one were all-knowing, one would be able to calculate every individual action, likewise every advance in knowledge, every error, every piece of wickedness. The actor himself, to be sure, is fixed in the illusion of free will; if for one moment the wheel of the world were to stand still, and there were an all-knowing, calculating intelligence there to make use of this pause, it could narrate the future of every creature to the remotest ages and describe every track along which this wheel had yet to roll. The actor’s deception regarding himself, the assumption of free-will, is itself part of the mechanism it would have to compute.
This week I listened to the book: Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook by Mark Bray. It is a good book, it starts with a more general history of fascism and anti-fascism going over in a more detailed history and description of anti-fascism in America and several European countries up till now. The last part of the book is about the modern day and especially Trump and the alt-right and how to react to those negative forces. It is not a handbook in the sense of a guide on how to start a Antifa group where you live. There are some tips and different activist give their opinions about the things you should and shouldn’t do. If you don’t know much about fascism and Antifa than this is a good book to start with.
The thing I remembered most is a quote: (and I’m paraphrasing) “white is an ideology”. Meaning that calling yourself white is not an objective thing but related to an ideology, there were times that Jews and Italians were not seen as “whites” by racist. I always knew that, but this quote made it simple for me and might help me when debating (mostly ignorant) racist people. Explaining people why refugees come here, for instance, will often help them to understand it and except it.
The place where I live in Norway is small, around 3000 people live here and last year we got our “quota” of refuge’s. I have to guess but there are probably between 50 and a 100 people from Syria and from some African counties like Eritrea that came here last year. I have not heard any complains but that can be because of the people I hang out with, but I have not seen any signs of hatred let alone neo-Nazi’s. In the book it is mentioned that the Antifa in Norway more or less scared away the neo-Nazi groups but that’s not to say that there is no racism in Norway, it’s just not something people talk about.
So, for me there is not much to do if I wanted to be more active like protesting against neo-Nazi’s and racism. I keep it to writing about it even when only a handful of people read it and probably no one that disagrees with me. I do think it is important to read about it because racism sneaks in. Even in Holland the more progressive parties say thing nowadays that were taboo thirty years ago, they slowly move towards the right, pushing the right more towards the extremes. In this process the people also slowly move their moral compass towards the extreme-right, this is what happened in Germany in the thirties where decent, well educated people slowly closed their eyes and killed millions of people in gas chambers. And you might say that that will never happen here but that is what the people back than also sad. In America it is even scarier right now than I Europe, there government there discredits the news media and their political opponents and those tactics come straight out of a handbook for wannabe dictators, read your history.
I wonder down memory.
Don’t see what I am looking.
When freedom flies close.
Startled I go.
70 Execution. – How is it that every execution offends us more than a murder? It is the coldness of the judges, the scrupulous preparation, the insight that here a human being is being used as a means of deterring others. For it is not the guilt that is being punished, even when it exists: this lies in educators, parents, environment, in Is, not in the murderer – I mean the circumstances that caused him to become one.
This is an aphorism from Friedrich Nietzsche from his book Human all too human. I agree with him, executing someone is wrong, I see it like playing god, or pretending to know what we are and judge others according to your believe. As far as I know we are all clueless on why we are here. If you accept that than it should be obvious that you cannot decide to remove someone from this life. I know that the people that are condemned to be executed have often taken lives and should be restrained from doing that again, but it speaks for a society that condemns executions, that they admit that we are all in it together and that life is secret. Most countries that still have a death penalty are religious or have a strong ideological government like in China. These countries follow strict written rules that define the world like the rules you find in the bible or Koran or within a rigid ideology like communism. For people that follow these rules (maybe because their society tells them to) it’s much easier to ignore their guilty conscious and point at the specific chapter in their rule-books for confirmation, they can hide behind there believe without taking personal responsibility for their moral choices. Having a believe on a personal level might not be a choice, but a society can steer away from archaic believe systems.
But more important than Nietzsche opposition to the death penalty is his questioning of a personal responsibility for our actions. That is of course a topic he writes about in many places and this aphorism is just a little prick, to let the reader no what is important to him. Simply set: do we have an independent soul that is responsible for our actions or are we just a complicated machine that gives different outcomes depending on what you put in to it. Is the character you have at birth, your upbringing, environment, schooling, and other experiences define you in such a way that you don’t have much of a choice in what you become?
You can come up with all kinds of scenarios where people get chances or not, are born at the wrong time, at the wrong place, you can make it as complicated as you want but my best guess is that there is only a small part of you that is so unique (because of all the specific circumstances in your life) that you can call it you. But this you is like a person on a rudderless oil tanker drifting at sea and the only thing you can steer this 300ft ship with is an paddle.
I have a pile of books on my nightstand, I have a short attention span. There are some sailing books, books about Nietzsche, the autobiography of Krushev, a Nazi encyclopedia, a book about climbing the mount Everest and a good book by Sabastian Haffner called Germany 1939 Jekyll & Hyde about German society in the year the war started. I just started the biography of Willem Vos, a well-known Dutch ship builder who made a replica of the Batavia. I learned my trade working on that project and I met him, but did not work with him, he was already retired. The book I put away for now is Fire and fury, the Trump book. Besides my short attention span when it comes to reading books I get kind of tired of this whole Trump thing. The good thing about trumps is, that it puts a magnifying glass on the American political system and it is kind of disgusting what you see. I wrote in an earlier post about the time I turned eighteen and that I thought that I would finally enter the land of the rational people and leave the children that surrounded me at school behind me. How wrong was I, we are not rational, we just climbed out of the tree and barely learned not to bash each other’s heads in when we feel the urge, but we still like to throw feces at each other. I only voted ones in my life, I don’t like compromises when it comes to my ideals and from the beginning I realized that people, including politicians, never tell the truth if they try to sell you something. The party I voted for was more of a protest party, they were called the “idealistic party” (I think) and they had some idealistic ideas on how to organize a country, knowing that it would never happen. What I see now in America, and it probably happens everywhere, is a bunch of snake oil salesman selling promises while there are qualified people standing on the sideline trying to show the real medicine. How stupid do you have to be if one scientist tells you that there is no global warming and you believe him and not the 99 other scientist that warn you that there might be a problem. Democracy has brought us westerners some good and to get on the right track as a society it is important that there is a vote on its trajectory. But the ultimate outcome of each society should be a one-party rule because everybody will eventually realize what is good for everybody. Look at economics, first there were no rules, then they came up with different ones, they fine tune them, learn from mistakes and one day their will be a consensus on what the rules of economics are. If those rules are widely accepted, you don’t need to fight over them in a multiple party system. If we follow this logic we would eventually end up with consensus on all topics. Call it the Star Trek system, or the idealistic system.
I am reading the book Heavens gate from Benjamin E. Zeller. It’s about the suicide of 39 people that believed in some kind of Christianity wherein every saint and wonder is replaced by an alien and/or some future tech. I just picked this up because it’s interesting to see how people can, and come to believe in these kinds of things and take it so seriously that they kill themselves because over it. If you look it up on YouTube and watch it, you would be amazed but look also at all the other wacky believes people talk about in all seriousness. I’m only halfway now but so far, I like the book, the writer is not an amateur with an interest in these things but an actual scholar who did his research. He takes several points of view under investigation and quotes other researchers that have written about this specific group, but he also uses general scientist in the fields of psychology, sociology and other. One of his main points is his opposition to brush these people away by saying that they are brainwashed. He explained that brainwashing is not a scientific term and that it simplifies the cause of these peoples believes and consequent suicides. I written before about the ease we people can believe anything and when I finished the book I will see if I can say more about it.
But reading what these people believe made me wish that I could do that. Imagine that you really believe that the way you live and behave will give you a place in a spaceship that would fly you to their planet and give you a new, and better body. If that was true I would through myself from the nearest cliff and never come back, definitely more interesting than living on earth I would say. But I am a skeptic and could never believe that, even if I wanted to.
A note to this story: most people find this heaven gate story unbelievable and think these people are crazy, but these same people believe that they will go to heaven and see their dog and grandma again or believe that the alignment of the stars influence their lives or think that karma is a thing or reincarnation is true. Most accepted religions have crazy stories, you only have to read their books and you wander who’s the crazy one. Christians believe that people can live in a fish (Jonah 1-17), sounds to me as crazy as thinking that aliens where here in the past.
Ever since men have reasoned, the philosophers have obscured this matter: but
the theologians have rendered it unintelligible by absurd subtleties about grace.
Locke is perhaps the first man to find a thread in this labyrinth; for he is the first
who, without having the arrogance of trusting in setting out from a general
principle, examined human nature by analysis. For three thousand years people
have disputed whether or no the will is free. In the “Essay on the Human
Understanding,” chapter on “Power,” Locke shows first of all that the question is
absurd, and that liberty can no more belong to the will than can colour and
What is the meaning of this phrase “to be free”? it means “to be able,” or assuredly
it has no sense. For the will ”to be able ” is as ridiculous at bottom as to say that
the will is yellow or blue, round or square. To will is to wish, and to be free is to
be able. Let us note step by step the chain of what passes in us, without
obfuscating our minds by any terms of the schools or any antecedent principle.
It is proposed to you that you mount a horse, you must absolutely make a choice,
for it is quite clear that you either will go or that you will not go. There is no
middle way. It is therefore of absolute necessity that you wish yes or no. Up to
there it is demonstrated that the will is not free. You wish to mount the horse;
why? The reason, an ignoramus will say, is because I wish it. This answer is
idiotic, nothing happens or can happen without a reason, a cause; there is one
therefore for your wish. What is it? the agreeable idea of going on horseback
which presents itself in your brain, the dominant idea, the determinant idea. But,
you will say, can I not resist an idea which dominates me? No, for what would be
the cause of your resistance? None. By your will you can obey only an idea which
will dominate you more.
Now you receive all your ideas; therefore you receive your wish, you wish
therefore necessarily. The word “liberty” does not therefore belong in any way to
You ask me how thought and wish are formed in us. I answer you that I have not
the remotest idea. I do not know how ideas are made any more than how the
world was made. All that is given to us is to grope for what passes in our
The will, therefore, is not a faculty that one can call free. A free will is an
expression absolutely void of sense, and what the scholastics have called will of
indifference, that is to say willing without cause, is a chimera unworthy of being
Where will be liberty then? in the power to do what one wills. I wish to leave my
study, the door is open, I am free to leave it.
But, say you, if the door is closed, and I wish to stay at home, I stay there freely.
Let us be explicit You exercise then the power that you have of staying; you have
this power, but you have not that of going out.
The liberty about which so many volumes have been written is, therefore, reduced
to its accurate terms, only the power of acting.
In what sense then must one utter the phrase-” Man is free “? in the same sense
that one utters the words, health, strength, happiness. Man is not always strong,
always healthy, always happy.
A great passion, a great obstacle, deprive him of his liberty, his power of action.
The word “liberty,” “free-will,” is therefore an abstract word, a general word, like
beauty, goodness, justice. These terms do not state that all men are always
beautiful, good and just; similarly, they are not always free.
Let us go further: this liberty being only the power of acting, what is this power?
it is the effect of the constitution and present state of our organs. Leibnitz wishes
to resolve a geometrical problem, he has an apoplectic fit, he certainly has not
liberty to resolve his problem. Is a vigorous young man, madly in love, who holds
his willing mistress in his arms, free to tame his passion? undoubtedly not. He has
the power of enjoying, and has not the power of refraining. Locke was therefore
very right to call liberty “power.” When is it that this young man can refrain
despite the violence of his passion? when a stronger idea determines in a contrary
sense the activity of his body and his soul.
But what! the other animals will have the same liberty, then, the same power?
Why not? They have senses, memory, feeling, perceptions, as we have. They act
with spontaneity as we act. They must have also, as we have, the power of acting
by virtue of their perceptions, by virtue of the play of their organs.
Someone cries: “If it be so, everything is only machine, everything in the universe
is subjected to eternal laws.” Well! would you have everything at the pleasure of a
million blind caprices? Either everything is the sequence of the necessity of the
nature of things, or everything is the effect of the eternal order of an absolute
master; in both cases we are only wheels in the machine of the world.
It is a vain witticism, a commonplace to say that without the pretended liberty of
the will, all pains and rewards are useless. Reason, and you will come to a quite
contrary conclusion. If a brigand is executed, his accomplice who sees him expire
has the liberty of not being frightened at the punishment; if his will is determined
by itself, he will go from the foot of the scaffold to assassinate on the broad
highway; if his organs, stricken with horror, make him experience an
unconquerable terror, he will stop robbing. His companion’s punishment becomes
useful to him and an insurance for society only so long as his will is not free.
Liberty then is only and can be only the power to do what one will. That is what
philosophy teaches us. But if one considers liberty in the theological sense, it is a
matter so sublime that profane eyes dare not raise themselves to it.
Sometimes the night takes you.
On a hunt in clouded pasts.
Your eyes are turned inwards.
Tearing in time.
Assaulting your memory.
Your memory is a shadow.
We can’t see the cause.
We see only its replacement.
The self that we want.
What we want.
A past that serves.
A future that fits.
A future that in turn.
Will also be hunted.
Hunted at night.
They say that we get new cells all the time, cells that replace the old ones. If you think about it, you might say that we are not the same person as the one we were a couple of years ago… literally. This might explain why I am more scared in an airplane these days than I was before. Where I live now they have a tiny airport with tiny airplanes that fit a few dozen people. It’s on an island and it is almost always windy here so especially while landing, and the pilot tells you it’s going to be a rough landing, it is kind of nerve-wracking, the plane shakes and wobbles, seems to go sideways through the landing strip but finally smacks on the ground and roars its engines like it wants to shake of all its anger and comes to a safe stop. You don’t forget does landings and the only thing that keeps you seemingly cool is the knowledge that these planes landed thousands and thousands of times without accidents and that there is no reason that that statistic would change this time. But I never cared about these things before. As a marine I flew in helicopters dozens of times and I jumped out of tiny planes as a skydiver for a whole summer without fear. It’s just something I noticed lately, people say it’s because you are getting older, that you are closer to death and I guess its proximity supposed to scare you senseless. But I think It’s because I’m not the same person any more than when I jumped out of those airplanes 20 years ago, and that is probably literally true.
Today we had a nice landing.
Songs of Prince Vogelfrei
A proposal of love
when unfortunately the poet fell into a pit
Oh, Wonder! He still flies?
He rises up, his wings are resting?
What lifts and carries him?
What is now his target, pull, and power?
Like stars and eternity
He now lives in heights, fleeing life,
Compassionate even to jealousy . . .
Flying high, you see only in suspense!
Oh, Albatross bird,
Impulse makes me fly high,
I thought of you:
My tears flow, – yes, I love you!
bei der aber der Dichter in eine Grube fiel
O Wunder! Fliegt er noch?
Er steigt empor, und seine Flügel ruhn?
Was hebt und trägt ihn doch?
Was ist ihm Ziel und Zug und Zügel nun?
Gleich Stern und Ewigkeit
Lebt er in Höhn jetzt, die das Leben flieht,
Mitleidig selbst dem Neid –:
Und hoch flog, wer ihn auch nur schweben sieht!
O Vogel Albatros!
Zur Höhe treibt’s mit ewgem Triebe mich.
Ich dachte dein: da floß
Mir Trän um Träne, – ja, ich liebe dich!
From: The Peacock and the Buffalo
The Poetry of Nietzsche
Translated by James Luchte