Theater of Cruelty

To bring thinking as close to life as possible

Nietzsche and Philosophy (1962/2023)
Forfatter: Gilles Deleuze
Forlag: Multivers, (Danmark)
NIETZSCHE / Once it was faith in a God or a political party, today it is faith in work, consumption and the economy – that is, myself. According to Gilles Deleuze, what can one learn from Nietzsche?


Movement is what opens up chance and unpredictability in all life. The things themselves are just and only move if something affects them. Life is such an instance. Life arises in the movement of things, but soon affects things and itself in new and unimaginable ways. How can you understand the rhinoceros beetle when it actually lives most of its life as a larva? How can you understand Mr. Hansen who sacrificed his life for social status in a meaningless communication job? The history of life is scratched up here, and meaning is always breathing down the back of my neck. An opinion we, as a product of this machine, need to understand ourselves.

The movement from the origin of life to its end must be charged with a purpose, so that we can endure with our consciousness the thought of death as the terminus. Consciousness does not overpower death, but neither does life itself overpower it. When we hate or distance ourselves from other races, cultures, religions, animals, the weather, colleagues, tax systems, football teams, the future, the randomness of life and everything else, we do it for one reason only: that which can crush everything in a split second , when we are no longer in control or have a fixed orienteringpoint, namely emptiness.

When life does not want to be life, it is difficult to feel the kinship which is the very reason why we are even able to feel and don't feel. It seems to be a defense mechanism that, through all the vileness we as humans have come up with, is only done to preserve our own perception of being. The reactive forces win over the active ones. The weak win over the strong. The reactive fixates while reality and life stiffen. With his book about Nietzsche from 1962 – now finally in Danish in a congenial translation – Gilles Deleuze laid the foundation for his other writings and a new philosophy. An active life philosophy whose idea is to bring thinking as close as possible to life – life's own movement, that which always wants more life.

Power: Between active and reactive forces

Deleuze once said that it is easier to deny and deny than it is to affirm and create. Perhaps our reptilian brain first goes into defense mechanism before it invites the world in? Or is it anxiety, loss of control and the fear of losing our sanity and our built-up worldview that make us wary in the first place before are we receptive and listening? It's probably a mixture. With his book on Nietzsche, Deleuze rediscovers a philosophy with roots in Spinoza for whom reason has its ground outside itself. We have to go back to the body and the bodily ability to allow oneself to be influenced and vice versa to be influenced and take possession of a new form. It goes through the body, the particular, the sensory impression, the sensitivity, the sharpening of the thought, the digestion and the delicacy of the disease. It is the distillation of the level of sensory impressions and affects transformed into new sensibility and power of thought that is Deleuze's stroke of genius.

The history of life is scratched up here, and meaning is always breathing down the back of my neck.

Nietzsche's 'will to power' is not about strength or mastery over others. It is first a battle between forces that influence each other, for example by encouraging, provoking, producing and creating a useful influence that functions as a reactive influence. This will to power is also the will to a certain image of reality. A contained useful reality. Foucault's Monitoring and punishment (1975, Danish 2002) and his books about biopolitics is here deeply indebted to Deleuze's reading of Nietzsche. But the will to power is also a generous virtue that affirms new life, a meaning- and value-creating force that does not first contain and limit. Deleuze therefore also did not believe in the end of metaphysics and philosophy as Heidegger read Nietzsche. For Deleuze, it is about what philosophy or thinking can be transformed into. The answer is that it can be transformed into new life. New ways of seeing, thinking, feeling and living.

Already his way of reading Nietzsche is an example of this creative aggressiveness: what for him is at the center of Nietzsche is not the text as a unifying whole, but the form of the aphorism and its way of exploring, playing and playing different forces against each other, to precisely pursue the movement and energy of the text. The aphorism and the fragmentary writings about the will to power are, as Deleuze writes, «the pure matter of laughter and joy». A reading that paves the way for Nietzsche's nomadic thinking.

The reactive person

I Thus spake Zarathustra (1883) Nietzsche conjures up an image of the last man who is concerned with nothing but his own happiness. But as such precisely also conforming, timid, constantly on guard and afraid of losing. During this 'dynamic hunt' of ours, we are prepared to place a blame, to compare ourselves and each other, to inflate ourselves to manifest our power. The reactive person characterized by envy and feelings of inferiority (ressentiment) does not belong to a marginal psychological term, but is the normal consciousness of the vengeful and weak person. Ideally, we want to be unique and stand out, but today we appear as a docile mass, a uniform lump of wax. "Man is essentially reactive, governed by a will to nothing", as Deleuze points out. All the time it invents new fictions, new beliefs that keep it captive. Once it was faith in a God or a political party, today it is faith in work, consumption and the economy – that is, myself. There is therefore nothing we fear more today than falling out of the labor market, out of the cycle, as if the meaning and identity in life is to be found here. That the search for self-realization and capitalism's fictions about consumption, success and status go hand in hand, eventually everyone knows. But what is presented as an image of freedom is in reality an image of the reactive human being. And for a person whose life is centered on self-interest, consumption and career management, knowledge and thought have no value-changing power. It merely confirms the existing. Only sees himself again and again.

You create fictions and images of power and will. Images of choice and options are a cover for the tyranny of choice, that we really have no choice but more of the same, in the store, on the internet, at work. Images of power as a 'deserving' target of our actions send a signal of our own achievement that tames us and keeps us in place. Or populist currents that fail to transform a justified anger at their living situation into a common political struggle for new values. The consequence is everywhere, in Deleuze's words: «We separate power from what it can do.»

We reduce life to a fiction of choice while real freedom fades. This is always connected to the surprise, what we cannot anticipate, what happens to us, in the unexpected encounter, which is also the ability to confirm the pain and the vulnerability of the disease. In a hyperliberal society, the emptiness and pain ends up as reactive cynicism. One survives by distancing oneself from one's own knowledge of things, one's own sensitivity or a new insight that one could acquire – and instead sneers with crooked smiles. The result is a disillusioned antisocial individual whose angry, cynical or manic look washes out in the crowd among all the others. Action paralysis and political fatigue in our time can be largely attributed to the rise of the reactive person.

Elegance: Lightness and generosity

Man's transformation (awakening) goes through a new way of living and not a new faith. Being able to let go of any fictional belief belongs to the power to see freely, as Nietzsche writes in the book Antichrist (1895, also in Danish). The new life must be free from the affects of revenge, comparison and ressentiment: the constant focus on violations, the mistakes of others, including an identity politics that seeks recognition for a certain gender or identity category, as if we forget that we are always more than the categories we is put in. That it is not the categories and fictions but the common human experiences such as loneliness, belonging and alienation that we should all process and explore.

This will to power is also the will to a certain image of reality.

It is the task of philosophy, art and thinking to combat the injustice and its passive emotions which make us stupid, tamed and closed to new possibilities for life in the world. Of our time nihilism. What is groundbreaking in Deleuze's book is the discovery of the intimate connection between thinking and creative transformation. That thinking is not just a natural ability, a spontaneous tendency to pursue the true, the good and the beautiful (from Plato to Kant and others). But always a creation, a response to a situation that tears us free from ourselves and sees ourselves in a new perspective. In Deleuze's words: «Criticism is not about justifying but about feeling differently: a different sensibility.» A different way of living.

Creation is not just painting a picture or inventing something new, but seizing the situation, listening and making room for movement where I and mine play no role, where thought is not concentrated on a specific achievement, goal or motive. kraft is what can, as Deleuze writes. The power of the will to power neither "desires nor strives towards anything ... but is the giver". Lightness and generosity are precisely what distinguish the strong and noble man (Nietzsche). Strong because one does not strive to be distinguished, as Deleuze emphasizes. Already in my conscious striving to be this or that, I am subject to a slave mentality. The self-realization of our time is the 'slaves' way of attaching existing values ​​to themselves. As an action-wise sovereign ego that believes it is in its power, that can stuff the car door with Teslas, a beautiful wife, crossfit, spinning etc. But the 'slaves' are essentially weak in their will because they fail to create new values.

Resistance and cheerfulness

Resistance begins when the philosopher acts as a doctor to record symptoms in order to uncover the quality of what has made the symptoms possible. Is it a weak or strong force? What is consciousness a symptom of? We must learn to practice immanent criticism, which means to look for something's inner origin and movement: we are not influenced by something external such as God, the Personality, but by what happens to us in life of the earth.

Seizing the situation, listening and making room for movement where I and mine play no role.

True criticism is about making transformation possible. Ethic writes Deleuze is about not showing ourselves unworthy of what happens to us. Resistance, ethics and the art of living are connected. Faced with an acute climate crisis and working life crisis, the time has perhaps come to make use of the most important act of resistance we have left: Being able to endure resistance in order to discover new life. To discover the real freedom outside the wage slavery, the self-sacrifice for the state, work and the holy family. In practice, say no to the pace and the flight away from yourself, which makes it possible to keep an entire population trapped in the lie that the drudgery of work is the answer to the purpose and meaning of life. In this new robustness, be as disrespectful and aggressive as the opportunists who have ruled your country:

Make sure to make yourself independent, furnish your work and your little money for life itself.
Limit yourself
Escape the unworthy
Act like the animal: laugh mockingly, cower, purr and sing
If necessary, learn the languages ​​of the lesser races, Armenian, Greek, Amharic
Write and dance for the animals, the downtrodden, the mixed, the future people
Spend life listening, learning and playing
Find joy in the smaller
Find joy in the pain
Find joy in what you do
Know the little things
Over a cup of tea
A poem
A conversation
By the slowness
In the shade under a tree
Start your quiet revolution

Alexander Carnera
Alexander Carnera
Carnera is a freelance writer living in Copenhagen.

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