Posts Tagged ‘Nietzsche’


‘Boyfriends/And girlfriends/And enemies/Those upon which we rely’ – Low

When I was a child I treated friendship as sacred. If I were to attempt some clumsy psychoanalysis of myself, these many years later, I might begin to see why. My parents broke up when I was four years old, and my world collapsed. (Unconsciously then), I think I decided that in my own life people would not be so unstable, unreliable, so breakable as my parents. But of course they were.

I say ‘child’ but this dangerous belief has of course followed me round through adulthood, so that when friendships (and romantic relationships) have broken down, I have felt a loss, an inadequacy, an anger, a shame, akin to that first big break-up of my early life. It wasn’t my fault. But nobody told me that at the time. And, even today, in the complex world of adult relations, I tend to blame myself deep down, for most things that go wrong.

But there is in me, and it is getting stronger, (thanks in part to some recent and very helpful psychotherapy), an ability to step away from that ‘guilty’ child. To see life, and people (including me), as complex and unpredictable, and to accept that. Not all friendships (or romantic relationships) last forever. That doesn’t necessarily diminish them. I broke up with my ex partner over eight years ago now, but it is only very recently I have been able to feel happy and grateful that we knew each other, were very close, had some laughs, were best mates. A Buddhist might find my revelation amusing, for they know that if life itself is temporary, the things within it are hardly going to be permanent. I always was a slow learner.

I don’t think I am the only one afflicted with a perfectionist side when it comes to friendship. I can think of one or two people out there, who are probably even more ‘extremist’ (and less reflective?) than me. They hold onto this romantic notion that if someone is not utterly wonderful and nice and the kindest bestest friend in the world, they must be some kind of devil. Freud knew about this dichotomising amongst friends and even admitted to doing it himself:

‘An intimate friend and a hated enemy have always been indispensable requirements for my emotional life; I have always been able to create them anew, and not infrequently my childish ideal has been so closely approached that friend and enemy coincided in the same person.’

I think if we want to keep our friends, and to make new ones, to keep open to life and love’s possibilities, we have to acknowledge that negative aspect in people and relationships. In hindsight, I think my ex understood it better than I. After a row, or an affair, or a terrible sorrow-filled night, when I thought nothing could be salvaged from the wreckage, he would always treat me exactly as he had before the crisis. He didn’t seem fased by our ability to be ‘enemies’ at times, as well as lovers and friends. Maybe he had a bit of Nietzsche in him, and thought:

‘The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends.’

I’m not quite there yet. I still have a slightly rose-tinted view of friendship. And I still get crushed by messy imperfect reality on a regular basis. But I am learning to accept, much more than that heartbroken four year old could at least, that humans have frailties and that’s ok.

The surest aid in combating the male’s disease of self-contempt is to be loved by a clever woman – Nietzsche

It is now well-documented that in my -frequent – arguments with feminism, my ‘sisters’ sometimes end up resorting to calling me a ‘man’ to dismiss and demonise my criticisms of their dogma. So, if the cap fits…

Recently I have made connections with some of the bloggers and activists who run A Voice For Men website. Loosely self-defined as ‘MRAs’ (men’s rights activists) these men – and a few women allies- provide a non-man-hating perspective in amongst the cacophony of misandry that is ‘mainstream’ feminist gender culture.

I like the subtitle to AVfM – ‘masculine counter-theory in the age of misandry’. It succinctly turns on its head the received wisdom that suggests it is misogyny and sexism against women that is the biggest gendered problem in society.

So I was delighted to be asked to contribute to the site. So far I have written two pieces. The first took quite a lot of soul-searching and emotional effort as it describes my break with feminism, that I grew up believing was the only logical, and moral lens through which to analyse gender. My essay is called:

Leaving The Sisterhood – A Recovering Feminist Speaks

The second is an edited post I initially put here at QRG HQ. (Thanks to  Laura Agustin for feedback which led to a few changes). It’s entitled:

Second Wave Feminism Is Dying (Slowly)

I only found the Nietzsche quote today, and I don’t know its context. But I like its suggestion that masculinity suffers from a pathological bad rep that needs to be transformed. And the suggestion that women must be involved in that shift. This is subtly but vitally different from the feminist concept that men themselves are ‘bad’ and need to change (with the help of enlightened feminist women). My view is that all that needs to be altered is how we LOOK at men and masculinity…

While I go back to my Nietzsche to see if I haven’t read too much into it, I hope you take a look at my posts at AvFM and the rest of the site.

The future is bright. The future is mixed-gendered!


Thanks again to @deanesmay for the encouragement to write for AvFM

‘While the noble man lives in trust and openness with himself (gennaios‘of noble descent’ underlines the nuance ‘upright’ and probably also ‘naïve’), the man of ressentiment is neither upright nor naive nor honest and straightforward with himself. His soul squints; his spirit loves hiding places, secret paths and back doors, everything covert entices him as his world, hissecurity, his refreshment; he understands how to keep silent, how not to forget, how to wait, how to be provisionally self-deprecating and humble’.

Ressentiment (pronounced /rəsɑ̃tiˈmɑ̃/), in philosophy and psychology, is a particular form of resentment or hostility. It is the French word for “resentment” (fr. Latin intensive prefix ‘re’, and ‘sentir’ “to feel”). Ressentiment is a sense of hostility directed at that which one identifies as the cause of one’s frustration, that is, an assignment of blame for one’s frustration. The sense of weakness or inferiority and perhaps jealousyin the face of the “cause” generates a rejecting/justifying value system, or morality, which attacks or denies the perceived source of one’s frustration. The ego creates an enemy in order to insulate itself from culpability.

‘Ressentiment is not to be considered interchangeable with the normal English word “resentment”, or even the French “ressentiment”. While the normal words both speak to a feeling of frustration directed at a perceived source, neither speaks to the special relationship between a sense of inferiority and the creation of morality’.

I am drawn to Nietzsche’s concept of ‘ressentiment’. I love how he has made a new meaning out of an existing word. The French word ‘ressentiment’ is taken by Nietzsche and twisted subtly, so it becomes edgier, harder, more meaningful.

Barthes in A Lover’s Discourse refers to the powerlessness and resentment the amorous subject can feel towards ‘the loved object’ – perceiving him or her to be the cause of the lover’s suffering.

I’ve felt my own ‘ressentiment’ myself. I can relate to both Nietzsche and Barthes’ versions of it. And when you take away the symbolic ’cause’ of your suffering, what are you left with? Not an absence of suffering but a different way of perceiving it.

I like the picture at the top because it is not clear who is the ‘big meanie’. Is it the girl standing up screaming, or the person by her side, perceiving the shouting. Because when you feel ‘victimised’ or full of ‘ressentiment’ you can actually be quite aggressive.

This old classic pop song, You Oughta Know by Alanis Morrissette is a great embodiment of the feeling of ressentiment:

‘It’s not fair to deny me of the cross I bear that you gave to me’

could have been written by Nietzsche or Barthes. I used to play the song all the time when I was getting over my first Big Love. I know it off by heart. Literally.

I like ‘ressentiment’ – I think it is an integral aspect of the human psyche. But it is worth keeping in check, so we don’t all become Big Meanies ourselves.

Nietzsche Was Right

Posted: June 27, 2011 in Identity, Writing
Tags: , ,

When a woman has scholarly inclinations there is usually something wrong with her sexually. Sterility itself disposes one toward a certain masculinity of taste; for man is, if I may say so, “the sterile animal.” -Nietzsche

(photo via @rachaelewilliams)