Commercial reign

Here is why reading Nietzsche is such a strange experience: he plants perplexities in the reader’s head, then signals what he has done a couple dozen pages later. For the last couple of months I’ve been reading Daybreak. I was reading it when I wrote “Designerly virtues”, “Crisis of interspection”, and “Interspecting interverts”. And now I come to these two passages.

174. Moral fashion of a commercial society. — Behind the basic principle of the current moral fashion: ‘moral actions are actions performed out of sympathy for others’, I see the social effect of timidity hiding behind an intellectual mask: it desires, first and foremost, that all the dangers which life once held should be removed from it, and that everyone should assist in this with all his might: hence only those actions which tend towards the common security and society’s sense of security are to be accorded the predicate ‘good’. — How little pleasure men must nowadays take in themselves when such a tyranny of timidity prescribes to them their supreme moral law, when they so uncontradictingly allow themselves to be ordered to look away from themselves but to have lynx-eyes for all the distress and suffering that exists elsewhere! Are we not, with this tremendous objective of obliterating all the sharp edges of life, well on the way to turning mankind into sand? Sand! Small, soft, round, unending sand! Is that your ideal, you heralds of the sympathetic affections? — In the meantime, the question itself remains unanswered whether one is of more use to another by immediately leaping to his side and helping him — which help can in any case be only superficial where it does not become a tyrannical seizing and transforming — or by creating something out of oneself that the other can behold with pleasure: a beautiful, restful, self-enclosed garden perhaps, with high walls against storms and the dust of the roadway but also a hospitable gate.

175. Fundamental idea of a commercial culture. — Today one can see coming into existence the culture of a society of which commerce is as much the soul as personal contest was with the ancient Greeks and as war, victory and justice were for the Romans. The man engaged in commerce understands how to appraise everything without having made it, and to appraise it according to the needs of the consumer, not according to his own needs; ‘who and how many will consume this?’ is his question of questions. This type of appraisal he then applies instinctively and all the time: he applies it to everything, and thus also to the productions of the arts and sciences, of thinkers, scholars, artists, statesmen, peoples and parties, of the entire age: in regard to everything that is made he inquires after supply and demand in order to determine the value of a thing in his own eyes. This becomes the character of an entire culture, thought through in the minutest and subtlest detail and imprinted in every will and every faculty: it is this of which you men of the coming century will be proud: if the prophets of the commercial class are right to give it into your possession! But I have little faith in these prophets. Credat Judaeus Apella — in the words of Horace. {“Let the Jew Apella believe it; not I”. The phrase means, roughly, tell it to someone else, not me.}

I indexed these two passages in brain.anomalogue wiki under Commercial culture.

This line of thought was a big reason I chose to return to the work world after my paid vacation working for a university, ruining the lives of professors for the convenience of the university administrative class.

Nietzsche hinted that there were cultural possibilities in wholehearted engagement in commercial activity. If you don’t know how to read him feistily you’ll take him at face value, and swallow the notion that commerce is essentially degrading. But illuminate these observations with his fundamental insight that the origin of human virtue is often unsightly, and even vicious: “Thus here too something moral of the highest sort has blossomed out of a black root.”

I would like to believe, and choose to believe, that design is the virtue (or family of virtues) that has grown out of the calculating timidity of merchants, and that this event deserves to be recognized, celebrated, embraced and put to work on our nastiest, gnarliest, bitterest conflicts.


“Commercial Reign” is stuck in my head now.

I wonder if Susan is in this crowd, since she was part of the Madchester scene at its peak. Then she moseyed over to Berlin to see the wall come down. My wife is a trifecta mystical, cultural and historical badass.

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