Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"No mas, no mas"

We’ve heard a great deal about Nietzsche’s Ubermensch and about how a debased form of the concept was used to justify both fascist ideology and the turgid romanticism of literary characters like Ayn Rand’s Howard Roark from The Fountainhead. But does the notion of the Ubermensch, Over Man or Superman also suggest it’s opposite the Untermensch or Under Man. Aren't Dostoevsky’s Underground Man and Kafka’s Joseph K and Gregor Samsa prime examples of the Untermensch? The Nazis used Untermensch to refer to inferior races. But they were simply employing an inferior use of a profound antinomy.What better way to epitomize the concept of the Untermensch then in the creation of a man who wakes up to find himself turned into an insect? Such a creation is depersonalization personified. What better mockery of Nietzsche’s will to power than in Joseph K, who is constantly at the mercy of unseen forces, over which he has no control? And what is K dying of, but life itself? Hamlet says, “conscience does make cowards of us all.” It’s not so much a conscience, which is a moral and ethical faculty, as consciousness that’s K’s undoing. The Untermensch suffers from a surfeit of consciousness in an animal’s body. “Like a dog,” he said, “As if the shame of it would outlast him.” In this last line of The Trial, K loses the fight. Kafka’s everyman is not triumphant. Once we are born we begin to die. The great fighter Roberto Duran, an Ubermensch who became an Untermensch, said it best, as he finally admitted defeat in the return bout with Sugar Ray Leonard, “No mas, no mas.”

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