How would you define a superhuman
Pressure to adapt"Morality has taken on a life of its own"
Christiane Florin: We come from China to Finland, but first of all we take a detour via Germany, the land of the great philosophers. Anyone who has ever tapped into a citation database of philosophy will immediately know about the next key words: Christian slave morality, dead God, superman - that is Nietzsche. For the philosopher, the superman was a sovereign individual who recognizes his personal goals and serves them. Higher goals and supra-personal ideals were seen as signs of weakness.
You don't have to have read Nietzsche to become superhuman, says Finnish writer Beile Ratut. She feels surrounded by Übermenschen and describes his rule in a book called "Kompendium des Übermenschen". Beile Ratut lives in Finland and publishes in German. I spoke to her before the show.
Christiane Florin:What is a "superman" in 2018?
Ax Ratut: According to Nietzsche, a superman is also a person who endures the thought of the eternal return. So who can deal with the fact that we live in a cosmos of constant repetition or regularity. In this respect Nietzsche was someone who put the material above everything, the superman is simply someone who wants to submit to the possibilities of this side of the whole world according to his benefit, according to his agenda, whatever it may be.
"Man longs to break out of his chain"
Florin: And do you see many of these supermen today?
Ratut: Probably the person is always like that, and one can probably not exclude oneself because we live in this world and of course we always try to find fulfillment and a benefit in this world. It is not forbidden that you want to be happy and that you want to realize yourself and that you make the best of life. But if you try to achieve things only with the possibilities of this world, for example if you try to define life, truth and meaning only from the human point of view, then the whole thing quickly tips.
Florin: What do you get meaning from?
Ratut: Nietzsche is right insofar as we really live in a chain of cause and effect. There are natural laws in physics, but of course there are always laws in our lives too. You also fall in love because of hormonal situations or you live in a chain of acts of revenge or addictions. So things are always carried away. I believe that man longs to break out of this chain, that something happens that breaks this chain. And that is just not that easy for humans.
If you look in the Bible, it is so that a lot of things came about outside of the law, so Jesus was born of a virgin. Or David was chosen even though from a human point of view he was not at all probable. So there were other brothers who were much fancier than David and were not elected. I think that when people are healthy or mature somewhere, they long to break this chain. After that something comes into our life that we don't deserve because we instinctively feel that we only have many things that we have because we are beautiful or are successful because it has come to us because of our performance. But in the end we feel a sense of discomfort about it.
Belief in good overlooks bad
Florin: A superman is also someone who feels morally superior to others. Where do you meet them?
Ratut: Many people may be latent superhumans, but you don't see it that much unless you clash, as long as there is a working balance of interests and benefits. But if you are not how you are supposed to be or how that is interesting for the superman, then you will see very quickly that the superman is losing interest in someone or becomes angry or simply turns away without even having explained himself, because it is just not important for such people to explain themselves at all. They just don't answer you when they ask.
Florin: What is wrong with judging others morally?
Ratut: In principle, morality is a good thing. So we also need morality to somehow order the course of society. But as soon as morality becomes independent, as soon as it arises from a belief in the good, then it quickly becomes moralizing.
Florin: Do you want to say goodbye to belief in the good? Have I understood that correctly?
Ratut: The world is ephemeral. Nothing remains here in this world that is really permanent. Beautiful houses can be gone tomorrow and our achievements, our wealth, it can all be gone tomorrow. And there is also evil. But if you see evil only as triviality or as a marginal phenomenon - and you don't recognize the essence of this world that it is just a part of this world, evil and impermanence and sin - then you quickly get into moralizing.
Florin: Who is 'man' in this context?
Ratut: We all. So I think it's hard to look like.
Florin: Religions work with good and bad, with sin and virtue. Is what you are describing a consequence of the dwindling influence of Christianity in Europe?
Ratut: Of course, roles and institutions are becoming more and more withdrawn, and responsibility for life falls more and more to the person. This is of course also a great opportunity. But it is also an incredibly big challenge for people who increasingly have to make decisions in all areas of their lives independently of any role assignments or institutional controls. This of course also creates an incredible number of opportunities for abuse. The superman, who is just looking for his own benefit, has many more options today than 100 years ago, when his role fell and his obligations were much more strictly regulated as a result.
Florin: 100 years ago the world was in a world war, so it was definitely no better than it is today. That is a very culturally pessimistic view that you are promoting.
Ratut: I don't think so, because I see it as an opportunity if we don't get stuck in just looking for our own benefit, but if we can and want to create radical self-criticism and also strive for truth, then yes the search for personal happiness and meaningfulness also make sense.
Natural humility instead of public moralization
Florin: You spoke earlier of the presence of evil. Who defines what is good and what is bad?
Ratut: Of course, you can quickly lie to yourself when it comes to what is good and what is bad, and to that extent we live in a time where you do it quickly, where you often want to influence and evaluate things based on a morality . But I believe that there is something outside of the human being that we cannot dispose of ourselves, we cannot use it, but we can recognize it if we research it and also very carefully with our own perception and with our instincts are.
Florin: It is striking that morality sounds like a reproach today. Refugee helpers, for example, have been downright defamed as those who supposedly feel morally superior. Do you agree?
Ratut: I think morality is very difficult to judge in public because it is then carried out very, very quickly in order to impress others. I think when you do good, it always makes sense to do it quietly, covertly, and not necessarily so publicly. That is of course a little difficult for a state or for public persons, but not every politician or any public person is. When you help, you actually notice that you cannot alleviate the distress of this world at all. So helping can only be exemplary. If you have helped in one place, then there are 1,000 other places where you cannot help at all. I think that if you are aware of that, then you also have a natural humility, then, I think, you are a little further away from moralizing than if you are publicly carrying it out and still being proud that you are has just given soup to the homeless person or has helped the refugees.
Florin: Do good and talk about it - is that a characteristic of the superman?
Ratut: Of course I can't judge that. So everyone has to take responsibility for that, and I am not a moral authority who now says that this is good and that is not good. I can only say of myself how I would handle it and what the dangers are. So I think we humans are all such that we tip over quickly if we make wrong decisions.
"There is no society in which deviant behavior is not punished"
Florin: We heard it earlier in the post from China. There is a state interest in moral monitoring of the citizens, but there is also a willingness among citizens to participate. How do you explain this willingness?
Ratut: I think it is also human and natural somewhere that people want to be involved in how society is organized. They always have that in some form, control over people's behavior, that's completely natural. In animals, behavior is instinctively controlled and humans are relatively instinct-free. So it relies on society to set values in some way, and you can do that in a number of ways. If the state does that, it has an incredible amount of power, and that is also very dangerous. But that in itself is not reprehensible if people have the opportunity to participate.
Florin: But the consequences of this assessment are very severe. You don't get an apartment or a place at a university if others give you bad marks.
Ratut: It has that everywhere. I believe there is no society where deviant behavior in any form is not punished. Of course, we always do it very freely, but of course, if a person falls out of line in any way, then you have to evaluate it and check what you are dealing with. Is that a threat to social peace? Or is that a challenge and something good? It is often not that easy to expose what you are dealing with. But I think that in every society there is a certain pressure to conform, and somehow they have to define that together.
"Moral standards are subject to a utility agenda"
Florin: But isn't that a contradiction in terms: On the one hand, you say that the superman wants power, he only decides according to his benefit. On the other hand, he reveals so much about himself that it is easy to gain power over him with knowledge of him.
Ratut: It is not the case that the superman always automatically emerges as the winner, but he tries to maximize his benefit with the means that he has seen worldly - that is, materially seen, which are tangible to him. For him it is not about the content that he has an important thought that he would like to communicate, but rather about using this thought in order to advance personally, to establish himself personally, for example, and to gain influence. Whether he can do that is a different question, but the superman will try to drive his agenda in every society, no matter which one he finds.
Florin: What was the motivation for you to write this Compendium of the Superman?
Ratut: I've just observed it so often, and just observed, that this form of behavior is not punished, that you often let it pass, and just, moral standards often only apply in certain areas and not in others. So that moral standards are also subjected to a benefit agenda. And a lot of what happens injustice is just wiped away.
Florin: What is wiped away, what is punished?
Ratut: So you can see that in the MeToo debate. Perhaps 20 years ago, when a man touched a woman's bottom, everyone would have said to the woman: "Don't worry, that's the way it is." Nowadays it's completely the other way around, and then the man is the bad guy and the woman is the poor victim. And from that you can see how moral values and norms can also overturn.
Florin: But that's a perfectly normal process for borders to be renegotiated. What was accepted with a wink 20 years ago is now at least a problem, an object of debate.
Ratut: Yes, I don't mind either. But I think nowadays things are going the other way and you are taking responsibility away from women, for example, by not even expecting a woman to behave sensibly in the first place. You can also say: "Okay, I'm not going to see the director in the hotel room". Then she might not get the role, but that's life. You just have to think about it if you want to play along with the rules of the game in a society, and then you move on the benefit agenda.
"I know how quickly you lie to yourself"
Florin: In doing so, you take the responsibility of the person who has abused a position of power, in this case the director.
Ratut: No, I don't want that either. What was it about me? You asked why I wrote the book. I am simply interested in what motivates the people inside, why are they running a campaign or why is something being discussed or not discussed, maybe there are also motivations behind the fact that you use this MeToo debate or whatever for yourself, because the climate has turned. Would you have said something in the past and opposed it and then stood there as spoilsport? Or did you take part earlier? And now that the social situation has changed a bit and you can say something more, then you suddenly say it because it has just become a lot easier.
I think that if a person really has an inner maturity and is rooted in something other than this cause and effect game, in these power games in this world and in the rules of the game, then he can draw the meaning or its value from something completely different and can then, no matter how these social situations say it: No, I don't think that's right now.
Florin: How do you protect yourself from becoming superhuman?
Ratut: I am very aware that you lie to yourself very, very quickly. I think that if you are already aware of this and if you also know how quickly things can change and how fragile reality is, then you might be a little more cautious and at least once don't assume that you will nobody would be.
Statements by our interlocutors reflect their own views. Deutschlandfunk does not adopt statements made by its interlocutors in interviews and discussions as its own.
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