At such a crisis as this in our lives, we demand a firm ground to stand on, but we demand from whom?
Do we govern the world or does the world govern us? We live in an age where millions are displaced, war is raging, crimes being committed by man against his fellowman, people are struggling to meet life’s needs, the economy is static and there is no end in sight.
At present we seem to be stuck to a stagnant era, which otherwise should be the peak of human civilisation.
Man has worked hard and accomplished much, but our destination is vague facing an immovable wall of steel.
What is our value if we can no longer penetrate that wall, help ourselves and our communities.
Are we waiting for some superior being to right all that we did wrong?
Imagine an old beaten-down bus loaded with passengers from every race and creed, off on a journey with an unknown destination. The bus huffs and puffs, jerks and jolts, rattles and rolls, at the great annoyance and discomfort of the passengers.
Suddenly, the bus stops. Its steams and fumes are horrifying. Nothing will make it start. The terrain outside is unwelcoming and the passengers just sit, waiting. Waiting for what? For something or someone to release them? Waiting for Superman?
Much like the 1950s play by Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot, an important contribution to the Theatre of the Absurd.
This is our Theatre of the Absurd. How did we get here? So many global problems. Need we count them? It is not merely an economic crisis, a migratory crises, an oil crisis. It is a loss of enthusiasm, of labour resulting in disease and decay.
Have we lived up to our ethical standards that we ourselves have laid down in laws and rules, of morality and integrity, of peace among nations, of love of our fellowman, the elimination of greed, deceit, self-indulgence, etc? We have not. We tried.
Our great principle of order in man’s intellect and compassion was to establish a body of superior beings to oversee the basic human necessities and help the human race survive and move on.
The righteous and moving charter of the UN, needs to be recited by its members on a daily basis, such as a morning prayer or a pledge of allegiance, for they have deviated far from the rules they set. Where is the dignity of the human being, who is to protect the weak from the strong? Where is democracy? Where are the principled world leaders, to lead the way to a bright, peaceful future? Waiting for Godot?
Those familiar with Beckett’s play know that Godot never comes.
They are still stuck in the bus.
Why does no one emerge to take hold of the reins and move the immovable?
Could it be that the German philosopher of the 19th century Friedrich Nietzsche be right?
In the prologue of his magnum opus “Thus Spake Zarathustra”, he suggests that “Man is a rope stretched between beast and Superman”. He fears that we, in our present state, may someday witness a decline, which is the appearance of “the Last Man”. Could we be in that category now?
“The Last Man”, according to Nietzsche, is the condition when no one any longer strives to surpass oneself; when everyone wants the same things; when everyone wants to be equal to everyone else; when too many wish to be rich ignoring the poor. That sounds too familiar for comfort.
“The Last Man” is a tame and civilised animal, just as the wolf was tamed to become a dog. Our origin is not in spirit or divinity, but back among the animals, “and the most bungled of all the animals, the sickliest, the one most dangerously strayed from its basic instincts”.
The great powers have abandoned us.
Dear, dear, that is certainly not how we see ourselves, or wish to be, but is there a grain of truth in the philosopher’s predictions?
We have a tendency to inflict pain upon ourselves.
Why did they choose to ride that bus for their life’s journey?
We reject the association with animals, so what do we do now? Wait for Godot?
Nietzche’s Ubermensch or Overman, or Superman, sounds much more appealing. This is what we should aim for.
No, he is not an alien from another planet with a blue suit who flies to the rescue of helpless humans. Ubermensch is the antithesis of the Last Man, where we are obviously stuck, temporarily.
Superman is within every one of us. We need to look deeply into our human psyche and discover the being able to completely affirm life. Look inwards not outwards.
The best version of you is the fastest, strongest, kindest, funniest, most influential, most compassionate, most courageous, most beautiful.
Yes, beautiful you is locked in there, according to Nietzsche, bogging you down with outdated dogmas and moralities.
To say the least, Nietzsche’s theories have been misinterpreted, misunderstood and abused by the likes of Nazism, Supremacists, colonialists, but if you are to consider the basics and disregard the froth, we are definitely more than we have been.
It is time to admit that we do not function at full capacity.
If we did we would not still be on that bus, or in this global morass we are stuck with.
“If you gaze into the abyss, the abyss also gazes at you.”
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
*A version of this article appears in print in the 8 December, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.