Tuesday, October 12, 2004

From the Mail: Gallagher Jumps to a Conclusion

I wrote here:

I once worked as a mail handler at the Terminal Annex postal facility in Los Angeles. I was twenty or twenty-one. An old black man, thinking to instruct me in the ways of the world, once said to me, "Beell, dey is basically two kahnds a people in dis world, the fuckahs and the fuckees, and you gon' have to decide which side you gon' be on."

This morning I found the thought expressed with a bit more elegance by Giacomo Leopardi (1798- 1837) in his Pensieri:

The human race, from the individual on up, is split into two camps: the bullies and the bullied. Neither law nor force of any kind, nor advancement in civilization and philosophy, can prevent men now or in the future from belonging to one of these two camps. So, he who can choose, must choose. Although not everyone is able, nor is the choice always available. (Pensieri [Thoughts], tr. Di Piero, Louisiana State University Press, 1981, p. 69)

John Gallagher responds:

So Bill do you believe that these are really the only two options? What a sad view of human existence this is! Nietzsche in Thus Spake Zarathustra: "Unhappy do I call all those who have only one choice: either to become evil beasts, or evil beast-tamers. Amongst such would I not build my tabernacle." Yes, there will always be bullies and there will always be the bullied, but I choose to be in neither camp. Standing up to bullies does not make you one and not being a bully does not make you one of the bullied. This is a false dilemma. What do you think of the anti-bullying rules that some public school are attempting to implement? Do you agree with the approach of my high school shop teacher who simply took us outside to watch us fight? I took to carrying a switch blade after that incident and had to pull it just once.

BV replies:

You need to lighten up, John. I understand that with the election three weeks away, a political animal like you is becoming exercised. But there is more to life than politics -- there is literature for example. (Memo to myself: Write a post on the totalitarian tendency of lefties to politicize everything.)

You read into my post what you wanted to read into it. Read it again. I did exactly two things. I reported what a black man said to me years ago, and then I simply presented a passage from Giacomo Leopardi along the same lines. Now surely you can understand that to quote a passage is not to endorse it.

There are plenty of things on this site that I quote without endorsing. Hell, I quote you! And while I'm at it, I may as well point out that my providing links on my blogroll does not constitute any endorsement of the content of those sites. Indeed, I take a dim view of some of the content of some of the sites. Some of them are liberal sites, as you may have noticed. Some of them are atheist sites. Bear in mind my stated purpose: To promote independent thought about ultimates.

Of course, I agree that the dilemma you say is false is indeed false. Two little ironies to end on. First, Nietzsche is not exactly the best source to quote in support of the falsity of the dilemma given his doctrines about truth and power. Second, Leopardi was much admired by Nietzsche.