Friday, November 16, 2012
According to Nietzsche how does universal literacy negatively affect the world?
In his poetic Thus Spoke Zarathustra Nietzsche warned, “That every one may learn to read in the long run corrupts not only writing but also thinking.” Nietzsche felt that universal literacy would impact the quality of writing, cause more equality among people and effect a general dumbing down of society. He foresaw a general corruption of good literature and therefore the end of reasonable thinking.
The mass media of the nineteenth century consisted of magazines, newspapers and books, most of which were now clearly accessible to the majority of people. As the rate of literacy increased, the rate of reading and discussing the classics decreased. Nietzsche felt that this substantial degradation in the quality of writing from the more mass-produced periodical and shallow novel would create mindless human beings who neither progressed nor created self-happiness. Nietzsche understood that the greatest thoughts and ideas are the melding of the individual author’s knowledge, wisdom, culture and belief and that these elevated thoughts can be metaphorically explained, "Of all that is written I love only what a man has written with his blood." Subsequently he admits that, "It is no easy task to understand strange blood; I hate those readers who idle." It is the higher thoughts, ideas, and most usually the difficult literature that can be categorized under what Nietzsche calls "strange blood." However, with universal literacy extending to much of humanity, the quality of writing declined and with it the once elevated thinking.
Nietzsche often talks of the marketplace as a metaphor where the “herds” or the “mobs” live and congregate in the name of being equal before god. As individual men resolved to persuade their communities against the status quo through literature or the spoken word, it was not often accepted and most frequently ridiculed. Nietzsche recognized the dangerous pattern of arrant belief without question or without the use of logic and reason. “In the marketplace one convinces with gestures. But,” writes Nietzsche, “reasons make the mob mistrustful.” Unthinking man cannot be trusted to understand, read or write well, according to Nietzsche, and thus his works proceeded with corrupt ideas. He revealed the closed mentality of the masses, “Learn this from me: in the marketplace no one believes in higher men.” Nietzsche insisted that if we are to become higher men and eventually become the Übermensch, we must break away from this equality mentality and see the level that men can achieve, if they are entrusted to choose for themselves. Determined to lift the sights of men, he wrote, “Before the mob…we will not be equal. You higher men, go away from the marketplace.”
Speaking through his literary mouthpiece, Zarathustra, Nietzsche taught that thoughts ought to be as the mountain peaks—elevated and lofty. Thoughts areelevations. According to Nietzsche thoughts should go from mountain peak to mountain peak. “You look up when you long for elevation,” said Nietzsche, “ And I look down because I am elevated.” The deeper and more profound the thinking the more elevated becomes the man. The higher the man climbs the higher his thinking and at the same time he can laugh “at all tragic plays and tragic seriousness.” Perhaps Nietzsche meant that he could rise above the base and lowly, mindless thoughts. The tragedy is the man who complains, “Life is hard to bear.” He has “pride in the morning and resignation in the evening.” Does he perchance give up when life becomes difficult? Does he not have the will to rise to the next peak through elevated thinking? It seems that these wish only to stay in the valleys, keeping their sights and heads lowered in plebeian non-thought. Nietzsche saw this as a sort of dumbing down of society.
Nietzsche deduced that the continual deterioration of the quality of writing could only promise more and more unintelligent garbage that would appeal to the lowest of the low and ultimately impede real thinking. That the quest for equality would lead to a leveling of the mountains and flush with the valleys, thus creating a lowest common denominator. He felt that the dumbing down would be as gravity bringing all non-resisting material down to its lowest resting place. His final invitation might be, “Come, let us kill the spirit of gravity.”