Any kind of study on the functionality of individuals, society, and governments has to deal with the area of compassion. As we have learned over the past 70+ years of the New Deal, compassion is essential for governments, society, and individuals to function. Without it, people will have no stake even if Dennis Kucinich were running for office. Without it, people would be killing and being killed, and society would not function as people would be quarreling over little things. Without it, people cannot be happy in this life. Nietzsche himself said that people have to operate based on consequences, and the consequences in this case are clear enough.
True compassion is not a matter of doing it because some big daddy figure told us to be nice. True compassion involves doing the right thing because we know for a fact that compassion works. In other words, it is a matter of enlightened self-interest to show compassion as opposed to showing compassion because some big daddy figure told us to. And compassion does not always mean being nice -- Jesus called the Pharisees vipers, for instance. He told one of his right-hand men to get behind him. Compassion might mean telling a person what they need to hear instead of what they want to hear. For instance, is it compassionate to enable an alcoholic when they need to hear that they have a drinking problem and that they need help?
The problem happens when Christian Fundamentalists use "compassion" as a tool to enslave people. In other words, we can't attack George Bush too much because that would involve a lack of compassion. Or, we can't be too mean on Ollie North because we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. Or, when we speak out against injustice in the world, we are told that we are not being compassionate and that we are being unloving.
We all have the same questions, but we all take different paths to find the answers -- or ought to. To try and force humanity into some form of lockstep conformity is incoherent and illogical because to do so would deny our humanity and deny us our opportunity to move beyond the chains of spiritual slavery and affirm our humanity. This is the trap that the Republicans have fallen into. The Ubermensch breaks these chains of slavery and charts his or her own path, regardless of the darts thrown his or her way. Therefore, sound public policy must be based on one thing -- give people the resources they need to live life to the fullest.
Let's just use a couple of examples of how this could be put into action -- garbage. For instance, people are being hampered from living to their potential because of their enslavement to oil. Therefore, it is excellent public policy for the government to subsidize garbage to gas technology because it can potentially drive gas prices down to $1.01 per gallon. Conversely, we can say that Bush's Iraq policy is terrible policy because it does not give the Iraqi people the resources they need to live their lives to the fullest. And not only that, it diverts hundreds of billions of dollars that could be used to jumpstart garbage to gas technology as well as other worthwhile projects that could help us to live our lives to the fullest.
Let's use another example of Nietzsche in action, as he questions absolute morality. Is it moral, for instance, to sell drugs because the minimum wage job will not pay for the rent and the bills? If we are going to say that it is not moral to sell drugs, then we can't just invest millions of taxpayer dollars in a "just say no" campaign. And our prisons are already overcrowded. Most people who support the legalization of drugs would nonetheless acknowledge that they would not want their kids to use drugs. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to create the conditions so that people don't have to make that choice -- such as by raising the minimum wage even more, accelerating the creation of green jobs, and setting a variable minimum wage based on the local cost of living.
The problem, as Nietzsche states, is that God is dead and we have killed him. The problem with Christian Fundamentalism is that it takes God and makes him into man's image so that it is man's morality, not God's. The Platonists saw God as unknowable and us as seeing only through a dim sphere. I suggest that we must reclaim that ethic, because if we see God as far beyond anything we could ever comprehend, and the world as a grand design, then who are we to claim to speak for God? Only a small handful of people in all faiths have gotten to the level where they can presume to tell us what God's will is, and even then, most of us don't always understand. The Jesus of the New Testament and the Jesus of the Early Church are as different as night and day; what he taught and what the church implemented are two different things.
And as limpidglass notes, Nietzsche would go even further -- he would say that there is also an unbridgeable gap between the great and the mortals. For instance, could an average Greek soldier comprehend during the heat of the moment what Achilles was doing when he went to the tent and refused to fight when Agamemnon stole his favorite wife? His insight was that the masses would fight back against the Ubermensch and use their morality as a tool. As a people-powered movement ourselves, we have to take this to heart -- we have to be able to recognize greatness when we see it in someone. That does not mean that we should decide that a person is above criticism -- no great man fails to make mistakes. It is that we should be able to define greatness and look for it in our leaders to see how they measure up.
The danger, of course, is that we constrain greatness so much that our leaders will not be able to perform the creative acts necessary for the good of our country. That is the main problem, in fact, of this country -- our leaders are not being themselves for fear that they will be seen as soft on defense or not presidential enough or whatever. What we must do is let them be themselves, while maintaining the kind of constant vigilance that is always necessary in political activism.
At the same time, we must not fall prey to the chains of formalism. Let's say that Obama is the Second Coming of the Messiah -- that does not mean that we should create a stale orthodoxy out of his teachings. That is the trap that Mondale and McGovern and Dukakis did -- they tried to lean on the stale orthodoxy of the party without making it new or relevant again. That is not what Obama would want out of us -- he would want vigorous and healthy discussions of the issues.