Ruthless or Fearless: You choose.
Ruthless or Fearless: You choose.
If you had one chance in life to be Napoleon to do so something great and all that stood in your way was a single murder, would you do it?
This is the same question posed by Dostoyevsky in Crime and Punishment. It is a question that offers so many levels of understanding about the way people try to resolve their desires for greatness as opposed to their fears of consequences. At the basis of this question is fear: the fear of being forgotten in history; the fear of being insignificant; the fear of being unknown; the fear of being no better than the mediocrity. In the choice of being considered one of the masses and one of the greats who would not prefer to be one of the greats?
There is an argument forwarded by many people that in the scale of things one life does not matter that much. A single human life, when compared to many, is a small sacrifice as long as we are chasing the Greater Good. Who defines what the Greater Good is anyone’s guess. Yet Greatness is often defined in who is remembered by history. The great poets; the great artists, inventors, scientists, philosophers, generals, emperors are all remembered and committed to annals of history. When living a life many strive for greatness so that they can join this exclusive group but only a few make it. Nietzsche was of the opinion that it was because some people could do what was required to rise above humanity and the rest just basically stumbled in the bog. All glory to the Superman who has boarded the ship of greatness then promptly pulls up the plank to prevent the stumblers from following. “Pull up the plank I am aboard.” Or as Nietzsche says himself,
“The weak and botched shall perish: first principle of our charity. And one should help them to it”
and later insists,
“Wrong never lies in unequal rights; it lies in the assertion of “equal” rights..” From the Antichrist.
You can ask yourself: What would Napoleon do? The answer would certainly involve divisions of men, cannons and then counting the dead as little more than lost chess pieces. We have more stumblers in the bog that fell upon their deserved fate. So many people have asked that same question and answered in the manner that has bathed the world in blood. Karl Marx followed a similar line of reasoning when he claimed that he had discovered the laws of history. He claimed that history only remember two kinds of people: the very good and the very bad. Then he went on to define who he saw as the very good as the ‘progressive’ and everyone else as ‘reactionaries’. The popular misconception that there is such a thing as ‘the progressive evolution of history’ is in a large part a legacy of this axiom. In Marxism ‘progressives’ are the heroes of the cause until they fall out of favour and are replaced with new ‘progressives’. ‘The ends justify the means’ or as Marx insisted that anything that is against the Utopian state is lie and anything that supports the state cannot be a lie. The revolution was just a passing phase of bloodiness before we are able to share in the Worker’s Paradise.
It was Shakespeare who wrote perhaps the best condemnation of the ‘Ends Justifying the Mean’s axiom.
“Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;” from Hamlet.
Look at any ambition where people stand in the way and consider what must be done to remove those pesky people there is sometimes the option of killing them. But to kill another human requires some way of overcoming any resistance . It is not a natural thing to murder someone haplessly and without provocation. To kill another for mere profit is to put profit above the value of human life. People wrestle with conscience as did Shakespeare’s Richard 111 when he uttered,
“O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!”
Conscience is seen as the coward that slows the hand to murder and stops people from the freedom of being ruthless.
A truly ruthless and unconscionable person is an oddity that stands out as a warning to others. “Please avoid this person and any others like them.” Yet history, which we seems to always fail to learn from itself, manages to repeat itself and present the next monster for us to escape.
Perhaps courage does not so much exist in being free of all conscience after all? What need do we have to be remembered in the pages of history written with a quill dipped in the blood that we have spilt? As such I am very comfortable with being held in contempt by all the great Napoleon’s of this world.