vs “War (The Process)”, The Cult (Beyond Good and Evil, 2001)
‘I should like to see,’ declares Zarathustra ‘many warriors!’ And these warriors are Zarathustra’s ‘brothers in warfare!’ War and warriors – is Zarathustra advocating militarism? Is Nietzsche promoting the soldier, the rebel, the terrorist, the gun, the sword, the state, nationalism, rebellion, patriotism, revolution, restoration, conquest, empire, imperialism, intervention? Etc.
Let us begin again: ‘I see many soldiers: I should like to see many warriors!’ – Nietzsche forces a distinction (‘“Uni-form” one calls what they wear: may what they hide with it not be uni-form’). ‘My brothers in warfare! … I am also your best enemy’ – Zarathustra encompasses friend and foe (‘I know about the hatred and envy in your hearts… be great enough then not to be ashamed of them’). Warriors and warfare as concepts are revealed in an ungrounding.
We can turn immediately to The Cult – to Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy – to one of their most brutal and beautiful compositions, a psychedelic-metal track that kicks off their most intense and powerful album: ‘War (The Process)’ from Beyond Good and Evil. Over one of Duffy’s heaviest killer riffs (first rendered in the dirtiest of fat bass lines), Astbury chants – ‘Cultivate a war breed / Get the head your soul needs’. The war breed are warriors of the body, of the will, of thought, desires, ideas.
‘Crystallize at light speed / Dis the lies that they feed’ – continues Astbury; the chant to be repeated once more as Duffy’s distorted guitar re-joins the fray. This is the war, this is the task of the warrior, as Zarathustra makes clear: ‘You shall seek your enemy, you shall wage your war – and for your own thoughts!’ As Astbury echoes in the chorus: ‘War – A state of mind’.
And both Astbury and Nietzsche see such war as ongoing and the warrior as an affirmation of being in the world. Hence the subtitle of The Cult track; and Zarathustra’s recommendation to ‘love peace as a means to new wars. And a short peace more than the long’. War as a process, the warrior as someone who faces themselves, embraces the process and understands ‘the human is something that is to be overcome,’continually. Life is struggle: ‘Lies Drugs Hate Guns God Fear Flies Sex / We're burning out of control’. Hence: obedience. ‘May your nobility be obedience!’ writes Nietzsche, ‘May your very commanding be an obeying’. ‘Drop your front baby’ sings Astbury ‘Obey the command’. This is the will to power, the will which surges forth and must be embodied, acted upon, birthed into the world. Astbury puts it beautifully: ‘Ride the horse that runs free / That runs free’. This is acceptance and affirmation: accepting the war, affirming the warrior.
Two related questions follow. The first: is Zarathustra’s use of warfare and warriors merely figurative? If so – the second question – why use war and warriors as a figure? In Will to Power (the collected notes from Nietzsche’s notebooks) we discover many possible keys to the text, and many disturbing reflections on war and warriors. Here is one: ‘what good is it to hold with all one’s strength that war is evil!... one wages war nonetheless! One cannot do otherwise!’ (WP: 353). Astbury taunts: ‘Is nature dead?’ You think Nietzsche wrong? Do you wage war against injustice? Against those that do not believe what you believe: for social justice, equality; against sexism, racism. Genocide? For traditions? For freedom from government? Do you wage war against sin? With those who believe what you believe? How far would you go? ‘Exterminate the bad seed’? Destroy the destroyers? ‘War and courage,’ challenges Nietzsche in Chapter 10, ‘have accomplished more great things than love of one’s neighbour. Not your pitying but your bravery has so far saved the unfortunate’ (there will be more on pity in Part II). ‘Therewith,’ concludes Nietzsche, we should consider this ‘ideology of good and evil as refuted. But’ – the crux! ‘one cannot refute an illness’ (WP: 353). Sometimes reading Nietzsche is like having your face rubbed in your own shit.