vs “Titanium”, David Guetta featuring Sia (Nothing But The Beat, 2011)
‘On the Bite of the Adder’ is a lot of fun. It begins with – what we will discover to be – a parable; and then proceeds – once the parable is revealed as such – with Zarathustra interpreting it for his ‘disciples’; finally – in the wake of the interpretation – a reversal.
Zarathustra is having a doze in the quietude of a shady tree, when a snake slithers up and fangs him. The teacher, now awake, neither wreaks revenge upon the snake, nor does he seek to forgive the adder. Rather – he takes the piss (this is, after all, a talking snake). Calls himself a dragon – and says that he is impervious to the adder’s venom. Indeed, the little fellow may come to regret wasting his precious but petty malice upon Zarathustra. Feeling a bit ‘awkward’ (nice one Nietzsche), the snake sets about trying to take back his poison. Fat chance.
Zarathustra – as Sia would have it in rave-maestro David Guetta’s ‘Titanium’ – is bulletproof.
An electric guitar arpeggio opens the tune, accompanied by a laconic, almost murmured vocal. But the song is there for the body to encounter an ecstasy of sound, and Sia’s vocals soar as synth kicks in, and its almost as if we have fallen into an airless vacuum: ‘I'm bulletproof, nothing to lose / Fire away, fire away / Ricochet, you take your aim / Fire away, fire away / You shoot me down but I won't fall / I am titanium’. And then the beat drops… immense.
This is a disruptive act (and neither a reaction nor a passive acceptance). The ideal Christian response would be to forgive and turn the other cheek. The ideal Old Testament reaction would be to take an eye for an eye. Sia – just like Zarathustra – has another way. And ‘On the Bite of the Adder’ is a mediation on enemies (their acts and our responses) just like ‘Titanium’. Unlike the ultra-modern soundscape of the song, however, Nietzsche employs Biblical imagery and language. The snake of the tree of the garden of Eden encounters the dragon of Revelation in the guise of the teacher of immorality. Immorality in this instance being Zarathustra’s rejection of the logical dichotomy allowed in the Biblical worldview.
What follows is a taxonomy of enemies: intellectual, criminal, social, and so on. On the one hand, and in a minor key, different enemies require different types of response. Not simply because of the enemy, but also because of the one who is attacked. Thus, in the major key and on the other hand, we have Nietzsche’s critique: justice does not acknowledge the one who is attacked. Zarathustra’s teaching: ‘How can I give to each his own! Let this suffice me: I give to each my own’. In this way, the idea of objective justice is revealed as an unobtainable ideal, another corrupt illusion. But also, Zarathustra’s is no idealisation of the conscious I, for the response comes from the ‘ground up!’ – a pre-subjective encounter with the world. Remember, Zarathustra was awoken by the snake. He wasn’t even mad about being woken up!
In Daybreak (aka Dawn), Nietzsche writes of an encounter with the laughter of another while out walking: ‘One person will absorb it like a drop of rain, another will shake it from him like an insect, another will try to pick a quarrel, another will examine his clothing to see if there is anything about it that might give rise to laughter, another will be led to reflect on the nature of laughter as such, another will be glad to have involuntarily augmented the amount of cheerfulness and sunshine in the world’ (D: II.119).
First Part: Chapter 20 - Louis Armstrong