Zarathustra vs The Stranglers

Thus Spoke Zarathustra – First Part – Chapter 22: ‘On the Bestowing Virtue’ III
vs “No More Heroes” The Stranglers (No More Heroes, 1977)

Zarathustra wants no believers (tho’ the lure is there). Zarathustra wants no disciples (tho’ the lure is there). And Zarathustra don’t even want followers (tho’ again, the lure is there). The final section of the final chapter of Book One of Zarathustra is like that wonderful scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) – the Pythons were arch-Nietzscheans. Our fake messiah, hiding in a hermit’s grotto, tells his nascent adherents: ‘Now, fuck off’ (without – we hope – the confused rejoinder: ‘How shall we fuck off, O Lord?’).

‘You say you believe in Zarathustra? But what does Zarathustra matter? You are my believers: but what do any believers matter?’ Thus Spoke Zarathustra concerns the death of belief in god, of gods, of all kinds of idols: the state, the market, leaders, teachers. All appeals to authority should be seen as suspect and be treated with suspicion and scepticism. It is exactly such a sentiment as this that inspires The Stranglers punk classic ‘No More Heroes’.

A bastard of a bassline. A heavy, distorted bastard of a bassline. Keyboards – so not punk they are so punk. And Hugh Cornwell’s belligerent rhetorical question: ‘Whatever happened to the heroes?’ Is it that these heroes are all dead? Trotsky with the ice pick. Or is that there never really were any heroes, that having heroes is a problem? In life, and in death through personality cults, fake artifacts like the works of the great forger Elmyr de Hory. Far better the scepticism and suspicion in the critical comedy of Lenny Bruce, or the sanchismos (irony and parodies) of Cervantes. When Brian claims: ‘I'm not the Messiah!’, Arthur responds: ‘I say you are, Lord, and I should know, I've followed a few’. This is not the way Zarathustra wants to roll…

Hang on – what about Nietzsche’s heroes? Wagner, Schopenhauer? Simply this: ‘One repays a teacher poorly if one always remains a student’.

And with that we conclude the First Book of Zarathustra. Nietzsche published this book early in 1883, while working on the second. He sold very few copies in his lifetime.

So, as Mandy – Brian’s mum – would say: 'Now, piss off!'

Second Part: Chapter 1 - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

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