The First Essay: Nietzsche’s blamers and warriors


by cheri block sabraw

Nietzsche’s First Essay in his On the Genealogy of Morality traces the origins of our Western values. He bifurcates early human groups into two: the aristocratic nobles and the priestly/slaves.

It would be understatement to say that he reviles the priest/slave class.

The Greek ideal, the warriors who just be without regard for others’ judgments or labels, those elites who eat, play, joust, kill, and exist without much regard for those they kill or consume are in Nietzsche’s plus column.

Those who are on the receiving end of the crap are the priests/slaves who in their powerlessness, devise passive aggressive ways of turning their dung heap existence into a resentful advantage in which their lot is “good” and they are “good” because they are victims; their victors are “bad.”

His First Essay attempts to discuss the differences between bad and good and bad and evil. Nietzsche trivializes Dante’s “naivete” ( in the Inferno) in [his} labeling the sign above Hell with the following words: Eternal love created me as well, saying that the sign should have read, Eternal hate created me, as well.” I must agree with Nietzsche in his observation.

Nietzsche first uses the Jews and then the Christians to illustrate this group of people.

Their powerlessness created their hatred, he says, and helped the later Christians to gather support in a religious movement that emphasized that suffering is good and forgiveness necessary for eternal salvation. This belief then caused believers to focus on the next world and how to get there.

Nietzsche believes that our morality has been hijacked by a large group of people who are manipulators.

He doesn’t fully come to terms with the raping and pillaging of the less powerful and the stripping of dining tables and dresses, but he does make some excellent points which I submit here:

1.    Most of us are oriented toward everything outside of us. We are blamers, we humans. Nietzsche calls this blamer mentality “ressentiment,” a term whereby a victim blames his poverty or unhappiness or abuse on someone or thing outside of himself. He becomes a victim and then capitalizes on victim status.

2.    Meek is bad.  So is righteousness  and so is reactive behavior.

The discussion today swirled around without answer. Calls for definitions of “sovereign man” and “free will.”

Other translations from the German were exhumed from backpacks.
The word “dismal” in one translation became “somber” in another.

Today the seminar wrestled with Nietzsche.

Nietzsche wrestled with the seminar.

Call him what you will.

About Cheri

Writer, photograph, artist, mother, grandmother and wife.
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31 Responses to The First Essay: Nietzsche’s blamers and warriors

  1. Christopher says:

    Nietzsche’s writings contain such contradictory stuff that anyone can use them to support their own philosophies, no matter how odious, or liberating.

    Thus, Hitler found much support in Nietzsche, as do the people at Esalen!!

    Can what Nietzsche wrote, be divorced from his personal circumstances, among which were that his father was a priest; and that he (Nietzsche) spent the last ten of his fifty-six years in a madhouse.

    Regarding his madness, did he suddenly become mad at forty-six? Or did he slowly, much earlier, begin becoming mad?

    If the latter, we might then suppose that much that Nietzsche wrote, he wrote when at least a little bit mad.

  2. Cheri says:

    Thanks for raising some thought-provoking questions.

    I don’t know the answers as our seminar has been focusing solely on the text and nothing of his life.

  3. Nietzsche was the philosopher of context. Unfortunately, although the context you put him in is all factually accurate, you fail to make any inferences-save “we might then suppose that much that Nietzsche wrote, he wrote when at least a little bit mad.”

    Make a better point than that. Also, I don’t think you understand his psychological illness to make such a superficial statement like that.

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  6. Zarathustra says:

    Excellent assessment of The Genealogy of Morals, Cheri! One minor disagreement, though. You wrote:

    “Meek is bad. So is cheerfulness in coping with crap.”

    The “meek” critique I agree with. But Nietzsche had high praise for “cheerfulness,” most famously in The Gay Science. By contrast, the “slave” group is anything but cheerful — their “ressentiment” prevents them from feeling cheer.

    Other than that one correction, though, I love what you wrote. I think it’s important to study Nietzsche today, with all that’s going on (especially vis-a-vis our culture of victimhood).

  7. Cheri says:

    Thank you for the correction. I have not read The Gay Science.
    When my reading load lightens a bit, I will read it.

    My study of Nietzsche last summer opened up new passages of thought.

    Your last sentence is spot on.

  8. Foreign Toe says:

    I, Cheri, can’t accept Nietzsche
    Or his speech a-
    Bout bouts and those Counts
    (Not Sermons on Mounts)
    And I know that you are my teacher.

    [Hope this relates. It’s probably crap, so keep cheerful]

    • Cheri says:


      Have you read The Genealogy?
      Might change your mind here or there.

      As we learned from Zarathustra, Nietzsche appreciated cheerfulness. 😉

  9. Foreign Toe says:

    I noted my set reading for today, and being of a naturally idle disposition, and aware that you have no sanction to apply for my neglect, I cheated and read the related article in Wikipedia. I hope this confession will be taken into account when you grade me.
    First, I do aspire to be a Christian, but a heretical one. Thus, if I ever acquire a faith I will at all times question it and I will studiously avoid superstition in all its forms. Faith is not to be used as a bargaining tool against the promise of a life hereafter and precepts anodyne to the human condition such as the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth and resurrection are to be strictly avoided. What then distinguishes my aspiration from other aspirations? Nothing that I can see, but I have to focus.
    As far as I can tell, it is a Christian injunction not to judge others and the sanction is that the judge will be judged. Since the article does not suggest that Nietzsche proposes either belief or non-belief, I cannot introduce the concept of God, so this can only mean that the judge will ultimately judge himself.
    According to Nietzsche (so the article implies), if I am a noble, altruism, or good works or feelings toward others is the remnant of a forgotten usefulness, which is merely labelled “Good”. There are a number of unidentified and unauthenticated assumptions here, but let us take the assertion at its face value. His counterbalance is that if, historically, I am a slave or a priest then by a process of “Ressentiment”, or self justification, I adopt a contrary morality to achieve a moral superiority over those who have control over me. Such analysis is the result of a subjective assessment of selected facts according to Nietzsche’s assumptions. Quite apart from the tautology of the approach, other assumptions may lead to a different analysis of other observable facts.
    As if anticipating what those may be, Nietzsche goes on to deal with sin, punishment and asceticism.
    Punishment, he says, is historically the result of a compensatory process and acquired the trappings of moral judgment, the concept of sin. Yes, as far as it goes, but there are other amoral derivations of punishment. For example, Lord Denning opined that the purpose of punishment was threefold: compensatory, denunciatory and reformative. If this opinion is correct, it represents a more comprehensive explanation for the existence of punishment, free from Nietzsche’s assumptions.
    The meaning of asceticism, says Nietzsche, varies according to which group, arbitrarily chosen by him, to which I belong. The common thread is the purpose of asceticism, whether ideology, spirituality or power. Yet asceticism is capable of being its own justification.
    Thus instead of proposing a critique of morality (which is subjective and individual anyway) he advocates his own.
    My final confession is that I have worked from my own personal feeling of despondency at Nieztsche’s overall cynicism, so I am vulnerable to accusations of being judgmental, which in the end is my criticism of Nietzsche. No wonder he advocated cheerfulness, in the face of his odds.

    [ 523 words (I think). I was going to entitle this essay “How to Wangle a Free Tutorial”]

  10. Cheri says:

    I am not, in any sense of the words, a Nietzsche expert. In fact, my study of his one work, The Genealogy of Morality, comprised five days of class at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico and a great deal of reading beforehand.

    I commend you for reading about his work and trying to summarize–in 523 words!–his philosophy. For that effort, you most certainly earn an A.

    Most uninformed people use the overly quoted God is Dead to summarize Nietzsche’s
    core beliefs. This type of oversimplification is typical of lazy learners.

    In our modern culture of victimhood, victims of all ilks should read Nietzsche.

  11. Foreign Toe says:

    You are the consummate teacher, patiently reading the work of the class dullard, overgrading him, then gently and inconspicuously coaxing him into a better understanding.

    So, let me get this straight in my own mind. I’m trying to think of other words with the suffix -hood. Adulthood, childhood, nationhood. So far, more or less, these words all relate to qualities we all possess at some time or other in our lives. Yes, victimhood is the quality we all possess at some time in our lives of being a victim.

    Be that as it may, if I wish to understand Nietzsche, I have to consider entire groups who possess this quality. Abused children, abused wives, the wrongly dispossessed, the unjustly maligned and accused, the oppressed, the poor, the starving, the meek, the persecuted, the chided peacemakers.

    Quite clearly, I need to question myself as to whether these states of being are desirable or need to be minimised. Those belonging to a group comprise those who wish to change their condition and those who do not wish to change their condition. To which sub-group would I belong? Since this consideration is a subjective one, it may be fair to label the outlook “a morality”. Thus, if I wanted to change my situation, then I would advocate the elimination of those forces responsible for it. Is that what victimhood is?

    Or perhaps I belong to the other sub-group. Who might these be? They are certainly willing, for whatever reason, either to remain there permanently or to wait for others to change first. It might be because they get a good feeling out of their situation for its own sake, or because they get a good feeling out of allowing others to go first. Perhaps this second sub-group are altruists.

    The feeling may sometimes be so good that the subject may voluntarily cast himself into a particular group or sub-group. Am I right in supposing that the system of values in either case is the nature of victimhood, and that Nietzsche finds this undesirable?

    I am no nearer to understanding him. Perhaps it is the charlatans who are his target. Were they? In that case, I would have no difficulty in reviewing their system of values, but I would then be simplistic.

    So where, Cheri, do I go from here? Or do I impose upon you too much?

  12. She knows less about Nietzsche than you. Nietzsche didn’t write anything about victimhood, though people on this blog may tell you otherwise.

    He is writing against a morality of sheep, slaves and other people with no power to do anything about their situations. He is asking people who can do something to actually do it, and not call being a sheep or a slave good, and think that this actually accomplishes something.

  13. Foreign Toe says:

    I assure you, Bahram (if I may address you in that fashion), I know less about Nietzsche than either you or Cheri. I do not underestimate Cheri. She does not claim to be an expert on Nietzsche, but to be a teacher, so I am sure she welcomes you. I welcome her guidance, since she knows her pupil.

    Cheri, are you able to tell me how Bahram’s understanding corresponds to, or diverges from yours? Is he saying that Nietzsche does not address the the morality of the victims (or are you saving that for later, Bahram?). Apparently, there is a class of people who commend the state of sheep, slaves and priests, as long as they themselves are exempt from it. This being Nietzsche’s insight, according toBahram, it is a cynicism I do not find palatable, but I must clear my mind of such prejudice if I am to learn anything.

    I did not know that a trial of Nietzsche’s philosophy was on the agenda, particularly as you are an admirer, Cheri. Perhaps a trial is a bad idea, given Nietzsche’s genius.

    This is a very hard learning curve for me, and I don’t want to give up just yet. Perhaps I try your and Bahram’s patience too much, but will my lessons resume?

  14. Cheri says:

    Pretend I am a sheep and Mr. Farzady is the wolf.

    The wolf comes onto the blog and instead of joining a friendly conversation, this wolf starts out with a stern statement of intellectual superiority.

    The sheep get scared and summon other sheep for support, calling the wolf aggressive and short.
    They all get into agreement that their way of communicating is kind and understanding and patient, even if part of it could be in error.

    Suddenly, even if they are in error, they seem Good and Right.

    The wolf, who may have been right after all, is now Bad.

    That sums up what I meant. Whether we call a group of slaves sheep or victims, doesn’t matter. Semantic disconnect?

    Nietzsche does not use the word victim, true enough, to describe the what he calls the slave class, people who, like sheep, are powerless. He goes on to expand on the power generated by this class of sheep (which I called victims).

    Imagine 100 sheep, clustering together out in a big English countryside, moving to the left and right at the whim of the herding dog and afraid of the wolf.

    Are sheep victims? Are slaves victims? They do tend to be on the short end of the stick, usually.

    Coyotes and wolves do kill sheep.

    And whose stick? The Masters, the Warrior Class.

    Are sheep often eaten by wolves and coyotes?
    Are sheep an animal used by those more powerful?

    Nietzsche’s point about the Master and the Slave, and the power of slaves in mass who define their status as Good as a way to manipulate the Master, is timely now, when all kinds of groups (who identify themselves as “victims” ) sheep being herded around by the Government, the Man, the Woman, the entity in power, whatever…

  15. Foreign Toe says:

    Thank you.

    I am a very slow student, and have read this lesson five times now. I hope to capture a faint spark before it fades.

    Will I only make music if I leave the escalator and climb the stairs? (Sorry, Bahram, I speak in riddles, but Cheri will understand me, and I am trying to hold you in focus too.)

    Let me venture an observation. The exploitation by the powerful creates a double imbalance because the predicament of the powerless fosters a false morality. Thus there has to be a relief of the suffering of the powerless by the powerful before a new morality can come into being. Or is the mere recognition of the imbalance enough?

    Am I getting closer or further away? Am I going anywhere? Is there a fast route to understanding?

  16. Foreign Toe says:

    Andreas tells me I should feel no pain when I am stretching myself. I give up. I know when I’m licked.

  17. Foreign Toe says:

    But thank you for trying so hard, against the odds. Sorry to disappoint you.

  18. Cheri says:

    Let me venture an observation. The exploitation by the powerful creates a double imbalance because the predicament of the powerless fosters a false morality.a

    You have it here!
    About whether or not the powerful are interested in ameliorating the suffering of the weak, and Nietzche’s view on that, I do not know.

    Also, I am not on my blog 24/7. You will understand that I am still working full time.

    Thank you for your understanding.

  19. Foreign Toe says:

    It seems you have seen Bahram off! How uncharacteristically retiring of him.
    Does “Retired” take comparatives? I must retire to my CPD points now.

  20. Elizarathustra says:

    So Foreign Toe, you’re like, really in love with Cheri aren’t you?

    I’m not trying to offend you, it’s just the way you put yourself down and glorify everything she says.

    You would post a message after every word she spoke if you could but not she isn’t responding. Or you two have already moved to another blog and left this relic to be read by an observer in the future.

    • Cheri says:

      It does seem as if you are trying to hurt Foriegn Toe’s feelings. What would Nietzsche say about passive aggressive comments?

      I’ve been a teacher for 38 years and can usually sniff out an intention.

      What do you care if someone comments on a blog?

  21. Cheri says:

    This blog is a relic?

    Yikes. I must reconsider the time I spend writing each piece…

    Welcome to the Nietzsche corner of this relic.

  22. lichanos says:

    Hi –

    I found your blog via Man of Rome. You might find my post on Fred, and the subsequent comments, of some interest:

    When I read Fred in college, my section leader summarized his philosophy by referring to the advertising campaigns of Coke and Seven Up: Coke was the warrior class- they just ARE the best, and make no bones about it; 7UP was the snivelling passive-aggressive slaves. They try to make themselves superior to the Coke-warriors with their paltry slogan, “7 Up, the UNcola…” Tearing down their betters and making a virtue of it…

    I thought that was hilarious, and it still seems to me to have FN in a nutshell.

  23. The Village Gossip says:

    I read this entire thread and, really, I am none the wiser. My education is sadly lacking.

  24. lichanos says:

    @Village Gossip:

    Buck up! Socrates said, “One thing I know is that I know nothing.”

  25. Cheri says:

    Hi Lichanos,
    Welcome to my blog and thanks for your link. I visited there several days ago and did get a kick out of the subsequent comments.

    I am not retired (nor as attentive as Andreas or Man of Roma to their blogs), so please forgive my tardiness in responding to you.

    I wrote a blog post on The Scarlet Letter but which is really is about Socrates…

  26. Y Headley says:

    Great summary on Nietzsche and into the blamer mentality going on ….thank you for the insights.

    • Cheri says:


      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. Lots of people read this post but few weigh in.

      I enjoyed writing this series of posts. This summer at St. John’s we are studying Jung, so I will post again.


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