21
Feb
10

The Truth Deficit

Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals:

“As its power increases, a community ceases to take the individual’s transgressions so seriously, because they can no longer be considered as dangerous and destructive to the whole as they were formerly: the malefactor is no longer ‘set beyond the pale of peace’ and thrust out; universal anger may not be vented upon him as unrestrainedly as before — on the contrary, the whole from now on carefully defends the malefactor against this anger, especially that of those he has directly harmed, and takes him under its protection. A compromise with the anger of those directly injured by the criminal; an effort to localize the affair and to prevent it from causing any further, let alone a general, disturbance; attempts to discover equivalents and to settle the whole matter (compositio); above all, the increasingly definite will to treat every crime as in some sense dischargeable, and thus at least to a certain extent to isolate the criminal and his deed from one another — these traits become more and more clearly visible as the penal law evolves. As the power and self-confidence of the community increase, the penal law always becomes more moderate; every weakening or imperiling of the former brings with it a restoration of the harsher forms of the latter. The ‘creditor’ always becomes more humane to the extent that he has grown richer; finally, how much injury can he endure without suffering from it becomes the actual measure of his wealth. It is not unthinkable that a society might attain such a consciousness of power that it could allow itself the noblest luxury possible to it — letting those who harm it go unpunished. ‘What are my parasites to me?’ it might say. ‘May they live and prosper: I am strong enough for that!’ 

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