YOU have become Nietzsche’s Madman

On: October 9, 2007
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About Minke Kampman
I am a graduate of the MA New Media programme at the University of Amsterdam. I have a bachelor degree in Graphic Design from ArtEZ, Arnhem. We dislike referring to ourselves in the third person. .....continue_reading:.......................................................................................................... My_Website........................................................................................................................ LinkedIn............................................................................................................................. Loading Clusty Cloud ...

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Is Nietzsche’s Madman not a parable that is still appliable to the world of today? Let’s have a look and see for ourselves;

—-Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: “I found God! I found God!”—As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Did you search? asked one. Or were you feeling lucky? asked another. —Thus they yelled and laughed. The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have Googled him—you and I. All of us are his finders. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God was lost, but has now been Googled.

The original version of ‘The Parable of the Madman’ as written by Friedrich Nietzsche can be read here, this text above is my adapted version of the Parable of the Madman. For it seems that the tables have turned on us and yet not. I will elaborate on this later, but at first I truly thought I had found a perfect metaphore to desribe the world of new media. One person to shake everyone awake and show us the backside of the directory of all the wonderfull things we have today. Because that was Nietzsche’s intention with the Madman; he wanted people to think for themselves. More so than to think the way Nietzsche himself did. This is a message that runs through his whole oeuvre, according to a BBC documentary on Nietzsche called ‘Human, All Too Human’ (which can be seen on YouTube). And it is the Madman that makes these people think for themselves, for instance by lightening a lantern while it is already in the bright morning hours, as to enlighten the market people. And he’s not asking for help, but he does adress all the people at the market. So everyone can hear that he seeks (in Nietzsche’s version; ‘found’ in the adapted version by me) God and they all can decide for themselves how to react.

Nowadays, we have people like Virgil Griffith, for instance, with his Wikiscanner. That shows us that, even when I’m unregistred, I can still be identified by linking the IP adress I use to me as a person or to the company I work for. On the other hand, we have Daniel Brandt. His company Public Information Research released Scroogle in 2005, a screenscraping proxy for Google. So that by using this, you don’t give any of your data to Google. And we have Shin’ichi Konomi who writes about the wonderfull world of RFID in Japan. What do all these people have in common? Are these all issues about privacy, surveillance, powerstructures or gadgets, perhaps? No, and the list is not finished by far, but what they have in common is that they all are users of some kind of new media. And they all notice something, or are irritated by the way a company works or fascinated by an individual. And like a Madman they run into the streets to tell everyone this. Nietzsche’s wish has come true, we are all thinking for ourselves. That being either the person that gives us insights about how wikipedia works. Or the person that explain way Google isn’t all good. And it isn’t up to the authoritive figures to tell us what to believe and what not. What we should know and what not. Together we all seem to know everything, for we are all users. And together we will keep searching for the truth in things and share.

Today’s Madman is the user. We are our own Madman. The Madman is YOU!

(from a letter to his sister Elisabeth)
Every true faith is infallible.
It beforms what the believing person hopes to find in it,
but it does not offer the least support for the establishing of an objective truth.
Here the ways of men divide.
If you want to achieve peace of mind have faith.
If you want truth, than search.

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