Monday, February 21, 2011
Jay-Z and Nietzsche on Gettin' that Dirt Off Your Shoulder
I'm sure many of you remember this great clip from the 2008 presidential race. In response to Hilary Clinton's negative campaign ads, then-Senator Obama brushes off his shoulders, alluding to Jay-Z's "Dirt Off Your Shoulder."
[Please, listen as you read.]
To brush the dirt off of one's shoulder is to treat another's negative comment or act of disrespect as unimportant, as not worthy of one's attention, as, well, mere dirt on one's shoulder.
For Jay-Z, if you take yourself to be great, if you're "feelin' like a pimp," you should react this way to most, if not all, negative comments or acts of disrespect.
Jay: "I'm a hustler homey, you're a customer crony/ Got some dirt on my shoulder, could you brush it off for me?"
Great people, for Jay, should have no time for small, petty detractors.
In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, he writes:
"No longer raise up your arm against them [the "flies of the marketplace," the haters]. Numberless are they, and it is not your lot to shoo flies. Numberless are the small and miserable creatures; and many a proud building has perished of raindrops and weeds."
While Nietzsche thinks that great people shouldn't hesitate to brush the dirt off their shoulders in reaction to the comments and actions of haters, he surprisingly encourages great people (or those who would dare to be great) to flee from those who offer praise and adoration as well.
Nietzsche takes it that small people are unable to appreciate true greatness and flock to what is flashy, what is of the moment. He writes: "Little do the people comprehend what is great--that is, the creating."
When small people encounter a great person, they demand that she say something profound (now!), that she give them answers, that she give them a new song to sing.
For Nietzsche, paying attention to this type of adoration and attention is just as harmful to the great person as her taking negative comments too seriously.
For Nietzsche, the world revolves ("invisibly"), around the subtle ideas of great persons. For Nietzsche, "It is the stillest words that bring on the storm. Thoughts that come on doves' feet guide the world."
To listen to the crowd, to put on a show, is, for Nietzsche, to miss one's call to greatness. To be truly great, for Nietzsche, is to think ideas that will change the world, without concern for the ever-changing tastes of the crowd.
Nietzsche takes it that one should brush off the haters and the worshipers.
Is he correct?
Is our president aiming at greatness by Nietzsche's standards?
Posted by Brandon Hogan at 6:38 PM