I was writing Cairo Reflections Two: Jaywalking with Nietzsche. This contained pages and pages of digressions on archery, Cairo traffic, Eid Al-Adha, why I stopped hunting in my early 20s, Nietzsche, and the death of the God. My computer crashed and I lost all but a fragment. I will share the fragments I had written in notes for it, although the original writing was about 4000 words longer than this:
Listening to Stephen West’s podcast, Philosophize This!, while I was dodging a white 1980s-model Fiat Taxi, I saw a sheep face being eaten by a couple of street dogs. The sheep face was left over the Halal slaughter for Eid-al-adha and women carefully avoided it by walking in the road. Three women in black polyester naqab carrying some items on their heads, and I wanted a diet Pepsi, chief among my vices, so I avoided it and head to the one souq that was nearby and open despite the holiday. The way Cairo causes you to change risk calculation and to live in concern with different things is fascinating. Most foreigners are turned off by the remains of the ritual slaughter of lamb sacrifices for Eid.
My ajahn, a Theravada Buddhist teacher who immigrated from Sri Lanka to Georgia I used to talk to in my early 20s, said this was a good a thing. That killing the animal did more damage than just eating it. That the intention of killing had karmic and psychological effects, but I don’t know if I buy that. I quit eating as much the first time I field dressed a deer–the third white tail I ever killed–and after I did it, I didn’t not want to bow hunt anymore. Indeed, Egyptians eat a lot less meat than Americans–mostly pigeons, chicken, and sometimes beef but not as often–and their diet is mostly rice, fava beans, eggplants, pasta, bread, chopped salad, lentils and cheese.
Regardless, it always struck me that both attitudes, one that was okay with watching a ram bleed out, and one that just mindlessly eat a burger but was disgusted at the “barbarism” of a sheep face left for dogs could be equally careless. Furthermore, both could fall into a secular “other worldism” that was not so much revolutionary or transformative as escapist. This brings me back to West’s podcast on Nietzsche.
West focuses on the full context of the Nietzsche’s quote:
God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?— Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Section 125, tr. Walter Kaufmann
A serious reader will notice this is not just a statement of atheism. In fact, for the atheist, God isn’t dead, God never was. The transhistorical nature of that claim can’t be squared with Nietzsche’s point here. Secularization is the main metaphor and secularization is irreversible because the nature of the categories has changed. God here is a social and psychological way of dealing with meaning, and as West puts it, that technology for reifying values seems to be more and more impossible beyond just the individual’s faith.
Even if one is a Christian or Muslim, one should take secularization seriously. Indeed, thinking in terms of the secular/religious instead of sacred/profane, indicates a shift in the social world view. No matter if one believes in the ontological existence of God, the social being around that fact has changed, has been seemingly forever secularized as the spheres in which religious life is generally seen as most relevant seems to fade. So when Nietzsche declares “God is dead, and remains dead, and we have killed him.” It is not nearly just atheism that is at stake. In is in no small insight that Nietzsche has found God dead in the market place when he speaks about this in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Indeed, in the posits of “other worlds” that deny our own world, Nietzsche seems to have no problem putting both the capitalist and the socialist as flies in the festering wound on the corpse of God in society.
Now, Nietzsche was both profoundly anti-Christian, but his insights in the secularization of even the highly religious-professing society should not be lost on anyone. Indeed, this is why Pope John-Paul the Second considered him a necessary figure to deal with for any serious faith.
What does Nietzsche had to do with Eid? Why, other than arbitrary listening of a podcast does this seem relevant to me? Is that Nietzsche himself collapsed trying to stop the beating of a horse? Is that in risk taking, I better myself?
The answer is that even a highly religious society like Egypt has tensions around secularization deeper than just lingering remains of Ottoman jurisprudence or Nasr’s pan-arab attempt undo Islamist identity. It is that even in this world, we are still seeing this as a clash between one world system and another, and in Egypt the problem seems more obvious and more deeply felt. It causes questions to bubble up that I don’t have an answer for…
(That is all I have of the original reflect and I don’t feel like recreating the rest of it from memory).