Saturday, September 25, 2010

Arnold Schwarzenegger: A Different Approach to Nietzsche?

It would appear that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger shares at least some of my interested in reading Friedrich Nietzsche, although there seems to be a clear disagreement over both choice of sources and how they are read.  Consider this report by Marisa Lagos from the Sacramento Bureau of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Children will not have to wear helmets when they hit the ski slopes in California after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a piece of legislation Friday.

The measure by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, would have imposed a $25 fine on parents of minors caught skiing or snowboarding without a helmet, though supporters acknowledged the rule would be unlikely to be enforced. The language of the measure mirrors bicycle helmet laws already in place.

Schwarzenegger actually signed that bill, but vetoed a companion bill that would have required ski resorts to develop and publish safety plans and submit reports to state safety officials. The veto of that measure, AB1652 by Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, means that Yee's bill will not go into effect.

"Many California ski resorts are located on U.S. Forest Service land, and are already required to compile and file safety and accident reports with USFS as well as maintain some of this information in the resort management office," Schwarzenegger wrote in his veto message. "Ski resorts in California also already mark their ski area boundaries and trails with appropriate information. This bill may place an unnecessary burden on resorts, without assurance of a significant reduction in ski and snowboard-related injuries and fatalities."

Yee's bill, SB880, was opposed by some Republicans who said it amounts to "nanny government" and infringes on parents' rights.

But Yee - a child psychologist - argued that ski resorts are one of the only places of recreation where safety standards are absent, and said that the measure would significantly reduce traumatic brain injuries and deaths.
On the surface it would appear that our Governor cannot tell the difference between compiling and filing safety and accident reports and taking active measures to enforce safety regulations.  However, if he is capitulating to Republican aversion to "nanny government," then, in this case at least, it may reflect a deeper philosophical position, which is where Nietzsche enters the picture.

Where I have been more interested in the implications of Thus Spoke Zarathustra on such matters as political behavior and economic assistance, Schwarzenegger seems more interested in the wisdom of Twilight of the Idols, specifically as it is expressed in Section 8 of the "Maxims and Arrows" section:
Out of life’s school of war: What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.
In other words the ski slopes are just one of the classrooms of "life's school of war;"  and, having all but decimated the institutionalized classrooms in California's education system, our Governor would have kids seek classrooms in other venues.  Unfortunately, Schwarzenegger seems to have leapt over Nietzsche's preface on the way to this proposition, specifically the sentence:
Nothing succeeds if prankishness [Übermut] has no part in it.
One cannot read anything that follows the preface without accepting this premise (which may be one reason that Dennis Miller liked to draw upon that "school of war" for his monologues);  but, if in this particularly legislative decision the Governor has decided to assume his "Terminator persona," then there is clearly no room for Übermut in his reasoning.  The result is that "life's school of war" may assume a more serious role in State educational policy than either the goals or the needs of our public education system.  As Kurt Vonnegut would have said, "So it goes."

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