Gregor Samsa as Functional Deviant: A Hypothetical Interpretation by Friedrich Nietzsche

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Gregor Samsa as Functional Deviant
A Hypothetical Interpretation by Friedrich Nietzsche

Russell McNeil
Jan 20, 1995

My dear friends:

Suppose all that you have always valued in your lives was shown to you to be: illusion. What would it be like to turn truth on her head? To have your precious beliefs, maxims, platitudes, and traditions inverted and distorted beyond recognition? To suddenly realize that what is good, is bad; what is beauty, is foul; what is virtue, vice?

What if all your points of reference were to shift: North becomes South; black becomes white; deviant becomes saint; saint
becomes deviant.

Suppose that this transformation--a metamorphosis of perception were to come to you -- and you alone. Suddenly you awake -- and in utter solitude -- you discover that the world is its opposite.

Two realities strike you all at once: One, you define yourself in terms of your values. With your values now reversed, so too are you reversed: you are a roach! Two, what you have become is apparent to everyone else.

Gregor Samsa has burrowed his way out of the value set that defined his social setting. The metamorphosis was inevitable. Look at where his values were anchored: servant to the needs of an oppressive boss in order to meet the needs of an exploitive family.

So, he ceases to serve. With new values opposing those of the family, the employer, and society at large, Gregor emerges as a deviant. He has entered the world of the despised.

Never forget, my friends, that "truth" is in the eye of the beholder. In Gregor's world the despised and the beloved are reversed.

Franz Kafka is a new thinker -- one of that breed I spoke to you about 100 years ago. Gregor Samsa is his agent. Never forget my brilliant words about such men in Beyond Good and Evil: "The philosopher, being of necessity a man of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, has always found himself, and had to find himself, in contradiction to his today: his enemy was ever the ideal of today (Section 212, BGE)."

So, I Friedrich, will now tell you what my philosophic friend Franz finds so fascinating about Gregor the bug!

Society is an association of institutions held together by a set of artificial values. You like to call them "truths." I say they are masks - - but never mind. Your prestige in your society is measured by the degree to which you choose to conform to its values. When you conform you are close to the norm. If you deviate from the norm, you are a deviant. But beware. Deviation is met with indignation. But deviation and deviants are essential for your survival.

Here's where I, Friedrich, come in. You see no one knows where the norm is! Why? There is no truth! The deviant defines the norm for you. The norm is established with reference to the deviant. In a world without crime you would have to invent crime. Oh, I know how much you 90's people rail against crime and justice and criminals--I read your electronic musings--but believe me, without crime you would be lost souls with no reference to good or

evil...dare I say you would be beyond good and evil?

In your society your deviant subgroups become isolated from the main group because you insist judging everything the deviant does as a further manifestation or proof of the deviance. In fact the label itself defines the deviant individual.

Because individuals so defined tend to become isolated and
alienated from your main culture, individuals with common
"deviant" characteristics define their own separate sub-cultures. These sub-cultures in turn may differentiate too, generating their own versions of deviance within deviance and new sub-sub-
cultures form.

Remember that the cohesion of your society depends on these deviant groups as reliable points of reference. The more firmly you believe in the "truth" of their deviance, the more faith you have in the steadiness of your "values." Because you define deviance...
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