“God is dead” was Friedrich Nietzsche’s way of describing what modernity had done to Christianity. Capitalism and industry in his time (late 1800s) changed the western way of life. A society that used to be dedicated to serving God turned into one that labored for money. People still believed in God but He did not play the central role in their lives anymore. This is what Nietzsche meant when he said “God is dead”. The modern world pushed God into the shadows where people treated belief in Him as a private, and mostly part-time, matter. Instead of building Cathedrals to the Almighty, society turned its best efforts towards building skyscrapers dedicated to the Dollar. “God is dead and we have killed him…” is how Nietzsche put it in The Gay Science.
For all of the hype atheists create around Nietzsche, it is not at all clear that the man himself saw the death of God as a good thing. What he saw replacing God as the center of civilization was troubling: industrialism, commercialism and, for him the most ominous of all, German nationalism. If we were to interpret the 20th century through Nietzsche’s eyes, we could say that World War II was the gigantic contest between German nationalism (Hitler) and capitalism in the form of the United States. The winner would be able to determine the orientation of the next great epoch of the western world. That winner would turn out to be America and their victory would enthrone the era of capitalism. God’s painful reincarnation into money was birthed by the nation that put “In God We Trust” on its currency. I am sure a conspiracy theorist who sees the Illuminati everywhere could weave a nice little fable out of this idea.
And this explains much about our world today. There is this vast cosmos out there called “the economy”, its exact nature opaque to us laymen. Fortunately, we have these people called economists to explain it all to us. They are trained to divine the mood of this economy by using a bunch of highly specialized equations, graphs and jargon that us serfs are not meant to play with. All we must know is that their findings are correct. The common thread among all of their sermons is the Almighty entity that drives it all: Money. Not only do they tell us that money drives the economy, they tell us that it is natural for it to do so. It is the order of the cosmos. Of course this means that we, the laymen, must also fall into line. It is not like we have a choice. Everything you do must be translated into cash value. The more cash you get out of it, the closer you are to God.
It is only in a society structured like this where we are so quick to make excuses for the wealthy and just as quick to blame the poor. Goldman-Sachs made billions of dollars by selling things they knew were crap? So what? That is the way the economy works. Grow up and face reality. Moneyness is Godliness. Yet, the migrant worker was suckered into taking out an adjustable rate mortgage he will never be able to repay, eventually leaving him homeless and broke? Too bad. Live below your means and stop being stupid. Literally, our attitudes toward the economic crisis has amounted to “shit happens”. It is this type of pious resignation you would normally find in a Medieval Christian king who loses a battle and chalks it up to “God’s Will”. However, in a society where God is dead we are left with our faith in money and our resignation to the fact that money goes where it wills.
This is why “class warfare” is not an accurate term to describe whatever it is Occupy Wall Street is doing. Instead, OWS is seeking to bring about the next reincarnation. The epoch in our history where Money lords over all is coming to an end. We are having a “revaluation of values”, as Nietzsche would say. Instead of blaming college students for going into debt to get “Liberal Arts” degrees from which they cannot make a living, we blame a civilization that does not provide opportunities for Liberal Arts graduates. Instead of blaming teachers because their students’ test scores are not high enough, we blame a civilization that measures the growth of our youth in arbitrary numbers. Instead of blaming working people who are poor for not being productive enough, we blame a civilization that cannot take care of everybody that contributes to it. We no longer want to live in a civilization that entitles the wealthy and has them honestly believing that the fruits of all of our labors belong to them as their due.
There are too many people who cannot or will not unmoor their view of the world from the bromide of “money makes the world go round.” They see anybody who threatens that belief as dangerous as medieval Christians saw pagans. But the revaluation of values goes on without them. As our nation and conditions continue to decay, people will have no choice but to abandon the most commonly held assumptions of our civilization in favor of something better. Over a hundred years ago, Nietzsche said “God is dead” and now we are at the point where we hope to begin to say “Money is dead”.