During the period that he was going out of his mind, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote to the great historian Jakob Burckhardt: “The largely intellectual and painfully involved life I have hitherto lived. . . . . has gradually brought with it a loneliness against which there is no more help. My dearest comfort is always to think of the few who have suffered it under similar conditions without going to pieces, and have been able to preserve a kindly and lofty spirit. No one can think of you more gratefully, respected sir, than I do.”
Burckhardt replied to this and other letters from his brilliant friend with grace and compliments, avoiding the charged issues that Nietzsche raised. Once, however, he challenged him directly, warning that Nietzsche’s injunction to “Become hard!” was an invitation to eventual state despotism.
“I have never been a worshipper of men of power and the outlaws of history. . . The big damage was done in the previous century, especially by Rousseau with his preaching of the goodness of human nature. . . This resulted in the complete dissolution of the concept of legitimate authority in the heads of mortals, whereupon they periodically had to be subjected to illegitimate authority and naked force instead. . . the terrible simplifiers.”
These terrible simplifiers, (hardness is the companion of their enterprises) are busy at this very moment trying to get their mitts on Julian Assange.