Kudos to Kevin Slaughter for his publication of a “scholarly” edition of Ragnar Redbeard’s Might is Right, nearly three decades after I re-popularized it in my recorded work and by word of mouth. And when, twenty-five years ago, I went into the studio to do an entire album of Redbeard texts (Might), it sent the counter culture scrambling to find a print copy of his book and resulted in numerous reprints. This is undoubtedly how Kevin Slaughter and Peter Gilmore first learned of it.
My first copy of it was a hardcover first printing, so frail with age that the pages disintegrated as I turned them (see above photo). It was some time later that I got the Loompanics reprint, and was finally free to underline my favorite bits and pieces, turning them into song lyrics (some of which I have performed consistently, up to this very day).
While the reappearance of Might is Right could not be more timely, do yourself a favor and look for a used copy of the ‘80s Loompanics version; and spare yourself the non-stop apologies for Redbeard’s century old political incorrectness that clutter the footnotes and introduction. Any version you can find without commentary will be an authoritative version. As with anything, use those ideas that work for you and jettison what seems outdated. Just don’t fall into the trap of judging an extraordinary 19th century man by 21st century standards, for to do so would necessitate rejecting his work in its entirety.
And the core ideas are more important now than ever. But if you can’t grasp it all in a hundred and fifty some pages of original text, you sure as hell won’t get it in three hundred pages with an extra seventy pages of annotations. Show me the person who will read these seventy pages of annotations, and I will show you a person who is likely incapable of applying Redbeard’s ideas to their own lives.
Curiously, my 1896 edition was entitled “Survival of the Fittest or The Philosophy of Power,” and not “Might is Right.” Perhaps this was a privately printed edition intended for close friends and select libraries. My copy was rubber-stamped in red ink “Received Jun 9, 1896 Wis. Hist. Society.” And it bore the inscription, unsigned, “I speak for one in a thousand, the rest are slaves and swine.”