Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Reconciling Good People with the Present: Anti-Homosexuality, Capital, and Trivia


The somewhat infamous Rev. Carl Martin, past president of the North American Evangelical College, was quoted a few years back as saying:
We've made a lot of progress, but not enough. Our program has not toppled all immorality. The evil which one blames on arbitrary forces exists in committed homosexual relationships, where it causes crises, analogous to those of revolutions.
Various LGBTQABCDEFG groups criticized Martin heavily for saying that, of course. The Reverend's supporters pointed out, though, that most of the quote was not actually Martin's original work, but merely Martin quoting someone else. In this case, Martin had been quoting an earlier fundamentalist minister, Garry Puget, who had written some years before, "Our program has not toppled all immorality. The evil which one blames on arbitrary forces exists in committed homosexual relationships, where it causes crises, analogous to those of revolutions."

The LGBTQABCDEFG community said that Martin had been quoting the comment approvingly, therefore he was affirming such viewpoints on how evil committed homosexual relationships were. Unfortunately, Martin's subsequent death left him unable to clarify his comments. To make things more interesting, it turned out that two of Martin's three sons were gay, and that he approved of their life partners and even attended their weddings.

What the hell should we make of all that? Is Martin against committed homosexual relationships, or not? Should Martin's other work on feeding Nicaraguan orphans be considered "tainted" in light of his apparently discriminatory viewpoints toward committed homosexual relationships? And, was Martin a hypocrite for encouraging his two sons to marry men of their respective choosing, while blasting the institution of committed homosexual relationships in his professional capacity?

More importantly of all, why the hell should we care about such worthless trivia? Just because Martin is now dead, does it mean that us obsessing over him is somehow different than us obsessing over sports stars, Hollywood celebrities, or British royalty? If the discussion of committed homosexual relationships, or of Nicaraguan economics, should come to light, should we spend a lot of time identifying ourselves as Martinists, and discussing the finer points of Martin's viewpoints, rather than focusing instead on what we ourselves believe, and what we ourselves have observed, and what we ourselves feel should be done?

Pit Trap

Luckily for all of us, the Rev. Martin doesn't exist. Here's the real quote, and bonus irredeemable credits go to you as a prize if you're so well-read you recognized what I was doing at the beginning:
The revolution did not topple all tyrannies. The evil which one blames on arbitrary forces exists in families, where it causes crises, analogous to those of revolutions.
Karl Marx, positively quoting "Peuchet on Suicide," 1846.
If you consider yourself a Marxist, you should stop concluding that it is stupidity or ignorance alone that cause a lot of the proles to hate Marx. When you look at the Rev. Carl Martin's quote from above, consider it in the context of being homosexual, having a committed long-term relationship, and hearing that Martin said that, and that he is very popular and very influential. Can you see any correlation between his having that attitude, and you perceiving any hostility toward your relationship? Of course you can. Even if it doesn't bother you, what the Rev. Martin said implies a lot of negative stuff about committed homosexual relationships: it implies that they are destabilizing to society, and that they should be in some way discouraged because they cause crises.

Accordingly, it's equally fair for heterosexuals to have a big problem with Marx. In the lingo of 2015 Earth, Marx was engaging in heterophobic hate-speech (yes, I know 2015 Earth doesn't recognize such a phrasing, but you get the point). Given Marx' positive intellectual relationship with Engels, who wrote much more fervently against the family, and given the violently anti-familial tendencies of Marx' and Engels' so-called followers, it's quite rational for people to feel that Marx was/is an anti-heterosexual crusader, and that his ideas are as poisonous to themselves and their communities as it would be if the fictional Rev. Carl Martin were to start producing social morality handouts for Portland's publicly-schooled first-graders.

Reconciling Marx and Marriage

Like Carl Martin, Karl Marx did everything he supposedly wrote against: he married young, stayed married his whole life, had three daughters, and supported two of their marriages (he reputedly encouraged the third to similarly marry, but she didn't wanna). Here's a 2010 Earth article on The Abolition of the Family, in which they quote another piece of Marx/Engels:
Abolition of the family! ... The bourgeois family will disappear, in the course [of history] as its supplement [private property] disappears, and both will vanish with the destruction of capital.
That one can go either way. Were Marx/Engels saying only that bourgeois families should/would disappear, or did they really mean all families? Were they specifically criticizing the relationship of status-striving upwardly-mobile convenience marriages (possibly, because they did spend a lot of time talking about specifics there), or was this just one of their many strikes against marriage-in-general, particularly expressed?

Most importantly, who the hell cares? We shouldn't need to refer to either Karl Marx or the Carl Martin in talking about what should be done. For right now, thought, what we want to do is:

1) Get people who like Marx to realize that there is a very rational, fruitlessly-insolvable, endlessly-debatable, and yet potentially genuine position to be taken, by heterosexual people who want committed relationships, that Marx was hating on their lifestyle choices;

2) Get people who don't like Marx for the above reason to realize that, like the Rev. Martin's work teaching basic English and dental hygiene to rural Nicaraguan villagers, Marx still had a handful of decent points to make, and that, despite his other bad attitudes, any other points he might've supported are not wrong just because he also was/may-have-been a heterophobic asshole;

3) Get people to stop caring about Marx other than as trivia, equivalent to a Jeopardy question from ten years ago--and just as relevant to a discussion of desirous social policy for Earth 2016.

We took care of (1) above. Seriously, Marx and Engels said a lot of things about families that, if they had been said about homosexual couples in 2015, would've been considered hate speech. If enough money had been involved, there could've been Supreme Court cases, anxious New Yorker articles, a whole shitstorm of worthless articles on Salon.com, et cetera. And if you were in any way pro-LGBTQABCDEFG, you would've been happy to pull out those quotes and hold them up as examples of how bitter and bigoted some homophobic people were. It's possible that, after a long, long argument with one of the Rev. Carl Martin's supporters, you could've been convinced that Martin had only been condemning certain kinds of committed homosexual relationships, but you'd still feel that the Rev. was on the wrong side.

We'll look at (2) below.

Reconciling Marx and Money

Marx occupies a hallowed position for many people, akin to if not greater than Jesus for many Christians, in terms of how some self-identified Marxists conceptualize every aspect of their lives through a Marxian lens. Also like Jesus, Marx can produce endless scriptural arguments, which should be irrelevant but which give various levels of the faithful something to do with their spare time other than think about what is right and wrong, good and ill.

Accordingly, we'll approach this in a basic way: Marx described a lot of bad stuff about capitalism. And a lot of it was correct--a lot of it was really spot-on analysis about how rich people, even if they got rich fairly to begin with, were able to buy governments, make those governments do their bidding, and create an unfair market ruled by capital flows, in which the people who actually worked to provide useful goods and services were left desperate and needy, while a small class of non-producing capitalists owned everything, shielded by a small managerial class of greedy, status-striving bourgeois (yuppies and aging yuppies). That's essentially the entire first world today, and although Marx wasn't the first to say it (and although he was borrowing it, triple-ironically, from Jesus), it was still correct.

People who might be against homosexuality (or who are pro-family or whatever), but who have perceived the eerie ways that crony capitalism is synonymous with socialism, would do well to notice this aspect of Marx' work. The critiques that Marx used on capitalism are directly applicable to the managerial classes in twentieth century Russia, China, the United States, and the United Kingdom--to name just a few. There is great utility in that stuff.

At this point we need to note that, like his criticisms of the bourgeois family while living in one himself, Marx was an embodied hypocrite. He was a rich guy who, up until he decided to be a revolutionary, lived off inherited income and did the perpetual-student thing. The City of London eventually gave him sanctuary from other European governments (who had viewed him as part of a wealthy movement trying to instigate a massive depopulation scheme to centralize authority under some kind of united trade union of Europe), and London's establishment corporate, financial, and media sources report that Marx lived in poverty thereafter, while also being a widely respected and circulated news correspondent.

...but even so, many of Marx' criticisms of capitalism were accurate. One might say he had a very keen understanding of how powerful financial interests were able to control nations and manipulate the masses.

Reconciling Good People with Good People

There are plenty of people who say they like Marx who do so because they're trying to springboard themselves into a managerial role whereby they'll become responsible for accumulating and distributing the work-product of others; there are plenty of people who say they're Marxists because they want to deconstruct individual identities in favor of a totalitarian state (although they wouldn't of course call it that).

But there are also plenty of people who say they like Marx simply because they don't like crony capitalism, and/or because they have anti-bigotry notions that they feel can be better effected by a totalitarian state, which they believe can be done nicely. The latter viewpoint is certainly erroneous and somewhat dangerous, but the former viewpoint--a disliking of crony capitalism--is probably the dominant force causing ordinary people (not corporate media commentators like Marx) to be drawn to Marxism.

This one can have a separate debate with self-identified Marxists about whether or not Marx was really an agent of London financial interests trying to break up the continental European empires in order to hold a Great War to establish NATO and petrodollar controls over the world, and that the accurate portions of his criticisms of capitalism were about as substantively relevant as the fact that Goldman Sachs wants to hire women of color to their management positions. E.g., it's fine to criticize capitalism in specific, accurate ways, so long as the Archduke dies and the Great War is fought to stabilize modern colonialism.

Under such a viewpoint, Marx and Engels were little different than the American deep state operatives who sponsored ISIS to overthrow Assad. Yes, a lot of the criticisms that ISIS has about the United States are correct. The U.S. is militaristic, and it's destroying Muslim children, and it's invading Muslim lands, and it's stealing Muslim natural resources. Buuuuut, just because ISIS says those things, which are themselves correct, does not mean that ISIS is correct. ISIS is bad, very bad! Its platform as a whole is a tangled mess of Africom-sponsored bullshit, that, even when it condones a drone stroke that deserves to be condoned, cannot redeem itself. And the mealy-mouthed wormtongue James-Bondish bastards who work through Africom to inspire young, poor Muslim men to chop off heads to destabilize the Middle East in favor of Anglo-American financial interests are bad, too. Even though some of the critiques of Anglo-American militarism that they offer are correct.

Trivia

And I'd love to have such an argument to pass the time. But for (1) people who aren't great adherents of Marx, but generally like the idea of anti-capitalism, and who are suspicious or dismissive of people who are against Marx, and (2) people who loathe people who like Marx, because they think that such people are advocates for everything Marx said or resulted in, put aside those labels and come together. You probably all agree that crony capitalism is bad, and totalitarian socialism is bad, which is why the buzzword "Marx" is so popularly used to drive you apart.

Most importantly of all--as it has been throughout--is that the Marx fetish should cease being a divider or identifier. People who say they like Marx argue more about the meaning of Marx than people who hate Marx (or who are only dimly aware of Marx as a name they once heard somewhere, maybe, like, in class, yo...?). Marx is fine trivia, but he's become a massive time-suck for over a hundred years of human beings, who seem to be forced to pore through, and lengthily address, the colossal and ever-expanding Marx-related historiography in order to be allowed to contemplate basic issues. Liking Marx' (theoretical) viewpoints on capital is all very well and good, but his supposed predictive and/or analytical power should be no more relevant to a discussion of today's economy than should be any of Nostradamus' predictions which could be read as applying to today's economy.

That's the thing that we as 2015 human beings should be focusing on when we approach any of these issues: the People-magazine-level triviality of the viewpoints of some guy who died centuries ago, as we discuss how things should be done in future centuries.

Marx-people, stop mentioning his prophecies to people who don't already like him. It's not a sign of intellect; rather, it's a cultural identifier akin to a Green Bay Packers bumper sticker. Anti-Marx people, try to tolerate the bumper stickers of poorly-trained Marx people, because there's a fair chance that they just don't like political corruption, enjoy inane scriptural arguments at a level exceeding a hardcore Star Trek fan, and nothing more.

9 comments:

  1. Eh, I don't know (and wouldn't like to know) many people who read Marx as scripture. It's a pity he has been branded so thoroughly.

    I personally am mostly impressed by how much current mainstream neoclassical economics is able to ignore him, while providing models that are not even remotely as adequate as his.

    As for the family and stuff, he practically invented critical historical sociology, so you know way better than you let on that ne never said anything "bad" about the family, but simply made a pretty rigorous observation that the modern family is a consequence of private property. From none of this follows that you shouldn't or won't have a family not based on that.

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    1. Marx scripturalists aren't unenjoyable to know--they're often really interesting, just like other scripturalists--but they do exist. Some people are so heavily into Marx that it's not at all a stretch to say that he occupies a divine position in their worldviews. I've had discussions with people who've cited one of Marx' theories as proof of something, equivalent to the way others might cite a Bible verse.

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    2. "I personally am mostly impressed by how much current mainstream neoclassical economics is able to ignore him, while providing models that are not even remotely as adequate as his."

      Oh yeah, of course. The Inner Party studies and understands Marx much better than the Proles, and their conclusions seem to always be, "We must make sure most people don't understand these simple relationships between finance capital and power."

      ...which in itself proves that scholars like Hillary and Bill are deliberately deceitful, and in no way well-meaning. Someone who claims to be a Marxist, then supports the "lesser-evil" of Hillary, must be aware that Hillary understands Marx and understands her role as an evil capitalist maintaining capitalism with zero intention of changing it or of liberating the working classes, but rather, using elections as an opiate for the masses in order to prevent any laboring class consciousness from developing.

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  2. As for the family and stuff, he practically invented critical historical sociology

    Revise, revise, revise! History is your slave!

    Karlito may be credited with "inventing" that notional field, but I seriously doubt he was the first to ponder it, and besides, as a privileged man growing up among privleged people, I doubt he had enough experience with difficult life to know much other than theoretical empathy of a kind one's imagination can create. To ponder it is one thing, to live it quite another.

    Why should anyone care what Marx said or did, he's been dead 150+ years and his observations are tied to the era in which he lived, on the background of his comfortable living situation. Hardly applicable for people alive today, even if they are sons/daughters of privilege like Karlito was.

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    1. I "care" what Marx said or did in the sense that it's cute trivia. Like a Dick Cheney quote from the 1990s, showing how Marx predicted something with an eerie insider's level of accuracy is interesting...but it has no bearing on the should'ves of any given situation (or at least, it shouldn't).

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  3. You probably all agree that crony capitalism is bad, and totalitarian socialism is bad, which is why the buzzword "Marx" is so popularly used to drive you apart.

    Well, uh, hang on here, I have a response...

    ...yes! Exactly!

    Maybe the problem is idolators vs iconoclasts, rather than a Marx-centric problem. With Marx being the wedge driven betwen idolator (who in revering Marx resembles a Pentecostal Christian) and iconoclast (who in despising Marx appears much like a Richard Dawkins-esque Bitter Atheist).

    No matter the issue, there's always a My Team vs Your Team perspective ready-made for divisive purpose achievement. It's just easier with religion, and by "religion" I mean any situation where there's an Idol and an apostate
    looking to smash the idol.

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  4. I like Marx because I *understand* him and think his model of capital was correct. For example, when I wondered why blues records were worth shit in the 40s and then were sold for thousands in the 90s, I had to go to Marx's "Value, Price and Profit" to understand how that happens. I had to go to Herbert Marcuse to explain to me how "authenticity" and brand names and products became part of our identities and then "sold" to us to remind us of who we are.

    Yall are all college grads who only talk to other college grads all the time, right? When I read your blog, I feel like you are talking over my head (and the heads of other rednecks like me), to other academics who already know the trendy stuff to think. And you collectively look down on the dumb Marxists, right?

    But Marx explained lots of other things too... for instance, when I got bounced out of the SC FreedomSummit recently. How is it that I got thrown out of a "FREEDOM" summit? Because free speech is a fiction, "freedom of the press for those who own the press"--something that academics/smart liberals still won't admit. It isn't just "cute" Marxist blather--they really did toss us out: https://www.flickr.com/photos/21295231@N08/17467580641/in/dateposted-public/

    Marx helps us make sense of these things ... academics don't have time to explain their politics to us. Yall have written us off and do not even speak to us lower class people. So we go back to "the Bible"--the Marx scripture, the simplicity is inspiring, and we can **understand**.

    Please stop acting superior to everyone who thinks even a little differently than you do. :( Its upsetting. I am not "poorly trained"-- I am an activist of 40 years standing and I will put my work up against anyone else's. Stop being so patronizing!

    You write: "Liking Marx' (theoretical) viewpoints on capital is all very well and good, but his supposed predictive and/or analytical power should be no more relevant to a discussion of today's economy than should be any of Nostradamus' predictions which could be read as applying to today's economy."

    And what do *you* say to the Nostradamus people?

    Can you talk politely and respectfully to them, or are they too beneath you to even interact with? Because see, *I* talk to EVERYbody and I attempt to organize EVERYbody...I do not say, ohhh, never mind, if they quote Nostradamus or the Koran or Gone with the Wind or Breaking Bad or anime or the Yardbirds or Macklemore... like a Jesuit, I will theoretically go to wherever that person is, I do not expect them to come to me. Unfortunately, the Left (liberals, democrats, all of those people) has forgotten how to do this, and does not seek to make converts any more. At least, if your post is any indication. (sigh)

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    1. My Dear Miss Daisy,

      By all means, lots of what Marx had to say was correct and/or valuable. Whether grand or simple, though, we shouldn't be wedded to him. Marx' theories are like vitamins--helpful in the absence of anything else, but less valuable and more expensive than getting the nutrients right from the source.

      In my case, that means that when a local legislative assistant describes the way "tax assistance" goes to certain land developers, while a local construction worker describes what he could do with a slightly larger paycheck, I can reconcile those two pieces of information into a more effective, contemporaneous socioeconomic critique than I could by merely citing a British (or "German") writer from centuries ago.

      Marx has become nearly emblematic of classism in this country, in that he's come to represent "being nice and helping other people," along with a hefty dose of "being well read." Those are themselves classist distinctions, fostered by the academies, which have encouraged the dissemination of the "Marx" mantra to denigrate people who hate/mistrust the idea of "Marxism" simply because they can't afford, in time or money, a social-justice-related course at the local community college, or because they genuinely (many Americans, or most?) can't understand Marx' actual writings because their reading comprehension is too low.

      That's why I want to shelve Marx, and focus instead on Juan the carpenter or Joey Ray the drywall guy.

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    2. (second post for length restrictions...)

      Continuing, Daisy, you may be misapprehending the disdainful tone used toward Marx-lovers. One of the more positive side effects of your professed non-college status is that you seem not to have encountered the western evangelical Marxists, who come from Oxford or Berkeley (where their parents are amply covering their costs, of course) breathing fire in the service of "the class struggle." These are the people who denigrate "dumb red-staters" for not wanting to pay additional payroll taxes in order to fund another Diversity Employment Outcomes study in the new $15 million Economic Development Center built downtown last year. They use Marx, and their interpretations of him, to frame all topics of discussion, and they dismiss current events and real-world experience unless someone can discuss those topics "in light of Marxism."

      That's why I'd prefer to listen to Joey Ray and Juan. Keep reading Marx all you'd like, and kudos to you if you find him more interesting than Michael Hudson, or any of the other more modern detailers of capitalism. But I pray you don't fall into the trap of beatifying him in the way that some people have.

      ...and I'm sure you won't--but some people have done that, and that's primarily why I wrote that particular article. There are people out there who hold birthday parties for Marx, and who think themselves better than "red-state ignoramuses" because the red-staters fail to understand the true nature of the Marxian struggle in a way that professors and postgraduate Marx students believe they themselves do.

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