“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”
Upon starting this blog, a blog that is, in some ways, more personal than anything I’ve ever written, I never expected to have people draw conclusions about my personal beliefs based upon their own predispositions on issues about which I muse. Things like assuming I’m a Democrat simply because I poke fun at Republicans, or that I’m a communist (or socialist) because I feel free-market capitalism has some flaws. I say all of this to make the point that my beliefs are a more complicated puzzle than the time tested tool of assumption is able to solve. They are often too convoluted to pass as small talk. It is not to say that I posses an insight that is more profound than anyone else, maybe it is my fundamental misunderstanding of politics or religion or art that makes it impossible for me to speak informally about the preceding subjects without feeling like a sell-out. So this is a clarification…the start of a clarifying document about the things I think.
I was, first, accused of being a communist when I began wearing a red star that I had removed from a hat that I’d purchased in China. The hat was a chotchkie replication of a hat one would wear along with the uniform of the Chinese Proletarian Cultural Revolution. I didn’t wear it as a sign of solidarity. I wore it because I was raised in the United States of America where the five-pointed star is a dangerous symbol. Not all five-pointed stars. America is quite proud of the white star and the blue star and the gold star and stars and stripes and fifty stars and the thirteen stars and dancing with the stars, but the red star…that color on that geometrical shape is untenable. I found this aspect of the star fascinating and, as such, I decided that I must wear it. The reaction was immediate, and the message was clear: The bulk of Americans cannot look upon this graven image without becoming a Manchurian candidate for capitalist propaganda. The reaction is immediate and knee-jerk…and hilarious. It is important to note that, in America, not all five-pointed red stars are created equal. One example of this inequality is the Macy’s star; a symbol that inspires, in Americans, the will to struggle for the chance to suckle at one of its five teats. Whoops—that might be too cynical, even for me. I’ll erase that later. I was never allowed the grace for the star on my hat that Macy’s received. I still wear that hat from time to time, and people still accuse me of being a communist as a result. This is odd because I’ve never accused anyone wearing a Seattle Mariners ball cap of being a Mariner. I guess the thought never crossed my mind. I’ve always been comfortable with the fact that their hat is a symbol of their being fans of the team. It would be fair to accuse me of being a fan of communism. One can be a fan of something without being in love with the entire ideology said thing embodies. For instance, I know that baseball fans are not boring people just because they like a boring sport. How’s that for open-mindedness?
The next time I was accused of being a communist was when, in the midst of an informal conversation, I mentioned that I was reading The Communist Manifesto. Never do this. This is the literary equivalent to wiping one’s feet ass with the American flag. I actually started to read Marx’s manifesto because of my own predisposition toward its existence. I realized that there was no other document of which I was aware that inspired, in me, such a visceral reaction though I’d never read it. I determined that if I were to have an educated opinion about this document it would behoove me to give it a read. I know; crazy. I’m not this consistent with the entire canon of literature over which I’ve formed an opinion. The Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey is a great example of a book of which I’ve formed a solid opinion though I’ve never parsed its pages. I could never become a Satanist for many reasons, not the least of which being, it seems to involve unpalatable fashion risk. So, I’ve determined that, it would be a waste of time to read it—but enough of that. I learned by reading the manifesto that Marx is a great writer, and that there are many tenants of communism that I can get behind. One of Marx’s ideas was to get rid of, what he referred to as, class antagonism. His utopia was one of equality between the separate classes of people through the obliteration of the meaning behind those classes. To remove the power private property has to oppress. An idea that was employed in the first century church, as evidenced in the book of Acts in the Bible (ch.2 & ch.4). It is a novel idea…the rich shouldn’t be treated any better than the poor; I can see why it is so unpopular in this “The Land of the Brass Ring”, a label that shows the level of commitment the U.S. has for turning fairytale into ethos. The Communist Manifesto is only about thirty pages long, and I recommend anyone who has an opinion of it to read it, not as a skeptic (this is a simple-minded way to approach any piece of literature; it is rooted in fear and will work about as well in this instance as it would if an atheist were to read the Bible with a similarly skeptical point of view), but with the idea that you could learn something from it (read all things this way, you won’t regret it; unless you’ve a predisposition with regard to the width of your mind…then you might regret it). It is a description of a utopian ideal and, as such, contains flaws, but it is also an interesting critique on the communist and socialist revolutions that had transpired prior to the 1840s.
I am no communist. I just don’t believe the lie that capitalism is nobler than communism. Communist utopias have the same weakness built into them as capitalist utopias, you…and, to a lesser extent, I. Utopias are destroyed by people, including their inventors (I’m looking at you, Walt). I find people are way too eager to point out that communism has been tried and doesn’t work. They say this without irony as though America is the first time anyone has ever taken a shot at forming a republic whose economy is based upon free-market capitalism…and as though it is working swimmingly so far; don’t you think? I also find that people are far more comfortable pointing out the former USSR as an example of the evils that come along with communism than they are pointing out black-market human-trafficking rings as an example of the pitfalls of free-market capitalism. While there exist regulations that govern one’s ability to traffic humans, people who operate outside of those laws are participating in, what amounts to, a deregulated free-market. Utopias, and their ugly, pragmatic step-children–republics, are toppled by greed. And greed is ubiquitous and relentless in the circles which we find ourselves.