Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Deconstructing Marxism

Sorry for not getting started on the secret history of conservatism quite as planned. For one thing, my life took another turn into complicated territory over the weekend, and for another, the scope of the whole project continues to grow like some strange mutant tropical vine.

For example, conservatives are often slagged as being reactionaries. But in keeping with my principle that the value of a hero is measured by the nature of the evil he opposes, I decided that in order to explain conservatism properly, it was necessary for me to refresh my understanding of what it is that conservatives are reacting to. Which means that, among other things, I re-read The Communist Manifesto over the weekend.

Good Lord, I don't know why I thought that wretched load of dingo's kidneys was brilliant when I was 19. I must have been smoking something.

One of the advantages of being an overeducated quasi-literary snot is that I'm now equipped with all sorts of nifty analytical tools: for example, deconstructionism, which holds that the message a work conveys is not in the actual words the author has written, but rather in a sort of subtly embedded code hidden inside the superficial text, which can only be decrypted via a thorough understanding the author's life, history, position in society, socio-sexual norms, gender relation issues, and breakfast preferences. And so, once it occurred to me to apply deconstructionist lit-crit techniques to The Communist Manifesto, co-written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels —

Whee doggies, I'm having way too much fun!

Look, Marx was a loser. At the time he and Engels wrote the manifesto, he was living in Brussels, having taken a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Berlin and then getting himself kicked out of both Berlin and Paris. He was 30 years old, married, and unemployed, with three kids under five years old in the house and fourth one on the way; while Engels was 28 and the son of wealthy textile manufacturer. When I try to envision Marx and Engels writing the manifesto, at times I think of Vroomfondle and Majikthise, sitting in a tavern, drinking in philosophy by the pint. ("Y'know what our problem is, Vroomfondle? We are just too intelligent and too highly educated.")

At other times, I envision Karl & Fred's Excellent Adventure, with Marx and Engels sitting in some squalid attic flat somewhere, surrounded by screaming kids. Karl is bloviating at length about the sheer injustice of a world in which men with PhDs in philosophy are expected to — gasp! — work to support themselves and their families, while Friedrich is saying, "You are so brilliant, dude," and reloading the bong. Meanwhile, Jenny Marx is back in the kitchen, maneuvering her pregnant belly around the hot stove and shrieking, "Karl, will you for God's sake at least pretend to look for a job?"

Marx was a loser. Engels was a rich brat who obviously had some severe problems dealing with his wealthy factory-owning father. After Brussels, Marx got himself declared persona non grata in Berlin and Paris again, and finally wound up living in the slums of Soho, London, where he spent the rest of his life living on the charity of Engels and the occasional article sale.

Some guys to start a cult, huh?