contra Marx (and politics in general)

I should apologize first off. A lot of this won’t make sense, but I need to get it off my chest.

Anywho, good luck reading this ✋

For most of history, there was no delineation between religion and politics. While it’s common to separate them currently, that’s really a false assumption.

Maybe I think it’s foolish to think so because of how I view religion. It’s common to associate it with thoughts on the supernatural, afterlife, etc. Meanwhile, politics is thought of as being policies directed at the governance of a population. But the social/psychological dimensions of these two realms can’t be ignored.

Politics and religion operate in unison. Religion is not just the worship of God or gods, it’s a methodology of perceiving reality. It’s validity of truth is irrelevant. If a significant amount of other people perceive this reality in the same way, then perception becomes truth. I’m not saying that truth is not real. It is. Human perception is, however, malleable and easily distorted. Religion is commonly thought of as being the most prevalent social force in this distortion, but political ideology works in identical fashion. In short, to this very day, the religious is political and the political is religious.

(This is why I say the only sensible position to take is the apolitical one. Political philosophy and science has not advanced one iota since Plato and Aristotle)

Take for example the two Right/Left extremes in QAnon and the resurgence of Marxism. Enough ink has been spilled over the insanity of QAnon, but not enough of it towards Marxists/Left/Left-adjacent Populism.

Part of the reason why Marxism has seen a resurgence…at least in the United States…I think, is because it was all but prohibited in the mainstream during the Cold War period. Additionally, it’s detractors made all sort of wrong assumptions about it or never read Marx, or any Marxist thinker at all. This had allowed it to fly under the radar for decades, with Marxists going unchallenged in good faith debate. Then the Great Recession and the pandemic primed the public for its popularity.

But despite its scientific and sociological pretensions, Marxism (and much of leftism/anti-liberalism as a result) functions no differently than Q-Anon: even when it’s allegations are proven false, it doesn’t matter. It’s critique is way of viewing reality, and no amount of data can contradict it (the explanation usually being that “the data” is bourgeois propaganda designed to undermine class consciousness…or some variation thereof)

As any Marxist/Leftist will tell you, they are not “liberals”. As most know, they are opposed to capitalism, now in its neoliberal form. While neoliberalism has an actual definition in the realm of economics, it takes on a nebulous form with the Left, making it useful as a boogeyman that can describe anything they disagree with. Therefore Marxists, like the Conservatives that once opposed them, fail to understand their opposition and how neoliberalism and global economics have fundamentally changed class dynamics since Marx’s death (or some acknowledge that there’s an opposition to Marx’s class analysis, but mock it. i.e by saying “Marx never considered…” or “Marxism works in theory”). They can’t agree on a “working class” definition (is it income? “Relationship with production”? What?) or where the demarcations are for any class structure, which is odd considering Marxism thinks of itself as a “material” based analysis. Therefore it’s class-based analysis comes to mean nothing. Additionally, Marxists/Leftists wish to take a post-moral approach to politics, but they’ll make a value judgment on the working class over the bourgeoisie (which again, are terms that mean nothing, or ill-defined in the current state of economics/politics). So they engage in the same friend/enemy distinction that they accuse the liberals of doing (and what all political tribes do).

Many, though not all, Marxists/Leftists oppose “identity politics” because they believe it undermines their “class politics”. But they’re functionally no different. In addition to keeping the “working class” divided, Marxists claim that proponents of identity politics are actually cynical actors that portray the various identities as completely monolithic or lacking agency. But the Left does the exact same same with its class politics. It works in their favor to portray the working class as brutish, uneducated, and needing guidance from those that know better. And their “enemy” can be anyone, because again, the “bourgeoisie” can mean anything. Marxists can claim that identity politics undermines class consciousness, but proponents of identity politics can accuse the Marxists of undermining the unique struggles of various groups.

Every political faction has its problems. What I’ve said about Marxism I can say about everyone else. What I’ve always found confusing is what do the Marxist Left and anti-capitalists want? I’m not talking about some egalitarian revolution to make a better world. We all want that. I’m talking about “what happens after the revolution”? A classless society? Sure it may be possible to create material equality for all…but does that eliminate “class”? The need for management of affairs (or politics) would still be necessary. What would we do if an elite “political class” takes control? I’m just skeptical about a “classless society”…especially one that has to be achieved through violent revolution. I could be wrong, but self-conception is heavily linked to cultural and societal structures, this includes structures of power. It is my assertion that since the dawn of complex language, there has been no widespread non-caste(ified) society. Not even in the hordes of pre-history (that usually numbered about 100 people). There were elders, priests, big men, warriors, hunters, gatherers, etc. There were men at the top calling the shots and men at the bottom carrying out the orders. Sure these societal structures varied greatly, but some people definitely carried more power than others, even in the smallest of groups. As power paradigms shifted, from priests, monarchies, military dictatorships, and democratically elected officials, so did the class structures. And these paradigm shifts cannot be predicted, at least not with any complete accuracy. Will capitalism last forever? No. What will replace it is anyone’s guess. The fact is you don’t know, and trying to predict the future is a fool’s errand. Even if you do get your communist dream, it’s days are limited, and a new paradigm will take its place.

I’ve gone into detail on how Marxism mirrors Christianity perfectly (class consciousness=salvation in Jesus Christ, etc.) so I won’t go into detail on that here. This isn’t to say that some tenets of Marxism aren’t without their merit. It’s historical method sounds reasonable enough. But I treat the works of Karl Marx as I would any thinker of the past: remain critical, some ideas work, but a lot of it is outdated. We do that with every other philosopher/economist, why must we treat Marx any different? It’s not like God directly inspired Das Kapital, but that’s how it’s treated (along with Luxenburg,Gramsci, etc.)

Not gonna lie, I’ve spent four years steeped in this shit and I feel mindfucked and robbed. However, studying this stuff has informed me that I need to be skeptical of ideologies proclaiming “truth”. The universe is seeming infinite while we’re laughably finite. The only thing we can be certain of is that we certainly know nothing.

last temptation of Christ: a deeper revolution

The Last Temptation of Christ unsurprisingly stuck with me. Usually when I complete a novel, I think “hmm, that was nice” and I move on to the next thing. But Kazantzakis’s interpretation of “the Greatest Story Ever Told” is rewarding and leaves a lot to think about, especially if you’re obsessed with early Christian history.

I mean, obviously it’s not historically accurate. That’s not the point. The point is that the book brings these familiar characters to life. Jesus begins the book as a sickly carpenter before transforming into the messianic figure we’ve come to know and love. However, his humanity is emphasized. At times, Jesus comes across as a jerk with megalomaniac fantasies. This helps contextualize Jesus the man and the era he lived in.

This is best demonstrated by his relationship with Judas Iscariot. Judas is a true revolutionary with a hatred for the Romans and is often frustrated by Jesus and his message of love. Jesus feels that Judas’s revolutionary ideals don’t go far enough: the concerns for the body are temporary, Jesus wants to bring salvation to the world…Jew and gentile alike.

The various characters are often puzzled by this. This universalism is too lofty, too radical to ever be realized.

And this sort of remains true today. I’ve expressed my admiration for John Dominic Crossan views: Jesus was responding to the imperial authority of the Romans. Jesus and his followers might not thought of it in that way, but that was effectively what he was doing. I don’t think enough scholars, both Christian and secular, stop to appreciate this. Not even Bart Ehrman.

I think this is best demonstrated by the cross as the official symbol of Christianity. Jesus unquestionably died by crucifixion, perhaps the most ruthless form of punishment by the Romans. And none of the early Christian apologists deny that it happened. Stop and think about that: their very leader got “owned” by the Romans. In fact, it HAD to have happened so that he could be resurrected. So Christians took this event and chalked it up as a win for their beliefs, and a loss for the ruthless rule of the Romans.

Scholars often wonder how Paul was able to convince so many pagans to convert to Christianity (or, to be more historically accurate, his form of Christian Judaism, as Paul still thought of himself as a Jew), well maybe here’s an answer: Roman rule under the Pax Romana pissed off enough people that when they heard of a man who was resurrected after a crucifixion, conversion was a way to subtly stick it to the Romans. This could be why Paul put so much emphasis on death and resurrection in his theology.

Yes, I know there are plenty of problems with this theory, chief among these is how little the Romans are criticized in the New Testament. In fact, the Gospels explicitly blame the Jews for Jesus’s death and not the Romans, even though the Romans certainly DID execute Jesus. My response to this is that you don’t have to spend more than two minutes following populist/leftist politics before realizing that they hate each other more than they hate their opposition. It is my opinion (maybe more on that at another time) that this is fundamentally rooted in these kinds of movements. Even though the Romans were THE existential threat to life in the Mediterranean world, it would have been mainstream Judaism that were the primary theological/ideological opponents of early Christianity…even if the Jews were as much under the thumb of Roman rule as they were. This is heresy in the world of radical movements, what leftists might call “class traitors” today, and it wouldn’t take much for Christian writers to switch out Romans for the Jews in regards to who was guilty for Jesus’s death.

It is this narcissism of small differences that plague radical movements, religious and political alike, and I doubt early Christianity was any different. (See Monty Python’s Life of Brian)

It is difficult to tell if the real Jesus actually preached this message of universalism, or a peaceful coexistence of all people under one God. Crossan might, but it’s more likely this was extracted by later thinkers and is now considered the ethical message of Christianity IF people could move past their short-sightedness (maybe not under “one god”, but you get the idea).

Anyways, I’ve spent too much time on this post, forgot where I was going. The end.