A few weeks ago I had a dream of Marx.
I often have vivid dreams, especially if I had eaten too much peanut butter before I go to sleep.
I found myself at Marx’s grave in London. It was not raining and the colors of the green trees and the blue skies were as vibrant as ever. As I began to turn to face the structure on Marx’s grave, Marx himself appeared in front of me. I was as shocked as ever!
He was exactly as I had imagined him to be. He was dressed in his wool coat and ratty shoes and pants and was such an adorable figure. He was smiling with most heartfelt smile and when he spoke, true to form he was so soft-spoken and was barely taller than me. He was also too soft-spoken, almost inaudible that I could barely make out what he was saying.
In an effort to make this encounter worthwhile, I turned to him and said: “Marx, I am so sorry that I haven’t been a good Marxist lately, I have been buying so many things”.
I expected him to be forgiving and to acknowledge that the world that we live in constantly teaches us to want material things and purchase material goods as a part of a larger system that focuses on subordinating our human nature and will to capitalism, alienating us from one another.
Instead, the sky all of a sudden became completely grey and soon the weather instantaneously transitioned from a beautiful day out in a Disney movie to a full-blown nightmarish storm, the likes of which I have never encountered. I was drenched top to bottom and water espoused by the rain began to rise till it reached my chin. Suddenly, I was jolted into consciousness. I realized it was just another nightmare, and I went back to bed.
The next morning, I woke up and began to reflect and ponder upon the concept of what the dream might have meant. I then consulted my mother who subsequently began to poke fun at the fact that I had dreamed of Marx at all.
It is of no secret to my family and friends that I have communistic tendencies, and have continuously criticized and condemned capitalism, and much like Marx I have named socio-economic conditions as the defining factor of human nature.
But who was Karl Marx? Who was the man behind the bushy beard and sullen gaze?
To countless individuals and communities, Karl Marx has served and is frequently regarded as the wise grandfather or knowledgeable elderly uncle that several wish they had.
Though Marx’s ideology has produced and is often the source of revolutionary thought, he was penniless at the end of his life, and did not see his work gain its unparalleled momentum. Marx was a German born Hegelian philosopher and critique of political economy, and wrote controversial articles that were the cause of his exile from Germany, Prussia at the time, in 1842. Thus he was stateless, and was a citizen nowhere for the rest of his life.
After numerous stints at publicizing his writings and his socialist aspirations, Marx and his family moved to London in1849, and lived in extreme poverty, fervently relying on his good friend and partner in crime Frederich Engels for financial support.
Marx was however not a free loader, Engels genuinely saw the ginormous potential in Marx’s genius and would see the development of Marx’s fundamental historical materialism and maybe even predicted the transcendent ideology that would later influence legendary figures such as Vladimir Lenin, Che Guevara and Angela Davis. It should however be noted that Joseph Stalin was in fact a free loader in Lenin’s movement, and as such took advantage of the situation and highjacked Lenin’s ideology and converted it into something grotesque.
Although Lenin and me have our differences in terms of ways of approaching the masses, Lenin’s Red October was indeed a symbol of exactly the magnitude in which Marx’s ideology can serve to mobilize the masses.
Post-exile, Marx lived out the rest of his life London and passed away in 1883 at the age of 64. He was buried in Highgate Cemetery in East London; this is his current wresting place.
I had the good fortune of visiting his grave two years earlier, and felt the spirit of communism brush up against my cheek along with London’s infamous gloomy grey skies and irritating rain which seemed like a scene fresh out of a romanticized Soviet picture.
Now back to my consumerist dream.
Ideology aside, I like shoes. And certain material belongings too. I like them because they enable me to assert my identity and best of all they make me feel better about myself. But, why is it that I feel that way? Is there something inherent in the material object that induces my longing for it? Or is it something inherent within me?
Perhaps it is the way in which I was taught to value material belongings through societal norms, or maybe it is a combination of that and my biologically prompted impulses that have been inherited through evolution. There is no way to be sure.
Nevertheless, I do sincerely believe that my dream of Marx, was my conscience reminding me of the capitalist and or neoliberal processes that have produced my valued material belongings.
Thank you Marx for reminding me that underprivileged and exploited Vietnamese children are the cogs in the machine of capitalism that have produced my 4 pairs of Vans and my 5 Marc Jacobs purses and to be a lot more conscious of these processes.
Thank you for pushing me to reevaluate my attachment and want for material belongings that are produced through the subordination of our collective consciousness and the destruction and pollution of our environment.
Thank you for reinforcing my belief that there is an alternative to the world that we live in.