When Marx Has More Effect Than Hormones

Soon after The Green Hornet radio show made its debut, the first superhero to wear a skin-tight costume and mask — The Phantom — made his appearance in U.S. newspapers from coast to coast. Both created distinct kinds of “tensions” in the Winter, 1936.

Another type of tension — deep-seated strains, actually — rose astronomically in Spain not long after the comic figures had their impact, exploding in the Spring. And Antony Beevor, in his monumentally important study of the Spanish Civil War,1 relates a very interesting incident experienced by one of Jose Ortega y Gasset’s young disciples, which provides an instructive moment for one and all from that period.

On his way to Madrid University, the young man observed an unforgettable expression of hatred on the face of a tram-driver, in the process of letting passengers get on and off. The driver was staring at the face of a beautiful woman, his visage seething with rage as her well-dressed body disembarked from the streetcar.

“We’ve really had it ,” thought the disciple: “When Marx has more effect than hormones, there is nothing to be done.”

It wasn’t just a function of Marx’s influence, perhaps, but the point is clear: Under certain circumstances, normal human instincts can be overridden. And at such a juncture, a deep sense of hopelessness sets in, acceptance of impotency appears to be the only option.

Not the kind of fare for a Streetcar Named Desire. Depression, maybe.

These days I’m most interested in what overrides both common sense and instinct. That is, I see — all around me — an almost comic book version of “Captain Survival Meets Penultimate Priorities.”

Some out-of-whack examples:

a) The U.S. war machine arrogantly “abuses” a billion Muslims (and others) in the name of national security, and returning Vets undermine the last vestiges of military credibility.
b) The U.S. contributes to — virtually guarantees — 150,000 (mostly Hindu) farmer suicides in India by its foreign agricultural policies, 2 as they try to build solidarity with that country through nuclear deals…violating well-established international agreements.
c) The U.S. government continues to think that it is presenting “Democracy in Action” to the world with its electoral process, when the validity of voting machines is highly questionable, marginalized segments of its population are disenfranchised, and voter turnout continues its decline with Tweedledee/Tweedledum choices. All as media outlets fall into fewer and fewer hands.
d) The U.S. advertises itself as an “example of economic prosperity” whilst the dollar declines relative to the euro and other important currencies week after week.
e) The U.S., in the midst of experiencing ongoing, record-setting catastrophes and unprecedented environmental ills/shortages, portrays itself as #1, Heaven on Earth. As the Ecocide on Earth is mostly paid lip-service. Laid out for Green Festivals…for those who can pay.
f) The U.S., firmly ensconced on land stolen from Mexico and indigenous peoples, impoverishes both groups, increasing the likelihood of foreign emigration, whilst taking violent action against immigrants whose labor is much needed domestically.
g) Blatant racism grows, and is institutionalized, as Orwellian denials of such practices preclude rational approaches to solutions, and domestic violence in all quarters soars, as an unhealthy bunker mentality across the nation becomes the norm.

Insanity. Nothing natural here.

I could go on, of course.

But the most telling example of instinct being overridden, of common sense not being honored, comes from the Amerikan public’s stance respecting all of this, not from the government’s indiscretions, callousness, shortsighted self-destructiveness. Bought off with an (apparently) organic apple, or inexpensive sweatshop top, as the case may be.

People in the U.S. — by their actions and inaction — are ensuring that the future will hold no beauty, no sensations to speak of but violent-prone thoughts. Ugliness all the way down to the bone.3

With an un-heroic, dastardly, comic look.

  1. The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 (Penguin Books: London, 2006). Julian Marias is the disciple. []
  2. The Indian government’s official figures list 100,000 farmer suicides for the period of 1993-2003, and it is confirmed that –on average– there were 18,000 for each year following that. I received this information from Devinder Sharma, Indian scholar. []
  3. Those wanting to do something about our mutual situation are encouraged to contact the author at moc.oohaynull@ardnecb. []
Marcelle Cendrars, freelancing daughter of Blaise Cendrars, can be reached at: bcendra@yahoo.com. She is the "Provost" of San Jose, California's Free Underground College to Kindergarten Educational Retreat, a home school network of dissenting citizens who encourage parents to have their children drop out of mainstream institutions, and make use of alternative educational options. Read other articles by Marcelle, or visit Marcelle's website.

12 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. hp said on November 5th, 2007 at 10:07am #

    Let us not forget the famous broadcast of 1937, from the Mercury theater.
    Millions of people truly believed mars was attacking and acted like it. for real. Anyone up for another demonstration? 911 maybe?

  2. Marcelle Cendra said on November 5th, 2007 at 10:51am #

    Could “hp” say the same thing another way so I’ll get clearer on the point being made? –MC

  3. Deadbeat said on November 5th, 2007 at 1:51pm #

    He’s talking about Orsen Welles famous broadcast of “War of the Worlds”

  4. Marcelle Cendra said on November 5th, 2007 at 6:23pm #

    Dearest Deadbeat:

    I know the Orson (not Orsen) Wells broadcast very well from our Halloween of ’38. However, I’m not sure what “hp” was getting at in citing the event. I was asking “hp” to fill me in on what the point was…. Thanks for taking part in this, MC

  5. Louis Godena said on November 6th, 2007 at 11:13am #

    I’m not sure about “Marx” taking precedence over man’s natural instincts. I think a human’s innate need to love and be loved and to contribute meaningfully to a larger social whole “overrides”, in its visceral power, the rather shallow and ethereal in which capitalism traffics. Your comment about N. Americans sitting atop “stolen” lands sort of bugged me, however. The Mexicans themselves “stole” the bottom of North America from its former inhabitants who “stole” it from whomever preceded them. The N. Americans conquest was practically humane in comparison to any of its predecessors. To speak of past injustices in terms of race or nationality is a dead end and invites comparison with this or that oppressed group’s own history and record of malfeasance. The issue of class remains paramount and is in fact the basis of any meaningful struggle for the emancipation of humanity’s true essential self.

  6. Marcelle Cendra said on November 6th, 2007 at 3:26pm #

    Dearest Louis:

    Thanks for commenting. If you re-read the article carefully, you’ll see that I did NOT say that N. Americans stole land from the Mexicans, but, rather stole land from both the Mexicans AND indigenous people. In either case, however, the treatment of the victims was not –by any standards– humane; my source for that comment is American Holocaust, but, of course, there are many reputable, definitive sources delineating the same point. Your opening comment seems to suggest that you missed the whole point of my opening…which was that only for certain out-of-whack individuals did instinct get overridden by political dogma, hatred put love/lust in the wings. Your closing point about class doesn’t preclude comments about past racial/”national” injustices…which, apparently, many people are in need of a review of…to get a fuller perspective of how class is established, in part.

  7. Louis Godena said on November 6th, 2007 at 5:02pm #

    Well, I certainly have no quarrel with nationa/racial oppression getting a fair hearing (with commensurate policies to ameliorate as far as practical present day suffering), I do not want to see the central issue of class obscured to the point of obsfucation. That was a favorite trick of liberals during the Cold War; to divide the population along lines of gender, race, sexuality, etc; i.e. anything that would obscure the CLASS issue in our now bifurcated society. As for N. America’s malfeasance being the source of immigration from the South, one must also assign a fairly prominent role to the criminalities of ruling groups within the home countries. Mexico is awash in national wealth but, due to the malfeasance of its rulers, little gets to the people who are, in turn, encouraged to go north. Indeed, one could credibly argue that illegal immigration amounts to a subsidy for miscreant “foreign” ruling classes who fail to take even minimal care of their own people. Again, the issue for me is not the downtrodden of a particular color or nation, but the overall class effect of this or that policy; anything that facilitates the destruction of the ruling classes is moral, whatever serves to retard that goal is immoral.

  8. Marcelle Cendra said on November 6th, 2007 at 6:55pm #

    Dear Louis:

    There’s no need to point out the “malfeasance” of Mexican rulers. That “problem” is a dynamic that goes on everywhere. And to cite it at this juncture is to take you –all of us– away from the emphasis on class that you want to keep in the spotlight. The immiseration of the Mexicans is certainly a function of both U.S. policies AND rulers in Mexico…and elsewhere. However, as is the case with the vast majority of “basket cases” in the mainstream news, North Americans must carry “the lion’s share” –to put it mildly– of blame. These days. Regardless of history, although the track record on this point for North Americans is abominable, to say the least. Mexican rulers cannot be expected to take the lead. We hold too many cards, they’re too corrupt, and if any beam of light began to break in –because we call so many shots (excuse the expression)– that spark of compassion would be extinguished. With regard to readers of DVoice, I would say that we bear a responsibility to do something to get things more on track on this end –which was one of the reasons for writing the article– rather than hash over the complicity of crass rulers, upper-class callers of shots who live…elsewhere. For now. — MC

  9. Louis Godena said on November 7th, 2007 at 12:56pm #

    Marcelle; Certainly you’re not suggesting that if there were no USA, there would be no suffering Mexicans. I know you know better than that. And I don’t consider discussing the crimes of rulers anywhere “re-hashing” issues; rather, they are a first step toward identifying and rectifying the plagues that afflict us. Liberals cannot accept that a Mexican exploiter is no more sympathetic than an “American” one. It is not the color of one’s skin or one’s flag that it important, it is class outlook. If you are a worker, you understand that in a basic visceral way that no intellectual can articulate. Thanks for publishing my comments. I’ll let the matter drop there.

  10. Marcelle Cendra said on November 7th, 2007 at 3:55pm #

    You don’t have to reply to the following response to your most recent comment, Louis (Please don’t feel obligated to do so.). I think that if you read my words again, it’ll be very clear that neither in the article nor in the attached commentary do I suggest anything along the lines of what you touched upon in your opening line. However, the expression “hash over” was used (appropriately, I feel) because talk about Mexican leaders –whose corruption, etc. is well-known– serves as a distraction from what was (apparently) not clear: that addressing the culpability of U.S. policies/leaders should be a “first step.” That, because –again– the U.S. holds the cards, for the most part, is –as has been the case historically– calling most of the shots, has infinitely more influence about what comes down in Mexico these days than the Mexicans themselves. There was not even a hint of suggesting that exploiters from anywhere should receive “sympathy”…in my article or in the commentary. There was only an attribution of relative blame…based on power base, strings held. And all of this is totally germane for dealing with this issue on the basis of class. Merci. –MC

  11. hp said on November 8th, 2007 at 4:11pm #

    Marcelle, sorry for the delay.. I was merely expanding on your point, “under certain circumstances, normal human instincts can be overridden.”

  12. Marcelle Cendra said on November 8th, 2007 at 8:16pm #

    Yes, hp, yes. I was just going over the material my elderly friend is expected to read before taking the drug that her doctor prescribed –a common one– and after taking the huge volume of words in…I think it’s fair to say that today…under “normal” circumstances human insticts are being overridden. One would have to be out of one’s mind to ingest a pill which carries with it so many qualifications. And that’s exactly what our neighbors and acquaintances (I hope not our “friends”) are doing…routinely. Merci for checking in again, hp. Truly, MC