There’s this guy that I like named Fidel, but I think he’s a Marxist. The guy is actually a very good friend of mine, but I’ve always secretly had these feelings for him. Actually, I don’t even keep it that much of a secret, but he’s usually too wrapped up in his ideas about a communal society to even notice me. He’s constantly preaching the benefits of public ownership and the abolishment of private property, frequently ranting on the negative effects of class separation and inequitable income distribution as caused by a capitalist system. I’m really beginning to feel left out.
Last night, he was up on the table at PFM, giving one of his radical speeches, and urging everyone to boycott the monkey’s brains they had served for dessert. I really want him to be happy—nothing makes me feel better than seeing him content—but I wish there was a way that I could reach him short of a violent overthrow of the United States government. What do you suggest?
I know how you feel. Communism, while in its pure Marxian form may be attractive, seems to fail when applied to a large society such as the Soviet Union. While their version of centralized socialism was an obvious perversion of Marx’s ideals, the basic notion seems to go against human nature. People are primarily motivated by a combination of self-interest and fear. The Soviet government successfully used fear to keep people in line for quite some time, but ultimately failed to build a stable economic system. It seems that capitalism, which is driven by market forces rooted in self-interest, is a closer match to the way people naturally do things. Perhaps someday, when capitalism has produced a sufficient amount of goods to have effectively eliminated scarcity, Marx’s dream will become feasible. I’m afraid, however, that in the situation you describe, communism is just a red herring.
The true nature of your problem can be traced through the use of the obscure “Pretty in Pink” Theorem. In the film “Pretty in Pink,” Ducky (as played by Jon Cryer) is in love with his long-time friend Andi (Molly Ringwald), who in turn is in love with the popular rich kid, Blaine (Andrew McCarthy). While the film chooses the cop-out ending, allowing Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy to end up together at the prom while Ducky’s heart is broken, its basic assumptions can be applied to real life more often than one might think.
The difficulty people have when interpreting the film, however, is in applying it to their own situations. It is natural to think that Molly Ringwald should end up with Ducky. But try putting yourself in the Molly Ringwald role. Next, imagine that Ducky is no longer Jon Cryer with a Morrissey haircut and a killer alterna-teen fashion sense, but some boring friend of yours who’s always around, someone you might even take for granted. Then picture in place of Andrew McCarthy someone who is the epitome of coolness and the model of manhood in the late 1990s—for instance, Abe Welle or John Stubbs or some other dweller in Apartment F5. Apply the relationships from “Pretty in Pink” to these new actors, and witness the identical results. You choose in favor of the pretty boy, leaving your version of Ducky to his own devices. This is where the trick of perception eludes most people: just because you find Jon Cryer as Ducky attractive, it does not necessarily follow that Molly Ringwald sees things the same way.
A rotation of characters is also possible. Place yourself in Jon Cryer’s role, and your Marxist friend becomes Molly Ringwald. Instead of Andrew McCarthy, there is Marx’s ideal society: to each according to his needs, from each according to his abilities. Or, if it’s easier for you to visualize, again insert one of the F5 boys–say Ben Rossow, just to mix things up a bit. Now you are the one unfortunately getting her heart broken, while Molly Ringwald attaches herself to the unbelievable relationship with an impossible society.