Jul 022002

Marx and Freud did. Just bear with me a second here. You can’t argue with a Marxist. (You can’t even find a Marxist any more. Berkeley and the Politburo were the last places to look, and now there’s only Berkeley.) The reason you can’t argue with a Marxist is that Marxist doctrine disallows it. Any argument against Marxism is necessarily the product of bourgeois class-consciousness. (If a proletarian happens to make one, then he has been deceived by bourgeois class-consciousness.) It is therefore wrong, prima facie, no refutation necessary. This is very fortunate for Marxists.

But no one reads Marx, I hear you say. No one has to; this stuff gets into the air, like smog, and any new excuse not to think is bound to grow popular in a hurry. A small instance of vulgar Marxism? Glad you asked. I used to smoke. I also used to rail against anti-smoking ordinances as violations of property rights. When I would make this argument to my ex-boss, a pleasant jogger type who never cracked Kapital but was sure he was entitled to breathe free at whatever restaurant he chose, he would tell me, “You just say that because you smoke.” Right. I’m the prisoner of my cigarette-smoker class-consciousness. Some people quit smoking for their health; some people quit smoking to whiten their teeth; I quit smoking to liberate myself from my smoker class-consciousness. Somehow I still oppose anti-smoking ordinances. It’s a funny thing.

Still, this form of argument wasn’t quite respectable until Freud came along. Marx refers all thought to class; Freud, to personality. (Freud himself, to be fair, didn’t really subscribe to this view, but it is the inevitable product of the apotheosis of psychology. Marxism was born vulgar; Freudianism required vulgarization.) It follows readily that any deviance or dissent from the norm, which remains undefined, is maladjustment, a sort of mental illness. A small instance of vulgar Freudianism? Glad you asked. My uncle worked for a Jewish relief organization. I considered then, and consider now, Jewish or ethnic identity of any sort, a pox and told him so in strenuous terms. He replied, “I hear so much anger there.” What I should have said, but of course didn’t think of until afterwards, was “You hear anger, I hear error.” I was being obnoxious, but the point is that my uncle, who I’m sure never read Freud, thought it was perfectly all right to answer an argument with a diagnosis.

So now you know why I believe all this crazy stuff. I’m sick. I need help.