Sunday, August 20, 2017

Genius of the Modern World s1e1 Marx

Genius of the Modern World, season 1, episode 1, titled "Marx" clip from about the 41 minute mark.

Bettany Hughes : And then we're told Marx made things worse. Living with the family was a feisty woman called Helene. She helped around the house, she was a fellow radical and friend but, Marx slept with her and fathered an illegitimate son at the same time that Jenny was pregnant again. This was not Marx's finest hour.

Rachel Holmes (Marx Family Biographer) : Jenny was furious. They'd all known each other for a long time. So, clearly, there is some drama and upset that goes on. and it is really heavy going. Marx is sending notes to Engels saying I can't go home because it's an absolute storm and everyone is really upset and Jenny was furious please come have a drink with me at the pub at Russell street.

Bettany Hughes  : You know he has slept with somebody who's not his wife; she's pregnant. This is a terrible stigma at the time. It's tough now it was really really tough in the nineteenth century.

Rachel Holmes (Marx Family Biographer) : Hmmmm...Well, is it? Because they are quite conventionally unconventional. And at that time, illegitimacy, particularly in the circles that they were moving in, politically and socially, isn't such a stigma. But at the same time quite a lot of the evidence points towards the fact that Jenny wanted it covered up.

Bettany Hughes  : so who takes responsibility for all this?

Rachel Holmes (Marx Family Biographer) : Who makes it ok is Engels. He makes it understood that he is the father. And Engels, he takes the rap for his best friend.

Bettany Hughes  : Wow. What do you think this incident tells us about Marx?

Rachel Holmes (Marx Family Biographer) : Marx is a man! And ultimately, also a Victorian Patriarch. A man like any other that needs to be understood in context and all heroes have their flaws.

The interview with Rachel Holmes ends on that note.

Ah, the familiar Marxist argumentation style of tossing up a variety of arguments up to see what sticks (I call it the Socialist Harangue) :
Oh, poor Marx! He was a victim in this and people were mad at him; he was suffering! Didn't fall for that? OK, then ...An illegitimate kid is no big deal! It was accepted in their social circle. Was his wife part of his social circle? OK, then ... in that case it's no big deal because Engels makes it understood that he is the father. He takes the rap and by rap I mean the thing I just claimed wasn't a big deal a moment ago. Oh, you still think it reflects poorly on Marx? OK, then ... it's because he's just a man! All men have illegitimate kids! We should really blame the Victorians as they controlled the penis of all German emigres! Blame the Patriarchy! It was taken out of context! Don't forget he's a hero! C'mon! You're holding him to too high of a standard! Other than that he's a hero! Nobody's perfect!

I'll note that the subjects of the series "Genius of the Modern World" are Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud.

from episode 2 of the series on Nietzsche :

The host, Bettany Hughes, declares that :
"The Nietzsche of the Nazis was a hideous parody... And yet perhaps the blame for his misuse is not entirely Elizabeth's. Nietzsche would never have advocated Hitler's final solution but, he was naive if he thought his work would not be misunderstood. Evil loves nothing better than a void, and the philosopher's clever, ambiguous aphorisms could easily be put to the service of evil. Even when he was entirely sane, Nietzsche  said that bad would be done in his name. The sister and the brother must share responsibility for the life that his work took on after his death."

It is worth noting that Nietzsche died in 1900 when Hitler was 11 years old and Nietzsche's Will to Power was published posthumously in 1911. Both Marx and Nietzsche wrote about the restructuring of morality and society. Despite Marx's positive view of revolutionary terror (which I don't recall the episode mentioning) there wasn't a comparable measuring of responsibility in the Marx episode.

n.b. I had previously mentioned Stephen Fry's Wagner and Me which had a similar corruption of reputation not through Wagner's own actions but but by other people's behavior.

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