Waitin' outside the Livingston library...there's a Bollywood exhibition we might want to bring to Maplewood for GlobalSOMA...closed until 1.
Reading Graeber's "Debt: The First 5000 Years" this morning...enjoying chapter 8 and its combo of rad "reinvent the world" spirit and discussion of the fundamental role of communism (or altruism, as I'd term it) in human culture...a throwaway reference to the damage caused by actually existing communism/socialism in Marxist-Leninist states led me to thinkin' about Marx and his predecessor in values revaluation/transfiguration Jesus.
Two questions about these two moral prophets:
a) 2000 years or so in for Jesus and 160 years or so in for Marx, what say we as to their overall net effect on human well-being? Positive? Negative? Too early to tell?
b) How could their prophecies have been altered so as to have been better in their consequences than their actual prophecies have been?
Given that the constraints of this blog require that content be more or less academic rather than purely engaged, I'll refrain from swinging for the fences with answers to a) and stick to a comparison of Jesus and Marx that is kind of an answer to b) and that brings in a third major prophet, Muhammad. Unlike Jesus and Marx, Muhammad was not a moral radical. Also unlike them, he fused an intense individual, spiritual vision a la Jesus with an intense social, practical vision a la Marx. My thought is a simple one. A moral radical like Jesus--"love your enemies"-- or Marx--"to each according to his needs"--can do better if he/she does not reside as firmly at the spiritual pole as Jesus or the anti-religious, practical and political pole as Marx.
Marx's ledger as a moral prophet would be more positive, or less negative, had he decisively detached his utopian vision of egalitarian moral reformation from control, guns, and the state and allied it instead with the creation of counterhegemonic spiritual and practical enclaves of sharing within an everyday world destined to remain resistant to, though not uninfluenced by, his moral dream.
As for Jesus: A monk in Italy or Ireland a thousand years after Jesus reading the glorious works of Greece and Rome would have reason to bitterly reproach the man and the movement for the comparative stupidity, superstition, and sloth of his culture compared to classical culture. Resentment is bad, yes...but with great moral prophets and their legacies, there is much to resent. Perhaps with the benefit of an additional thousand years, we can be philosophical about the damage Christianity caused. But we may still wish that it had been otherwise, and wish for a Jesus who combined his moral radicalism with a practical sense of how communities of believers could instantiate elements of his prophecy while co-existing with other kinds of believers and with a secular world properly separate from, though not uninfluenced by, his dream of the basic human ur-morality of reciprocity and groups, of us and them, transfigured into a new universal morality of unconditional love.