Editor's note: This is the first post in Maybe S/He's Right, our new interview series led up by new Philebrity contributor Loren Hunt. Rather than the standard interview format which asks people about themselves, in Maybe S/He's Right, the interviewee is asked questions about all of us. How are we supposed to cope in a world gone mad? Can a person know peace, and if so, how? You know: The big, important questions. Read on as Hunt queries as worthy candidate as we can think of right now: A guy who's been inhabiting the body and mind of one Karl Marx.
BY LOREN HUNT
I was eight the first time I experienced the disorienting despair that comes from recognizing my near-complete lack of control over this thing Prince called life. It wasn’t the last time. It’s happening again right now: those press shots of wrinkled white men chortling over paperwork that permits them to do awful things in service of their own myopic greed have kicked the ground out a bit, as has my frustration at not being able to break the stubby finger I feel pointing from every angle right into my face. I’m coping by worldview-shopping. My only criteria is that someone plausibly seems like they know what they’re talking about.
This is the spirit in which this weekend I’ll be seeing Marx in Soho, a play by legendary radical historian Howard Zinn whose textbook A People’s History of the United States seeks to set the record straight about American history. Marx in Soho also has a historical score to settle – that of Karl Marx, whose name has often polarized the American public by reputation alone. Zinn’s one-man play finds an exhumed or otherwise returned Marx speaking directly to a modern audience in defense of himself and his ideas.
Bob Weick has been playing Marx since 2004 as part of IronAge Theater’s Radical Acts program, through which he performs the play at every opportunity, touring the country to colleges, high schools, theater companies, fringe festivals, and special performances to benefit peace and justice organizations. Weick was initially given the script to Marx in Soho by an acquaintance and spent a few years thinking it over. Eventually spurred into action by the bleak post-9/11 political landscape, he set about securing performance rights to Marx in Soho – which turned out to be held by Zinn. Weick says that the “lion-hearted” Zinn’s friendship and guidance changed his life, and 200-plus performances of Marx in Soho later, this could hardly be unexpected.
It’s not that I have Weick confused for Zinn confused for Marx so much as I think that an actor with these experiences who also works as a farrier has the sort of plausibility of worldview I’m seeking out. With that in mind, I asked Bob some questions that have been churning around in my head lately. Take a look. Maybe he’s right.
What is wrong with us?
This question pre-supposes that we all realize something is wrong. And we do. The fact that we all recognize this “wrongness” to be the case is interesting in itself. Human beings are capable of brilliant thought, remarkable creative ideas, and acts of imagination and kindness. Yet with all this knowledge and advancement we sense that something just isn’t right – something seems to be blocking the development and blossoming of our full human potential.
In a word: capitalism.
The variety of individual experiences with this “wrongness” make a quip of an answer inappropriate, if not impossible, so I will answer with this: nothing that can’t be healed and repaired.
What should we do to fix what is wrong with us?
Raising the question is the first step, so thank you! We need to not deny society’s demons. It’s a fact that this country has done and continues to do horrific things.
The second step could be cultivating a willingness to think critically about the powerful forces that create this world of “wrong” we witness all around us. Why, in a world of astonishing wealth and material abundance, is life so terrible and unsatisfying and deadly for so many of us? And for the species and the planet in general? Does it have to be this way?
To your question, though, my answer is: do what you can.
“Do what you can” is something Howard Zinn said in response to a similar question during a talk back after a performance of Marx in Soho in Boston. He’s right. Join a radical organization.
Remember that to be radical simply means to get to the root of the problem. Protest. Play your part.
Zinn is generally a great resource in answering this question. His book A People’s History of the United States shows how we got here in the first place. As with psychology, knowing the roots of a current problem is critically important. An honest examination of history (unlike what we are typically force fed in school and the media) is a foundation for future action.
What should we do tomorrow?
There’s no right answer to this, and I dislike “should” as a prompt. How about, what do you want to see happen tomorrow?
What do you want to see happen tomorrow?
Nothing till I’ve had that first cup of coffee.
To your point -- if you already know what you want to see happen tomorrow, do that. If you don’t, read a poem, whatever you like, or write your own. Listen to a song that lifts and opens your heart, anything that moves you to a healthy place, a place that gives you a sense of calm and power and purpose. After that, get to work questioning authority and your own assumptions. Above all, at some point get away from the screens, take a walk, connect with a human being. In person.
And be honest.
What should we do this month?
The above times thirty. You might also want to be sure you’re giving and receiving enough love. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Try to do it anyway.
What should we do this year?
End it in a better place than it began.
The world is a horrible place for the masses of humanity. Don’t turn away from that. See it and be outraged and appalled. I am convinced it doesn’t have to be this way. Challenge, or continue to challenge these conditions, the ruling classes, and the ruling order. Don’t accept that this current state of being is normal, or that nothing can be done.
Be brave in the face of personal and geopolitical challenges. We can act to shape the world we want. Do that.
Marx in Soho, with Bob Weick, directed by John Doyle. InterAct Theatre Company, 302 S. Hicks St,. Performances: January 28th, 4 PM, and January 29th, 7 PM. $10/$5 for students. Facebook Invite here. To book a performance of Marx in Soho, email Bob Weick at MARXINSOHO@gmail.com or use this form on IronAge’s website.
Loren Hunt is a writer living and working in Philadelphia.