Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Other Red Pill: Living in a Material World

... and I am a material girl!  Hey, don't try and gender me, sh!tlord!  And buy me diamonds, pearls, gold and jewels while you're at it.

When you hear the term "materialism," that kind of mindset is doubtlessly what comes to mind.  While that's not wrong, that's not really what "materialism" is going to mean in the context of the other red pill: Marx's idea of historical materialism.

Marx isn't easy to read.  He's very much a product of it's time, which was characterized by verbosity for verbosity's sake.  Materialism in his own words is a case in point: "The chief defect of all materialism up to now (including Feuerbach's) is that the object, reality, what we apprehend through our senses, is understood only in the form of the object or contemplation (Anschauung); but not as sensuous human activity, as practice; not subjectively. Hence in opposition to materialism, the active side was developed abstractly by idealism -- which of course does not know real sensuous activity as such. Feuerbach wants sensuous objects really distinguished from the objects of thought; but he does not understand human activity itself as objective activity."

People were better educated in the 19th century.  A pity, actually.  But the basic, underlying concept is not really as complex as all that.  It begins with the fundamental premise that the meeting of our most basic needs - physical sustenance - is the most important of all human activities.  This is self evident.  If you don't believe me, try not eating, drinking water or sleeping in a safe environment sheltered from the elements for a while.  I'm sure you'll be convinced then.  So far, so good.

Because of how important economic activity is to people, the activities and behaviors that people engage in for this purpose are a primary motivator for human association.  It should not require too much elaboration to understand why groups of people have a better shot at survival than lone individuals.  This was most unarguably the case in prehistoric times, where the choice was this or be eaten by saber tooth tigers or the like.  There was evolutionary advantage to co-operative society, so man evolved as a social and a productive animal.

Already some things about human nature become easier to understand.  We tend to identify strongly with the groups we belong to, and attach importance to our roles in those groups.  They are literally a matter of life and death.  This is why ritualistic acknowledgement of the tribes we identify with and our roles within those tribes as tied in with people's means of sustenance and security are seen so universally across human civilizations.  Thus, culture and identity are not unimportant.  They are.  But they derive fundamentally from the means whereby people provide for their basic security and economic needs in a social context.

And that is what historical materialism is really all about.  Our "material girl" is materialistic in her own way, certainly. And as you try in vain to get that earworm of a tune out of your head, think about why she's like that, and why this song topped the charts when Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were at their political heights, in light of what we've learned here: accumulation of wealth in the form of capital (the means of basic sustenance) is the basis of status and power in a capitalist society (the expression of group position within that society) and hence why men who do this are desirable mates in the capitalist mode of production.  Which we'll discuss more in future installments of the Other Red Pill.

Now about those diamonds and pearls ...

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