Hey guys, last week we spent some time talking about the nerd rage toward the Ghostbusters reboot; but we didn’t really spend much time talking about nerds or nerd culture.
This week, let’s remedy that, and talk about nerds. Or geeks, or fanboys and girls, or dweebs, hipsters (oh, don’t get indignant. Hipsters are just fashion geeks.) or whatever we call ourselves now. As a matter of fact, let’s talk about some very specific geeks:
If you don’t recognize them from this photo, maybe you’re familiar with this one:
I know, get to the point already. So— in the top photo, from left to right is Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, and Leon Trotsky. The bottom photo is a still from the animated version of Animal Farm by George Orwell, which, if you’re unfamiliar, is an absurdly thinly-veiled allegory to the Communist Revolution in Russia. The book and film both feature pigs named “Napoleon (Stalin),” “Snowball (Trotsky),” and “Old Major ( a sort-of-but-not-quite pastiche of Lenin and German philosopher/ manifesto enthusiast Karl Marx.) The thrust of the book is that the farm animals band together to overthrow the farmers, and install a government where all animals are equal; only for the leaders of the revolt to install themselves as the new ruling class, in again what is a 2015 Jennifer Connely-thin allusion to the establishment of the U.S.S.R. If you haven’t read Animal Farm, I’d be–fucking surprised .
What does this have to do with anything? Well, I’m about to tell you, scooter. Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin (to a slightly lesser degree) were geeks. Big time, no-bones-about it nerds. Lenin was a teacher at an all-boys school that only children of nobility could attend, a lawyer, and a student of philosophy. Trotsky was a journalist, rabble-rouser, and member of the intelligentsia. Stalin was a fucking seminary student. No bullshit. He was also responsible for this:
“The pinkish bud has opened / Rushing to the pale-blue violet / And, stirred by a little breeze / The lily of the valley has bent over the grass.” – a man responsible for the deaths of between 35 and 50 million of his own people.
None of these nerds did any kind of physical fighting, neither in conventional war, or revolutionary guerrilla-fighting. Stalin had a childhood injury that precluded him from military service, Lenin ducked World War I in Switzerland, as did Trotsky. This is different than say, Castro and Guevara, who were intellectuals, but also armed combatants. The same goes for a near-uncountable number of revolutionaries in Africa. Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin on the other hand, were content to stir the pot, and have others do their fighting for them. Don’t get me wrong, Castro and Guevara were harsh, brutal people who should not be admired. I’m just giving the situation a bit of context.
To make a long story unbelievably short and somewhat over simplified, the three assume power in Russia. Lenin gets sick, Trotsky is exiled, again (seriously, Leon Trotsky is the Mickey Mantle of getting booted out of a country) and Stalin seizes power for himself. Stalin later has an ailing Trotsky killed, in Mexico. Here’s an excerpt of a letter Trotsky wrote shortly before his death:
“For forty-three years of my conscious life I have remained a revolutionist; for forty-two of them I have fought under the banner of Marxism. If I had to begin all over again I would of course try to avoid this or that mistake, but the main course of my life would remain unchanged. I shall die a proletarian revolutionist, a Marxist, a dialectical materialist, and, consequently, an irreconcilable atheist. My faith in the communist future of mankind is not less ardent, indeed it is firmer today, than it was in the days of my youth.
Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full.”
Is that not the bloggiest thing you’ve ever read? What a nerd. Anyway– Stalin, who has always been looked down upon by Trotsky and other members of the Soviet heirarchy, for not being intellectual enough, surprises them all with how clever he actually is. These three nerds managed to overthrow a large, aristocratic oligarchy, and turn a somewhat technologically backwards country into a Superpower.
Okay, so what? So this:
“The particular course that political movements took in overthrowing the old regime in each of these countries was a response to different historical contexts, but all ended up with similar political and economic arrangements within a decade (or less) of coming to power.
In each case, the state controlled the economy, a bureaucratic elite controlled the state, and workers and peasants remained exploited. Despite the rhetoric of workers’ democracy, dissent and debate were repressed. Instead of a socialist society where workers and peasants could enjoy the fruits of their labor, a bureaucratic ruling class took power and used authoritarian measures to impose a state capitalist logic on all aspects of social and economic life (see these articles for a Marxist account of the political and economic factors at work in Russia, China and Cuba.)”
That’s from socialistworker.org, and it illustrates the overall point we’re talking about. The overwhelming tendency is for the groups on the bottom of the social chain to become just as bad, if not worse than those they replaced, should the opportunity arise. There was a time, not too long ago, where the comic book nerds, the computer dweebs, the horror and sci-fi geeks, and all their representative sub-sects were way down on the bottom of the societal totem pole. Now, though, we’ve finally made it to the top. Not only in pop culture, but in commerce and government too.
And we’re acting like complete dickheads. When and how did it get this way? Let’s talk about it next week.
Til next time, baby