# The greatest tragedy in human history

zoobyshoe said:
This sounds logical, but is probably specious. The happier society, as a whole, would be the one that has the best psychological coping mechanism for dealing with loss and death.

I think Huck's overall quality vs quantity argument is pretty sound.
It's all perspective. I think most women though would tell you they would be far happier never losing a child then having lost one. The reason I picked this as an example was that it's would be hard to turn around because it's so emotional. Most other things can be turned based on perspective.

TheStatutoryApe said:
It's all perspective. I think most women though would tell you they would be far happier never losing a child then having lost one. The reason I picked this as an example was that it's would be hard to turn around because it's so emotional. Most other things can be turned based on perspective.
Death of a child = #1 hardest thing to deal with, they say.

A better example of quality vs quantity that comes to mind is the effect of better medicine on the elderly. One can argue that better medical care has made it possible for people to linger much longer in a poor quality fringe existence in nursing homes. You have to have visited a nursing home (I don't mean an appartment complex for seniors) to know what I mean.

russ_watters
Mentor
Huckleberry said:
A person must certainly be alive to enjoy life. There are poor people that are alive in the world, far more than there are rich people. I think they would disagree with you that they have no quality of life. I certainly do.
I think you may have misread: I didn't say that the poor have no quality of life, I said that the dead have no qualilty of life. The catch being that the poor are more likely to die young - so if a poor person (meaning a resident of a 3rd world nation) and one living in the US have the same average quality of life, the person living in the US would have twice the total quality of life due to living twice as long.

Regarding water supply: it was my impression that that corellated well with poverty, but I'm not really sure. I'll see if I can find some stats. Regardless though, I don't think water is quite that big a problem (nor do I think it'll become one). There are other places besides rivers to get water.

edit: HERE is some info on water. Its about running water, not drinking water - a step up from drinking water. But it says the proportion of people in the world with running water has been increasing and is now above 50%.

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alexandra
zoobyshoe said:
What is it you're up to, exactly? Are you suggesting with all this talk of Marx that it would ever be feasable for any country to make a transition to Marxism?
This is what I am up to exactly: when the scientific body of work of a serious scholar such as Marx is linked to the actions of insane individuals who had no understanding of his theory, I try to bring attention to the facts of the matter. Neither Hitler nor Stalin were Marxists. Marx's theory can in no way be linked to what those individuals did, and I wanted to point this out. My aim is not exactly unreasonable, since I am a political scientist. If someone said something you knew to be incorrect in your specialist field of study, I imagine you too would try to correct the errors?

alexandra said:
If someone said something you knew to be incorrect in your specialist field of study, I imagine you too would try to correct the errors?
Course, but you're clearly going beyond correcting errors. I sense enthusiasm for Marxism. I'm trying to figure out if you're saying, merely, that Marx was good in that he exposed the evils of Capitalism, or if you think Marxism could ever actually be put successfully in place here, or anywhere.

russ_watters
Mentor
alexandra said:
...I am a political scientist. If someone said something you knew to be incorrect in your specialist field of study, I imagine you too would try to correct the errors?
Just out of curiosity, what is your level of qualification?

I'll be perfectly up-front in saying I have only taken about half a dozen poly sci courses in college.
Neither Hitler nor Stalin were Marxists.
And for the record, I was (am) very precise with my wording: I did not say that Hitler and Stalin were Marxists. My assessment is that Stalin was close to being a Marxist, but Hitler was not. Neither "truly" followed Marx's vision and, as I said, I doubt Marx would have approved of their usage of it. However, Hitler's anti-semitism may have been related to Marxism.

And its not like I made up the idea of a link between these 3 individuals. A quick google produces much on the subject:
http://www.ilv.org.nz/index.php?action=view_article&article_id=265 [Broken]
http://www.friesian.com/marx.htm
http://russp.org/nazis.html

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alexandra
zoobyshoe said:
Course, but you're clearly going beyond correcting errors. I sense enthusiasm for Marxism. I'm trying to figure out if you're saying, merely, that Marx was good in that he exposed the evils of Capitalism, or if you think Marxism could ever actually be put successfully in place here, or anywhere.
I am saying that Marx developed a theoretical perspective that provides the tools with which to analyse capitalist societies. In effect, Marx is the 'Einstein' of political science - through a lifetime of research, thinking and analysis, he developed the equivalent of Einstein's theory of General Relativity in the discipline of Political Science. Much of current political theorising is either informed by Marx's insights or is a reaction to Marx's theory. By using the analytical tools of Marxist theory, one can understand the workings of capitalist systems - how the economy works, why politicians behave as they do, what the role of the mass media is in capitalist societies, why so little progress has been made in addressing pressing environmental problems, the role of trade unions (as well as their inherent limitations in defending the rights of workers), etc. Discounting Marx's contributions to the development of political theory is the same as discounting Einstein's contributions to the development of modern physics.

Marxism is not, however, a political system as such - it is a perspective of analysis - so Marxism could not be 'implemented' as a socio-political system. Marx wrote that capitalism may be overthrown and replaced by another political system, socialism - but that this would depend on people's actions - in his own words: "Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past" (Marx, 'The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte').

Personally, for the record, I believe that socialism (true socialism, according to how Marx defined it) would be a superior system to capitalism in that it would eradicate the economic competition that creates wars and threatens our existence as a species because of its effects on the environment. It seems logical to me that humanity would progress on all fronts if resources were put into solving pressing problems (environmental, meeting human beings' basic needs, social, etc) and into useful research (eg. the development of technology to explore the universe) rather than into military research and technology. However, there has at no stage of human history yet existed a socialist society, and it is by no means certain that human beings will ever evolve enough to create such a society. But I am not being fair to people here - there are very powerful forces that actively prevent people from thinking for themselves and critically analysing capitalism and seeing it for what it is. Nevertheless, whether people see it or not, the consequences will be the same - I don't foresee an end to the wars, or to the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots, or to the environmental disasters that are looming.

The birth of the guy who invented war (or torture, or hate, or reality TV, etc.)

(I hear it was an exceptionally easy delivery)

$$\infty$$

The Rev

alexandra
russ_watters said:
Just out of curiosity, what is your level of qualification?
What's the matter, Russ? Don't I sound like the 'normal' political scientist to you? Well, just as in all disciplines, there are contending theories in political science. I happen to belong to that school of thought you may not have encountered too frequently in your own studies. For the record, my entire undergraduate degree was in politics (all units over three years' study were related to politics), and I have studied Marxism further on my own (informally, over several years). There is still much to learn, and I do not claim to be a total expert on Marxism; I have, however, read a fair amount over the years. I have made a brief post about my formal studies on the other thread as well (in the Politics section).

russ_watters said:
And for the record, I was (am) very precise with my wording: I did not say that Hitler and Stalin were Marxists. My assessment is that Stalin was close to being a Marxist, but Hitler was not. Neither "truly" followed Marx's vision and, as I said, I doubt Marx would have approved of their usage of it. However, Hitler's anti-semitism may have been related to Marxism.
It is true that Marx wrote a lot, and that some of his work could have been misinterpreted. This can happen to all theories that are put in the public domain: once you have published something, you no longer have any control over its interpretation. It is also true that Stalin presented himself as a Marxist. But how people present themselves and what they are is not always the same thing. The way to judge whether someone is what they claim to be is to check how well their actions match the claim. Marx would definitely not have approved of Stalin's 'interpretation' of his theory.

russ_watters
Mentor
alexandra said:
Don't I sound like the 'normal' political scientist to you?
No, you don't.
It is true that Marx wrote a lot, and that some of his work could have been misinterpreted. This can happen to all theories that are put in the public domain: once you have published something, you no longer have any control over its interpretation. It is also true that Stalin presented himself as a Marxist. But how people present themselves and what they are is not always the same thing. The way to judge whether someone is what they claim to be is to check how well their actions match the claim. Marx would definitely not have approved of Stalin's 'interpretation' of his theory.
To me, the more important question is: what would Stalin have done if Marx hadn't existed?

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alexandra
russ_watters said:
To me, the more important question is: what would Stalin have done if Marx hadn't existed?
This is a good question. I was answering briefly and inaccurately earlier when I said that Hitler and Stalin were insane - in my view, history is never made by individuals. To understand Stalin's rise to power and Stalinism will require a long discussion of Russian history in the context of what was happening not only in Russia but also internationally at the time. Overall, Marx's theory did, of course, form a 'link' in the historical chain of events that led to the Russian Revolution. After that, Lenin's death and Stalin's exiling and subsequent murder of Trotsky, as well as many other factors took over. But I'm not sure this is the proper place to be discussing such 'heavy' politics...

russ_watters said:
I think you may have misread: I didn't say that the poor have no quality of life, I said that the dead have no qualilty of life. The catch being that the poor are more likely to die young - so if a poor person (meaning a resident of a 3rd world nation) and one living in the US have the same average quality of life, the person living in the US would have twice the total quality of life due to living twice as long.
Maybe I have misinterpretted what I've read. When you say the 'dead have no quality of life' I assumed that you were speaking of the poor. You had mentioned the death of poor people in the previous posts as well. Who should I have assumed were the dead people you were referring to?

In the above quote you are comparing the sum to the average. A person who lives longer will likely experience a greater sum of happiness. They will also likely experience a greater sum of unhappiness. This does not make their average level of happiness (if there is a way to quantify such a thing) any more or less.

I realize that the death of a child is difficult for any caring parent to cope with. Certainly they will be unhappy. The arguments about water and sanitation and vaccination are all secondary to my point. We could also mention famine and war and countless other difficulties they must endure.My point, simply stated, is that people will live the best they can with what they have available. The impoverished understand loss and death far better than you or I and they know how to cope with it, because if they cannot they will die. Should they also deny themselves happiness? Poverty is like a foul odor. Eventually a person adapts to it, but it doesn't mean they can't smell roses anymore.

If poor people are so prone to death then why are there so many in the world? Despite the conditions they live in they are very successful survivors.

russ_watters
Mentor
That's a pretty pessimistic view of "happiness", but we're starting to get into philosophy, so I won't pursue it.

However:
If poor people are so prone to death then why are there so many in the world? Despite the conditions they live in they are very successful survivors.
Huh? The fact that there are so many poor people has very little to do with how good they are at surviving. Poor people tend to procreate more, plus poverty (having nothing) is the default human condition. Its only relatively recently that it became possible for anyone but royalty to be anything but poor.

To summarize:

Number of poor: decreasing
Life expectancy: increasing

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alexandra said:
I don't foresee an end to the wars, or to the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots, or to the environmental disasters that are looming.
There are always some people trying to take advantage of other people.

Your posts are all quite surprising simply because I haven't run into anyone espousing Marxism since I was in college 30 years ago. Anyway, thanks for your comprehensive, articulate answer to my question.

russ_watters
Mentor
zoobyshoe said:
Your posts are all quite surprising simply because I haven't run into anyone espousing Marxism since I was in college 30 years ago.
Well, I'd say we see them all the time - what's rare is a Marxist who has actually studied political science formally - a "real" Marxist.

russ_watters said:
Well, I'd say we see them all the time - what's rare is a Marxist who has actually studied political science formally - a "real" Marxist.
"We" who? Sincerely: I haven't encountered a single one since college.

russ_watters
Mentor
zoobyshoe said:
"We" who? Sincerely: I haven't encountered a single one since college.
Maybe you're just being narrower in your characterization, but the topic seems to come up about once a month. And there is never a shortage of defenders of Marxism (/communism/socialism). Generally, they are not as outspoken as alexandra, alexandra wasn't the only one in the "Objectivity...." thread that is currently open. A "Marxism" search reveals a number of other threads with a number of other defenders of these concepts.

Admittedly, some of these people may be more anti-capitalisms than pro-marxism. It can be tough to know the difference.

Perhaps the most direct thread on the question is HERE, where I ask in a poll if people consider Marxism to be a viable political/economic theory. 10 responded yes (27%).

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No, I'm talking 30 years without having run into anyone I would call a Marxist or communist. Here, at PF, I would have missed them since I just about never go into the politic forum. In real life, I guess it has just been a freak glitch. Could be I've met some but the subject of conversation never got to politics.

russ_watters
Mentor
zoobyshoe said:
No, I'm talking 30 years without having run into anyone I would call a Marxist or communist.
Run into on the street? Yeah, I don't think I've ever seen one.

russ_watters said:
Admittedly, some of these people may be more anti-capitalisms than pro-marxism. It can be tough to know the difference.
Out of curiosity, are you refering to me?

Personally, I can't understand why the capitalism & socialism discussion comes up so frequently (not just here). Or well, I can understand why, but I think it is one of the most dead horses I've seen. Very seldome something new is brought up, but to this the current discussion is a nice exception. Alexandra seams to know what she is talking about and I really want to hear what she has to say to the usual criticism (thanks for presenting that, Russ). It's not like I'm voting with my argumentation, so I like to listen, ask questions and weed out real arguments from rhetorics. Then I can later decide for myself what to make of it all.

russ_watters
Mentor
No, I was not referring to you.

Informal Logic
Since people continue to post on this subject here...

This is a forum based on academia, so with regard to political science, one needs to study other systems of government regardless of individual preference. This is how I have viewed the discussion on Marxism.

If Americans remember, the founding fathers were considered revolutionaries. Though many concepts of our form of democracy, etc. were derived from philosophers and governments in earlier history, our system was considered new and revolutionary (and likewise, the world has gone through many forms of economic systems). Later in American history, communism was becoming popular, perhaps because of a view that there may be other new ideas that could provide continued improvement--like evolution. However, with McCarthyism, and then the Cold War, communism now has a negative connotation in the US, and in fact it may be that this discussion is threatening to some members as a result (mind set?).

I've been reading threads in this forum for some time, and this is the first time I have seen this topic arise. Also, is spotting a Marxist on the street like seeing Big Foot or something? Let's not exaggerate and get all freaked out.

Informal Logic said:
Also, is spotting a Marxist on the street like seeing Big Foot or something?
For me, almost, yep. No exaggeration. Before Alexandra I hadn't run into one that I knew of since college. This is not my fault. It's just the way it happened.

Okey-dokey, russ.

Oh, and I'm also betting seeing Alex is a bit like seeing Big Foot and the rest of the intelligent girls here at PF - simply stunning for us nerdies.

Ps. Non the less, good point, Informal Logic.

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Informal Logic
zoobyshoe said:
For me, almost, yep. No exaggeration. Before Alexandra I hadn't run into one that I knew of since college. This is not my fault. It's just the way it happened.
I was really thinking more of the reaction some people seem to be having, but I suppose most Americans do not realize there are many Marxist members and groups throughout the US, as there always have been. You can google and find various web sites on this, but I am sure these members do not advertise their affiliation in their workplace, etc. They probably prefer not to have "commie" written all over their home, or more to the point, the FBI tracking them.

Which brings me back to McCarthyism. Why do you suppose there was a desire to suppress this growing movement in the US then, and now? Could it be suppression by our government to preserve the status quo? Marx was formulating his theories about superstructures and resulting ideologies before McCarthy, the Cold War, etc. Looks like he was right in his prediction about this at least.

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