My Capstone project is basically a comparative examination of communism versus capitalism, and although I’ve longed railed against the imperialistic warmongering of many capitalist countries and long ago read The Communist Manifesto, I realized that I needed to understand both sides better.
For starters, there has never been a pure communist state. They’ve all been perverted by humans. It’s not Stalinism, it’s not North Korea, it’s not Obamacare.
Karl Marx, “the beast,” as some described him, slouched out of Germany preaching class warfare, the unfitness of the selfish bourgeoisie to rule using wage labor to exploit and oppress workers, the centralization of government leading to a idealized world that would be classless and stateless, eventually. To capitalism, which touted private ownership and minimal or no government intervention, Marx had a simple, concise answer, the abolition of private property. Workers had nothing to lose but their chains and a world to win.
I find myself suspicious of both views now, but I can understand the appeal of communist theory as a reaction to some developments in the Modern Era and especially to the Industrial Revolution.
In the first half of the 19th century, the vast majority of people lived in rural communities living very traditional lives. After 1850, more and more moved to cities, where industrial employment earned them more money, but where many felt more isolated and alone, without their former safety net of friends and extended families. Although they could enjoy more individual freedom away from the prying eyes of small town neighbors, they had few other privileges and lived in a drone state of industrialization. In contrast, communism promised a world of brotherhood.
A list of qualities I think are part of what I would call the psychology of capitalism includes stress, paranoia, insanity, psychological oppression, fragmented specialization, and isolation. On the other side of the ledger, the side of communist psychology, my list includes denial of freedom, a rejection of individualism, a forced conformity to the group, absolute power of the state, at least to begin with, and a tendency for vainglorious pandering.
I say trust neither.
In this context, and considering my love of theater, I looked into developments in modern theater in this period, when there was a backlash against the romantic spectacles that had previously been popular. Reality, or the illusion of it, became the watchword, set in more ordinary venues and acted in a more understated way. Then there was an experimental backlash to realism, with movements like Symbolism, Impressionism, and Surrealism, all of which claimed to be more in tune with the subconscious and therefore more “true.”
So for the culmination of my presentation, I wrote a two-character play trying to elucidate some of these competing struggles and philosophies. It’s very much Strindberg-inspired in its depiction of competition between man and woman, the urge to destroy and the urge to love, the seductiveness of both power and security. There are five scenes. The first two demonstrate realism, the third and fourth are in the experimental mode, very much inspired by Maurice Maeterlinck, a major figure in the Symbolist movement, and by Alfred Jarry’s play Ubu Roi, an infamous precursor to Surrealism. The fifth and last scene is a resolution.
I titled my play The Fox and the Rat.
Woman - Sarah Harbaugh ’15
Man - Drew Honeycutt ’17
Chorus: Payton Alongi ’17, Henley Baron ’18, Bankston Creech ’18, Tristen Hunnewell '18, Katie Kessler ’17, Sarahkate Marsden ’18, Rachel Rezabek ’17, Lauren Richardson ’16
Lights: Will Hassell ’15
Sound: Coner McFarlin ’17
Set Construction: Henley Baron ’18, Oakley Baron ’16, Tristen Hunnewell '18, Hunter Webb ’16
Read more about Capstone 2015 here.