Saturday, May 5, 2018

Happy Birthday, Moor

Today is the 200th birthday of Karl Marx, affectionately called Mohr, German for Moor, by his family and his friends.
Marx in Trier.
Statue presented by the People's Republic of China to the citizens of Trier, Karl's birthplace.
To be fully unveiled today (©dpa)
Moor, Latin Maurus, goes back to Greek Μαῦρος (Mauros), "inhabitants of Mauritania", although the ancient kingdom has nothing in common with the present West African state of Mauritania where dark-looking people originated in the 19th century.

Why did Karl get this strange nickname? Did his student friends originally call him Mohr in reminiscence of Karl Mohr, one of the two brothers in Schiller’s popular Freiheitsdrama Die Räuber (drama of freedom The Robbers)? Or did his noble wife Jenny von Westphalen give the name to her husband referring to his dark complexion and black curly hair?

Marx’s son-in-law Paul Lafargue wrote in 1890 in his memoirs that his children never called him father, but Mohr. When Marx returned to Paris from a recuperative stay in Algeria, Paul wrote in a letter to Marx’s patron Friedrich Engels (nicknamed the General) in London, “I am deeply pleased with Marx's complexion - he's keeping himself straight, his eyes are sparkling life, in a word, he seems much stronger than when he left London ... Besides, I have to tell you that Marx is brown as a chestnut, he's a real Moor now.


Der Spiegel comments on the anniversary, ”Today the pilgrimage of the worldwide Left to Trier begins. Where pilgrim troops usually arrive in May in honor of the Holy Robe (on exhibition at the Trier cathedral), Karl Marx’s 200th birthday is commemorated today.”

“A 2.3-ton sculpture of the philosopher, a gift of the People's Republic of China, will be unveiled. The German Communist Party (marginal) and the Left (significant) are organizing a parade. The AfD (right-wing Alternative for Germany) wants to walk silently through the city - a protest march. The Falun Gong sect will be demonstrating for freedom of expression and religion. Former Governor Kurt Beck will open the new exhibition in the Marx Museum, and, yes, Günther Jauch (Germany’s famous host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire) will read aloud the birth certificate of the celebrant to mark the occasion. What would Karl Marx have said? ‘Every step of real movement is more important than a dozen programs.’”

Last Wednesday night I saw a documentary about Karl Marx on German TV. While the whole world attributes the color “red” to Marx, did you know that he instead was a Green? He wrote, “We are not owners of the earth, only beneficiaries and have to leave it to future generations in an improved state.” In an improved state? Marx must have been thinking even super-Green when comparing his vision with the present generation struggling to cope with climate change.

Risen from the dead in Trier: Gray Karl
and as a "green" walker on a pedestrian traffic light (Ampelmännchen) (©Heute/AT)

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