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Thu Oct 2, 2014, 03:48 PM

October 2 -- Happy birthday to: Mahatma Gandhi (1869) and Groucho Marx (1890)

Today we celebrate the birthday to two anti-establishment heroes: Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India's independence from the British Empire, and Groucho Marx, one of the great clowns of the twentieth century.

Both wore glasses, both had a mustache (although for most of his career, Groucho's was greasepaint, not hair) and both made it a habit to knock the high and mighty down a peg or two. As always, that's a good thing, because, as always, the high and mighty usually always need to be knocked down a peg or two to remind them that they're really no better we peons are.

Groucho's weapon was humor and his field of battle was the stage and screen. His targets were merely symbols, i.e., a stereotypical wealthy or powerful person portrayed by another actor, such as Louis Calhern (the Machiavellian ambassador in Duck Soup), Sig Ruman (A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races), Walter King (the opera star with an inflated ego in A Night at the Opera), Louis Sorin (the ex-convict turned art critic in Animal Crackers) and, of course, Margaret Dumont (the society matron in most of the Marx Brothers' films). Specifically, he would insult his target, such as "Say, you better beat it, I hear they're going to tear you down and put up an office building where you're standing," to Margaret Dumont or, to Louis Calhern, "I can't think of anything to say -- maybe you can suggest something -- in fact, you do suggest something -- to me, you suggest a baboon." All of these characters were proud of their status and never as smart or talented as they might think. This is how Americans thought of the rich and powerful during the Great Depression and just as many of us in the Great Recession view the rich and powerful of today.

Mahatma Gandhi fought a real battle in his native India, a nation that was the home of an early civilization before Stonehenge was built, but was at the time of his birth reduced to a colony of the British empire whose laws were written by British politicians in London for the benefit of the British East India Company and enforced by British administrators in Calcutta. What did the people of India have to say about the natural bounty being shipped to factory in Britain to be made into consumer goods, some of which would return to India to be sold to Indians while British capitalists collected the profits. What did Mahatma Gandhi do about this injustice? Although a trained lawyer, he rejected wearing fine suits, which might have been made in Britain with silk from China made available to British merchants by gunboat diplomacy, in favor of wearing a loin cloth spun and weaved in his own home. It was illegal for the natives of India to manufacture their own salt; instead, they had to buy British manufactured salt on the British controlled markets. What did the Mahatma do about this injustice? He marched to the sea and, in front of armed British soldiers, began to collect salt in defiance of British imperial law. Gandhi was willing to do anything to free India from the British Empire except kill human beings. His fight was a fight of nonviolent tactics. He would openly break the law, he would do so knowing that the British could use his provocation as an excuse to kill him or massacre his followers, but he trusted that British soldiers were human beings and wouldn't do that to people who were doing nothing to physically harm them. Of course, it was a real risk; but as the Mahatma said, "I can no more teach nonviolence to a coward than I can teach music a deaf man." Gandhi and his followers simply took actions that deprived profits to the East India Company and weakened the Empire. It worked. After World War II, everybody in Britain with the possible exception of Churchill saw that it was too expensive to maintain an Empire. Lord Mountbatten was sent to India to negotiate the end of the British Raj.

One might imagine what our two heroes would do with today's rich and powerful. What cigar smoke would Groucho blow in the face of Wall Street crooks? What clever turn of a phrase would he use to insinuate that their power is based on bribing politicians from congressional committee chairmen to local dog catchers. I'm sorry. Did I say bribe? I meant to say contribute large sums to their campaigns. The first thing their stooges have to do once in office is to make sure the law makes a distinction between bribery and giving large contributions to election campaigns, were citizens with common sense know there is no difference.

Mahatma Gandhi would lead us in defiance of laws passed by crooked politicians backed by crooked corporate officers. There a law calling for a tax on homeowners who put up solar panels? The Mahatma would first lead by example and be the first in the state of Oklahoma or Florida to put up solar panels on his home, announce that he will not pay any unjust tax written by the Koch brothers and their tyrannical corporate and crooked political allies, and urge all others to do the same. Naturally, some may back away after the initial bluster from crooked politicians, crooked corporations and crooked opinions makers in the media, but most of us already know that America has already become an oligarchy and is no longer a democracy. We've already lost all there is to lose and we are simply fighting to restore democracy, where the people of the community have control of the community's destiny. We will state as our goal to bankrupt billionaire tyrants and drive crooked politicians from office until they cry "uncle" and sue for piece. What reparations we demand will depend on how time that takes measured not in years, but in social and environmental damage. Meanwhile, what part of civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance do the tyrants not understand?

October 2 is a day to celebrate. Today is the birthday of both Mahatma Gandhi and Groucho Marx, two of the great liberators of mankind.

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Reply October 2 -- Happy birthday to: Mahatma Gandhi (1869) and Groucho Marx (1890) (Original post)
Jack Rabbit Oct 2014 OP
hifiguy Oct 2014 #1
Jack Rabbit Oct 2014 #2
hifiguy Oct 2014 #3
Seeking Serenity Oct 2014 #5
edbermac Oct 2014 #4
Jack Rabbit Oct 2014 #6

Response to Jack Rabbit (Original post)

Thu Oct 2, 2014, 03:55 PM

1. Groucho was a major life-influence on me.

 

I grew up loving Bugs Bunny (still do for that matter) but it was Groucho's absolute and total irreverence for and hostility to authority in any form that "warped" me for life. The best thing I ever read about Groucho was that "he would insult a king to make a beggar laugh."

And as for "I can't think of anything to say -- maybe you can suggest something -- in fact, you do suggest something -- to me, you suggest a baboon."

And then there is this exchange with the great Margaret Dumont:

Rufus T. Firefly: Not that I care, but where is your husband?

Mrs. Teasdale: Why, he's dead.

Rufus T. Firefly: I bet he's just using that as an excuse.

Mrs. Teasdale: I was with him to the very end.

Rufus T. Firefly: No wonder he passed away.

Mrs. Teasdale: I held him in my arms and kissed him.

Rufus T. Firefly: Oh, I see, then it was murder. Will you marry me? Did he leave you any money? Answer the second question first.

Groucho was one of a kind.

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Response to hifiguy (Reply #1)

Thu Oct 2, 2014, 04:10 PM

2. You're like me -- I still love Bugs Bunny

and for the same reason I love Groucho.

The office building line comes from the same dialog in Duck Soup. If anyone wants to know what Americans in the late thirties thought about contemporary European politics, I recommend that movie. Just remember that Rufus T. Firefly is not exactly someone you want as President. He's kinda like Dick Cheney, only with a palatable personality.

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Response to Jack Rabbit (Reply #2)

Thu Oct 2, 2014, 04:18 PM

3. Bugs never started a fight

 

but he always finished them. I never trusted any kid who said he liked Mickey Mouse more than Bugs. What kid wouldn't want to be Bugs Bunny?

Virtually the entirety of the script of Duck Soup is quotable and I still genuinely believe it is the funniest film ever made. Not bad for an 81-year-old movie.

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Response to hifiguy (Reply #1)

Thu Oct 2, 2014, 06:57 PM

5. Firefly: Remember, you're fighting for this woman's honor

which is more than she ever did.

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Response to Jack Rabbit (Original post)

Thu Oct 2, 2014, 05:07 PM

4. I loved Gandhi in Duck Soup

He was just as funny as Zeppo.

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Response to Jack Rabbit (Original post)

Thu Oct 2, 2014, 09:28 PM

6. Ping

For all my friends in California . . .

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