Love Advice With Karl Marx: The advice column with class

Dear Karl,

My boyfriend can’t dance to save his life. the idea of taking him to a dance party is mortifying. what do I do?

-Embarrassed GF

ps. I don’t think dancing classes will do much good.



Embarrassed GF,

Talk about ‘first world problems!’ If that is the worst thing that you can fault him for, then he must be pretty swell. So, I presume you’re pretty satisfied with his personality, looks, commitment to the struggle, and charm. And yet you want more? C’mon!

Your feelings may be related to this recent phenomenon in capitalist society today that I have noticed – it’s called ‘self-improvement.’ It seems to be gaining popularity in many pulp books, workshops and a general attitude to life that some people adopt. It is as if it is no longer enough for everyone to just be themselves, but must improve constantly and endlessly in every way. I think this is a very dangerous idea that will never lead to happiness. Indeed, many psychologists have come out to critique this trend as unhealthy. Accepting others and ourselves and seeking understanding is recommended as a better attitude.

However, psychologists miss capitalism’s role apropos self-improvement. Capitalism must always grow, grow, and grow, like the Hungry Little Caterpillar book you were perhaps read in kindergarten. This is why capital always seeks new markets, produces new useless crap for you to buy, and advertising becomes increasingly pervasive. Now we are encouraged to feel dissatisfied with ourselves and others. We must always grow, grow, and grow – not only must we earn more and buy more, but now we must be more. We are made to feel that we must look better (by buying new beauty products) or be stronger (by paying to join a gym) or be thinner (by buying a magazine that describes a celebrity fad diet) or be more talented (by paying to join some hipster class in art or cooking). It is never enough, and even people who end up perfectly moisturised, thin, muscular, wealthy and hip, never seem to end up happy, as they are pressured to want even more. I believe dance classes and such (unless you join them for fun, which of course is fine, but frivolous) are merely another extension of this idea.

Whatever happened to accepting people for who they are? I have often been quoted as saying, ‘From each according to his (or ‘her’ – I just revised it) ability, to each according to her/his need.’ Most people have since focused on the second half of the quote. But I also meant that people should not get any less just because they might have different abilities. So, maybe your bloke can’t jiggle his butt around on the dance floor as well as some others – then I say, appreciate him ‘according to his ability.’

Do you mind if I tangent onto how self-improvement is perhaps even more oppressive for women in capitalist society? Lately there is this ‘Super Mum’ trope that you can see in ads everywhere. It usually portrays a woman who seems much empowered because she can work and cook and clean and mother her children and be attractive all at once. Wow! An alluring idea, until you stop and consider, ‘why should she work herself to death when it would seem much easier and simpler to demand that men share some of the burden of housework and parenting, and perhaps not objectify women to boot?’ Yet advertising prefers to pressure women to think otherwise. That way, business can sell lots more cleaning products, cookbooks, beauty products, convenience and time-saving products to women who feel they must ‘have it all’ or else they are inadequate. This is part of the reason why some feminists, such as Bell Hooks, argue that true gender equality is not possible within a capitalist system.

So the pressure on men to be muscular, high-income earners, and good dancers is nothing compared to the pressures that are imposed on women today by capitalism and its insidious idea that we all pursue self-improvement. Nevertheless, you would be nobler for trying to overcome your embarrassment and letting go of your desire to change your boyfriend. Love him for who he is.


K. M.

Lot's Wife

The author Lot's Wife

Leave a Response