Nobody could have anticipated the remarkable transformation that Rhona Blackwell underwent after her exposure to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. She had started in U.C.D. like any other run-of-the-mill Killiney girl. Her social circle had been preordained since secondary school; she had joined all the correct societies such as Fashion-Soc and Young Fine Gael (on the advice of her dad). Rhona Blackwell had it all; the looks, the friends, the future.
But things began to change in Rhona. It happened just after she read the Communist Manifesto for her Introduction to Sociology elective. She began to blaze. She immersed herself in every publication of Marxist theory that she could get her hands on. And consequently, she began to alienate herself from her peers. Her Uggs were discarded and were replaced with Doc Martens. She no longer wore the latest designers, but preferred black and brown non-salubrious styles instead. When her friends confronted her they were told, preached to rather, about their ‘commodity fetishism’ and their bourgeois tendencies. They became perturbed and afraid of her.
At home, Rhona’s mother lamented the transformation. Where was her pretty little girl? Always cooped up in her bedroom poring over some dusty books with names on them like Grundisse or What Can Be Done? She had become secretive and reflective. And then there was the tone of voice with which she had begun to speak to her father. She constantly questioned him with acute hostility about his job on the board of the bank. But her father just chuckled:
-It’s all just a phase poppet, he reassured, when I was in college some of the chaps got into that sort of thing, and they’re now in the upper echelons of politics and business!
There was a cause for alarm when her mother heard voices with diverse accents emanating from the room, seemingly in debate. Bursting through the door to investigate she found Rhona in a semi-trance in the middle of the room and yet completely alone, with just a hint of the essence of pipe-smoke hanging in the air. Rhona’s father was informed.
-What play are you doing at college Ro? He queried at the dinner table.
-I’m not doing a play.
-It’s just that your mother said she heard you reciting lines today.
-Oh that! No dad I was debating.
-Debating? Oh let me guess, you’d conjured the ghost of Karl Marx, her dad grinned.
-No. It was Leon Trotsky and Jesus.
-Oh for heaven’s sake Rhona!! Her mother cried in exasperation. Rhona looked squarely at both her mother and father. Her face was calm, yet earnest.
-I’m going to tell you something, parents, but I need you to promise not to freak. The two nodded in reluctant acquiescence.
-There is no heaven, she went on, and it turns out that Christianity is incorrect. The afterlife is known as the C.R.C.C. or the Cosmo-Republic of Cosmic Comrades as was democratically decided of course. All the great revolutionaries are there. Spartacus, Francis of Assisi, Wat Tyler, I could go on.
-And you debate with them? Debate with Jesus? Her father spat incredulous and worried.
-Well only with Jesus occasionally, she mused, he likes to spend most of his time with Brendan Behan and Jim Larkin down in the Purgatory Inn drinking cheap pints of ambrosia and complaining about how his message has been misinterpreted and thus that misinterpretation has fucked up the world. But yes dad, I have a direct line to most.
After dinner Rhona’s dad retired to his study and picked up the phone. And by the time the doctor and private ambulance had arrived she had disappeared from her bedroom taking just a few clothes and her copy of Das Kapital. Months passed without a sign of Rhona Blackwell. Then, as Easter commenced, a crowd at the G.P.O. in Dublin gathered for the commemoration of 1916. Some noticed a commotion around a strange looking girl, dressed in military attire complete with beret. She was standing on a milk-crate and was flanked by a group dressed in a similar fashion.
-Friends and comrades, I have a message from the venerable leader James Connolly on this day of commemoration. She cleared her throat, unfolded a piece of paper and began:
-Grandchildren. Take heart! All that has come to pass of recent times is just old wine in new bottles. The vulture classes that rule and rob the world have pooled their resources yet again. Those vultures, mad with hatred of the power that had wrested from them the improved conditions are successfully rescinding those conditions. For that is the way of governments. Flesh and blood are ever the cheapest things in their eyes. When we fought for an Irish Republic we sought to reverse that process of valuing things!
How dare the inheritors of the party, that I proudly proposed and founded, become complicit in this thievery by brigands. They must see around them continually accumulating evidences of the unscrupulous methods by which the ruling classes strive to ensure a continuance of their ruling? Do we need to particularise, to bring evidence of the truth? I call to you on this day of commemoration to…
A jet of pepper-spray painted Rhona’s face as she was ferociously wrestled off the milk-crate by three undercover Guards and bustled off to a waiting Garda van. Her comrades were beaten with extendable batons and kicked until they dispersed. The crowd fell silent; moved and amazed at the scene, the people began to gaze at one another with a mixture of confusion and resolute understanding. Then a voice piped up, clear and distinct:
-Yer wan is as mad as a box a bleedin’-frogs.