There is a well-known Soviet joke about Lenin. Under Socialism, Lenin’s advice to young people, his answer to what they should do, was ‘Learn, learn, and learn’. This was evoked at all times and displayed on all school walls. The joke goes: Marx, Engels and Lenin are asked whether they would prefer to have, a wife or a mistress. As expected, Marx, rather conservative in private matters, answers ‘A wife!’, while Engels, more of a bon vivant, opts for a mistress. To everyone’s surprise, Lenin says: ‘I’d like to have both!’ Why? Is there a hidden stripe of decadent jouisseur behind his austere revolutionary image? No – he explains: ‘so that I can tell my wife that I am going to my mistress, and my mistress that I have to be with my wife…’ ‘And then, what do you do?’ ‘I go to a solitary place to learn, learn, and learn!’
Is this not exactly what Lenin did after the catastrophe of 1914? He withdrew to a lonely place in Switzerland, where he ‘learned, learned, and learned,’ reading Hegel’s logic. And this is what we should do today when we find ourselves bombarded by mediatic images of violence. We need to ‘learn, learn, and learn’ what causes this violence.