Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fantasy Ideology

I was asked recently by a student at the school where I work, what I think about the Occupy Wall Street thing. I admitted that I haven't paid it that much attention, but the general impression I got from various media sources was that it was a disorganized affair, with no coherent/unified message or goal. Much has been said of the hygiene deficiencies of the participants. Now, I don't intend to get involved in a debate as to whether these folk are right, wrong or whatever, but the question brought back to my mind an article I read nine years ago, discussing the motivations of Al Qaeda in conducting the 9/11 attacks. [N.B. I am NOT trying to directly compare OWS to Al Qaeda, so don't get all worked up about it. I am NOT saying that OWS are a terrorist group or that they have any terrorist intentions.]    

     The author of the article, linked here, argues that, while most everyone assumed in the aftermath that 9/11 had been a politically motivated attack,  there may have been a completely different reason that had nothing to do with actually achieving a political goal. I here present the article, and put forth the idea that the OWS group may have a similar non-political objective. 

From the article:

     "For Stockhausen did grasp one big truth: 9-11 was the enactment of a fantasy — not an artistic fantasy, to be sure, but a fantasy nonetheless.
     My first encounter with this particular kind of fantasy occurred when I was in college in the late sixties. A friend of mine and I got into a heated argument. Although we were both opposed to the Vietnam War, we discovered that we differed considerably on what counted as permissible forms of anti-war protest. To me the point of such protest was simple — to turn people against the war. Hence anything that was counterproductive to this purpose was politically irresponsible and should be severely censured. My friend thought otherwise; in fact, he was planning to join what by all accounts was to be a massively disruptive demonstration in Washington, and which in fact became one.

My friend did not disagree with me as to the likely counterproductive effects of such a demonstration. Instead, he argued that this simply did not matter. His answer was that even if it was counterproductive, even if it turned people against war protesters, indeed even if it made them more likely to support the continuation of the war, he would still participate in the demonstration and he would do so for one simple reason — because it was, in his words, good for his soul.

What I saw as a political act was not, for my friend, any such thing. It was not aimed at altering the minds of other people or persuading them to act differently. Its whole point was what it did for him.

    So if I have anything to say about the OWS thing, I suppose it is this: What is motivating this group to act as it is?  Unless we (the general population and the protesters) are all talking about the protest using the same frame of reference, there is very little point in talking about it at all.

1 comment:

Clint said...

Just wanted to drop a note to let you know that I have been checking in periodically. Enjoying your commentary, reviews, and thoughts on life.