12 September 2009


It is, after all, 12/9 in New Zealand today - but it is 9/11 in the US, and many are remembering. I might be expected to have something to say on the subject - I don't know that I do.

Borrowing on the Internet is, I suppose, fair game - at least until their lawyers send you a polite letter - and as "J. Christian" says, commenting in a blog I read:

Reflecting on 9/11, I recall an essay by Lee Harris on the motivation for the terror attacks. His thesis is that they were not an act of war as we traditionally understand it, but that they were the enactment of a fantasy. As a way of introducing his idea, he describes an encounter with a college friend protesting the Vietnam War:

Thus, when he lay down in front of hapless commuters on the bridges over the Potomac, he had no interest in changing the minds of these commuters, no concern over whether they became angry at the protesters or not. They were there merely as props, as so many supernumeraries in his private psychodrama. The protest for him was not politics, but theater; and the significance of his role lay not in the political ends his actions might achieve, but rather in their symbolic value as ritual. In short, he was acting out a fantasy.

The victims of 9/11 were "supernumeraries in a private psychodrama." Props.

I have no special insight into evil or knowledge of whether an act is Satanic or not. Hate is a strong, strong word, but dehumanizing others to the point that they are props in one's fantasy -- that has to be a special kind of hatred.

I found this revealing of some of my own activities in life. I have - thank God! - not given in to hatred. But I there have been times in my own life - sometimes with my own family - when I have found that I have treated others as mere supernumeraries in my own private psychodrama.

Sue and I are off to see friends tomorrow, Sunday the 13th of September (Robbie Loretz, for those of you who know him). Busy week-end!


Unitman said...

"All the World is", after all, "a stage..." Unitman

John Thayer Jensen said...

A friend e-mails me (following posted with her permission):

That's a very useful category, political protest as psychodrama. Only it's not just personal psychodrama but communal, which makes it potentially even more dangerous. I was at the March on Washington against the Vietnam war in 1968. I was in my 20's and very stupid--that's my excuse. I didn't have any idea what it was all about, I had just seen photographs that appealed to emotionalism. It was a big party--everyone was high on pot (or stronger drugs) and communal self-righteousness. Allen Ginsberg was chanting mantras to levitate the Pentagon. They tear-gassed us, which made us feel even more self-righteous, and soldiers--I guess it was the National Guard--marched up to us in a line with bayonets, which was all very exciting and gave us something to tell people later.

Here in Claremont there are a bunch of people, mostly young, protesting the war(s) on our main street every Saturday. Phil (my husband) spoke to them and found out most of them had no idea at all what it was all about, any more than I did in the Vietnam protest, just that Bush had started a war because he was evil and wanted to kill people. (I had mixed feelings about the war in Iraq myself and never settled it in my own mind.) Phil talked to the leader but the man refused to discuss the issues, he said it just made him too angry, and then he proved it by screaming four-letter-words at Phil! They were also carrying signs calling Israel a terrorist country, so Phil tried to talk to them about that. He told the man we had lived in Israel for a year and asked him if he thought the Israelis had a right to do anything when they were attacked by terrorists--that's what got the man so angry. He said Israel had no right to exist. I went home and put an Israeli flag on my back car window.

I've been very aware lately of my own tendencies to demonize the enemy at various times in my life. Also I've been realizing that one thing politics does is make you part of a warm and comforting community, which is a good thing in itself, I suppose, but it's very easy to make the communal feeling almost totally dependent on hatred of your enemies.

In September, 1964, Edna and I having decided that I would return to University to finish my degree, we moved to Berkeley, California - arriving on campus one week into the "Free Speech Movement" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_speech_movement).

I found it tremendously exciting, and for the first few weeks of the semester I went to all the rallies, and shouted with the best of them.

One day there was a rally at the Greek Theatre (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hearst_Greek_Theatre). The University President Clark Kerr (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clark_Kerr) started speaking - trying to cool things off - when Mario Savio (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario_Savio) grabbed the microphone from him, shouted that we were all going to assemble in Sproul Hall Plaza (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sproul_Hall).

We rushed, roaring and shouting, down the hillside - tearing up plants, and, in one instance, pushing over (deliberately) a lamp post.

We got down to the plaza and the usual speech-making began. I began to cool down.

And was horrified. Had those been people instead of bushes I had been pushing over, I do not know that I would not have pushed them the same. I realised I had no idea what this was supposed to be about. I was 22 and really didn't know what life was about, either, but I knew that I had a wife and child, and that if I kept on doing that stuff, I wasn't going to have a degree.

I think that 'psychodrama' can describe a fair bit of my life. Reality is better.

Of course blogging can easily be much the same thing... :-)