News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Destruction of the Temple 2001

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Destruction of the Temple 2001

Plato says in the Republic that oligarchs (those who rule states in the name of money) seek to get money out of fear. Not that they fear losing their money or simply that they fear others stealing their money, but that they accumulate their riches out of fear. Fear of what? As Plato says, out of fear for their lives.

One could interpret this in several ways. That is, the oligarchical soul attempts to obviate their fear of death through accumulating wealth. Once this is accomplished, then their efforts in life are to continue to stave off that fear through political means, as well as through the activity of accumulating more and more wealth.

This piece of social psychology is very telling, I believe, when placed in relationship to what happened on September 11, 2001. This can be seen from several angles: from the view of the attackers, especially bib-Laden, and from the US in its response to the attack.

From Bin-Laden's perspective, it can be seen as a stroke of genius in understanding capitalist psychology. That is, in attacking the World Trade Center, the economic nexus of this country, he knew that he would instil the most fear and elicit the strongest reaction. Even if he was not conscious of this effect, and it was simply a military tactic in a larger strategy, it says something about bin-Laden's understanding of the American spirit--Americans are fearful because they are rich. Attack their money and you will instil a primordial fear of death which the accumulation of wealth is meant to hide.

From the American persepctive, there is nothing more fearful than having one's riches attacked. Since the basis for the accumulation of wealth is related in some way to fear for one's life, then what worse could happen than to see the temple and symbol of your wealth attacked and decimated? Therefore, one can gauge the rage of the reaction to 911; the ferocity is not simply a reactive defensive move--it is much deeper, relating to the threat not only to self and property but to one's very being, a being that is supposed to be protected by wealth.

In a capitalist society, wealth is the way of assuring that we can control and maintain the threats to our safety and to our lives. It is the basis for our certainty that we are safe. Attack the source of our wealth and you attack something so close to who we see ourselves as as humans that we not only act to save our material well-being but also to save and defend our spiritual well-being.

I do not pretend to be saying anything new here. No doubt, Freud's theory of narcissim and filthy lucre comes close to saying something very similar. But if these comments have any basis in reality, they would account for the lack of regret that this country's citizens have displayed towards the deaths of thousands of Afghani and Iraqi civilians. It would also account for why the media are reluctant to display these deaths and to report the extent of the destruction incurred by the military invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

There is no guilt associated with this death-dealing; indeed, we are not reposnible for occurs to anyone else. There are no innocents here; we the victims must wreak our vengeance. We are under a holy ban to extend our wrath, a wrath that is God's own. We must visit Holy retribution upon the perpetrators of this attack, as well as anyone who is unlucky enough to be caught in the way while we execute that vengeance.

One more thing: I have always wavered between two interpretations of why bin-Laden would chance an attack on Americans on American soil. It would seem to have been a miscalculation on his part in assuming that Americans were too weak and spineless to respond to the attacks. Perhaps he simply thought that the American government would weakly fritter its energy away in indecision and hapless cowardice and respond in the same as always had.

On the other hand, I can see bin-Laden expecting exactly the type of reaction by the US military that did occur. He hoped to ignite an over-reactive response that would ultimately end in the US attacking and then occupying parts of the mideast. In this way, I imagine, bin-Laden hopes to suck the US onto his own turf and play out the wargame on his terms. He can use the occupying forces as a propaganda tool to gain emotional support from the occupied, as well as more recruits to his ranks.

If the latter is true, then it must be seen that 911 was part of a strategy that was not simply a tactical attack geared to wound the beast. The strategy hopes to drag out the struggle for decades, thereby ensuring that even if he were to die there would be enough militant fervor to fill the vaccuum left by his death.

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