9/11 and The People's Romance
I can understand and sympathize with most values, but there's one so alien that I can't relate to it at all - "The People's Romance." The People's Romance is defined by Daniel B. Klein as "the yearning for encompassing coordination of sentiment." It is a kind of joint ownership of everyone by everyone, where if anyone opts out of the group sentiment, they are damaging the value. It is perhaps the only value that cannot possibly be served by the libertarian value of freedom.
The People's Romance in its statist form was expressed quite clearly by Hegel:
It is false to maintain that the foundation of the state is something at the option of its members. It is nearer the truth to say that it is absolutely necessary for every individual to be a citizen. The great advance of the state in modern times is that nowadays all the citizens have one and the same end, an absolute and permanent end.
What made me think of The People's Romance was a recent article by Rick Baber on NWAPolitics.com about the 9/11 terrorist homicides. I saw similar sentiment in letters to the editor and editorials - that there was some kind of spontaneous unity after the "attack," and this was allegedly a good thing.
Well, you know me - the perpetual iconoclast. I disagree with both points. First of all, there was no spontaneous unity. I for one, and no doubt many others, had quite a different reaction to 9/11 than a feeling on unity with fellow Americans. I had more of a feeling of disgust for the US foreign policy which brought on the mass murders. I had much the same feeling as one gets when hearing about a terrible auto accident: a tragedy, but only to be expected considering all the driving done. For 9/11, my feeling was that after all the murders and assassinations and bombings and funding of brutal rulers by the US State, it was inevitable that someone eventually hit back.
So I had no feeling of unity; on the contrary, for me the incident underlined the separateness of rulers and ruled, of State and society. And I was thankful of the recognition of that separateness in the minds of terrorists. They attacked mostly some military assholes in the Pentagon and some outfits who helped fund Israel based at the World Trade Center rather than normal people like you and me. Not that they did it morally, since they murdered non-combatants, but in the Newspeak of the media they "targeted" combatants rather than people in general.
This People's Romantic feeling of unity did not come to me, nor most anti-statists, as it apparently did to Baber and many editorial writers. That's not surprising, since I'm a statistically abnormal non-conformist. What worries me is the (generally implied) claim that such a unifying sentiment is a good thing. That's where The People's Romance comes in. The notion that in a modern society everyone in the tribe should dance in unison to the drumbeat is both disgusting and dangerous. It is the sentiment that makes war possible, that makes brutal occupations of foreign countries appear acceptable, that lets otherwise reasonable people be led by the nose into evil by neo-Jacobin rulers. As they did.
So Boobus Americanus bought the big lies, about WMDs, about a ragtag band of terrorists being equivalent to the Nazi superstate, about internationalist Muslim militancy equating to nation-worshipping fascism ("Islamo-fascism"), about a warmed over White Man's Burden to bring freedom and democracy to foreign wretches at bomb-point. And about the necessity to sacrifice liberty for that great cause, or else the foreign devils who hate liberty and all Americans will slit our throats in our sleep. Yes, 9/11 was a great day for The People's Romance, and the rulers milked it to the hilt. But that was not a good thing - for you, for me, or for liberty.