Politics and the Sharing of Fantasies

I have a fantasy where I live in a world where there is no such thing as money or property.  No differences of status separate human being from human being.  Nations have no more power to define people’s identity than voluntary clubs do today.  Religion is a purely private, aesthetic affair, like liking a particular kind of music.  In my fantasy I get up,wash my face, leave the house, walk down the street and meet people.  I get to know a new person every day and we learn about each other and become friends.  It doesn’t matter who anybody else thinks we are and who we should be.

I use the word “fantasy” because I think it stems from my emotional needs.  They are not particular to me alone and are shared by a certain strain in progressive and anarchist politics.

Those who are politically conservative have a fantasy as well, and I do when I am in a conservative mood.  It is expressed by Lao Tzu in the Tao Teh Ching, when he says the people once had empty heads and full stomachs, and heard the chickens crowing in the village down the road but never in their lives visited it.   In my conservative fantasy I am happy, and part of an organic whole, like a leaf on a tree in a healthy forest.

The progressive fantasy places the good place in the future and the conservative fantasy places it in the past.

It is pretty easy to make fun of both political fantasies, because it is always easy to make fun of a fantasy.  When a person is vulnerable enough to say what he or she really needs, it is always an option to mock him or her.

In an intimate relationship we trust our partner with our fantasies.  We don’t force them to comply with them, but we let them know what they are without fear of ridicule.

It would be nice if we could do that in our political lives too.



13 thoughts on “Politics and the Sharing of Fantasies

  1. Don’t most people have both kinds of fantasies? We need our individual identities and also to be part of human groups, though the balance depends on the person. Our fantasies aren’t completely consistent because neither are we, but they show us what we yearn for and what we need. How to get there is often more difficult.

    As for accepting people as they are without ridicule, I don’t know anyone who has a perfect record on that. Is the real difference whether or not we care about it, and if we even try? That might be it … Mock away, if you wish. 🙂

  2. I think most people have a bunch of different kinds of fantasies! I wonder what it depends on — not sure. Might be related to attachment style — whether one’s greatest fear is being abandoned or overwhelmed.

  3. Why is religion an aesthetic affair? What would Kierkegaard say? I wonder how you would align this with what he understands as the truth (which doesn’t happen in a crowd). What is the truth of a fantasy?

  4. why is religion an aesthetic affair?
    I didn’t say it was. I said it was my fantasy that it could be. That I could say “I love Judaism, Islam and Buddhism” and people would have no problem with that just as I say “I love Charlie Parker, Charley Patton and J.S. Bach”. I would like that because people could explore their own relationships with the divine, as they currently explore their own relationships with beauty.

    What would Kierkegaard say? Regarding how truth does not happen in a crowd?
    I think he would agree! But a lot of people misread Kierkegaard and think he believes truth cannot be shared. He thinks it can be shared, but it requires running a personal risk to do so, on both sides — the side of the person proclaiming the truth and the side of the person receiving it.

    What is the truth of a fantasy?
    Fantasies are not true.
    If I have the fantasy that Christiane Amanpour is in love with me that fantasy is not true. She is not love with me. We have never met.
    But the fact that I have the fantasy reveals something about me — that I like the idea of a globe-trotting, adventurous lover, and maybe that I want more adventure in my life.

  5. I like that reading of Kierkegaard’s notion of truth. The risk of sharing truth with the other (and not the crowd) is a great prospect. Where could I find that? I have Breitall’s Kierkegaard anthology (Princeton UP). How does language fit in this exchange?

    • thanks. it is implicit in the concluding unscientific postscript but as far as I know nobody before me has noticed it. Language is important, and interestingly oral language is probably better than written. Written language gives the illusion that it will work in all contexts while when we are talking we are usually acutely aware that it might work or might not work depending upon how it goes between us and our listener.

  6. Side note: at the end of the Body of Faith, Wyschogrod makes the case for a faith that is aesthetic. But he relates it to the pre-Rabbinic (temple cult aesthetics, sacrifice, etc.) Shaul Magid, in his book, Hasidism Incarnate, does some interesting stuff with a kind of aesthetic, embodied Jewishness. He calls it an ethos but it crosses over into the aesthetic since it is a presence.

    • cool! thanks for sharing this. Kierkegaard of course thinks mixing up the religious with the aesthetic is the biggest possible mistake one could make, but he means something very idiosyncratic by “aesthetic”. He means finding meaning in immediate experience.

  7. I must find out more about this “second immediacy.” I am very interested in Hegel’s treatment of immediacy, it’s relation to what he calls consciousness, and “animal life.” I’ve written on it when I wrote an essay for Berfrois on James Joyce’s Bloom (in Ulysses).

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