Looking for Fulfillment in Mental Masturbation
The day after the snowstorm, I had coffee with Alec, the young medical doctor I mentioned earlier. At various points during our conversation, he quoted Virginia Woolf, the Brazilian poet Vinicius de Moraes, the futurist Filippo Marinetti, and the scientist John Holland, developer of “genetic algorithms.” Talking with him, as with Katie, I was reminded of the so-called Tercer Mundista priests I met in Mexico in the early 1970s, who broke with the Vatican and actively supported revolutionary movements in Central America. Both Alec and Katie possessed that calm sense of devotion to a higher calling—not a certainty of belief so much as a certainty of purpose. They both spoke of the movement in unabashedly spiritual terms. And while neither talked explicitly of religion, they seemed to have faith that they were progressing toward the kind of social system that would provide participants a measure of peace and “mental fulfillment.”Hardly been tried? It's been tried across centuries and failed miserably as Matthew Continetti recently pointed out.
Part of their optimism seemed to derive from the fact that anarchism, as they loosely conceived it, had hardly been tried.
Greenberg makes Continetti's point very well; that revolutionary anarchy is a tactic in the pursuit of anarchic socialism. What you end up with a big, violent, Lord-of-the-Flies-type mess.
I had to remind myself that the movement was only a few months old. Most of the core organizers had been strangers before September. They were still trying to figure things out, improvising as they went along. When I spoke with Katie again, she had a nasty case of bronchitis from living in Zuccotti Park. “I want us to be the country’s moral touchstone,” she said. “Its unofficial conscience. Its model for what is good.”A nasty case of bronchitis is about the best that can be hoped for from this dreamy and idiotic movement.