For Love of the Father: A Psychoanalytic Study of Religious Terrorism

By Ruth Stein | Go to book overview

§5
The Triadic Structure of Evil

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, enacted the collective fantasy of radical Islam. A collective fantasy taps the multiple sources of a group ethos and, eventually, translates into an ideology. Ideology is a discursive, rationalized, objectified version of feelings and longings that become shaped and narrativized through culture and history but are rooted in unconscious fantasies. Acts such as September 11 are subtended by collective fantasies that express strivings to regain past glory and redress present injustices, whether fantasized, real, or, as is most probable, a mixture of the two. The belief—the golden fantasy—that it is possible to reestablish a long-lost reality, becomes prominent in societies that feel bypassed by historical events, or in peoples who witness the defeat of the rights and aspirations that they perceive as just, or in those who have failed to thrive and have become dysfunctional. The Jacobin fantasy of reviving the French (or Roman) republic, Mussolini's fantasy of rebuilding the Roman empire, Hitler's fantasy of reestablishing German paganism, the Sunni fantasy of restoring the caliphate, or the Iranian nuclear apocalyptic preparing for the coming of Mahdi, the Twelfth Imam,1 are all fantasies supported by active beliefs that become transformative as they seek to change—to save or purify—the world. These fantasies use time differently, and move from the dreams and visualization to the actual and concrete plane of action, fueled by an enormous sense of power and conviction. They of course come closer and closer to the likelihood of massive, or even total, human self-destruction, a cataclysm which, according to Svetozar Stojanović, is now humanity's most likely fate.2

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