Tuesday, August 31, 2010

An Unconscious Wish to be Under Surveillance?

In May 1983, while I was still living in Philadelphia, I purchased a biography, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century, by Martin Gregor-Dellin.  I was 29 years old.  I never had the suspicion that I was under surveillance by anyone.  I had never had any contact with law enforcement.  I moved to Washington three months later, in late August 1983, to attend American University law school.

There was a passage in the biography that struck me as uncanny in May 1983.  A chill ran through me when I read it.  I identified with the paragraph, although I could not draw any parallels to my own life.

The paragraph concerns Wagner's trip to Venice in 1858, where he wrote the second act of his opera Tristan und Isolde.

The paragraph reads: "The second act of Tristan very nearly sustained another dramatic interruption.  Wagner's seven-month seclusion in Venice was not quite as relaxed as his daily routine and his journal for Mathilde Wesendonk might lead one to suppose.  The sole tenant of the Palazzo Giustiniani had been under police surveillance from the outset.  Wagner's sojourn in Venice, which did not go unreported by the Austrian press, gave rise to some brisk and wide-ranging political activity by government and police authorities at work behind the scenes."

Wagner had been a fugitive from the police authorities in the German Kingdom of Saxony where he had participated in revolutionary activities in 1849.

Why did I identify with that passage when I was 29 years old?  What is the relationship of my reaction to that passage and my later belief, that arose in late October 1988, that I was placed under surveillance by my former employer, the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld.  Are the two events simply coincidental  or are unconscious psychological forces at work in the form of the repetition compulsion?

1 comment:

Gary Freedman said...

Richard Wagner the composer, at the time Royal Saxon Court Conductor, had been inspired by the revolutionary spirit since 1848 and was befriended with Röckel and Bakunin. He wrote passionate articles in the Volksblätter inciting people to revolt, and when fighting broke out he took a very active part in it, making hand grenades and standing as a look out at the top of the Frauenkirche.