(fwd) Another editorial

From: Robin Faichney (robin@ii01.org)
Date: Thu Sep 13 2001 - 09:43:23 BST

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    From: Robin Faichney <robin@ii01.org>
    To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
    Subject: (fwd) Another editorial
    Organization: Inside Information
    Message-Id: <E15hS5j-0000Fn-00@linuxsys.ii01.org>
    Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 09:43:23 +0100
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    This is the best piece addressing the question "why?" that I've read in
    the last couple of days.

    -- forwarded message --
    Message-ID: <pqf0qtcq6lppbdt84nskblb981uipve32d@4ax.com>
    From: Kirby Urner <urner@alumni.princeton.edu>
    Newsgroups: alt.fan.rawilson
    Subject: Another editorial
    Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2001 22:30:40 -0700

    [a 2nd draft, shortened, fixed some typos, first draft posted to
     alt.politics.org.cia about an hour ago]


                                Another Editorial
                                by Kirby Urner

    I've heard lots of analogies with Pearl Habor, which resonate well
    enough I suppose (I wasn't yet born myself, and skipped the movie).

    An analogy I haven't heard, yet which I think is apt -- though it sounds
    ridiculous at first -- is Columbine High. There too we had a small,
    in-grown circle of alienated human beings, nursing a fantasy of revenge,
    using every tool they could get ahold of to construct a scenario of
    maximum carnage -- an orgy of violence in which they too would
    be consumed. Not as many died as they'd planned to kill -- nor in
    this case either.

    The world is small enough nowadays that it works, as a metaphor,
    to cast it as a single school, even a high school, given the average
    mental age of our student body. Today, on a vastly greater scale,
    is the Columbine scenario. These weren't high school kids, and 767s
    aren't pipe bombs. On the other hand, a lot of the operative psychology
    was possibly quite similar.

    I find this one-world high school analogy helps me to look past the
    "attack on America" storyline. As many around the world have
    pointed out, the World Trade Center was one of the most cosmopolitan
    hubs on earth. This was an "attack on the world" as well, against
    our very humanity -- which humanity we could still lose if we give in
    to the esthetics of terror.

    The average terrorist converts young. Where many would choose
    suicide, this kind of terrorist chooses the kind of suicide where you
    take as many of the enemy with you as you can. We've seen this
    in adults, not just children. They go to a former place of employment
    and mow down their co-workers, before taking their own lives. It's
    not just the kids who go crazy in this way.

    The World Trade Center is a target in part out of jealousy. Here are
    the "popular" kids, meaning the privileged, those having fun, rewarding,
    engaging lives. The terrorist may be just as bright, and as full of hope
    and promise to start with (something another talking head "expert"
    was telling us), but they're not going to have lives like that. They
    live in a time and place that gives them few if any real prospects --
    or such is their perception.

    These terrorists had spent a lot of time in the USA. How could they
    develop such hatred for these people they were living right in the midst
    of? Where is their compassion and humanity? Couldn't they see these
    people around them as human beings, just like themselves? We could
    ask the same question of the alienated masterminds of the Columbine
    massacre, and of Timothy McVeigh.

    What they see are masses of people for the most part oblivious to the
    black pit of hell to which they feel unjustly condemned (just as the devil
    himself feels, in Milton's 'Paradise Lost'). Here in the safe, secure
    world of the USA, the ugliest, most violent parts of the world are as if
    on another planet for most people. The average USAer may have
    only the haziest idea of another world beyond -- or so it seems to the

    To have so many happy, healthy people surrounding one, all oblivious
    to the pain and suffering, the disaster, of the terrorist's home world, is
    simply infuriating. The resentment only grows. Because in the terrorist's
    mind, these happy lives are obtained at his expense. Their happiness is
    in inverse proportion to his misery -- not necessarily in any closely reasoned
    or logical sense. It's just a feeling, a given, a premise. The goal of the
    terrorist is to convert this heaven others are apparently experiencing,
    into the hell in which he feels himself to be.

    In truth, the only long term antidote to terrorism is to articulate a possible,
    credible future, in which the horrendous suffering of masses of humanity is
    *not* blotted out and taken for granted, even as a privileged subset of the
    student body sets about living good lives, while the unfortunate are left to
    their fates. Only a positive future (not saying utopian) in which more of the
    student body has realistic prospects, is going to cut back on the recruitment
    drive for new terrorists. People who think they might yet have good lives
    don't so often fantasize about blowing themselves up, along with as many
    others as they can manage. And even if they do, they're more likely
    surrounded by non-sympathizers willing to turn them in before these
    fantasies are realized.

    There was a time, perhaps long past, when people of the world looked to
    the USA to articulate this positive future vision. This hasn't been happening
    for awhile, or at least few politicians in recent memory have articulated a
    bold vision of the future (Clinton got no further than talking about some
    silly "bridge" to the 21st century, whatever that meant -- oh, and he wanted
    us to be excited about the CIA's new supercomputers).

    The USA's own professional scenario planners are publishing "great tragedy"
    forecasts these days. The glossy space command booklets coming from the
    Pentagon are about the growing gap between the haves and the have nots,
    and the resultant need to fortify, to dig in, to protect the fortunate against
    the unfortunate. It's vision of a hopeless majority pitted against the
    overwhelming technological superiority of a privileged minority.

    I regard it as inevitable that the "military establishment" (as Rumsfield calls
    it) will be retaliating somewhere, somehow, in a big way, with politicians 100%
    behind it, knowing they're expressing the will of the people they represent.

    On the other hand, I'm interested to see if any politicians have, at the same
    time, what it takes to talk about a tomorrow that is more inclusive, brighter,
    for a greater percentage of humanity. From the booklets I see coming from
    the Pentagon, there's an implied vote of no confidance in the politicians when
    it come to their ability to lead us to such a world.

    Nor do most people really expect religious leaders to tell us about a better
    world we might realistically attain. But then religious leaders don't get a
    tax-paid salary. As a taxpayer, I'm not really entitled to their leadership.
    But from the politicians I help pay for, I do have a right to expect a return.
    So I will continue to spell out my expectations, for whatever they're worth
    (this is not a new thing with me, as any google-search will make obvious).

    While many use this ocassion to discuss the tremendous intelligence failures
    that allowed this to happen, I can think of TV interviews (including with
    former CIA director Woolsey, now on TV quite a bit) which all but proclaimed
    the inevitability of the kind of future which we now confront as our present
    day reality.

    The intelligence community basically told us years ago that it's very
    difficult, sometimes impossible, to prevent this kind of thing, given a world
    backdrop which breeds this kind of psychology. That's a pretty simple
    truth, but maybe not one people are ever quite prepared to hear.

    The congressman in a TV screen rectangle under Woolsey on NBC tonight
    talked confidantly of the chemical weapons attacks he expects, perhaps
    against some metropolitan water supply. This is the reality which politicians
    seem to expect -- and absent the courage to articulate anything better,
    such prophesies stand a good chance of becoming self-fulfilling.

    So while we focus on intelligence failures, I think we should also focus on
    the failure in political leadership that keeps our shared future so
    unnecessarily dark, forbidding, hopeless. I think it's easy to scream
    for blood and call for military action. I think it's hard, yet far more noble
    and worthy of the name "leadership", to point the way to a world in which
    terrorism doesn't have such fertile soil in which to grow.

    We're in the midst of a technological revolution on many fronts, all of
    which provides the raw material for positive science fiction, a genre that
    gets just a little ahead of the present and tries to show us many possible
    tomorrows. That raw material is malleable, and there's sufficent content
    with which to fashion positive future visions. The food supply is sufficient.
    The power supply is sufficent. Engineers will confirm these facts. And
    people with sufficent food and power have fewer kids. Overpopulation is
    not a given. There are ways to make it work. We haven't exhausted
    our options.

    But we need politicians with the courage to give voice to these hopes. If
    the USA really "won the Cold War" as it so often proclaims, then what's
    stopping it from proving that it has some real answers for a world sorely
    in need of answers? Can't blame "the Russians" for frustrating the global

    If the best the USA has to offer the world is sex scandals, weapons in
    space, and Fortress America, then maybe the wrong guys won. But I
    happen to know that this is *not* the best it has to offer. I think we all
    know that. So why is the USA so slow to articulate a positive future vision?
    It's very much in the national self-interest to do so, and has been so for
    a long time.

    Until we return to the politics of hope in the longer run, we will watch
    the world spin into an ever more troubled state.

    As long as we rely almost exclusively on the anemic diet of financial chatter
    (quarterly returns, leading indicators and such) as our primary source of
    "good news" (of which there's been very little lately), the popular imagination
    will flicker like a poorly tuned television set, fragemented by sitcoms and
    commericial jingles. Money-talk in a vacuum is simply too jumbled and
    slippery (even if reassuringly technical-sounding) to sustain a positive mood,
    and when the mood turns negative (as it has recently), it is too
    information-poor to pull us out on its own terms.

    In the past, we've gone to war and that has galvanized the collective
    imagination (a positive futurism was extremely popular as people moved
    into the post war era). Maybe some think that's what's needed today
    (big spending at last!). Maybe they're right.

    I'll say it again: I consider it inevitable that there will be short term
    retalitions, likely with mixed results about which many will feel ambivalent.

    But in the long run, what will count as real leadership, in retrospect, will
    be coming from those who nurture our hopes and longings, not our fear
    and rage.

    The basic courage and humanity of New Yorkers, the rescue workers, is
    feeding this hunger today, but it's exhausting and they can't carry the
    burden alone. It's not in their job description, whereas it is arguably in
    the job description of politicians, especially those in front of the network

    Let's watch and see who really has "the right stuff".

    KTU http://www.grunch.net

    -- end of forwarded message --

    "A prime source of meta-memes" -- inside information -- http://www.ii01.org/
    Robin Faichney

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