Received: by alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk id QAA22724 (8.6.9/5.3[ref email@example.com] for cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk from firstname.lastname@example.org); Thu, 13 Sep 2001 16:27:08 +0100 From: Robin Faichney <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: (fwd) Another editorial Organization: Inside Information Message-Id: <E15hS5j-0000Fnemail@example.com> Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 09:43:23 +0100 Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Precedence: bulk Reply-To: email@example.com
This is the best piece addressing the question "why?" that I've read in
the last couple of days.
-- forwarded message --
From: Kirby Urner <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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]
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
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
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
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".
-- end of forwarded message --
-- "A prime source of meta-memes" -- inside information -- http://www.ii01.org/ Robin Faichney
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